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In 1994, a financial advisor named Bill Bengen published research articulating the “4% rule”, which became a landmark of retirement planning. The 4% rule postulates that a retirement nest egg can last 30 years if a retiree withdraws 4% of it per year (incrementally adjusted for inflation), given a portfolio of 50% stocks and 50% bonds. Bengen studied numerous 30-year stock market time spans to arrive at his theory, which many retirement planners took as a guideline.1

Lately, the 4% rule has taken quite a bit of flak. At age 20, it looks less and less valid. Why? Two factors leap to mind.

The return of significant volatility. Bengen came up with the 4% rule during the 1982-2000 bull market, the greatest extended rally Wall Street has ever seen. Across that period, the S&P 500 rose 1153.94% (and 2041.47% with dividends reinvested). The S&P’s annual total return averaged 19.02% in that time frame. Back then, retirees and retirement planners harbored assumptions of double-digit annual returns, and withdrawing 4% a year from retirement savings seemed conservative.2

The bear markets of the 2000s were a rude awakening. Someone who retired in 1979 with a 50/50 mix of stocks and bonds in their portfolio would have enjoyed an average annual total return of 13.75% for the next 20 years – but a portfolio equally divided between stocks and bonds would have returned less than 4% in recent years, even in this current bull market. That brings us to the second factor.1

Low yields from fixed-income investments. In 1990, the 10-year Treasury returned better than 8%. In 2012, it yielded around 2%. Many fixed-income investments have yielded less than that in recent years. If you are withdrawing 4% a year from your retirement savings and less than half your retirement portfolio is invested in equities, you are staring at a problem.3

No retirement planner would urge retirees to put all their money in stocks – the volatility risk is just too great. Assigning half (or more) of a retirement portfolio to debt instruments, however, presents an undeniable opportunity cost. Consumer prices are rising only slightly, but interest rates remain in the vicinity of historic lows; retirees who want to keep ahead of inflation aren’t making much progress by investing substantially in bonds, and inflation may subtly erode their spending power.

The 1990s are gone, along with the old retirement planning assumptions. Even Bengen is revisiting the 4% rule today. He retired in 2013, and conceded in Barron’s that “we could have low returns for a long time … we’re in uncharted territory. It’s very hard to predict what will happen.” Recently, some respected voices in the financial services industry – including analysts at T. Rowe Price and American College professor Wade Pfau – have argued that retirees may be better off withdrawing roughly 3% of their savings each year.1

The era of “set it and forget it” has passed. Determining a retirement withdrawal rate today means considering plenty of variables, including changing market conditions and emerging economic trends.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations.

1 – online.barrons.com/article/SB50001424053111903747504579177903984944392.html#articleTabs_article%3D1 [11/9/13] 

2 – financialsense.com/contributors/james-j-puplava/how-to-give-yourself-an-annual-pay-raise-part-1 [4/23/12]

3 – frbsf.org/economic-research/publications/economic-letter/2013/july/cause-decline-long-term-us-government-bond-yields/ [7/13]

 

 

 

 

Well, now, THERE was a week!

Elections on Tuesday.  It was heartening to see that our precinct (Garrettsville A) was up over the prediction of the Board of Elections, not much,  but every little bit helps.  I think that Garrettsville B was over too but I didn’t check.  It’s also neat to see so many former students whom I exhorted in the seventh grade to step up to their civic duty and vote(“If you don’t vote, you don’t complain.”)  Not that I can take all of the credit, their parents were there too.  So that was good…and the parks issue passed too…Whoopeee!

Then Wednesday I finally found an auction that I could get to, a biggie.  So, as it turned out I was NOT the only one who got that memo.  The cars and trucks were parked  on the side of Sheldon Rd. for probably three-quarters of a mile on either side of the driveway to the auction site.  The driveway itself was likely a quarter mile long, so anyone going to the sale got in a fair amount of exercise just getting there.  The notice in the paper said that the folks who had lived there were collectors and the notice did not lie; those people had a little bit of all kinds of things and a whole lot of some others.  Antique furniture,  pictures of horses, pictures of long-gone relatives(of somebody, who knows who), pictures of landscapes, there was even an advertising picture of “the Peerless Girl” (in driving attire—hat, duster, glasses—very elegant.)  one of a set of possibly twelve young ladies.   A new girl appeared every year with the new model Peerless automobile  until the Cleveland , Ohio company succumbed to the Great Depression.  Each one was a pretty spiffy-looking young lady just waiting for someone to come by in a Peerless automobile—Barney Oldfield, maybe?  He drove their Green Dragon racing car.  People collect the antique prints of the gals but no one has ever found a print of # 12, so she may not be out there.  Anyway, somebody got this one and it wasn’t me.

There were two auctioneers going at the same time which means that one has to scout around to try to determine where the most interesting stuff is located.  Plenty of evidence that the owners were, indeed, collectors.  I did spot some wooden boxes, some little stools and side tables, miscellaneous knick-knacks (Oh yeah, I need more of those!)worthy of some attention and just kept circulating.  One of the attractions of estate sales like this is that a person can wander around in somebody else’s house.  This was a very large new house, built to look like an old one.  One look at the bathrooms( Yes, more than one), the kitchen and the closets (One walk-in per bedroom, plus linen and storage) and it was totally clear that this was NOT an old house.  I paid no attention to the two or three tractors and/or garden tractors OR the Honda Element and went back to the watch on boxes.  The pile I had my eye on also had a wood and brass antique level in it.  That’s what caused the mix-up.

The auctioneer picked up the level, described it and started the bidding.  I thought that I was bidding on the whole pile.  HE was selling me the level.  Oops!  When I went to take away the pile, after having won the bid, it was pointed out to me that I had the level, not the boxes, and another bidder had purchased the boxes.  Awkward.  The auctioneer was good enough to cancel my transaction and resell the level; he didn’t have to do that, and later I approached the guy with the boxes and managed to get him to part with three of them that I wanted.  Look on my kitchen shelf for a container with the words “cultivated dew worm farm” printed on the side.

Then it was off to the band banquet and recognition ceremony on Wednesday evening and the school groundbreaking on Thursday.  Friday was open.  Whewww.

Saturday I was out and about taking pictures of the various demolition/construction projects around town—the Liberty Street bridge, the curbs on St. Rte 82, the Buckeye Block fire clean-up.  That last one did me in.

I’m walking around the back by the truncated former parking lot, outside the fence, when the reason for those heavy boots that the demo guys wear became crystal clear.  Yup, a nail—a rusty, grungy-dirty nail—came through the bottom of my tennis shoe.  Luckily, it just grazed the bottom of my foot but the red mark was not clearly distinguishable as either a wound or a bruise.  When was my last tetanus shot?  Good question.  Got no time for lockjaw.  Well, then, it’s off to Urgent Care.

Do not trust your telephone book in looking for such a facility.  They lie.  When friend Becky found the correct information online, I got the hours and took off…after having washed my foot and doused it with peroxide.  “Urgent Care” seems sort of like a misnomer.  Nobody there seemed to be into “urgent” at all.  The receptionist was totally pleasant, gave me papers to fill out, some people left; I was glad that I had brought the Reader’s Digest.  Nothing moved.

I was eventually ushered into an exam room which had the approximate temperature of a meat locker and eventually a diminutive South Asian-type physician came and looked at my foot , asked a few pertinent questions and went off to write a prescription for an antibiotic and to send in somebody else to give me a tetanus shot.  Have to say, the shot-giver was good at her job.  Minimal hurt.  No lingering ache.  Good to go.

Called my mother on Sunday.  Heard about the demise of her refrigerator and its imminent replacement.  Planted flowers.

I don’t think that the meeting of The Friends of the Library this week can hold a candle to all that.

We’ll see.

 

If you have been watching the news lately or have been to a local winery the past couple of weeks you have seen or heard about the damage this past winter has caused. Unfortunately during our assessment in March we realized that only a handful of vines survived the winter. The few vines that survived still had a lot of damage to them and we made the decision to cut all of the vines back to the ground and start over.

So what does that mean for this year’s vintage? Unfortunately it’s not a good story. Recently the owners and vineyard managers from Chalet Debonne in Madison, Ohio were interviewed after they completed their assessment. Their results are showing a 97% loss of vines in their vineyard. As one of the largest grape producers in Ohio this is a major hit to the industry.

In previous years if we suffered through a tough winter we were able to rely on the wineries closer to the lake to supply grapes for us. With all of the wineries in northern Ohio reporting anywhere from an 80% – 100% loss of vines, we are starting to look at other alternatives to supply our grapes this year.

Many of our guests have asked us why didn’t we prepare for such a bad winter, or why didn’t we plant heartier vines? All of these questions are great questions and all of the wineries in the area have learned a lot from this past winter. Each year the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center assesses the weather conditions, soil content and wildlife impact. When we planted the vineyard 12 years ago we planted the hardiest vines for this area. We, along with other local wineries, never thought we would see a winter with the conditions we experienced this year.

During a recent meetings of local wineries, OARDC reported this was the worst winter on record in the past 75 years for vineyards. Usually our vines can handle temperatures below -20 degrees. However the vines are not hearty enough to withstand the extended low temperatures. So while we wait to see what vines will grow back we are learning about new types of vines that could handle an extended amount of negative temperatures and withstand severe winds. Until then we just need to look forward to warmer days and more sun to hopefully help the vines start to grown.

 

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville. For more gift ideas or wine lists from the winery, please visit www.candlelightwinery.com.

All of the computers here at the Newton Falls Public Library are installed with Google Earth, a program that allows users to take a virtual tour of almost anywhere in the world. We were able to type in our patron’s friend’s address and, from the comfort of a library computer in Ohio, take a virtual walk down her street, catching all the sights, from the outdoor patio in front of the pizza place to the little courtyard gardens.

While absolutely everywhere doesn’t seem to be mapped yet (for example, some Ohio country roads can be viewed from above, with buildings and landmarks clearly visible, but the street view doesn’t yet seem to be an option), it’s still a neat program to play around with. Another one of our Newton Falls Public Library staff members likes to use Google Earth when he’s going to be driving somewhere new, because it gives him an idea of which landmarks to expect.

After exploring on Google Earth, our patron also checked out a travel guide to France, several more of which are available through CLEVNET (such as “DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: France”) if she decides to take the trip in person!

 

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

 

Our parents & grandparents saved much more than we do. Most people who have read up on the economy for any length of time have heard of the personal saving rate (PSAVERT), which the Commerce Department calculates as the ratio of personal saving to disposable personal income. The January personal spending report released by the Commerce Department in early March showed the PSAVERT at 4.3%.

As recently as January 2013, households were saving just 2.3% of their disposable incomes – so this can be labeled a short-term improvement. It still pales in comparison to the way Americans used to save.2

The “greatest generation” had a culture of saving. Its thrift was reinforced further by hard times and a call for personal sacrifices as the economy endured the Great Depression and stateside rationing during WWII. The Commerce Department began measuring household saving in 1959, and as unbelievable as it may seem today, households saved 10% or more of their disposable incomes through nearly all of the Sixties. In May 1975, the personal savings rate reached a historic peak of 14.60%.1,2

From 1959 to the present, the PSAVERT average has been 6.84 percent – but the 21st century shows evidence of a significant decline. The savings rate fell into the 1-3% range, dropping to a record low of 0.8% in April 2005.2

To some analysts, a declining personal savings rate signals a stronger economy. It implies more spending, and consumer spending has the biggest impact on GDP. You can’t have it all, however; more spending means less saving, and Americans are plagued by insufficient retirement reserves.

Are credit cards the problem? We borrow greatly, but there are other factors in play. You may have heard about America’s “shrinking middle class.” That is no exaggeration.

The most recent Census Bureau data shows the median U.S. household income for 2012 at $51,017. By comparison, median U.S. household income in 1989 – when adjusted for inflation – would work out to $51,681 today. From 1989-2012, annualized consumer inflation was mostly in the 2-4% range. All this illustrates a slow but notable erosion of purchasing power.3,4

During the same time frame, the cost of college went up dramatically, health care costs increased, and real estate values fluctuated. People saved less and borrowed more, and not simply on impulse; they wound up borrowing more to maintain a middle-class standard of living.

Real incomes aside, we are often lured into unnecessary spending. Advertising can convince us that we have unmet needs and desires, and that we must respond to them by buying goods and services. Urges, emotions, ennui, living without a budget – these can all lead us to spend more than we really should, especially given how much money we will need to adequately retire.

Our parents and grandparents really knew how to pay themselves first – and while economic pressures make it harder for many of us to do so today, that doesn’t make it any less of a priority.

It might be useful to think about future money when you think about making a discretionary purchase. Are those dollars you are spending at a mall or restaurant today better off saved or invested for tomorrow?

Think about your big dreams and goals, the ones you have looked forward to realizing for years. How many dollars are you putting toward them? Is your spending aligned with them, or in conflict with them? Could you spend less here and there and devote more money to those priorities?

Sometimes we have to borrow and spend more than we would like, but often we have a choice – and the choice we make may affect our ability to retire sooner or later.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations.

1 – research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/PSAVERT/ [3/3/14] 

2 – tradingeconomics.com/united-states/personal-savings [3/6/14]

3 – billmoyers.com/2013/09/20/by-the-numbers-the-incredibly-shrinking-american-middle-class/ [9/20/13]

4 – tradingeconomics.com/united-states/inflation-cpi [3/7/14] 

 

He stands erect, like the captain of a ship, gazing out the upstairs window at the sea of lawn that surrounds our home. “We’re under attack!” he bellows. “I didn’t work by butt off all this time to let those worthless grubs destroy the yard I worked so hard to grow.” I ask him to calm down. My protests are met with exasperation. “Just look at this. We’re surrounded,” he hollers.

He would prefer to handle the offending pests ‘Chemical Ali’-style, by dousing the nasty buggers in enough caustic cocktail to kill them instantly. Preferably holding up little white flags of surrender before their untimely demises. I prefer a more natural approach. At least he realized that running through the yard, tearing up patches of lawn to squash every grub he saw, made him look, simply put, like a crazy person.

It doesn’t matter that we’ve spent money to introduce beneficial nematodes into the yard, trying to help get nature back in balance in our little corner of the world. We had to order them through the mail. He compared it to waiting for a packet of sea monkeys to arrive. He just applied our sea monkeys to the lawn yesterday afternoon. I ask him to give them a few days to take effect. “You clearly don’t understand,” he says, retaking his position at the healm, er, upstairs window.

We are at a stalemate in this battle of the grubs. And all I can think, rather flippantly, is, “Let them eat cake.” Chocolate cake, to be exact.

 

Chocolate Cake (recipe and photo courtesy of addapinch.com)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

¾ cup unsweetened

cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon espresso powder

1 cup milk

½ cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

chocolate frosting

 

Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring.

Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.

Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.

Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely. Frost cake with chocolate frosting and enjoy. Perfect for spring holidays or insect debates alike.

 

 

You may recall about two years ago that I got very frustrated with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for not having anywhere near adequate facilities available for disabled people to park and be able to attend the events that we museum members were entitled to. The end result of that trip was missing the lecture, dropping out of the museum,  and  slowly winding my way back home through old neighborhoods and accidentally discovering a wonderful Jewish bakery and their chocolate Bombe’ cupcakes.  I still savor those cupcakes in my daydreams…. but I haven’t made it back there since!   Well, there is always tomorrow!

Masochist that I am, I was, as a guest of others, back at the Museum this past weekend to attend a lecture by Jack Horner—dinosaur hunter extraordinaire—and his colleagues expounding on head crests, frills, bumps,  horns and accoutrements of duckbilled dinosaurs, what they were made of, and postulating what they were used for.  OK, I realize that I just lost half my readers with that sentence.  Let me digress and get back to the real world.

My daughter and her husband, both paleontologists, asked me if I would like to go to a lecture at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. I am a “closet paleontologist”.  That is; I started out in that field in college in 1964; ten years and the Viet Nam War later, ended up in psychology. I’m still very interested in dinosaurs and primordial animals.  If I could go back and start over……………  Yeah,……….. so the lecture featured Jack Horner, one of the most famous Dinosaur authorities of our times.  This was in conjunction with “Dinosaur Days” at the museum wherein hundreds of children and their families attended and made wooden dinosaurs, got their faces painted, got pictures taken with the various dinosaurs, and generally got to run riot around the museum while subliminally taking in all the natural wonders.  This is all well and good, and exactly how I got my children interested in paleontology.  What was even better was that I didn’t have to drive into Cleveland and negotiate the Wade Oval traffic mess and try to find a non-existent disabled parking place.  The heavily over crowded, virtually impossible to navigate confluence of three famous museums, Severance Hall, the Veterans Hospital, a Music School,  and the Botanical Gardens are a weekend traffic nightmare.

My kids dropped me and my little electric scooter off at the door and I waited patiently while they were forced to park a quarter mile away at the Art Museums’ high rise parking deck to the tune of $11 ( I take the electric scooter to museums because of extended walking and standing which is very hard on my legs.)

Now, what is wrong with this picture?  Here we have the greatest concentration of cultural facilities Cleveland has to offer and there is almost no place to park your car.   Even Disneyland has remote parking facilities where they bus you to the gate on an every ten minute basis for God’s sake! (Oh, there’s an idea!)  Our museums beg you, implore you, to come down and visit them, but there are few places to park your car.  “We cater to the handicapped”, they say, but there is no place for us handicapped people to park our handicapped vehicle.   News flash….here’s another idea.  Maybe, instead of constantly adding on wings to the various museums they should get together and add on a central high rise parking facility on and under the green central to the museums so that people could actually attend the events? And maybe the extremely minimal parking available close to the museum’s doors could be reserved for….handicapped people?     Just an idea!!  Currently there is no way I could, by myself, attend any event.  Might I expect a companion to drop me off and go in search of a parking spot?  Particularly at night this is, shall we say, not the safest of areas.   It is a dangerous area at night.  I should expect a female companion to walk a quarter mile at night in an unsafe area to retrieve a car?  I don’t think so.

Now, at the lecture we by chance had the unexpected opportunity to sit and chat with a lovely lady named Janet Neary who, it turns out, happens to be a Museum Trustee.  As we talked it became clear that she was somewhat dismayed at the minimal attendance at the dinosaur lectures and we chatted about whether or not it might be wiser to separate in time and space the kid’s events from the adult lectures.  And perhaps they needed to institute much more effective advertising of the world famous dinosaur paleontologists.  Oh, the lectures were announced in the Plain Dealer but no mention was made of whom the lecturers would be.  Now this is akin to, say, advertising that there would be a lecture on religion, and forgetting to mention that incidentally it would be by the Pope.  Somebody definitely missed the target in advertising this event!!  Ms. Neary noted my electric scooter and we then discussed the parking fiasco and more particularly the lack of handicapped parking facilities.

I must say that the lectures were delightful.  They featured Mark Goodwin from UC Berkeley, a paleontologist and former student of Jack Horner.  He has been studying the aforementioned top knots and frills of duckbilled dinosaurs.   And of course the second lecture was by Jack Horner himself.  Now, I haven’t seen Jack in about 15-20 years in person.  Not that I know him personally—I do not– but I have listened to him talk on several occasions, have read his books,  been to his university workshop, and did take my son some 25 years ago to his egg mountain dinosaur camp in Montana.  Jack is an exciting speaker and one of the paleontologists that has profoundly changed our modern view on dinosaurs.

Jack has put on a few years, since I last saw him.  But he is still an exciting speaker who can command the audience’s attention and keep them riveted. Twenty-five years ago Jack postulated that birds are really living dinosaurs, dinosaurs were endothermic (warm blooded) and that dinosaurs are much more related to birds than reptiles. This shook the dinosaur world to its core.  But since then our understanding of dinosaurs has been markedly redefined largely due to his influence.  He is a very important cog in the wheel of dinosaur paleontology. I do believe that if academia had been actually aware that Jack Horner was in town, they would have filled up the auditorium.  Of course I don’t know where they would have parked!

What to do about continuing my museum membership?  I’m not happy about the situation. It is not their fault that I can’t walk much anymore. But the limited accessibility due to the lack of parking certainly puts a crimp in the numbers of people visiting the museums and my participation in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

 

Do you fish, hunt, trap, camp, go for nature walks? What else do you do outdoors? Drop me a line at THE VILLAGER, P.O. Box 331 Garrettsville 44231. E-mail me at Skipstaxidermy@yahoo.com or give me a call at 330-562-9801. I’d like to hear from you.

 

Open your mouth and say , “Aaaah”

Do physicians even DO that any more?  Well, according to an item in the Akron Beacon-Journal, you should not hand over your money before the doc sticks anything in your mouth.  That’s because  some researchers at New York University have discovered an absolutely stunning collection of bacteria,   viruses (Or viri?  Nope, virus has no plural in Latin), fungi (Now there’s a plural!) and plant pathogens on dollar bills… not to mention traces of anthrax and diphtheria.  YUK!  They uncovered—so to speak—all of this by using high-speed  gene sequencing and computerized data-base analysis on about 80  $1 bills from a Manhattan bank.  That George Washington you’re carrying around may have more than 3000 kinds of bacteria, your gateway to skin infections, stomach ulcers and other assorted afflictions of the flesh.  They found some 1.2 billion (Yes, that’s Billion) segments of DNA, about half traceable to humans.  Of the remaining material, about 20% could be identified.  O.K., that leaves 30%, give or take, not attributable to anything in particular.  Are we seeing  ALIENS panhandling on the corners here?  Yetis?  Abominable whatevers?  We’re talkin’  DIRTY money.

And in that same vein…you should pardon the expression… the latest news in competition sports is the Tough Mudders.  One description of the “sport” goes like this : “Tough Mudders are hardcore 10-12 mile(18-20 km) obstacle course challenges designed to test strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie—probably the toughest event on the planet.”  Oy!

A  couple of guys founded the whole thing in 2010, got about 4500 nutjobs to participate and it’s grown from there.  A rough estimate of the number of crazies having taken part so far hovers in the neighborhood of 1.3 million.  In 2013 the number of players reached somewhere around 700,000.  The company (What, you thought it was just a bunch of guys—it’s always guys, right?—who get together to get “down & dirty” crawling through mud and ice water?) which organizes and officially sanctions events is worth $70 million and has classified the competitions as Arena, Backwoods, Open Range, Off-road, , Mountain and Muscle.

The twenty to twenty-five different obstacles are presented as challenges to some of humans’ greatest fears—fire, water, electricity, height.  About seventy-eight per cent    of competitors finish the course.  Depending upon the course, a player can be facing dangling live electric wires, vats of ice chunks, water and other substances you don’t want to know about, greased monkey bars over ice pits, walls to scale, pipes to crawl through, planks to walk.  Oh, it’s a lot of fun!

Both individual and team competitions are part of the deal; male and female “Tough Mudders”   get into the thing but the predominance goes, of course, goes to the guys(Female “mudders” are already tough).  There are sponsors sometimes—Under Armor, Degree (Wouldn’t you know a deodorant would get into it?), Bic (What?  To take notes?), Wheaties (These pictures will NOT make the front of the cereal box), Dos Equis, Clif Bar—and usually some kind of a charity affiliation, often military-related.  Prizes are popping up occasionally.

And how’s all of this like the money?  All good clean fun, right?

Well, there seems to have been an outbreak, O.K. maybe more than one outbreak, of some really, really ugly intestinal disorders, caused by norovirus, for one.  This may have something to do with the fact that at least one of the competitions was WAY too close to an agricultural installation  and the mud involved was, shall we say, enhanced by unplanned substances.  Then, of course, you never know what that dude suffering next to you was infected with before the two of you were submerged in ice water.  DO NOT swallow the mud!

And, lastly, on the medical front– SPOILER ALERT for Prince Charming—it is now possible  to get what some podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons are calling “Cinderella surgery”.  “If the shoe fits, wear it,” has gone to a whole new level.

Women—wealthy ones, anyway– are having surgeries to make their feet fit their shoes, not the other way around.  Manolo Blahnik, Nicholas Kirkwood, Christian Louboutin, all high-end shoe designers, have opened  economic horizons for the medical profession by designing shoes that women cannot wear without either pain or reshaping of their feet.  Got “high heel foot”, “hitchhiker toe”, “toebesity”?  This can be dealt with  by getting a Perfect 10 (toe shortening), a Model T (toe lengthening) or a foot tuck(fat pad augmentation).  Don’t EVEN call it a bunionectomy any more.  It’s a “facelift for your feet” so you can fit into heels.  Don’t go for toe liposuction or pinky toe removal, those are stepping pretty close to unethical.  The originator of these procedures, Dr. Ali Sadrieh, says that it’s about a lifestyle choice and projecting confidence; a hallux valgus correction with osteotomy and screw fixation means that one can put on and wear a shoe that did not fit comfortably before.  What IS a stiletto after all, but a knife?

Ugly stepsisters, here’s your chance!

 

Peeking around the corner of the office building, Doodle Dog leapt back before a hurried woman rushing past him stepped on his paws. That was close! What was all the excitement about? The curious floppy-eared puppy crept out again, certainly not nearly as quickly as the two-legged traveler dashing down the driveway in front of him. Even at his easygoing amble, Doodle Dog soon came upon the very center of the town which seemed unusually busy, busy even for it being the most popular place at the most popular time of day. Keeping an eye out so not to get squished, the little floppy-eared puppy made his way down the sidewalk, weaving around ankles of lampposts and between the legs of the iron benches parked at various helpful points along the main street for weary shoppers to sit and peruse a while. But there was no time to be a spectator today as there was too much to see and too much of a chance of getting swept up in the current of activity! Well, that is, of course, unless you are a little puppy who has a talent for blending into the scenery and quietly observing.

Doodle Dog did just that, effectively disappearing into a crevice of wall between two shops. Melting into the impromptu mold, the puppy may very well have always been a fixture in that part of the structure rather than a momentary visitor to the architecture. From this vantage point, Doodle Dog was able to safely survey the scene on the sidewalk. At each section of every so many concrete squares, a table was set up with various merchandise and artistic wares. One table had wonderful smells wafting from it, scenting up the air with lilac one minute and fresh citrus fruits the next and chocolate chip cookies the next as a lady stirred a small pot filled with what appeared to be gelatinous, goopy crayons. Really yummy smelling gelatinous, goopy crayons! As she continued to swirl the little wand in the pot, the goo changed color and with it the scent in the air. Quite curious and magical indeed! Another table held similarly deliciously-smelling items, but these ones were not dissolving into a jar rather were being devoured by customers sampling the treats. Real edible ooey-gooeys like brownies and cinnamon buns, carefully crafted by a chef’s talented hands, were disappearing just as quickly as they appeared on an array of plates and platters arranged on the portable counter. On and on down both sides of the street the town’s delights were on display.

Meandering safely from his melted-in perch, the floppy-eared puppy’s nose found a particularly intriguing exhibit that did not include smelling sweets or tantalizing treats. Instead a stack of books next to a table caught his attention as he recognized the characters on the covers and the spines. He knew the legends were from an assortment, some written, some gathered, all collected by a pair of brothers who loved fairytales just as much as the little curious puppy and loved sharing the stories just as much as he did too. Sitting at the table next to the stack of books were two men busily hunched over their work. Though their facial features were similar enough that Doodle Dog figured they were brothers, that’s where the similarities ended. One had longish blonde hair that swished into his eyes as he peered over his glasses focusing on what was in his hands. Working quickly, he carved and etched something into a metal strip, fashioning it a bit here and then working the edge a bit there. Soon a set of stripes appeared and then a pair of giant eyes and some spindly legs and several wings. It reminded Doodle Dog of the shadowy shapes of the puppet show bugs. Ew! At least these ones wouldn’t bite! While the blonde brother worked, the other man concentrated on his own projects, just as varied from his cohort’s as their appearance. He had short dark hair which showed off a zealous expression in his eyes as he centered his attention on making tiny sculptures out of colorful clay. Soon a herd of miniature horses galloped in unison, the ponies prancing across the table in a dainty dance, some with wings, some with tiny spikes on their foreheads like a mythological unicorn in one of those fairytales, all with beautiful, unique markings on their multi-hued backs.

Doodle Dog stopped to indulge his curiosity for a while and as he watched the clay squishing between the artist’s fingers, soon they were not forming hooves and swishing tails, rather a paw suddenly appeared and then two floppy ears. Within moments it was no longer a ball of clay – it was a tiny Doodle Dog! The itty bitty floppy-eared puppy settled onto a clay fairytale book, the perfect perch for the petite pup! The artist gave Doodle Dog a kind smile as he gently placed Clay Doodle Dog into a small bag, tucking him into a cushion of plastic bubbles. And, just before offering the handle to the real floppy-eared puppy, the other artist dropped a tiny silver bumblebee into the bag too. It wasn’t as scary as the other kind of creepy crawly critters in the collection so Doodle Dog gave a grateful bark and continued on to explore the rest of what the fascinating setting had to offer!

 

Now or later? When it comes to the question of Social Security income, the choice looms large. Should you apply now to get earlier payments? Or wait for a few years to get larger checks?

Consider what you know (and don’t know). You know how much retirement money you have; you may have a clear projection of retirement income from other potential sources. Other factors aren’t as foreseeable. You don’t know exactly how long you will live, so you can’t predict your lifetime Social Security payout. You may even end up returning to work again.

When are you eligible to receive full benefits? The answer may be found online at socialsecurity.gov/retire2/agereduction.htm.

How much smaller will your check be if you apply at 62? The answer varies. As an example, let’s take someone born in 1952. For this baby boomer, the full retirement age is 66. If that baby boomer decides to retire in 2014 at 62, his/her monthly Social Security benefit will be reduced 25%. That boomer’s spouse would see a 30% reduction in monthly benefits.1

Should that boomer elect to work past full retirement age, his/her benefit checks will increase by 8.0% for every additional full year spent in the workforce. (To be precise, his/her benefits will increase by .67% for every month worked past full retirement age.) So it really may pay to work longer.2

Remember the earnings limit. Let’s put our hypothetical baby boomer through another example. Our boomer decides to apply for Social Security at age 62 in 2014, yet stays in the workforce. If he/she earns more than $15,480 in 2014, the Social Security Administration will withhold $1 of every $2 earned over that amount.3

How does the SSA define “income”? If you work for yourself, the SSA considers your net earnings from self-employment to be your income. If you work for an employer, your wages equal your earned income. (Different rules apply for those who get Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income checks.)4

Please note that the SSA does not count investment earnings, interest, pensions, annuities and capital gains toward the current $15,480 earnings limit.4

Some fine print worth noticing. If you reach full retirement age in 2014, then the SSA will deduct $1 from your benefits for each $3 you earn above $41,400 in the months preceding the month you reach full retirement age. So if you hit full retirement age early in 2014, you are less likely to be hit with this withholding.4

Did you know that the SSA may define you as retired even if you aren’t? This actually amounts to the SSA giving you a break. In 2014 – assuming you are eligible for Social Security benefits – the SSA will consider you “retired” if a) you are under full retirement age for the entire year and b) your monthly earnings are $1,290 or less. If you are self-employed, eligible to receive benefits and under full retirement age for the entire year, the SSA generally considers you “retired” if you work less than 15 hours a month at your business.2,4

Here’s the upside of all that: if you meet the tests mentioned in the preceding paragraph, you are eligible to receive a full Social Security check for any whole month of 2014 in which you are “retired” under these definitions. You can receive that check no matter what your earnings come to for all of 2014.

Learn more at socialsecurity.gov. The SSA website is packed with information and user-friendly. One last little reminder: if you don’t sign up for Social Security at full retirement age, make sure that you at least sign up for Medicare at age 65.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations.

1 – socialsecurity.gov/retire2/agereduction.htm [2/26/14] 

2 – socialsecurity.gov/retire2/delayret.htm [2/26/14]

3 – socialsecurity.gov/cola/ [2/26/14]

4 – http://ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10069.pdf [2/26/14] 

 

Once, many years ago, I ran across a book with the title, Hollywood Is A Kosher Nutburger.  I think that I read it but who knows.  At any rate, it struck me that it was a fine shorthand for “This place is nuts!”

Well, the news lately—internet, the comics,  the news pages, magazines—all of it, is proof that  while time may march on, things are still really STRANGE!  For example:

New research has revealed that , monthly, Google has been used to find out “how to hide a dead body” at least 1000 times; “how to get away with murder” came up 1900 times and… the winnah is…40,500 queries on “why did I get married?”  Now there’s a “Dear Abby”  moment for you!  Might want to pair these pieces of information with a new app called Cloak which will alert you, via your cell phone or other mobile device, that your ex-friends, ex-lovers, bill collectors or other personally undesirable individuals are in the neighborhood.

Also having to do with, the internet, I got some kind of a scam thing going on which, when I hit the “information” button, took me to a website for Hildegardisschool, a Dutch elementary building in the Netherlands. Nothing wrong with little Dutch boys (Don’t they make paint?) and girls(She did cleansing powder, right?) but their connection with Bank of America must be tenuous, at best.

There’s a model somewhere out in La-La Land who’s suing Playboy Magazine and a Los Angeles radio host for “pain, suffering, worry and anxiety” because the dude was, apparently, not quite the golfer he thought he was when he attempted to hit a golf ball teed up on the young lady’s nether parts…he missed   and left her good side in bad shape.  She protests that she never thought(Well, duh, that’s obvious) that he would actually try to hit the ball.  Playboy sponsored whatever very refined event it was where this exhibition took place.  She’s seeking $500,000, according to a snippet in The Week magazine.

Here’s an interesting heads-up from aol news oddments about some of the more unusual names being given to children recently.  I’d read   the “Nevaeh” (Heaven, backwards) before but this one was ‘way past that.  What was it? Zzyxz.  Yup, Zzyxy.  How about them apples(That’s what Natalie Portman  named her little child, isn’t it? I think her other one is Moses.  Not so bad).  There’s a teacher’s nightmare, having a kid with a name like that show up on the roster with no clue how to pronounce it.  Now, personally, I would guess that Zzyxz would be pronounced “Zicks”, but the entry for this particular christening curse is to be “Zay zix” .  That better for you?  Good grief!  The things that people will do to poor defenseless children!

How about deep sea diving in a wheelchair?  Got to give the lady doing this particular challenge credit for guts but I’m a little confused as to the point of it all.  Sort of falls into the “Annie Oakley” song “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” category, I would think.

And the things that you can find in the dictionary!

How about emetiphobia?  Wikipedia defines this as “an intense, irrational fear of or pertaining to vomiting.  Well, there you go!  Who hasn’t wrestled (sometimes   literally) with that one while waiting in the wings to do something that you got finagled into or foolishly agreed to (Just like the model above) never dreaming that it would come to THIS.  Sub categories include being at a VERY posh occasion with a touch of “Delhi Belly” or “Montezuma’s Revenge”.  What’s so irrational about that?  One researcher says that some people afflicted thus have trouble “comfortably leading a normal life .”  D’ya THINK?

And finally, I’ll bet that al most everybody out there has, at some time, suffered through a bout of sphenopalatine  ganglioneuralgia.  And you didn’t even know what it was!  You did know that it hurt, however, as you slurped up that ice cream cone after winning the ballgame or bit into a big chunk of DQ ice cream cake or chugged  a Slurpee from the Seven –Eleven.  Yup.  It’s the brain freeze, caused by super-cooling the back of your throat where there’s a whole pack of nerves that go straight to pain receptors in your brain.  Just like the express line, no waiting!

There’s more where this all came from.  Stay tuned.

This could be a vegan Bar-B-Q

 

Candlelight Cove Light Show at Candlelight Winery

Candlelight Cove Light Show at Candlelight Winery

One of the great things about enjoying wine is being able to check out so many great wineries. Each one of the 50 states has at least one winery so no matter where our travels take us we try to visit at least one winery during each trip.

Unfortunately there have been a few occasions where our trip to the local winery is disappointing. So during a recent wine outing we found ourselves at a winery that we did not like. We stayed through the tasting however, it was an experience that I would soon like to forget.

Instead of going through a tasting that you are going to regret, I have some pointers to get out of a winery situation. On our recent experience we had a feeling from the time that we pulled into the winery that we should turn around. This winery was on a farm that focused more on the farming part instead of the wine part of the winery. However we decided to check it out.

Once inside the winery, it took the winery staff about 10 minutes to acknowledge us at the tasting bar. As with most of our winery visits, even if the tasting bar is busy most of the tasting room assistants will at least acknowledge you. I am a believer that if someone doesn’t acknowledge you, the rest of the experience will be worse.

Since I didn’t take my own advice, we then suffered through the next 20 minutes trying wines that we usually wouldn’t drink because the tasting room assistant insisted we would like these wines. Unfortunately, we did not like the wines and quickly paid for the tastings and left.

If you are faced with this situation, be sure to tell the assistant that you will try a couple of wines (it’s always a good idea to expand your wine tastings) however, you prefer a certain kind of wine and if they could give you a good idea of the wines that match your preference you will be more likely to buy some wines.

If you find that you do not care for any of the wines, graciously thank them for their time, ask how much the wine tasting is and after you pay, quietly leave. If you make a grand exit you are only making the experience worse for you and the winery.

 

 

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville. For more gift ideas or wine lists from the winery, please visit www.candlelightwinery.com.

recipeThey say you can’t buy happiness. But, you can buy donuts, and it’s hard not to feel happy while eating a donut. The folks at Peace, Love, and Little Donuts seem to agree with that statement. Since 2009, when they opened their first donut shop, they’ve grown to 10 locations of, “the grooviest donut shop this side of the Milky Way.” There are three area locations to “feed your inner hippie,” with some of their funkadelic flavors like Oreo™, apple pie, s’mores, or maple bacon donuts.

If their tasty little works of art don’t have you doing a happy dance, then the 1970s inspired décor and music just might do the trick. And dancing burns calories, so it’s ok to eat some cute little mini donuts every now and again. To find a location near you, visit peaceloveandlittledonuts.com. To make your own mini-donuts at home, use this basic recipe, adding your own special toppings to craft the groovy donuts of your dreams.

 

Baked Chocolate Glazed Mini Donuts 

(courtesy of bakerbettie.com)

 

Ingredients – Donuts

5 TBSP unsalted butter, softened

½ cup sugar

1 egg

½ cup milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

1 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

 

Ingredients – Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup whole milk

optional: sprinkles, coconut, mini chocolate chips, or the groovy topping of your choice

 

Preheat oven to 325ºF, or plug in electric mini-donut maker. Lightly oil mini donut pan or donut maker and set aside. (If you don’t have a mini-donut pan or maker, you can use mini muffin pans.)

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and mix until combined.

Mix in the baking powder, then the salt, until incorporated throughout. Then add in the flour and cocoa powder, stirring just until combined. If using mini donut pan or donut maker, transfer mixture into a zipper baggie with the tip cut off. Pipe into the pan only filling ½ of the way fill. If using the mini muffin pan, fill each well ½ full. Bake at 325ºF for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool before glazing.

For the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk in a saucepan over medium low heat and whisk until well combined. Dip donuts in warm glaze, top with sprinkles, if desired, and let them cool before enjoying.

You might start out having a nothing-special day, but after a few special mini-donuts, you just might be in a groovy state of mind. Can you dig it?

 

I can assure the readership that this will not be a critique of the famous Dickens novel of the same name, but a few ideas on how to make the most of your adventures when exploring Nearby Nature. When you go to the zoo you want to see the animals, the same can be said about hiking, camping, or fishing; you want to see and experience nature first hand. When the sun is shining, birds chirping, and you go out to experience nature, one of the most disappointing things that can happen is that by the end of the day all you have experienced is tired/aching legs and bug bites from your hike.

As with anything in life, a little planning and preparation can go a long way to make the experience enjoyable and meet your expatiations or the expectations your group may have. Technology has greatly aided in this regard with web sites and blogs highlighting what is occurring in our area or an area you are planning on making a visit to in the near future. All of the areas’ park districts have web sites with links to their calendars of events and/or newsletters which highlight what is going on or what to look for in their respective parks during the various seasons. However, I want to focus on two sites specifically, eBird ( http://ohioebirdhotspots.wikispaces.com) and Trek Ohio ( http://trekohio.com/). These two sites can almost guarantee your expectations will be meet.

Let’s take the Snowy owl as an example. You are determined to see one but don’t know where to go. Let’s visit eBird. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides real time information on bird distribution worldwide. Individual birders submit checklists with species names of birds seen and/or heard and location into the main web site. These locations called “hotspots” will list the date and number of a particular species. Sometime the information is time-sensitive, especially during migrations. Birds may spend only a short time in a location before continuing on their journey.  Above is an example what the eBird screen looks like. I have chosen Portage County but you can pick any county in Ohio. In the Birdtrax data table is a compilation of all the bird sightings in the county by location. Specific locations can be found on in the middle of the page and by clicking on a location, trail maps, descriptions, and other useful information can be found. Also listed are rare bird alerts, historical data on species, and links to other birding web sites. The site is very user friendly and once you have spent some time navigating around the page you will be able to find the nearest location and  see that elusive Snowy Owl!

The TrekOhio Guide  http://trekohio.com/ is designed to help meet expectations of hikers and nature enthusiasts around Ohio. The site specializes in listing natural sites and activities in Ohio. Developed by a husband and wife team, Bob and Deb Platt, they have created one place online where you could learn about sites that are in the same geographical region regardless of whether the park, nature preserve, or trail managed by the federal, state, or county government, or a non-governmental agency. Broken down into five quadrants, the site allows the user to click on the region of interest of the state and a listing of the counties appears. Click on a county and a list of all the natural areas appears, complete with directions and points of interest. Along the right side is a listing of seasonal or special events across the state and nature blogs from various sources around Ohio. Of particular interest is the “nice to know section” and “hiking overviews.” The nice to know area is an excellent quick reference with pictures of plants and animals to be looking for during your hike. You can quickly see that a lot of time and effort has been put into this site and will surely meet with your expatiations.

Also Matt and I urge you vote May 6th and support the upcoming Portage Park levy.

 

How many times have you been to a wine tasting or even just had wine at home and someone says “Wow, this smells like cherries!” but in your mind you are thinking it smells like oil? Who’s right? Does the wine even smell like cherries or oil? Maybe it smells like roses? Well, maybe both of you are right or maybe both of you are wrong. Did you know there are almost 1000 genes in your body that are dedicated for detecting smells? Based on genetic variation you can smell something completely different than the person next to you.

So how do you know if the professionals are right? Well, professional wine tasters actually take classes on detecting smells. Usually a scent is poured into a sterilized glass and the wine tasters start to train their nose to recognize certain smells. If you have ever seen a professional wine taster during a tasting, they usually have their nose as far into the glass as possible. This is to minimize the other smells that may be in the air (for example, perfume, food, or other odors).

If you would like to start training your nose, I highly recommend trying to smell different fruits, vegetables, flowers and even some of the bad odors like wet dog, gasoline and oil. The more scents you grow accustom to, the better your accuracy will be when attending a wine tasting.

But keep in mind that even your nose can be overwhelmed by smells. In order to help your nose focus on one smell, wine tasters recommend that you smell the top of your arm between your elbow and wrist. Since you are used to your bodily smells, this is sort of a “reset” button for your nose and helps your nose refocus on the next smell.

 

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville. For more gift ideas or wine lists from the winery, please visit www.candlelightwinery.com.

Stocks rise, fall … and rise again. Volatility certainly came back to Wall Street during the first several weeks of 2014 in the form of a 7.2% descent for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and a 5.9% retreat for the NASDAQ. The declines gave investors pause: was a correction underway? Would bulls be held back for 2014?1

As it turned out, no. On February 27, the S&P 500 settled at a new all-time peak of 1,854.30, with dovish remarks from Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen providing lift. On the same market day, the DJIA closed at 16,272.71 and the NASDAQ at 4,318.93.2

Ups and downs are givens when you invest in equities. Still, the skid stocks took in 2008-09 has made everyone from millennials to members of the Greatest Generation anxious about any string of down days for the big indices. If the benchmarks lose a couple of percentage points in a week, or more in a month, headlines and news alerts emerge and encourage collective fears of a stock bubble.

Be patient; be prepared. We don’t really know what will happen tomorrow, and therefore we don’t really know what will happen on Wall Street tomorrow (though we can make educated guesses in both respects).  Because of that, it is wise to diversify your portfolio across different asset classes and rebalance it from time to time.

Would you rather have a portfolio that might perform at least decently in varied stock market climates, or a mix of investments that only makes sense in a bull run? We recognize that diversification is wise, especially for the long run … and yet, when things go really well or really poorly on the Street, impatience and anxiety readily lure us away from the age-old wisdom.

The S&P 500 rose 29.6% in 2013, 31.9% with dividends included. Rationally, investors realize that such phenomenal stock gains won’t happen every year. Even so, the temptation to go full-bore into U.S. stocks and stock funds was pretty strong at the end of 2013 … comparable to the call to invest in gold or bear-market funds back in 2008-09.4

If an investor relied on impulse rather than diversification across these past few years, he or she might be poorer and/or awfully frustrated today. Gold is in a bear market now, and according to Morningstar, the average bear market fund has lost 33% annually since 2008. Stocks are firmly in a bull market now, but an investor hypothetically going “all in” on domestic stocks at the end of 2013 (i.e., buying high) would have faced a market decline early in 2014 and might have impatiently sold their shares.3

Strategies like dynamic asset allocation attempt to leverage better-performing sectors of the market while shifting portfolio assets away from underperforming sectors. Such tactical moves may lead to improved portfolio performance. Of course, the strategy also seeks to foster intelligent diversification across asset classes.

Dynamic asset allocation is a strategy best left to professionals, even teams of them. Most retail investors would be hard pressed to even attempt it, even at a basic level. This is why the buy-and-hold approach (buy low, sit back, ride it out, sell high years later) is so often suggested to those saving for retirement and other long-term objectives.

Hang on when turbulence affects the markets. Staying in the market can prove the right move even when the news seems cataclysmic – look at how stocks have rebounded, and hit new highs, since the precipitous fall the S&P took in the recession. Sticking with principles of diversification can prove wise in both challenging and record-setting markets

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations.

1 – marketwatch.com/story/the-markets-in-for-a-wild-but-clearly-bullish-ride-2014-02-27 [2/27/14] 

2 – thestreet.com/story/marketstory.html [2/27/14]

3 – marketwatch.com/story/dont-try-to-time-the-market-2014-02-21 [2/21/14]

4 – tinyurl.com/k9ul3af [12/31/13] 

 

O.K., it’s Thursday, this must be springtime.

Holy cow!  What a wild one!  Haul out the long johns, Maudie, the daffodils done froze!  And what does the Old Farmer say?  Not much.  But you’ll be happy to know that on April  18, 2009, Aaron Caissie set a world record by balancing 17 spoons on his face.  Now there is a skill set!

I went out last week —one of the times when it was warm, remember—to poke around in the back yard to assess what might need to be done, and  I have decided that this place is a big-time cafeteria setting.  There are nut trees in the back, so the squirrels, when they’re not raiding the bird feeders, are sitting on various branches( front OR back yard) to chow down and fling their remainder nutshells all about; they litter.  But HOW do they get those shells open?  Walnuts, butternuts, hickory nuts…they’re all pretty tough to crack without the use of an iron anvil and a major hammer.  Yet the squirrel, and maybe a chipmunk or two, can get those buggers open using just their little, spidery fingers/toes…in addition to some prodigious teeth.  What’s THAT about?  Lots of the shells show up with gnawed      holes in them but plenty are just perfectly halved with the insides gone.  I often save them, just because I think that they are so elegant-looking.  What a design!  Rough on the outside, smooth on the inside, curved and mysterious.  Had I any rustic craft chops, I would surely mount some sort of a display but so far, I’m just collecting.

Anyway, I’m out pulling up invasive plants—there are more of them all of the time, it seems, result of “global connections”, no doubt…that and STUPID people, the same ones that have Burmese pythons as pets then when the reptiles get too big(that would be about six inches, in my book) they turn them loose in the Everglades, where they have no predators and proceed to terrorize and devour the native flora and fauna and grow to enormous size—and a mosquito(family : Culicidae) who had waked especially for the occasion settled down for a sip of my vital fluids made the mistake of stomping his feet hard enough that I actually noticed him.  Smack!  End of meal.

The forget-me-nots are coming out to take the place of the crocuses, which are on their last legs.  The snowdrops must be chuckling at the recent turn of events…either chuckling or shivering.  The spring beauties are showing up in singles and pairs, scattered around.  Some little blue-flowered spikes have appeared in places that I did not put them.  The two volunteer Easter lilies have just peeked their shoots up to get the lay of the land but they are surely not going to make it to see The Bunny any time soon.  There seem to be some ex officio excavations around where SOME critter has dug up bulbs for a midnight, or mid winter, snack of some sort.  Not much like cold pizza but, hey, no delivery charges.

The flowering crabapples to the west of the drive apparently were not to the taste of any of the local scavengers; the deflated fruit is lying around on the ground.  SOMEBODY must eat them eventually, otherwise, I’d have little tree-lets all over the place.  So far, this has not happened but I’m keeping my eyes on the possibility.  The berry bushes must be supporting  wildlife of some kind, because I sure didn’t get a single pie’s worth last season.  Some of them were attacked by a mosaic mildew infestation, which I hope to get rid of at some point.  In the meantime, I’m still looking for pick-your-own patches to restock my freezer.

Pussy willows are showing their catkins .

Speaking of which…anybody want a kitten?  One of the porch kitties is doing a calico caricature of the Goodyear Blimp and looks as though we’re going to hear the pitter-patter of little paws pretty soon.  She’d love to sneak inside to make her maternal donation but so far I’ve managed to shut the door fast enough to forestall that ambition.  The local candidate for paternity seems to be mostly black but there are also gray tiger and pale orange/ginger ardent swains in the neighborhood.  Heck, she could have been hooking up on Face Book, for all I know.  Adoption line forms to the left.

Not long ‘til May.  Go to a track meet.  Plant a tree.

 

bluegillOur extensive collection of gardening books at the Newton Falls Public Library includes several on water gardening, such as Helen Nash’s “The Pond Doctor,” Richard Bird’s “Water Gardens,” and Peter Robinson’s “Complete Guide to Water Gardening.” However, these books all dealt more with the ornamental kinds of fish such as goldfish and koi. We couldn’t find any mention of bluegill in David Alderton’s “Encyclopedia of Aquarium and Pond Fish” either.

Fortunately, searching online brought up the answer. According to the BioKIDS website (which is run by the University of Michigan and can be found at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/), bluegill typically live from four to six years in the wild, although in captivity they can get to be as old as eleven.

For more information on enjoying a pond, including tips, lore, and recipes for fish, frogs, and crawdads, Louise Riotte’s “Catfish Ponds & Lily Pads” is available for borrowing.

 

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

 

Isn’t 65 the traditional retirement age? Perhaps, but baby boomers are modifying the definition of a traditional retirement (if not redefining it altogether). The Social Security Administration has subtly revised its definition of the traditional retirement age as well.

If you glance at the SSA website, the “full” retirement age for Americans born from 1943-1954 is 66, and it is 67 for those born in 1960 and later. (The “full” retirement age increases gradually from 66 to 67 for those born during the years 1955-1959.)1

When Social Security started, the national retirement age was set at 65. In 1940, a 21-year-old American man had a 54% chance of living another 44 years (according to the federal government’s actuarial estimates). By 1990, that chance had improved to 72%. For 21-year-old women, the probability of reaching age 65 increased from 61% to 84% in that same time frame. Americans also began living longer after 65. Increased longevity led to financial dilemmas for Social Security and the necessary redefinition of “traditional” retirement age.

What do you lose by retiring at 65? The financial opportunity cost is considerable, and maybe greater than some baby boomers realize. If your full retirement age is 67, you’ll reduce your monthly Social Security income by around 13.3% if you start taking benefits at age 65. Moreover, for every year that you refrain from claiming Social Security until age 70, your Social Security benefits will rise by 8%.1,3

In addition to trimming your long-term retirement benefits, you may also forfeit some salary. If you are still working at age 65, you might be at or near your peak earnings level, and if that is the case, Social Security income may pale in comparison.

Think of life after 65 as your “third act” that needs funding. Do you think of 65 as late middle age? It may be. As the SSA website notes, about 25% of today’s 65-year-olds should live to age 90. About 10% of them should reach age 95. Even if that doesn’t happen for you, you should know that the average 65-year-old today can expect to live into his or her mid-eighties.4

Let those statistics serve as a flashing red light, illuminating two new truths of seniority. The first truth: for many Americans, “retirement” will represent 10, 20 or even 30 years of activity and opportunities. The second truth: to stay active and pursue those opportunities, retirees will need 10, 20 or 30 years of financial stability.

Most Americans haven’t amassed the equivalent 10, 20 or 30 years of retirement savings. Many want to “stay in the game” a little longer: a 2013 Gallup poll found that 37% of Americans expect to retire after age 65, compared with 14% in 1995.5

How many Americans can work full-time until age 65? The bad news is that according to the same Gallup poll, the average retirement age in America is 61. The good news is that it was 57 in 1991. Assuming we keep living longer and healthier, it seems plausible that the average age of retirement might hit 65 – if not for the boomers, then for Gen Xers.5

Regardless of when baby boomers retire, growth investing will continue to have merit. Even moderate inflation erodes purchasing power over time, and its effects can be felt in less than a decade. Who knows: the portfolios held by 65- and 70-year-olds in 2035 might look more like the ones they hold now instead of those held by their parents generations before.

When should you retire? If that question is on your mind to any degree, consider an evaluation of your retirement readiness – a review of what you have, an estimation of what you need and a clear look at the possibilities before you. It should be time well spent.

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

Citations.

1 – ssa.gov/retire2/retirechart.htm [2/20/14] 

2 – ssa.gov/history/lifeexpect.html tml [2/20/14]

3 – money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/2013/10/18/why-65-is-too-young-to-retire [10/18/13]

4 – ssa.gov/planners/lifeexpectancy.htm [2/20/14] 

5 – money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2013/06/10/the-ideal-retirement-age [6/10/13]

 

If your summer travel plans usually include visiting far away wineries but the economic downturn is stopping this year’s excursion, I hope this article can provide some great alternatives this year. There are 3 new trends that we are starting to see in the wine industry which are great alternatives to expensive summer trips.

Have you ever walked into a winery and said “wow – this would be so cool to work here”? Wineries around the world are benefitting from people who are looking at a “trial run” in the wine business. Volunteer vacations offer a great way for you to visit a winery, try some wines and help out with miscellaneous jobs at a discounted travel rate. Some of the larger wineries are offering free meals and a bed to sleep on if you book a 7 day trip. Depending on the winery, you can work 3 or 4 days and have either 3 or 4 days off to travel around the region.

If working at a winery isn’t your idea of a summer vacation but you still want to try some new wines, look around for a winery that is offering an online tasting. Wineries are starting to send out smaller bottles of wine to their clients to host an online wine tasting. The winery usually sets a date for the tasting to occur and you receive the bottles 1 or 2 days prior to the event. If you have a web cam for your computer, you can video into the tasting or just visit sites like facebook.com or twitter.com to post your comments about the wine.

Finally, if you are looking to get away, pick a local state or region and do a search for wineries in that state or region. Every one of the 50 states has at least one winery (yes, even Hawaii and Alaska have wineries) so you have some opportunities to visit some great places. Even if you can just get away for a weekend, check out the wineries webpage to see if they have a deal going with a local bed and breakfast. Ohio has a great program for this – simply check out www.OhioWines.org and under the Maps of Wineries section there is a listing for lodging options in that area.

Happy traveling!

 

 

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville. For more gift ideas or wine lists from the winery, please visit www.candlelightwinery.com.

This is about the Portage County Park District, first in what will probably be a series of rants.

Portage County DOES HAVE a park district. CATCH : Over 800 A of the land comprising the district are currently inaccessible because of a lack of funds.  The budget has been severely cut, with the 2014 revenues projected to be only $99,500 to manage 1300 A of parkland and 14 miles of hike and bike trails.  To paraphrase Barney Dyer who witnessed the famous Ravenna Glassblowers’ Wreck, where two trains got on the same track, heading for each other, with predictably disastrous results, “That’s a helluva way to run a park system!”

Our neighbors to the north in Geauga County have a marvelous system, with programs for all age and mobility levels, seasonal attractions and programs, inviting trails and structures, professional staff.  To the west, Summit County co-ordinates with the CVNP (Cuyahoga Valley National Park) to offer its citizens a multitude of outdoor experiences and programs, managed and protected by a professional staff.  Further to the west, in Lorain County, my home stomping grounds, there are parks from the Lake (Erie) to the southern flatlands along the Black River, with lodges available for local activities and varieties of programs.  People USE these.  They hike, they run, they camp, they picnic, they fish, they canoe/paddle around, they learn and enjoy.

Portage County could do the same but it must provide reliable financial support for the system.  One full-time (the remarkable director, Chris Craycroft) and two part-time employees cannot do everything that needs to be done…but they’ve already done an amazing amount, working with volunteers and garnering grants from all over the place to keep things going.  Even such efforts cannot carry the whole load forever.

What is the load?

1.Towner’s Woods  2. Dix Park  3. Portage Bike and Hike Trail  4. Headwaters Trail  5. Breakneck Creek Preserve  6. Chagrin Headwaters Preserve  7. Walter Preserve  8. Camp Spelman  9. Gray Birch Bog Preserve  10. Seneca Ponds Park  11. Dix Preserve  12. Morgan Preserve  13.  Berlin Lake Trail  14. Red Fox boat access—Upper Cuyahoga State Scenic River  15. Frank lin Bog Preserve

Some…most… are open only for guided tours.  Some contain biologically important water features and significant vegetation found   in not very many places.  Some have most of the features—picnic shelters and grills, special events, fishing, cross-country skiing, trails for all seasons, etc.—that encourage participation in outdoor activities.  There could be more, but not unless there is a reliable funding source.

Not to put too fine a point on it, our governor and legislature have about  sprained their collective arms giving themselves a pat on the back for “balancing the budget” and giving Ohio a “rainy day fund” but they have done this by slashing local government funds(Ask your township trustees, county commissioners, mayors & councilpersons… or school boards, they got stiffed too), so that the state of Ohio is sitting on about $8 billion while all of us out in the fly-over country are looking at constant   requests for passage of levies for things that we want and things that we  had thought we would get help for from Columbus.  Nope.

So…If we could just see our way clear to give up, maybe one, maybe two pizzas over the course of the year, WE COULD DO THIS!  Sounds like a deal!

We could even get out and USE this asset as it expands.  And maybe we wouldn’t personally expand the way we have been.  Right, Wide-Load?

For Fun…

For Health…

For Life…

PARKS,

YES!

May 6, 2014

 

While we couldn’t find the answer in our copy of The Religions Book, nor by looking under “monasticism” and “vow” in Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions, searching online turned up a variety of resources.

As it turns out, the Christian monks most strongly associated with silence are the Trappists. However, according to www.trappists.org and www.ocso.org (OCSO stands for “Order of the Cisterians of the Strict Observance,” the less common name for the religious order to which Trappists belong), they never take an actual vow of silence. Rather, they take a vow of conversion, which is a promise to live the monastic way of life and also covers a promise to be celibate and to practice voluntary poverty. While there is a pervasive atmosphere of silence at a Trappist monastery, there are several circumstances where the monks will typically speak. According to www.ocso.org, “there are three reasons for speaking: functional communication at work or in community dialogues, spiritual exchange with one’s superiors or with a particular member of the community on different aspects of one’s personal life, and spontaneous conversation on special occasions.”

For more information, Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston wrote an article called “How Silence Works: Emailed Conversations With Four Trappist Monks” [http://www.theawl.com/2012/06/how-silence-works-trappist-monks]. Also, Patrick Leigh Feymor’s A Time to Keep Silence, which includes a section about his stay at a Trappist monastery, is available through CLEVNET.

 

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

 

If you are anything like Joe and me, we are big supporters of our county park systems. County parks provide us with beautiful natural places to hike, bike, canoe, picnic, sled ride, fish, bird watch and much more. They also help to preserve habitats for plants, animals and other living things. As a result, the air we breathe and the water we drink is cleaner.

Growing Up In Nature

We should all be thankful for having wonderful parks in Northeast Ohio. Parks have been a major part of my life and my family’s lives. My daughter was born while we lived in Chardon and Geauga’s Best Park was a wonderful location to put her in a stroller and watch loons dive and fish. The steep ravines and stately hemlocks of Big Creek Park remain one of our favorite places to visit. My son was born while we lived in Leroy, in Lake County. Indian Point (the bumpy road to get to the park may have induced labor!) provides stunning views and clean water to search for salamanders and crawdads. Nearby Girdled Road Park was the rendezvous for my family to meet me after work with a picnic basket and change of clothes more appropriate for hiking. Now teenagers, my kids still want to visit these parks, play in the creeks and hike the trails. On a side note, my son was born the year of the periodical cicadas emergence (1999). He is now 14. In three more years, we will be revisiting some of these parks so that he can observe for himself the emergence of these long-lived and harmless insects.

We have lived in Hiram now for 13 years and enjoy bike rides and walks along the Headwaters Trail from Mantua to Garrettsville (often rewarding ourselves with an ice cream cone for Dairy Queen) and on the Portage Bike and Hike Trail from Ravenna to Kent.

The mission of the Portage Park District is to conserve Portage County’s natural and cultural heritage. This is accomplished by conserving unique and critical natural areas for wildlife habitat and water quality protection, creating parks and trails for healthy recreation, providing nature education programs, and working to efficiently manage the parks. Currently, Portage Park District manages 14 miles of hike and bike trails and 1,300 acres of parkland. All of this is under the direction of Christine Craycroft. Under her outstanding leadership, Portage Parks has grown and expanded and touched the lives of many people in the area. She has single-handedly (or nearly so, at least) brought millions of dollars of grant funds into the county to purchase and preserve unique natural areas, to link communities with trails and to educate people about the environment and the natural and cultural history of our region.

How do the parks in Portage County compare to Geauga, Lake, Summit, Cleveland Metroparks and other nearby counties? They don’t. There is no comparison. What’s the difference? Support. Residents of these other counties support and value their parks. Portage County has not yet supported the Park District. Sure, there are lots of park users and supporters. But, we have a struggling park system because the funds don’t exist to make it even better.

An Urgent Need

Unlike other area park districts, which have been in existence for 50 or more years and have taxpayer support, Portage Park District doesn’t have any tax levy support. As a result, our parks don’t compare. More than half of Portage Park District property (800 acres) is not open to the public because funds don’t exist to build trails, offer programs and maintain the property. Additionally, lack of funding has hampered the ability to receive additional grant funds to purchase and develop new land for parks.

Our neighbors to the north and west enjoy wonderful parks, thanks in no small part to levy support. Summit County Parks receives $17 million per year (about $32 per person countywide). Geauga County Parks receives $9 million per year (about $96 per person countywide). What about Portage Park District? Our county operates its parks on less than $100,000, costing each person in the county about 61 cents per year. In fact, nearly half of the annual budget for the parks comes from donations. Portage Park District has never had a levy but with dwindling financial support from the state and county, the Park District is in serious need of long-term funding support.

A Small Request…A Great Value

On May 6, county residents will vote on a proposed ½ mill, 10-year operating levy. This levy will cost the average homeowner in Portage County about 2 large pizzas…A YEAR!

What will we get in return? More beautiful miles to canoe or kayak downstream. More miles to hike and bike throughout the county. More bird and butterfly and dragonfly watching. More places to spread out a blanket and enjoy a picnic under the shade of a tree. More fun nature programs for the family. In other words, more of everything that we already love about the outdoors.

Additionally, our parks and trails will be better maintained. More land will be opened across the county and more critical habitat and water quality protection can be protected. Some of the properties to be developed and open to the public with levy funds include:

•  Chagrin Headwaters Preserve (95 acres, Mantua Township)

• Breakneck Creek Preserve (63 acres, Ravenna Township)

• Morgan Preserve (504 acres, Shalersville Township)

 

Additionally, new parks and trails will be sought with matching grants to:

•  Extend the PORTAGE Hike and Bike Trail to West Branch State Park

• Link the Franklin Connector Trail with the rest of the PORTAGE Hike and Bike Trail

• Extend the Headwaters Trail to Aurora

• Accept the donation of property to create the Shaw Woods Equestrian Park/Buckeye Trail Link

 

Please support the Portage Park District by voting “Parks YES!” on May 6. Learn more about Portage Parks at www.portageparkdistrict.org.

 

The opinions presented in this article are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Weekly Villager and its staff.

 

 

More Nearby Nature 

Thinking about summer? Think about Nature Camps at Hiram College and enjoy exploring nature and discovering its many wonders. For more information, visit www.hiram.edu/summerathiram or call 330.569.6003.

•  BioBuddies (July 14-18 or August 4-8) – Ages 3 & 4

•  Half-Day Hikers (July 14-18 or August 4-8) – Ages 5-7

•   Nature Explorers (July 14-18 or August 4-8) – Ages 8-10

•  Adventure Naturalists (July 7-11) – Ages 11-14

•  Adventure Expeditions (July 18-20) – Camping trip for high school students to the Grand Canyon of the East

 

On a pile of soft, cozy picnic blankets the floppy-eared puppy snoozed, very nearly to the point of snoring, in a slumber soothed by the calm breeze blowing through the nearby trees. The patches of grass newly filled with budding bulbs circled in their wavy lines around and around him, but he didn’t notice the patterned lands at all as he napped in complete relaxation on the colorful carpet. Doodle Dog contentedly curled and flexed his paws in drowsy oblivion, unaware of the goings-on near him but still safe, secure and blissful all the same. 

As he dozed, a dream took over his subconscious, directing his imagination in a fantastical dance while he slept. Nearly perfectly still in reality, Doodle Dog’s mind was anything but as it zipped and zoomed from one scene to the next almost as quickly as an inner tube soaring over the top of the lake or a go-kart going round and round the meadow. At a particular moment when it finally calmed, the sleeping Doodle Dog found himself in quite the strange world his thoughts had created.

While in reality the sky above Doodle Dog was a soft blue, misty in parts from a smattering of cottony clouds here and there, in his dream the natural ceiling swished and swirled with the melted rainbow from the racetrack, dashing across a cloudless canvas. The brilliant hues twisted and tangled over the treetops, reds and purples mixing with greens and blues. A radiant round sun shone through the shining shades, making the yellows even brighter. Within moments, a cluster of fluffy white wisps drifted onto the scene, the clouds poufy like a bunny’s puffy tail. One by one they floated through the curtain of color, dipping out to the other side and leaving a translucent trail. One by one each white puff entered the celestial crayon box, and then, unexpectedly, when they emerged each one was tinted a different color! Soon not only was the sky itself glittering with streaks of its own colors, but the beautiful backdrop was speckled with spots of painted clouds continuing to glide along, lazily wafting above the landscape below.

And it was to that landscape below that Doodle Dog’s imagination turned next without any particular reason or intent. His dream melted from one scene to the next almost as seamlessly as the clouds changing colors above him and soon he found himself watching the ribbons of the rainbow reach down to the ground, each separate shade aimed directly for the center of each earthly pothole that the floppy-eared puppy had helped dig not that long ago. While in reality the potholes were covered with their soft, cozy sod blankets, in his dream the little curious puppy saw the flowers sprout up from their beds, pushing through the earth and silently saying “good morning” to the spring. As he crept closer to the tiny baby buds, Doodle Dog did not see flower petals, silky and delicate, unfolding to feel the sun’s warmth. Instead, when the sun spotlighted on each previously-slumbering specimen, a shiny sparkle glinted from it! Carefully creeping even closer still, the floppy-eared puppy could now see that what had sprouted in front of him was not a tulip or a rose or a daisy or a snapdragon. Where a lavender-colored tulip should have been was a sparkling violet amethyst! And where a radiant red rose should have been was instead a ruby. Now every color of the ribbons from the rainbow connecting the earth to the sky were not only represented in the dipped clouds but were now being reflected, quite literally, in the colors of the gemstones growing up from the ground!

As the floppy-eared puppy continued down the winding rows of precious jewels, enjoying the view of emeralds the shade of evergreens and sapphires the deep blue of the ocean’s waves, he wondered if there had ever before been a bouquet of such bedazzling buds! The string of gemstones almost seemed as though Mother Nature was getting dressed up for a special occasion and the flowers-turned-sparkling rocks of a different sort served as just the perfect accessory. On and on they went, curving their colors up the hillside, the amethysts, rubies, emeralds and sapphires intertwining with unusual garnets and aquamarines as they too awoke newly sprouted. Then Doodle Dog, wanting to give each the attention it deserved, came upon the very last gem in the pattern. It had no color at all! Though it seemed at first glance to be an imperfection in the line of treasure, the perfectly clear, colorless crystal sparkled up at Doodle Dog, more unique and special than all the rest. He didn’t have a chance to find out its secret in his dream, however, as the warm sun in reality persuaded the floppy-eared puppy to wake up from his nap.

As he reluctantly coaxed his eyes open, the tree next to him caught Doodle Dog’s gaze. And there, nestled among its branches, was something that wasn’t wood or leaf or furry creature. As the sunlight glistened down on the earth, warming the sleeping buds in their earthy beds, it also shone on a speck that was rather familiar. Dangling from a nearby twig, a sparkling crystal-like object caught the light just so, and one by one the sun’s rays went in through the clear container and slipped out to the other side leaving a translucent trail. One by one each entered the colorless crystal, and then, unexpectedly, when they emerged each beam was a different color! The tiny crystal seemed to hold all the colors of the rainbow in one beautiful bundle. The floppy-eared puppy HAD found a gemstone bouquet in a very unique and special little package!

 

I know many of you are sick and tired of seeing the snow, the gray clouds and having to deal with the colder temperatures. But as I mentioned in last week’s column there are some sure signs that Spring is around the corner.

Need some fun events to bring you out of the winter doldrums? How about an Easter Egg Hunt for the adults? That’s right, an Easter Egg hunt for the adults (must be at least 21 years of age to join us)!!  The egg hunt will be held on Saturday, April 19th from 7:30 – 10pm and will be held outdoors rain or shine (dress appropriately)! Over 500 eggs will be hidden in the woods and lawn area so bring your own basket and flashlight to collect as many eggs as you can.

The event kicks off at 7:30 pm with local musician Steve Vanderink entertaining everyone with his great variety of songs! The egg hunt beginning promptly at 8:30pm. One grand prize egg will have a prize worth up to $100 with a second and third place egg worth up to $40 and $20 respectively. Plus, more than 100 eggs will contain prizes valued over $10! Nonrefundable tickets are $25 per person and reservations and prepayment required so be sure to call the winery today to join us for this great event!

Or want to express more of your artistic side? Then be sure to make reservations today for our first Wine & Art night! Local artist Carol Milani will be walking you through step by step instructions to paint a fantastic picture of Garrettsville. Tickets are $30 / person and a part of the proceeds will be donated to #Garrettsville Strong. Wine & Art night will be held on Friday, April 25th from 6-9pm. Reservations are required and seating is limited so be sure to book your spot today!

Also SAVE THE DATE! Saturday, May 31st from 1-10pm we will be hosting a Food Truck Rally and Music Benefit for #GarrettsvilleStrong! Five food trucks will be joining us along with 3 great music concerts will be taking over the winery for the day to raise money for the rebuilding effort on Main Street. Plus we’ll have over 15 arts and craft vendors set up to sell their fabulous products and have raffle prizes available. Keep reading this newsletter for more information or check out our webpage – www.candlelightwinery.com for the latest details.

 

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville. For more gift ideas or wine lists from the winery, please visit www.candlelightwinery.com.

Location, location, location … It matters when it comes to real estate, and it also matters when it comes to the way you hold and invest your retirement savings.

You can’t control what happens with the tax code, but you can control how your savings are held. As various types of investments are taxed at varying rates, some investments are better held in taxable accounts and others in tax-deferred accounts.

*Funds that trade frequently (such as bond funds and money market funds) are better off in tax-deferred accounts, as much of their yields represent taxable income.

*Traditional IRAs are tax-inefficient (relatively speaking), and by holding a traditional IRA within a tax-deferred account, you can delay paying tax on those IRA assets until you withdraw them in retirement (when you will presumably be in a lower tax bracket than you are now).

*What kinds of investments are usually better off in taxable accounts? Think index funds, growth funds, tax-managed funds and ETFs that tend to generate capital gains (growth funds especially are prone to reinvesting profits). In light of long-term capital gains rates, keeping these types of investments in taxable accounts makes sense.1,2

Timing isn’t everything, but … The timing of withdrawals from retirement accounts can have a major impact on your income taxes – and the longevity of your savings.

You don’t want to outlive your money, and you want your income taxes to be as minimal as possible once you are retired. To that end, you want to withdraw from your retirement accounts in a tax-efficient way.

By drawing down taxable accounts first, you’ll face the capital gains tax rate instead of the ordinary income tax rate. Most retirees will see long-term capital gains taxed at 15%; for others, the long-term capital gains tax rate will be 0%.3 In taking money out of the taxable accounts to start, you are not only giving yourself a de facto tax break but also giving the retirement funds in the tax-advantaged accounts more time to grow and compound (and even a year or two of compounding and growth can be significant if you have held a tax-advantaged account for decades). Withdrawals from tax-deferred accounts – such as traditional IRAs and 401(k)s and 403(b)s – can follow, and then lastly withdrawals from Roth accounts.3

Following these asset location and distribution approaches may leave you with more retirement income – in fact, Morningstar estimates that in tandem, they can boost a retiree’s income by about 8%.1

Tax loss harvesting can also help. Selling losers during a given year (i.e., stocks or mutual funds you have held for a year or more that are worth less than what you originally paid for them) will give you capital losses. These can directly lower your taxable income. As much as $3,000 of capital losses in excess of capital gains can be deducted from taxable income, and any remaining capital losses above that can be carried forward to offset capital gains in upcoming years. Additionally, whenever you sell stocks or funds with capital gains, strive to sell shares or units having the highest basis to reduce the gain.4

If you receive a lump-sum payout, don’t put it in the bank. If you take direct control of that money, you are triggering a taxable event and your income taxes for that year could be staggering. An alternative outcome: make a direct rollover of the lump-sum payout (qualified distribution) into a traditional IRA. That move will exclude that money from your total taxable income for the year, and put you in position to take taxable annual Required Minimum Distributions (RMD), with the taxable RMDs being smaller than the taxable lump sum. (Alternately, you could directly roll the lump sum payout into a Roth IRA, which would leave you paying taxes on the conversion but set you up for tax-free withdrawals in retirement if Roth IRA rules and regulations have been followed).5,6

Incidentally, it is often more advantageous to take an in-kind distribution of company stock rather than rolling shares over to an IRA. The question is whether you want to pay ordinary income tax or capital gains tax. If a lump-sum distribution is taken off the shares, the investor pays income tax on the original cost basis of the stock. If the distribution is in-kind (i.e., the  payout is in securities, not cash), the net unrealized appreciation (NUA) remains tax-deferred until the securities are sold. At their sale, the NUA is taxed as a long-term capital gain.5

Lastly, consider living in a state where taxes bite a little less. Not everyone can afford to move, but in the long run, living in Florida, Nevada, Washington, Texas or other states that are relatively tax-friendly for retirees can help. Even moving to another town within your current state might result in some tax savings.6,7

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

Citations.

1 – money.cnn.com/2013/02/11/pf/expert/retirement-tax-plans.moneymag/ [2/11/13]

2 – biz.yahoo.com/edu/mf/vra.html [2/13/14]

3 – tinyurl.com/l6lkrfu [2/12/14]

4 – bankrate.com/finance/money-guides/capital-losses-can-help-cut-your-tax-bill-1.aspx [9/19/13] 

5 – raymondjames.com/making_right_distribution.htm [2/13/14]

6 – wife.org/minimizing-tax-burden-in-retirement.htm [2/13/14]

7 – money.msn.com/tax-planning/retired-how-to-cut-your-taxes-mark-koba [2/6/12]

 

April showers bring May flowers, eh?

Somebody alert the providers of floral items.  They’re either going to be left twiddling their thumbs because the general public is inundated by blooms of exotic sizes and descriptions springing up along every highway and by-way or their own backyards…or…there will be wholesalers of flowers lurking around corners trying to off-load cheap orchid and baby’s breath that they just happen to have a truckload of in a back alley somewhere.  “Hey, little girl, want some real cool Dianthus barbatus?  Try it, you’ll like it.  Give it to your friends.  I’ll come back tomorrow.  Bring your lunch money.”

So this week you could celebrate the one hundred forty-second anniversary of the first Arbor Day, begun in Nebraska—where they really needed trees—in 1872(If you don’t count Villanueva de la Sierra in Spain in 1805).  J. Sterling Morton was the organizer of that first event and over one million trees were planted in Nebraska.  Later, Major Israel McCreight of DuBois, PA, after listening to Theodore Roosevelt’s speaking of his interest in conservation and a national park system, declared that the speeches shouldn’t be directed  only at businessmen, but at schoolchildren.  Gifford Pinchot, head of the United States Forest Service, picked up that ball and ran with it.  On April 15, 1907, Roosevelt issued         the Arbor Day Proclamation to the School Children of the United States about the importance of trees.

You might want to try planting a bald cypress.  They like moist soil.  We’ve got that.

Anyway, check with your local county Soil and Water Conservation District(Every county’s got one, I think.);they’ve got evergreens, deciduous trees, shrubs, flowering & fruiting trees( lots of native plants) at good prices.  Some get sold out early, some get left over and can be picked up for a song.  Last year I got American Chestnut whips and a subscription to the Ohio Nut Growers Association magazine, “In A Nutshell”.  No smart remarks, please.  Just reading about the plants and their characteristics is really interesting.

You can get fish too.  Might need them for the back forty.

 

While we have “Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang” and “A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles” available in the reference section here at the Newton Falls Public Library, both are more useful for looking up the origins of specific words and phrases. Putting “cowboy slang” into an online search engine brings up quite a few websites, but we had a tough time finding one that cited its sources, and so we weren’t sure how authentic they actually were.

Looking through CLEVNET, however, we found “Cowboy Lingo” and “Western Words: A Dictionary of the Range, Cow Camp, and Trail.” Both are written by Ramon Frederick Adams, a respected Western writer, historian, and bibliographer, and both can be put on hold and sent to any other CLEVNET library.

Here at Newton Falls, we have Candy Moulton’s “The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West From 1840-1900,” which has a short chapter on language along with a wealth of other information, including sections about the clothes people wore, the food that they ate, and what they did for fun. We also have “The Cowboys” by Time-Life Books and a selection of more general books about the American West, including Geoffrey C. Ward’s “The West: An Illustrated History” and James D. Horan’s “The Great American West.”

 

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

 

By now you probably have seen the Girl Scout Cookie booths at your favorite grocery stores, banks, malls and Wal-Marts so if you didn’t pre-order your cookies, make sure you pick them up while you are at the winery as cookie booth season is over!

As the proud sponsor of Girl Scout Troop 402 in Garrettsville, the winery has been converted into Girl Scout cookie headquarters for our troop to get their cookies to you. While the Girl Scouts did an amazing job of selling cookies, a few curious parents have asked what wine pairs well with the rest of the Girl Scout cookies after last week’s article? There are so many options with 8 great cookies this year, so here are the pairings for the remaining cookies.

Let’s start with my favorite Girl Scout Cookie – the Samoa. This delectable caramel, coconut and chocolate-covered cookie has so many flavors that pairing it with a particular wine is tough. However I had a bottle of Tawny Port and sampled it with the cookie. It was so unexpected. The nutty flavors of the Port really brought out the caramel and coconut of the cookie without losing the cookie flavor.

Next is the Trefoil cookie. This shortbread cookie could be paired with almost any wine since it is so light. However I found that an oaked Chardonnay paired quite well with this cookie. The buttery overtones in the Chardonnay matched quite well with the buttery taste of the Trefoil.

The newest cookie was introduced a couple of years ago and seems to be picking up in sales. The Thank U Berry Munch has mix of cranberry and white fudge chips. My initial thought was to pair this with our Cranberry wine but I found that I liked the cookie much better with our Iced Wine which is a much sweeter and almost syrupy wine. The combination of the cranberries and white fudge chips made the wine perfect for dessert.

Finally, for this week I paired this year’s new cookie, Savannah Smiles, with our Chambourcin. This lemon crispy cookie covered in powered sugar can be difficult to pair since lemon is such an overpowering flavor. But the smooth finish of the Chambourcin reduced the bite from the lemon flavor and made this a great pair. The Savannah Smiles cookie is the signature cookie representing the Girl Scouts 100th anniversary is a great way to end our cookie tasting this year.

Not a fan of cookies — or sticking to your New Year’s Resolution? You can still support the Girl Scout Troops – we have challenged our troop to raise enough money to send 400 boxes of cookies to the troops overseas! Stop by the winery to help this great cause!

 

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville. For more gift ideas or wine lists from the winery, please visit www.candlelightwinery.com.

A little phrase that may mean a big difference. When you read about investing and other financial topics, you occasionally see the phrase “tax efficiency” or a reference to a “tax-sensitive” way of investing. What does that really mean?

* The after-tax return vs. the pre-tax return. Everyone wants their investment portfolio to perform well. But it is your after-tax return that really matters. If your portfolio earns you double-digit returns, those returns really aren’t so great if you end up losing 20% or 30% of them to taxes. In periods when the return on your investments is low, tax efficiency takes on even greater importance.

* Tax-sensitive tactics. Some methods have emerged that are designed to improve after-tax returns. Money managers commonly consider these strategies when determining whether assets should be bought or sold.

* Holding onto assets. One possible method for realizing greater tax efficiency is simply to minimize buying and selling to reduce capital gains taxes. The idea is to pursue long-term gains, instead of seeking short-term gains through a series of steady transactions.

* Tax-loss harvesting. This means selling certain securities at a loss to counterbalance capital gains. In this scenario, the capital losses you incur are applied against your capital gains to lower your personal tax liability. Basically, you’re making lemonade out of the lemons in your portfolio.

* Assigning investments selectively to tax-deferred and taxable accounts. Here’s a rather basic tactic intended to work over the long run: tax-efficient investments are placed in taxable accounts, and less tax-efficient investments are held in tax-advantaged accounts. Of course, if you have 100% of your investment money in tax-deferred accounts, then this isn’t a consideration.

* How tax-efficient is your portfolio? It’s an excellent question, one you should consider. But this brief article shouldn’t be interpreted as tax or investment advice. If you’d like to find out more about tax-sensitive ways to invest, be sure to talk with a qualified financial advisor who can help you explore your options today. What you learn could be eye-opening.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

Out like a lamb?  Maybe a drippy-wet lamb.  Maybe a lamb looking up at the occasional flurries and possible thunderstorms lurking in the wings next  week.  Baaaa! Enjoy it while you can.  Quoting The Old Farmer’s Almanac here, “Showers often; the earth softens.  Sunny and sweet.  Watch out for sleet!”

Sounds  like Winter : Lite to me; a sunnier version of what we’ve had going on since November or so.  The next entry is, “Dry feet.  (around Palm Sunday) A soaking, no joking!  Peepers croaking (Easter)” Well, we have THAT to look forward to.  Those participating in Easter egg hunts might want to bring along a minnow net.  The summer map predicts a hot and dry summer in our area but the specifics of May look pretty damp.  Methinks the Old Farmer is hedging his bets.

I have got bulbs of various sorts that desperately need to get out and sink their little green toes in the dirt—have to wait until the dirt thaws.  I have snowdrops lifting  their shy little heads and looking around the front lawn.  There are two clumps of golden crocus (croci? crocuses?) and one anti-social singleton out there.  I finally took down the Christmas wreath on the front porch pillar.  Spring must surely be here.

“You can step on the flowers but you can never delay the Spring.”—Pablo Neruda

Looking through my latest spring issue of Popular Science , I’ve spotted a number of interesting items on the page revealing new products available.

How about a transportation gizmo that looks “like the love child of a motorcycle and a unicycle.”  Called the Ryno, it’s a single wheel with a seat and handlebars; a gyroscope and accelerometers (whatever they are) keep the rider upright.  Speeds up to 10mph may be reached by leaning forward.  What a hoot!  Can you just see people buzzing around town on these machines?  No mention of how many miles per gallon but it would have to be amazing.  Don’t believe they’re quite “Turnpike-ready” but a little plaza-cruising would not be out of the question.  Drag racing with riders really dragging off the machines running  on their own!  $5300

The world’s first beer-flavored jelly beans have been produced by the Jelly Belly people.  It is, apparently, a Hefeweizen-style confection, has no alcohol, and can be paired with a Red Apple jelly bean to approximate  an apple cider shandy(beer mixed with apple juice or a soft drink or lemonade, popular in Germany).  You won’t see a Budweiser commercial for this one next Super Bowl.  $8.99/lb.

Here’s something that you didn’t know that you needed, a cubic rubber band, made by Nendo.  Right, it looks like one of those illustrations in the plain geometry textbook.  There was no indication of how big it is, no scale but PS did comment that it was easier to pick up than the standard round rubber one.  Also mentioned that it might be difficult to shoot the thing.  Too bad, little boys!  $10 (No mention o whether this was for just one or a box of the little buggers, the way rubber bands are usually sold)

How about the Flir One, a thermal imaging device for the iPhone which detects infrared energy from 32 degrees to 212 degrees (freezing to boiling).  Suggested uses include seeing in the dark, locating heat loss (energy assessments, like around doors and windows to determine  ways to reduce your energy use) and cheating at hide and seek.

And, finally, the latest from Kings Island, The Banshee.  This is the world’s longest inverted roller coaster.  Oy! Speaking as one who gets dizzy and suffers from borderline vertigo just looking out of a second story window( I passed up the opportunity to go up in Seattle’s Space Needle and the CN Tower in Toronto.  I was clutching nearby structures at the time), I don’t think that this will be on my summer plans.  Speeds of up to 68mph can be reached (not by me!) in a transit time of approximately two minutes and 40 seconds.  Zoweeee!  No wonder they named it the Banshee (In Irish folklore, a woman who starts to wail when someone is about to die; a messenger from the underworld; a keening woman whose wail can be so piercing that it shatters glass).  The one about to die would be me, were I to, somehow,  be put aboard such a ride from—and to– the pit of Hades.  I have to be with a particularly charming child to get on a carousel, even with a Joe Leonard-carved horse.  The last such contraption that I was on was dubbed the “WildMouse”  and was just about the size you’d imagine with such a name.  Small children ride the roller coaster and wave their hands in the air; I stand on the ground and quiver just watching.EEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW!

 

This weekend, I had the opportunity to make some homemade mozzarella and ricotta cheeses with some friends, and the results were simply delicious. Although ricotta cheese can be made using basic ingredients most of us have in our kitchens, I chose to use a cheese-making kit, which includes everything needed to make either ricotta or mozzarella — you simply add the milk.

The kit contains cheesecloth, a thermometer, and enough rennet, citric acid, and cheese salt to make 30 batches of either ricotta or mozzarella cheese. It also includes simple recipes and tips to help you get stated. Since the process was so simple, I thought I’d share the recipes and step-by-step instructions, in case you want to try it for yourself. You can use your fresh cheese on pizza, in lasagna, or in any recipe you wish.

We sliced our mozzarella and arranged it over sliced tomatoes, sprinkled it with torn basil leaves and drizzled olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top. We enjoyed the ricotta spread on crusty wheat bread, topped with a splash of olive oil, chopped sundried tomatoes and Italian spices. Any combination of those ingredients would make a wonderful Italian-style grilled cheese sandwich. The possibilities are endless — so what are you waiting for? Get cheesy!

Mozzarella Cheese (Makes about ¾ pound)

Ingredients

1 gallon milk (make sure your milk is not Ultra- Pasteurized)

1 1/4 cups cool, chlorine-free water

1 1/2 tsp. citric acid

1/4 rennet tablet

1 tsp. salt

 

Tools

1 gallon stainless steel pot

thermometer

slotted spoon

colander

knife

glass bowl

 

First, dissolve 1/4 rennet tablet into 1/4 cup of cool water and set aside. Then mix 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid into 1 cup cool water and pour into your pot and stir until dissolved. Then add the milk into a large stainless steel pot and heat to 90 degrees while stirring constantly.

Remove the pot for the stove and add the rennet mixture, then stir the mixture for about a minute.  Next, cover the pot and let it sit, undisturbed, for five minutes. After five minutes your mixture should congeal and look sort of like a floating mass of tofu. (If not, let it sit for another few minutes.) Take a knife and cut the curd into small squares, then place your pot back on the stove and heat to 105 degrees while slowly moving the curds around with a spoon.

Once the temperature has reached 105 degrees, remove the pot from the stove and continue to stir the curds for another three to five minutes.  Then pour off the liquid, which is called whey, and use a slotted spoon to transfer the curds into a large glass bowl. Reserve the whey for another use*.

Next, microwave the curds for 1 minute. Then drain any excess liquid, shape into a ball and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Place the cheese ball back in the bowl and microwave for another 30 seconds.  Drain, and check the temperature — The cheese must be 135 degrees to stretch properly. Stretch the cheese a few times and form it into a log or ball.

Place your stretched cheese in a bowl filled with cool water and let it sit for five minutes. Then add one cup of ice cubes to the bowl, and let it sit for an additional 15 minutes to cool down completely. You can now eat the mozzarella, cook with it, or store it in an airtight container for up to a week.

Ricotta Cheese (Makes 1 ¾ – 2 pounds)

Ingredients

1 gallon milk (make sure your milk is not Ultra- Pasteurized)

1 teaspoon citric acid

1 teaspoon salt, optional

 

Tools

large pot

thermometer

measuring spoons

cheese cloth

strainer

mixing bowl

slotted spoon

 

Pour the milk into a large pot and set it over medium heat. Let it warm gradually to 195°F, stirring constantly.  Remove the milk from heat. Pour in the citric acid and salt, stirring gently to combine.

Let the pot of milk sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. After this time, the milk should have separated into clumps of milky white curds and thin, watery, yellow-colored whey. Set a strainer over a bowl and line the strainer with cheesecloth. Scoop the big curds out of the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the strainer. Pour the remaining curds and the whey through the strainer. Reserve the whey for another use*.

Let the ricotta drain for 10 to 60 minutes, depending on how wet or dry you prefer your ricotta. If it becomes too dry, you can also stir some of the whey back in before using or storing. Use your fresh ricotta right away or refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to a week.

 

*Don’t dump that whey! You can use it in place of equal parts water in bread or pizza dough, or add it to smoothies for an added source of protein.

 

Wow what a winter! It is like the children’s fairy tale “The Never Ending Story” instead we should call it “The Never Ending Winter.” To date, 93% of the Great Lakes are frozen and some say it is the coldest since the winter of 1977-78. Believe it or not, spring IS on its way. Hopefully this is the last week of below average temperatures. Since we at Nearby Nature are eternal optimists, we thought there was no better way to think about spring than to talk about Morels.  

Maplewood, beware!

I’m thinking that the cats—at least some of them—need occupational/vocational counseling.

One of the guys(It’s always the guys)apparently thinks that he is a watchcat, protecting us all from  dangerous gray tiger cats out on the back porch.  He pays no attention at all to the calico incipiently-maternal feline that appears on the front porch.  When  he spots this gray interloper looking in the window, he growls in the fiercest possible manner, from somewhere south of his liver and paces along the top of the handy chair back, hurling threats and imprecations at this creature that had DARED to look in the window.  Sometimes he yowls really loudly and runs to  another window to repeat the whole thing…maybe he’s trying to give the impression that there is a whole cat posse inside here  just itching to get out and make short work of the trespasser.

However, if I open the door, guess who takes off and heads for far parts?  Got it in one.

Then there’s some individual here who is laboring under the delusion that he, or maybe she, is a florist or horticulturist of some sort.  I bought flowers, see, just  because the place could use  some color and some illusion that winter might come to an end someday.   Company was coming and while running the  vacuum was a necessity, it wasn’t real uplifting…so…flowers.  They were O.K. as long as there were people in the house but under cover of darkness, SOMEBODY removed the baby’s breath and fern and the flower buds and blossoms from the vases and strewed them artistically across the top of the buffet and down on the carpet; different  arrangements on different occasions  You haven’t lived until you’ve stepped on something small and soft  and unmoving… in the dark.  It’s a wake-up call, for sure.  This happens every time there are flowers are in the house.  Somebody else is chewing off the leaves on a shamrock plant(Not much Luck of the Irish here) but the miniature daffodils are safe, so far.  The escapades have continued from poinsettias to primroses and roses.  Whoever is doing this is not picky, just determined.  Anything green is regarded as a challenge.

Then again, there’s somebody  around here who is , perhaps, pursuing a career in writing or in interior decorating.  Pens move around.  Papers travel.  The lid to the kitty water fountain downstairs keeps moving off to new locales and the cat food cups can’t be counted on to stay in the same place for more than a day or two.  I don’t use them, honest. I wouldn’t even mind all of this movement, if I could just count on them to clean up once in a while.  Not happening.   One of them has taken to curling up in the bottoms of the drapes.  Certainly picturesque but not really helpful.  A couple, the older ones, I think, make  a point of watching for my return by sitting in the window and watching for the headlights.  This is why the front windows have got nose prints.  The back door has got paw prints, from the littlest guy standing up on his back legs and scratching away at the glass to let me know that he wants out—NOW!  He’s really good at making known his desire to come back in too.  He just stands there staring in…staring with yellow eyes and real intensity.  Never takes very long to get my attention.   This is a smart cat.  When it was REALLY cold, he would go to the door  to be let out and I would go and open the door.  He would put maybe one paw out into the frigidity then turn around, come back in and give me a look which was clearly meant to say, “Are you kidding me?”  Nope.  Still COLD.

And we won’t even start on the soccer players… the balls have bells..games at night.

 

Is a tax refund coming your way? If you have already received your refund for the 2013 tax year or are about to receive it, you might want to think about the destiny of that money. Here are some possibilities.

Start (or add to) an emergency fund. Many people don’t have a dedicated rainy day fund, only the presumption that they might have enough cash in case of a financial tight spot.

Invest in yourself. You could put the money toward education, career training, personal improvement, or some sort of personal experience with the potential to enhance your life.

Use it for a down payment on a car or truck or real property. Real property represents the better financial choice, but updating your vehicle may have merit – cars do wear out, and while a truck also ages, it can help you make money.

Put it into an IRA or workplace retirement account. If you haven’t maxed out your IRA this year or have a chance to get an employer match, why not?

Help your child open up a Roth IRA. If your under-18 son or daughter will earn income this year, he or she can open a Roth IRA. Your child’s contribution limit is $5,500 or the amount of his or her earned income for 2014 (whichever is lower). You can actually make this Roth IRA contribution with your own money if your child has spent his or her earnings.1,2  

Buy some warehouse memberships. If you have a large family or own a small service business, why not sign up to save regularly?

Pay down debt. Always a smart choice.

Establish a financial strategy. Some financial professionals work on a fee-only basis. If your tax refund is substantial, it could pay some or all the fee that might be charged for a review of your current financial situation and a plan for the future, with no further obligation to you.

Pay for that trip in advance. Instead of racking up a bigger credit card bill, consider pre-paying some costs or taking an all-inclusive trip (some are not as pricey as you might think).

Get your home ready for the market. A four-figure refund may give you the cash to spruce up the yard and/or exterior of your residence. Or, it could help you pay a professional who can assist you with staging it.

Improve your home with energy-saving appliances. Or windows, or weatherstripping, or solar panels – just to name a few options.

Create your own food bank. What if a hurricane or an earthquake hits? Where would your food and water come from? Worth thinking about.

Write a proper will. Your refund could pay the attorney fee, and the will you create might end up more ironclad.

See a doctor, optometrist, dentist or physical therapist. If you haven’t been able to see these professionals due to your insurance situation or your personal cash flow, the refund might provide a way.

Give yourself a de facto raise. Adjust your withholding to boost your take-home pay.

Pick up some more insurance coverage for cheap. More and more affordable options exist for insuring yourself, your business and your property.

Pay it forward. Your refund could turn into a charitable contribution (deductible on your 2012 federal tax return if you itemize deductions).

Last year, the average federal tax refund was $2,744. That’s a nice chunk of change – and it could be used to bring some positive change to your financial life and the lives of others.3

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  1660 West 2nd Street, Suite 850 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies.

 

Citations:

1 – wellsfargoadvantagefunds.com/wfweb/wf/retirement/ira/faq.jsp [2/11/14]

2 – kiplinger.com/article/saving/T046-C001-S003-often-overlooked-opportunities-to-save-in-a-roth-i.html [1/28/14]

3 – blog.seattlepi.com/irs/2014/02/04/irs-kicks-off-2014-tax-season-check-your-eitc-eligibility/ [2/4/14]

 

 

Like many of you, our family and employees are saddened by the loss our town suffered this past weekend. We have grown to know many of the business owners and their families over the years and are working with the fundraising groups in Garrettsville to host a number of events. More details will be posted to our website as well as the Chamber of Commerce website as the details are finalized. As many of you know Candlelight Winery is also heavily involved in Girl Scouts and are working with our local troops to get some additional fundraisers going as well. While this is a sad time for many, I know how strong Garrettsville is and will quickly shine again. Until then I hope this article starts to bring back a sense of normalcy and humor to you.

The first department store in Portage County (Chic & Shabby/the Root Store)transformed into a  source for home decorating with a distinctive touch…a craftsman fascinated by and devoted to clocks… a fledgling lawyer, an experienced attorney…the Barber of G-Ville…lawn and garden equipment gurus…a quilt shop drawing craft persons  from all over the state and beyond…a podiatrist…an audiologist…a community food cupboard offering a lifeline to community members in difficulty…tools for every need and every handyman…a dream-come-true shop full of one-of-a-kind items, fun to own, fun to sell…memories…gone.

The Newton Falls Public Library offers free computer classes and one-on-one times three Mondays and one Saturday every month. However, we understand that everyone has busy schedules. Fortunately, there are online resources available. Cynthia Casterline, our technology educator, recommended LearningExpress Library and GCFLearnFree.org.

LearningExpress Library requires that you set up an account first at a participating library (such as Newton Falls Public Library), but after that, you can access it from anywhere. Along with tutorials on everything from the very basics to Adobe Photoshop, LearningExpress Library also offers practice exams for the SAT, ACT, GED, AP tests, CDL exams, NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN, and many others. It also provides math and English practice and help.

GCFLearnFree.org can be accessed anywhere even if you don’t have a library card. It offers math, English, and career help as well, along with a wealth of computer tutorials on Google, Facebook, Microsoft Office, using the mouse, Skype, iPads, iPhones, and many more.

 

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

 

The wind still whistled through the curious puppy’s floppy ears, but Doodle Dog had so much fun at the park he decided to go back again today to see what more he could find. As he made his way down the sidewalk, his little legs tilted his body slightly to the side as if automatically remembering how to curve and sway as the go-kart zipped and swerved and whipped through the blurry lines of competition. Doodle Dog almost had to convince himself he was now safe on firm ground! But as his furry paws met the solid concrete, it wasn’t long before the floppy-eared puppy found his land legs and it wasn’t long after that he found them leading him to the grassy green carpet of the park.

One of the most frequently asked questions I get at the winery is “Can you taste the difference between an expensive and inexpensive wine?” This is always a tough question to answer but usually I can tell the difference between the two wines. However there are some inexpensive wines that have really surprised me.

I have had my share of really expensive (over $50) bottles of wine that were terrible and I have had my share of inexpensive (under $8) bottles of wine that were amazing. Regardless of the price range, a lot has to do with how the wine is stored and handled before you drink it. Assuming that the bottles are both stored in the right temperatures and on their side you may be surprised how comparable the two wines are.

Another factor to look at is the type of winery the wine comes from. Some of the smaller boutique wineries may have more expensive wines because they might have smaller quantities of that wine or the wines may have been aged longer than the others. However some of the larger wineries will also offer more expensive wines based on the amount of work that goes into the grape growing process, thus making the quality of the wine much greater.

One of my favorite deals is when an expensive wine goes on sale. You do have to watch though because sometimes it means the wine is starting to go bad, however most of the time, wineries will have a sale because the next vintage is about to be released. If you are lucky, you can even buy an older vintage at a lower price and the newer vintage at its regular price so you can compare it.

Regardless of the price, you may be surprised on how good an inexpensive wine tastes. I recommend setting aside a wine budget and every once in a while try the more expensive bottle of wine.

 

 

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville. For more gift ideas or wine lists from the winery, please visit www.candlelightwinery.com.

The Oxford English Dictionary has just come out with its quarterly revisions and additions.  Some nine hundred new words and phrases have now been deemed worthy to grace its pages, some of them pretty far out there.  How often do you wish to know the meaning of Empedoclean? ( Don’t go there.  It’s about some Greek philosopher dude named Empedocles who posited  the theory that all matter was made up of four elements—earth, air, fire, water—and has morphed into a new Empedoclean Evolution theory where change is caused by attraction and repulsion.  It is also connected—somehow—to a so-called Project Mayhem featuring—would I make this up?—Chaos and Pain.   Sounds attractive, eh?)

How far back can you remember into your childhood?  I’m guessing that most people can’t remember much before 4 years old.  I’ve read that approximately 4 years of age is somewhat of a threshold of actively recalled memory experiences. This is not to say that there aren’t occasional flashback experiences—dreams and visual recalls.  Some of them are often strange and seemingly unrelated to general life themes.  For example, I remember a scene in our apartment, from which we moved ‘long about 1949, wherein I wanted some more milk and my mother showing me an almost empty milk bottle saying “the rest is for your Father’s coffee”.( Yes, I’m sure we could psychoanalyze that one!!) Certainly unpleasant repressed experiences are somehow retained on an unconscious level. Pleasant things are likewise often retained as an aura or overall good feeling.   I surely can’t remember much prior to four years of age but I do have a sort of flashback memory in the context of automobiles. How odd!  Does this mean that automobiles are somehow genetically programmed into me?  If you buy Darwin’s theory of evolution (being of a scientific background I certainly do!) then it is certainly possible and more than likely so.   Hey, generations of birds seem to automatically be programmed to ….fly south, then north again, visit the same bird feeders, and eat the same things, generation after generation, right?   Without a doubt old cars are a major part of the Schweitzer lineage dating back to the beginning the automobile era and my Grandfather Charles. He would have been about 12 years old at the turn of the century—1900—and witness to the beginning of the great age of automobiles.  Yes, I know, the old nature verses nurture debate comes into play. Why me and not my sister or brother who have little interest in automobiles? I buy the genetics!

How many 401(k)s have more than $100k in them? According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), the average 401(k) balance at the end of 2012 was $63,929. Even with stocks rising last year, the average balance likely remains underwhelming.1

Is this enough money to retire on? No – and this is only part of America’s retirement dilemma. There is inequity in retirement savings – some households have steadily contributed to retirement accounts, others have not. Additionally, IRAs, 401(k)s and 403(b)s can suffer when stocks plunge, with the most invested potentially having the most to lose. 

If you are an avid reader of this column, you know that I love getting together with friends and pairing different foods and wines together. We’ve paired Halloween candy, BBQ sauces, pizzas, Girl Scout cookies and desserts. This past weekend we had a fantastic time sitting with Chef Gary from The Rolling Pig to pair wines with his gourmet dips.  

It seems that most everyone is Irish, at least on Saint Patrick’s Day. And although my family is truly Irish (just ask Grandma Flanagan!), we haven’t inherited a love of many of the Irish foods typically served this time of year. Sorry, Grandma, but cooked cabbage has been pretty much banned from our house due to its pungent aroma, and corned beef, looking all red and stringy, is just not our cup of tea either. While we do enjoy potatoes, since they’re such a menu staple, they don’t bring on the St. Patty’s Day spirit. My husband and children would be content to celebrate with Lucky Charms cereal, which is also a staple in our home (don’t judge!), but I want to go with something a little more traditional. And while Irish and Irish-for-the-day traditionally celebrate with green beer, whiskey, Baileys, or Irish coffee, I’m looking for a more family-friendly way to mark the day at home. 

The Old Farmer says of the month of March (and I quote), “In like a sea lion, cold and wet with fishy breath. Rain to snow and snow to rain—di-si-do and back again!  This month can’t be trusted; the hinge of spring has rusted.”

There are two annual book sales at the Newton Falls Public Library, one in the spring and one in the fall. There’s also a small cart in the lobby where people can buy books year-round. All sales are put on by the Friends of the Newton Falls Public Library.

The Friends of the Library is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 dedicated to supporting the library. The money from the book sale, as well as what’s brought in from their other fundraisers, pays for supplies, prizes, and special programs during Summer Reading. The money also goes toward projects to improve the library, such as siding the garage, and all of our other speakers and programs throughout the year, including the Harvest Fest.

Along with running the book sales, the Friends also volunteer at the library and sponsor programs like the Annual Poetry and Short Prose contest. Membership is open to anyone, and those interested can pick up an application at the library’s circulation desk. The Friends of the Library are currently running a spring membership drive, and any new or renewed memberships between March 3 and May 20 will be entered into a drawing to win a Kindle Fire HD, so it’s an excellent time to join for anyone who’s interested.

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

 

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

 

Have you noticed? It’s getting lighter closer to breakfast and is still light out after supper! The temperatures have warmed (albeit very slowly) but you know spring is around-the-corner now that the sap buckets are hung and local breakfasts are serving hotcakes and maple syrup.