Thursday, May 26, 2016

You Worked Monday. Why Not Get Paid Monday?

Image result for Money apps
New financial-tech services let employees withdraw a portion of the money they earn, as they earn it.

It was a find—a better apartment, with a lower rent. Amber Thompson jumped on it and gave her landlord 30 days' notice.

Shortly before the 28-year-old Gonzales, La., hospital recruiter was scheduled to move, she found out that her landlord required 60 days' notice. She would have to pay an extra month of rent for her old place on the same day she’d be paying the first month’s rent on her new place, on top of her other bills. Her paycheck wouldn’t arrive in time to cover it all.

Cash crunches such as Thompson's lead many people to pile up credit-card debt, bounce checks, or turn to payday lenders, which charge high interest rates and fees for making loans against your paycheck. The result can be additional fees for late payments and overdrafts in a financial spiral.

Thompson had a further option. Her employer, Baton Rouge General Medical Center, had signed on with a service called PayActiv that lets employees withdraw a portion of the money they earn, as they earn it, without waiting for a paycheck. The transaction fee is $5. Thompson, one of 400 or so employees who enrolled to use the service, walked to the PayActiv ATM in her building and took out $400.

PayActiv just won a Best of Show award at FinovateSpring 2016 for its use of technology to ease the "cash flow struggles of working families." (A picture of its app appears below.) It is one of a raft of young financial technology companies with such names as FlexWage, Activehours, Clearbanc, and Even that were launched to fill a financial gap.1 Weekly and biweekly paychecks don't fit the way many people work any more. In a sign of the times, ride services such as Lyft and Uber have rolled out Instant Pay and Express Pay services for their drivers

“So many of our financial services today are based on a stability of lifestyle and income that very few people have now,” said Ryan Falvey, who oversees the Financial Solutions Lab at the Center for Financial Services Innovation. The Lab supports companies working on creative services that help Americans improve their finances.

“Everyone has this mindset that waiting to get paid is somehow good," said PayActiv's chief executive officer, Safwan Shah. "Is waiting to get paid something that can create forced savings, or does it cause problems for low-income people? We’ve done studies to prove that what we are doing is actually helping people save more.”  

That doesn't mean having constant access to your earnings is risk-free. Activehours, which lets consumers choose what to pay for transactions through what it calls "tips," helps employees with budgeting, said Ram Palaniappan, CEO. “If you need to spend, you check if there are earnings in the app, and if there aren’t, you need to work more before you spend,” he said. “It’s very much like business, trying to make revenue meet expenses.”

Moreover, the percentage of earnings that employees can take, and how often they can take it, may be limited by employers. For now, Baton Rouge General caps withdrawals at 50 percent of wages earned and a maximum of $500. An employee can’t take out another loan until the first one is repaid out of his or her paycheck.

Other companies may set the limit at 75 percent to 80 percent of earnings and limit the service's use to once per pay cycle, said FlexWage CEO Frank Dombroski. He founded the company after six years at JPMorgan, where he managed the firm's commercial payments solutions business.

The pitch to employers is less financial stress on employees and improved productivity. The service is often positioned as a financial wellness benefit that can increase retention. PayActiv's Shah said being able to tap earnings this way can lead to better financial behavior. He compared it to grazing on food, rather than bingeing.

“Access to money in small dollar amounts when it’s needed has far more value than waiting to be paid and, in the interim, getting into a debt trap, à la payday lending,” he said.
It’s too early to measure the results, though some companies offer positive anecdotal evidence. 

At Baton Route General, Chief Financial Officer Kendall Johnson was leery of PayActiv. “We were very concerned that this would become another form of a recurring loan,” he said. So far, though, employees are using it when they have cash flow problems and need such things as car repair, he said, not turning to it every month. He's seen a decrease in the number of employees using check-cashing sites and payday lenders, which call Baton Route General to verify employment.

Michael Fox, chief executive officer of Goodwill of Silicon Valley, says PayActiv's service has been “fairly successful” in a pilot program with about 300 employees. When Fox was in southeast Asia getting a global MBA, he saw how small financial mishaps could create disasters. “Something happens in a family where they need $200 to $300 now, and it starts this whole domino effect, and can even lead to unemployment,” he said.

A few years ago, Fox saw one employee go from owing about $500 to a payday lender to owing several thousand dollars within a few months, he said. Goodwill gave the employee a loan so he could pay off the high-interest loan.

These early-stage companies need to scale up while keeping the cost of acquiring customers low, and they are likely to face increased regulatory scrutiny as the sector grows. Shah said PayActiv has had over a dozen meetings in the past two years with 25 to 30 people associated with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Project Catalyst "in the spirit of keeping them updated." Project Catalyst's "mission is to encourage consumer-friendly innovation in markets for consumer financial products and services," according to the CFPB website.

Dombroski said FlexWage has been working with Project Catalyst on a study to quantify the impact of financial stress. The CFPB said in an e-mail that it "meets regularly with a range of industry and advocacy stakeholders" but generally doesn't "comment on or discuss specific products." 

"I don't think the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has put a broad eye on these companies yet because the numbers aren't there yet," said Sam Maule, digital practice lead for NTT Data Consulting. "The onus is on these companies to educate the regulators."

It also falls to them to educate customers about how the product is meant to be used, said Cherian Abraham, a payment expert at credit-tracking company Experian. "It's harder for companies like these because their customers have been called unprofitable by the traditional financial institutions," Abraham said. "So they have a tougher job." 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

This Is the Work Benefit New Graduates Really Want

Surprise, surprise! People with tons of debt and little-to-no income want to work at places that will help them out with their loans.

In the last year, more and more companies have started offering their employees cash to pay off student loans as part of benefits packages. And those that need it most -- college students with tons of debt and little-to-no income -- want to work at those places.

Over 60 percent of 2,500 new graduates surveyed by Indeed, a job search site, said they are looking to work somewhere that will put some money toward their student debts. The survey, released Thursday, also found that a quarter of respondents say it's a "top priority" to land a job that will help pay back some of their loans. Another survey from a few months ago found that a third of millennials expect their employer to pay back some of their loans. 

"As student loans loom large on the conscience of seniors, it's top of mind," said Paul D'Arcy, senior vice president at Indeed. "They have big loans and when getting a job, it's a natural link."

Unfortunately, most graduates won't end up working somewhere that offers this dream benefit—it's still super niche: Despite a string of high profile organizations offering the benefit, only about 3 percent of employers offered loan assistance in 2015, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. Indeed says that less than one percent of its listings mention the benefit in job postings. 

"For companies there's an opportunity here in the war for talent," added D'Arcy.

The good news for grads is that the places that tend to offer the benefit hire lots of people right out of college. Companies like Fidelity and PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has said it plans on hiring 11,000 people through on-campus recruiting this year, were among the first to make big, splashy announcements about offering the benefit. And, graduates desperate to pay off their debts are starting to notice. "Now that there’s some visibility in media, they know to ask about it," said Bruce Elliott, the manager of compensation and benefits at SHRM.

The benefit, while only a few hundred dollars a month, can take a big bite out of someone's debt burden. One study estimated that just $167 a month can save an undergraduate with around the average debt burden $4,100 in interest.

As the hiring market gets tighter, more companies fighting for young, highly educated talent will start offering the benefit, predicted Elliott. "Employers that heavily recruit on college campuses, I think they're going to be quick to adopt this." 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Corporate Jets Were All the Rage, Until They Weren't (BW)

Avalon International Airshow 2007. The Bombardier Global 5000 private jet at the
 Bombardier Global 5000 private jet.

  • Oil slump, emerging-market downturn lead to rare bargains
  • GE, ADM, Wynn selling aircraft to cut corporate expenses
The private jet Janine Iannarelli is selling for a Russian client has leather seats, wood paneling, a satellite phone and can fly nonstop from Tokyo to Los Angeles. The price has dropped $3 million since September and is still falling.
Iannarelli today is hawking the 10-year-old Bombardier Global 5000 for $14.5 million but recommends that her client cut the price further as the market for large-cabin business jets keeps weakening. A new Global 5000 lists for $50.4 million.
“There’s absolutely no evidence of a recovery on the horizon,” says Iannarelli, founder of Houston-based aircraft brokerage Par Avion Ltd. “None of the jet models has hit bottom.”
Rarely seen bargains abound for big corporate aircraft as tumbling oil wealth, a stronger dollar and a downturn for emerging-market giants from Brazil to Russia cripple demand. As owners from foreign tycoons to Archer-Daniel-Midlands Co. try to sell their planes, Bombardier Inc., General Dynamics Corp.’s Gulfstream unit and other planemakers are cutting output and chopping list prices to cope with a glut of new and used business jets.

Former Prize

The slump extends even to the Gulfstream G650 -- just two years ago an aircraft so coveted by well-heeled buyers that some would pay $10 million above list for a used jet rather than wait four years for a new model. Now there are 19 G650s for sale, about 11 percent of the global fleet in operation. One 2013 plane that first was posted for sale in June at $68 million has had its asking price cut twice, to $58.8 million. 
“It’s probably one of the best times I’ve seen in my career to get the values for a big-cabin jet,” says Brian Foley, a business-aircraft consultant who spent 20 years as director of marketing for the North American jet unit of France’s Dassault Aviation SA.
That marks a turnabout from the 2008-09 recession, when large planes -- some spacious enough to let almost 20 people roam around -- weathered the storm better than smaller jets, which cram as few as five passengers in too tight a space to stand up. Sales of bigger aircraft jumped with the economic surge of Brazil, Russia and other developing countries, plus a jump in oil prices and a commodities boom that fed China’s surging exports.

Fortunes Reverse

Now, with many emerging markets faltering, oil companies trimming costs and commodities prices trending down, the tables have turned. Prices of used, large-cabin business jets fell 16 percent last year, according to AircraftPost Inc., which compiles data on the industry. Business-jet sales tumbled 16 percent to $3.53 billion in the first quarter, the biggest drop in almost five years, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. Large-cabin jets led the decline.
“Have prices come down? Yes. Have they come down quicker than usual? I’d say yes,” says Steve Varsano, an aircraft broker in London who is helping to sell three preowned G650s. “But the activity level is still there.”
Gulfstream, which is based in Savannah, Georgia, has reduced production and prices of its G450 and G550 models but doesn’t intend to cut prices for new G650s, said Phebe Novakovic, chief executive officer of parent company General Dynamics. The jet remains a “hot plane,” with about a two-year wait for a new one, she said on a conference call last month.

High Roller

Wynn Aircraft II LLC wants to unload an extended range G650ER that sells for more than $70 million new. A spokesman for Wynn Resorts Ltd., the casino company run by Steve Wynn, declined to comment on the sale.
ADM is selling a 2010 Dassault Falcon 7X for $25.5 million in an effort to reduce executive travel expenses. “Commercial airlines offer options for long-range, nonstop flights which can provide significant savings on our overall costs,” says Steve Schrier, a spokesman for the world’s largest corn processor.
General Electric Co. is selling a 2003 Gulfstream G550, part of an effort to shed assets of its finance unit as the company focuses on industrial operations.
The price on a 2008 Gulfstream G550 registered to Gulf States Toyota Inc., a Houston-based car dealership, has dropped $750,000 to $24.95 million in about six months, according to plane broker Mesinger Jet Sales.
The average value of a used jet currently falls about 8 percent to 10 percent a year, compared with a 3 percent to 4 percent drop before the market slumped, says Jay Mesinger, who is based in Boulder, Colorado. The steeper decline may last for years, he says. “This is going to take a while to correct itself.”
Prices have dropped most sharply for older models, says Neil Book, chief executive of JSSI, which manages 1,800 corporate, commercial and private jets. A Gulfstream GV -- one of the largest, longest-range corporate jets -- fetches about $10 million now, down from $18 million two years ago, he says.

Bombardier ‘Aggression’

Bombardier has been the biggest culprit for the drag on prices, analysts and consultants say. The Montreal-based company overproduced business jets last year and has been discounting heavily to raise cash as its grapples with a C Series commercial-jet program that’s over budget and behind schedule, according to Varsano and Rolland Vincent, an aerospace consultant in Plano, Texas.
“There are some shark-infested waters in that large-cabin space around the $30 million to $40 million list price,” says Vincent, a former executive at Bombardier and the Cessna business-jet arm of Providence, Rhode Island-based Textron Inc. “It’s very aggressive right now, and Bombardier has been leading the aggression.”
Bombardier jet prices have been helped by the company’s decision to cut output of large-cabin planes last year, says spokeswoman Anna Cristofaro. She declined to comment on production rates. Vincent estimates the company will produce about 50 Global jets, down from 80 last year.

‘Eating Their Young’

With the large price gap between new planes and late-model preowned jets, it makes less sense for buyers to purchase aircraft straight from the factory, says Iannarelli, the broker trying to sell a Russian client’s Bombardier Global 5000. That may put pressure on original-equipment manufacturers to discount further.
“The OEMs are eating their young,” she says. “People are waiting on the sidelines wondering when the next price cut is coming.”

Thursday, May 19, 2016

When Your Doctor Is Your Chef

How cooking is changing medicine.
Dr. John Principe in his medical practice's teaching kitchen in Palos Heights, Illinois. 
Dr. John Principe in his medical practice's teaching kitchen in Palos Heights, Illinois. 

After more than 20 years in practice, Dr. John Principe was ready to quit.

“I was just tired of doling out pills and having people die of the same disease I was quote-unquote treating,” says the 58-year-old internist. While he was helping his patients manage their illnesses, he says, he wasn't changing their lives.

Before walking out the door in 2008, he attended the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference in California's Napa Valley, a collaboration between the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America. The conference teaches health professionals about the basics of nutrition and exercise, focusing not only on what to eat but also on how to cook it, topics most medical curricula never touch.

For Principe, it was a game changer. In 2009, he founded a new practice, WellBeingMD, bringing in homemade food and sharing his recipes with patients. He taught cooking classes at a local community center. In 2010, he built a teaching kitchen in his office in Palos Heights, Ill. 

“I mortgaged my house to do it,” he says, “but it’s something I believe in.”

Americans are growing increasingly conscious of their health, as diet-related conditions such as diabetes and heart disease remain stubbornly among the top causes of death in the U.S., but many people don’t know what healthy food looks like. Many doctors don’t know, either. More and more, though, are interested in learning how to give practical eating advice, based on the kind of peer-reviewed science they’ve always relied on. Those skills are even making their way into medical school.

Besides keeping the traditional appointments, Principe now leads cooking classes on such topics as digestive health and blood sugar control. Patients prepare their own healthy dishes, like nut milk for those who can't have dairy, or sauerkraut and other fermented foods for gastrointestinal health. One patient in a 2015 YouTube video about his practice says she was sick all the time and didn't know if she would live to see her kids graduate from high school, then recovered her health and lost almost 30 pounds. Another says he no longer needs his statins or his asthma medication. Principe cites a waiting list of more than 500 patients and says he’d love to bring them in but first needs to find a “likeminded” doctor.

He might not have to look far. In the past decade, the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference has been offered 12 times, always meeting its 400-person maximum. It has a waiting list, too.

“They are tutored by world-class chef-educators and shown they can do it,” says Dr. David Eisenberg, who heads up culinary nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan and is co-director of the conference with Greg Drescher, who leads strategic initiatives at the Culinary Institute. “In that experiential moment, I think many doctors are transformed.”

Their own diets, at least, are transforming. In 2013, Eisenberg published a study that tracked the impact on the participating health professionals themselves. Of the attendees that responded to his survey, 58 percent had cooked their own meals five or more times a week before the conference. Afterward, 74 percent did. They ate more vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Before the conference, only 40 percent had rated themselves as “good or excellent” at helping overweight or obese patients improve their nutritional and lifestyle habits. Three months after the conference, it was 81 percent.

Since 2012, the Tulane University School of Medicine has been teaching medical students, as well as licensed practitioners, how to cook in its own teaching kitchen, at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, led by Timothy Harlan, a trained chef and doctor. The program has been licensed to more than 10 percent of the country’s medical schools. A proponent of the much-studied Mediterranean diet, Harlan wants his students to be able to advise their future patients in concrete terms, even in a short office visit.

“We’re working to create two-minute interventions,” Harlan says, to get a salt snacker to switch from Cheetos to nuts, or an Egg McMuffin lover to try the equally convenient bowl of cereal with yogurt.

Watermelon Aqua Fresca at Principe's practice in Palos Heights, Ill.
Watermelon Aqua Fresca at Principe's practice in Palos Heights, Ill. 

As with the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives participants, a study found that the Tulane med school students participating in the program saw their own diets improve as a result. The same turned out to be true of diabetic community members who had taken the Tulane courses. 

Some have made do with a lot less. After a successful pilot program the year before, in 2013, Stanford University School of Medicine’s Maya Adam launched a free online course, through Coursera, of 47 videos on childhood nutrition and cooking. The four- to six-minute videos show Adam cooking in her own home kitchen, explaining what she’s doing, sometimes while carrying a child. More than 250,000 people from all over the world have watched. A study that included 7,422 of them found that participants cooked more often, their meals were healthier, and they enjoyed them more. The school has since turned an existing kitchen into a teaching kitchen, with Adam instructing its first course, and launched a second series, featuring Michael Pollan, with a couple of cameos from Eisenberg. 

Nutrition can be taught without a stovetop. At Georgetown University Medical Center, Thomas Sherman, a molecular neuroendocrinologist, has fought to get the subject on the curriculum, finding a place for it in a new, integrative course on metabolism, nutrition, and endocrinology. Now the university is building a teaching kitchen into one of its dorms. It will be "nothing like Tulane’s, but a place where we hope, starting next year, we’ll have demonstrations,” Sherman says, adding, of Tulane's Harlan, “I am just so jealous of everything he is doing down there.”

Each teaching kitchen, and each approach to culinary medicine, is different, depending on resources, patients, time, and the practitioner’s professional and personal background. “If you’ve seen one approach to culinary medicine by one doctor, you’ve seen one approach to culinary medicine by one doctor,” Eisenberg says.

There seem to be just as many ways to get insurance to cover it,1 so doctors are getting creative. Instead of doing individual follow-up visits, Helen Delichatsios, an internist at Massachusetts General Hospital, often sees eight to 10 patients with similar concerns in one 90-minute appointment, addressing at least one of each person’s medical issues and including a 20-minute food demo at the end. She bills each patient to the insurance company as she would for a standard medical follow-up but gets an hour and a half with all of them instead of the 15 minutes she would typically get with each.

Keri Connell, health educator and nutritionist, runs the Ross kitchen.
Keri Connell, health educator and nutritionist, runs the Ross kitchen

In his practice’s teaching kitchen in Ellicot City, Md., Warren Ross teaches eight to 10 patients at a time about purchasing, preparing, and portioning food as part of an integrative-medicine practice. Patients learn how to pace themselves while eating, too. “We do tasting portions, not full portions, but everyone walks away full,” he says. 

John La Puma went farther than Principe, actually leaving medicine to go to the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, now Le Cordon Bleu- Chicago. He has a big audience through his website, YouTube videos, seven books, consulting company, and lectures, which he gives to as many as 1,500 people at a time, including clinicians, members of the general public, and the food industry. These talks usually include concrete advice—eat flax seed to lower your cholesterol—and cooking demonstrations.

“Doctors want to know the really tactile things,” says La Puma, who is based in Santa Barbara, Calif. “How do you hold a knife? How do you slice a mushroom without cutting a finger off?”

One doctor-chef has led group demos in conference rooms with little more than what she could carry: knives, a cutting board, and sometimes a portable skillet. Michelle Hauser is a primary-care provider for a low-income community at Fair Oaks Health Center in Redwood City, Calif., a postdoctoral research fellow at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis, and one of Eisenberg’s early collaborators. She finds that those few tools are enough to show her patients how to cook a whole grain and mix it with chopped fresh vegetables and a homemade vinaigrette, a recipe with endless variations.

These doctors haven’t stopped writing prescriptions, though some say they write fewer than they used to. Principe says he writes so few that pharmaceutical reps don’t even visit him anymore. La Puma likes to use his prescription pad for recipes, but says he usually starts with food as a supplement to medication. Harlan emphasizes the evidence basis in peer-reviewed literature for the culinary counsel he provides, but doesn’t hesitate to give patients the pills they need.

“I am an allopathic physician,” he says. “I will write a prescription for a statin.” 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Un Punto en el Tiempo: Dr. Michael Meir

Dear Fernando, 

¿Es posible que síntomas y conflictos presentes puedan desaparecer y ser resueltos cuando revivimos un evento anterior en su vida pasada o presente a través de la Terapia Un Punto en el Tiempo (Point in Time Therapy™, PITT)? 

¿Será posible que al volver a vivir acontecimientos pasados, nuestros familiares y las personas que nos rodean puedan cambiar, sin siquiera compartir esta información con ellos?

Un Punto en el Tiempo (Point in Time Therapy (PiTT)™) es un método creado por la Dra. Rivka Bertisch Meir y puesto en práctica por muchos años junto al Dr. Michael Meir, que recupera recuerdos traumáticos de la infancia, la adultez y presuntas vidas pasadas, que pueden haber sido erróneamente interpretados y haber suscitado patrones de comportamiento autodestructivos.

El cerebro no es el único lugar donde se pueden almacenar recuerdos. Los recuerdos pueden almacenarse en cualquier célula del cuerpo y esa memoria celular puede afectar negativamente el futuro de una persona sin que ésta lo sepa. Al terminar, los participantes fueron capaces de "revertir y resolver" conflictos y enfermedades crónicas que no habían podido resolver antes a través de otros métodos.

Conozca más sobre POINT IN TIME THERAPY (PITT™)
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