RE-CO BKLYN, the only sawmill in New York City, is turning fallen trees into furniture. Not just any fallen trees, co-owner Dan Richfield explains on a tour of the mill, which is in an industrial block of East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
“I guess this is about a 15-foot-tall pile of logs from Hurricane Sandy,” he says pointing to a heap of Oaks, Maples and other varieties his company acquired from a Long Island landfill.
“When we go out sourcing to a landfill, we’re looking at a pile of logs -- especially after a hurricane like Sandy -- that’s, you know, like 20 city blocks long and like 50-feet tall,” Richfield says.
Wooded Long Island had a particularly large amount of downed trees, but it was not alone. New Jersey removed enough trees downed by Sandy to fill 600 Olympic swimming pools, says Larry Ragonese, press director for the state's Department of Environmental Protection. Trees and shrubs accounted for about one-quarter of all storm debris that was cleared.
“There’s so much tree material, that some of those temporary sites still sit there with piles of vegetative debris,” he says.
In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, health and safety concerns often mean that removing debris is more important than trying to salvage it.
“You have got to get the debris out as fast as possible,” Ragonese says.
But there are instances of reuse -- appliances, scrap metal and plastic bottles were sent to recycling centers. The New York City parks department is reusing damaged boardwalks.
But far more vegetative waste was turned into mulch -- at a cost to the state -- than put to more direct use.
In RE-CO BKLYN’s barnlike showroom, Richfield shows customer Harley Miller a number of slabs -- milled, dried and flattened cross-sections of White Oak, Silver Maple and English Elm.
“This could be a really great bench,” says Miller. “Yeah, or a shelf.”
A typical tree can yield as many as eight slabs, and a slab of Red Oak -- the most common tree here -- can sell for between $200 and $800, depending on its size and character. The 200 Sandy trees RE-CO BKLYN collected at just the cost of transportation could keep the business running for two years.
“Despite all the devastation, these kinds of storms are jackpots for people like us,” says Richfield.
He saw the devastation up close, and was upset. But he sees a silver lining in the fact that at least these trees won’t end up as just debris in a landfill, and could have a second life that will serve its new owners for years to come.
“If anything,” Richfield says, “this is some good being put to something bad that happened.”
The first wood from Hurricane Sandy will be ready for sale in the coming weeks.
RE-CO BKLYN lets buyers see each tree's story, check out a few below.
This Silver Maple fell down in a backyard in Crown Heights, Brooklyn during Hurricane Irene in 2011. Slabs from the tree were air-dried for a year, now they retail for $350.
These Red Oaks were recovered from Glen Cove, Long Island after Hurricane Sandy. Some of the trees were up to 30 feet tall.
This Cherry tree came down in a few blocks from the ocean in Massapequa, New York during Hurricane Sandy. The tree was leaning on a house which had been completely flooded by the storm.
This 80-year-old Red Oak fell down in North Hempstead, Long Island during Hurricane Sandy. RE-CO BKLYN recovered it from the town's landfill before it made its way to the chipper.
The Federal Reserve's Ben Bernanke was cautious this week in his testimony on quantitative easing to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress in Washington.
He said the Fed would need to make an assessment of whether the labor market was seeing real and sustainable progress, and “if we see continued improvement and we have confidence that that is going to be sustained, then we could in -- in the next few meetings -- we could take a step down in our pace of purchases.”
"I think that's all way overblown," said CNBC's John Carney. "Look, we didn't learn anything this week that we didn't know before that, which is if the economic data's really good, the Fed will stop having to supply so much money into the system, and if the economic data isn't really good, they're going to keep doing it."
"That's true," Fortune Magazine's Leigh Gallagher countered. "But this is the very first time that he even went anywhere near articulating everything. The mere mention of anything is what can spook so easily."
What does this mean for the future of quantitative easing?
"This has been one of the driving forces of the stock market's rise, and I think everyone is freaking out about when it's going to stop," Gallagher said. "I think that's the biggest question impacting the markets -- more than markets, more than other external factors, more than anything."
But has the Federal Reserve's bond-buying led to Congress' own inaction?
"I think Congress would have to do something if the Fed wasn't taking the actions it's doing," said Carney. "And Congress doesn't need an enabler; they're plenty disfunctional on their own."
For more on Apple's visit to the Hill and Jamie Dimon's jobs, listen to the full audio above.
#Longreads for a long weekend
Carney and Gallagher also offer up their reading picks for this long weekend ahead.
John Carney chose:
- Goldman Sachs says "Too Big to Fail" is a cost, not a subsidy.
- Special Report: The deeper agenda behind "Abenomics" -- what's really going on in Japan.
- No one quite knows how JPM beat back the shareholder proposal to split the chair and CEO roles. But I try to explore some possibilities here.
Leigh Gallagher picked:
Wedding season is kicking off and this year the bride may be wearing Tarjay. Target has entered the bridal business with a collection, online only, of low-priced wedding and bridesmaids dresses called TEVOLIO.
Prices start at $70. A good deal? Yes. But who’s gonna buy them?
Getting married is wonderful -- if only it weren’t so expensive. The average tab for the gown alone clocks in at $1,200. Enter Target. Rachel Leonard, fashion director at Brides Magazine, says the retailer’s bridal collection is in keeping with the brand’s discount prices.
“This is the least expensive wedding dress that I know of,“ she says.
Target’s dresses, says Leonard, look good online. Brides can choose from cap sleeves, strapless, cowl neck, ruched -- all while staying under $130. This kind of price tag promises to free up a bride’s budget.
“You could spend more money on a pair of shoes, or your hair or your flowers,” she says.
Attracting budget- conscious brides is one reason big retailers like J.Crew and Anthropologie are getting into the wedding business. But even though Target, says Leonard, has offered wedding dresses in the past, like during a collaboration with designer Isaac Mizrahi, the idea still strikes some as odd.
“It is funny that you can go to a store where you buy your toothpaste and also buy a wedding dress,” Leonard says.
Marissa Gluck, a director at Huge advertising, says Target, thanks to it its collaborations with designers like Jason Wu and Missoni, has distanced itself from competitors such as Walmart and Kmart. “They have a little more street cred than some other mass retailers.”
And though this may sound like heresy, Target’s new bridal collection may not even be about the bride. Jen Drexler, a brand consultant with Insight Strategy Group, says it’s the bridal party, which may hold more interest for Target.“Frankly one of the bigger smarts of this decision is the bridesmaids dresses.”
While Target is carrying four wedding dresses, Drexler notes there are ten options for bridesmaids.
“It tends to be a disposable dress, something you’re never going to wear again, even though they promised you could. And now you have an opportunity to give your bridesmaids a dress that they wouldn’t be mad at you for making them buy,” she says.
Remember, says Drexler, Target invented designer cheap chic. And millions of women have raced down the aisles to buy it.
Proctor and Gamble has a new CEO...sort of. The world’s largest consumer products company is pulling A.G. Lafley out of retirement to take the reins again.
Last month retailer J.C. Penney made the same move. So what’s up with that -- when big companies put old leaders in back in charge -- and what does it say about their pipeline of future talent?
J.C. Penney fired its CEO and re-hired his predecessor after big financial losses and a steep drop in sales. Tough to find someone new who’s willing to take that on. Bob McDonald is leaving Procter and Gamble amid complaints that he wasn’t adapting P&G fast enough to a more competitive global market.
“I think in both those cases there clearly were pressures from the outside,” says David Larcker, co-director of the Center for Leadership Research and Development at Stanford. Larcker says putting the old guard back in charge can help stabilize a company. “The board says here’s people we know, they know the company, we’ve felt comfortable with them before. Buys them a little time to figure out what they want to do next.”
Including reassess the company’s talent pipeline. McDonald had been with P&G for 33 years. He worked his way up to chief operating officer before taking over as CEO four years ago, so the shake-up there came as something of a surprise, says Mike Tobin, a partner at Vantage Leadership Consulting.
“P&G has a wonderful talent management processes and is recognized as one of the top 10 leadership development firms in the world. And so, you know, they stumbled, that’s all,” Tobin explains.
So what does it say about other wannabe CEOs at the company that Procter and Gamble pulled Lafley out of retirement to take over?
“The challenge that most organizations have in identifying a leader is finding the right person at the right time,” says Steve Meyer, general manager of the Corporate Executive Board Company. “Sometimes that’ll be a candidate who’s within their own walls and sometimes not.”
P&G hasn’t said whether Lafley’s tenure is temporary, but the head of its board says he’ll be expected to manage the ongoing succession process, as well as boost the company’s performance.
This week Ben Bernanke testified before the Joint Economic Committee in Washington. And you can't talk to Bernanke these days without asking him about quantitative easing. Or to put it in English, the Fed's strategy of purchasing assets from commercial banks to keep cash flowing into the economy.
QE is controversial. It's even been called a "Jedi mind trick." This weekend being the 30th anniversary of "Return of the Jedi," we thought we'd look at that analogy.
After Luke Skywalker found out that Darth Vader is his father, he accused Obi-Wan Kenobi of lying to him. Obi-Wan said it wasn't a lie from... a certain point of view.
"A certain point of view?" Luke asks.
"You're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view," Obi-Wan replies.
So is quantitative easing the Darth Vader of economic policy? Well, it depends on your point of view. You might say that QE has spurred lending, created jobs and has kept inflation below 2 percent. More like a young Anakin Skywlaker before he turned to the dark side.
"He was the best star pilot in the galaxy," Obi-Wan says of Anakin.
Or, like many of its critics, you might say it's only a matter of time before QE causes inflation, it's creating artificial price bubbles, and it hasn't had any noticeable impact on unemployment.
As Darth Vader says, "Give yourself to the dark side."
Bernake says he has no plans of ending the Fed's $89 billion a month spending on Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities.
"It is the only way you can save your friends," Vader says.
So will QE save us from the dark side? We'll just have to wait for QE episode 4, directed by Ben Bernake featuring an all-star cast of commercial banks. Let's just hope it has a happy ending.
The most famous bridge in the country today lies about 60 miles north of Seattle.
It also lies partly in the water after last night's collapse.
The bridge over the Skagit River had been declared "functionally obsolete", which basically means old but not necessarily in bad enough shape to shut down. It's not alone. It's one of tens of thousands of bridges in this country that need repairs we're just not doing.
But why not? What would it take to get federal and state governments to start putting money into repairing our infrastructure?
Robert Meyer, co-director of the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, says in many cases it's just a matter of time before accidents like this happen.
"We love to build bridges but we don't like to maintain them. And I think a lot of it has a political origin. We have an expression, the acronym is N.I.M.T.O.O, 'Not In My Term of Office,' and I think that's often the way that politicians think about it," Meyer said.
"There's a tendency to think that the legislators out there are somehow different from you and me making our day-to-day decisions, but a lot of the people who postpone funding for bridge repair are the same people who drive around with under-inflated tires or don't repair their roofs."
Lots of times taking control of your finances is about going it alone. But once in a while, "taking control" means asking for help -- like hiring a financial planner. But when does it make sense to seek professional help with your money? And when is it best to do it yourself? Erica Sandberg, editor-at-large for Bankrate.com's money and credit management website, offers this Financial Planning 101.
When should you consider hiring a financial planner?
"When you feel ready. If you've got a lot of questions and you really need some guidance, someone to help you develop a plan and just kind of a path to help you get to where you want to go -- financial planners are terrific. That's what they're there for," says Sandberg.
There’s no easy answer to that question -- a lot depends on your net worth and your needs. But the first step is to understand what’s out there in the financial planning world. Read more.
What little red flags pop up that might indicate you need a financial planner?
"If you don't have a will. If you've got some cash that you want to give over to your children, really a financial planner is going to be there for you. You also are going to want to have some really solid advice regarding insurance, tax planning, investment advice -- that's what a financial planner does," says Sandberg. "You could be the smartest person in the world, but... They've got more information. You could get more information too, but it takes time. So if you don't have the time, trust in a professional."
Does it make sense for someone with lower income to hire a financial planner?
"It depends," says Sandberg. "If you're financially strapped and you really don't have cash, for goodness sakes, go do it on your own. Get as much information as you can from really reputable sources for free. There is so much out there."
- Bankrate: Financial planning for low-income people
- Kiplinger: Financial Planning for the ciddle class
- MSN: 3 money tips for every income
How can you decide if it's really worth it to get a financial planner?
"If you've got a lot of extra cash you want something very specific to your situation. So for example, you're going to throw at them everything having to do with your assets and your income," says Sandberg.
"What you're going to leave there with -- let's just say it's fee-based and you're going to get this plan that's developed for you -- you're going to have kind of a good, solid plan that's made up for your situation. It's a road map," Sandberg adds.
How do you find a financial planner you can actually trust with your money?
"A little bit of research. I would not go with just the first one and say 'OK, that's who I have.' Talk to a few. It's personality driven. How often is it that we go to somebody -- I don't care who it is -- and they just kind of throw you into what they think is right? You really, really need to have someone who listens to you and says 'OK, I get it. This is what you're syaing to me, this is where I want you to go, this is how I can help you.' And if they're not saying that, walk away. There's a million."
- Consumer Reports: What to expect from a financial planner and how to find a good one
- SmartMoney: How to find a good financial adviser
Which type of financial planner should you hire?
"A lot of times it really comes down to consultations," says Sandberg. "There is a difference between fee-based and whether they're commission-based. Generally speaking, a fee-based financial planner is the way to go, but not always."
NOTE: A fee-based planner can charge you a fee, but also sell product. Another type of planner is fee-only. They cannot earn a commission or accept referral fees. By law, fee-only advisers have a fiduciary responsibility with the individual they're working with. Commission and fee-based planners may have licenses with some kind of broker.
To help you understand the various ways in which a financial professional can be compensated, here's some information from the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. How compensation is received may affect the advice you receive, if that planner faces hidden conflicts of interest. The three most common models of compensation are:
This model minimizes conflicts of interest. It is the required form of compensation for members of NAPFA. A Fee-Only financial advisor charges the client directly for his or her advice and/or ongoing management. No other financial reward is provided by any institution—which means that the advisor does not receive commissions on the actions they take on the clients’ behalf. Compensation is based on an hourly rate, a percent of assets managed, a flat fee, or a retainer.
Fee-Based Compensation (fee and commission)
This form is often confused with Fee-Only, but it’s not the same. Fee-based advisers charge clients a fee for the advice delivered, but they also sometimes receive payments for products they sell or recommend. In some cases, commissions are credited towards the fee, giving the appearance of a lower-priced option, but any outside compensation lessens the adviser’s ability to keep the client’s best interests first and foremost.
NAPFA has always maintained that an adviser who is compensated through commissions is primarily a salesperson. A client working with a commissioned sales person must always ask himself: Is this advice truly in my best interest, or is it the most profitable product for the advisor? Unfortunately, often the answer is the latter. In fact, a commissioned adviser usually is required to put the best interests of his employer ahead of the best interests of his client.
Why would it ever make sense to go with a commission-based financial planner?
"I have friends who are financial planners who get paid on commission, so they represent an insurance company or an investment firm. So they're going to present those as your options," says Sandberg. "There is a slight bias. A fee-based is hourly, just like you would pay an attorney."
What will a financial planner cost you?
"A newbie who's out there, the financial planner, they just got their CFP credentials, they could charge us $100 an hour. It could go up to $200. It could go up to more."
If there's one place where we all have control issues it's the workplace. Sometimes it feels as though you've got no control, especially when the economy's bad, and people are getting laid off. It's bad enough in real life. Do we really want to watch workplace control issues play out on TV? Fox thinks we do!
Fox's new reality show "Does Someone Have to Go?" puts the power into the hands of co-workers, who will vote on who should be fired. Cris Abrego is the executive producer of the show. He says the show is like "Survivor" meets "The Office."
"I've always wanted to do something in the workspace. I think it's something we're all fascinated with," says Abrego. "What is the one thing everybody can relate to? In going around my office and talking to people, the one thing everyone related to was that most of the time, in most offices, they think they know better than the boss."
The show allows co-workers to test that idea by giving them the ability to fire their colleagues if they feel that's what should be done in order to fix the office.
A pilot for the series was shot in 2008, so why is it now premiering? Abrego says an earlier version of the show was focused on the economy -- and with the Great Recession, the timing was obviously off. The show has since been retooled to focus on office personnel issues.
But with the economy and jobs still in the forefront of people's minds, is this the right time to premiere a show like this?
"That's not what the show is about. Think about someone who does have a job and is not doing their job," says Abrego. "It's not about just firing someone simply for the sake of just, hey, I don't like you. It's not a popularity contest. These employees took it serious. They evaluate each person's value to the company and then they make a decision."
One interesting aspect of the show -- workers' salaries are revealed, which factors into deciding whether an employee should go.
"I generally learned a lot. It was wild," says Abrego. "We did four different offices and I learned they shared a lot of similarities. I learned that there's a lot that the employees have on their chests that they want to get off. They generally don't have a voice. And this, once they've been given this voice, they took it with a lot of responsibility."
Have you ever thought about who you would get rid of at your job if you had the power? We haven't either. That's why we created this poll -- Which TV character would you fire? Vote below!
Some government workers are getting an extra-long holiday weekend. But it's not voluntarily. For about 115,000 staffers at four different agencies, it’s a furlough Friday; a mandatory day-off for about 5 percent of federal employees. It's all part of budget cutting under what Congress calls ‘sequestration.’
But what if the government closed, and no one noticed? Tax day is behind us. Do many people really need to reach the IRS today? You might if you experience identity theft. But if you called the IRS hotline, you would hear the following message: “Due to the current budget situation, all IRS offices are closed today.”
The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, is also closed today. Jackie Simon is with the American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing EPA workers. “With EPA closed, it’s a get-out-of-jail-free-card day for polluters," Simon says. "There’s no one there at EPA to enforce our clean air and clean water laws. No one there to hold polluters accountable.”
It’s also furlough Friday at HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Linda Couch with the National Low Income Housing Coalition says tornado victims are one group that will notice that the HUD office is closed. “If I were someone in Oklahoma who was trying to get a list of federally-subsidized units that might be vacant, then today’s a really bad day to have a furlough,” says Couch.
To see who else is missing out today, I stopped by the Los Angeles office of HUD. Mary Wood, 52, had just been turned away by building security.
“I was going to the HUD, but they said it’s closed today and Monday," Woods says. "Monday’s a holiday, so that’s understandable. But I wonder why they’re closed today?”
I asked why she came to the HUD office. “To try to get some information about lower-income housing and to see can they help me pay for move-in fees,” she says. Woods is currently homeless. She’s trying to change that. But if she wants help from HUD, she’ll have to come back Tuesday.
There are more than 22 million adult children still living at home with their parents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Between 2005 and 2011, the proportion of young adults living in their parents' home increased. The percentage of men between the ages of 25-34 living at their parents' home rose from 14 percent in 2005 to 19 percent in 2011 and from 8 percent to 10 percent over the same time period for women.
Michelle Singletary, a personal finance columnist for the Washington Post, joins us to discuss the issue.
So why do so many adult children still live at home?
"A combination of things. People coming out of college, they don't get the jobs they expect, paying the money that they need or want. Lots of kids are not going to school because it is so expensive. I mean, right now to launch yourself it's very expensive to get the down payment for the apartment, transportation, and all of the things that you have to do. That's why a lot of young adults are at home or returning home," says Singletary.
Singletary says adult children hoping to live on their own should have at least six months' worth of living expenses saved in an emergency fund while they're getting situated. That emergency fund would include all that it costs to run their household -- rent, mortgage, food, utilities, cell phone bill, student debt repayment, etc. She also says that people should have a "life happens" fund for when things go wrong.
Having an adult child living at home can add financial stress on parents. A recent study from the National Endowment for Financial Education said about a quarter of parents with adult kids living at home go into debt. How can parents cope?
"There's lots of adults who come home and there's not a plan. They just come home and they use up their salary. They go out with their friends. They're still shopping. All of the bad habits that they had out on their own, they bring right back to the house. Parents are afraid to say anything, they don't charge them rent -- that's when they have trouble and they go into debt because they're still subsidizing that adult child. I have parents who are paying the cell phone bill of their adult child who has a job. That's not the situation I'm talking about. If you've got a trifling adult child at your house who's not doing all the right moves, kick them out."
Singletary says that in this economy there are a lot of adult children living at home and parents shouldn't feel like they have failed.
"Even if they come back in their 30s and 40s, just look at it as you're just helping them," says Singletary. "It's OK as long as you communicate and have a plan."
And Singletary has experience with the matter. Her sister, niece and 18-year-old nephew lived with her for about a year. She taught her nephew a tough lesson about how to get on the right path toward great independence.
"[My nephew] didn't really have a plan. He didn't know what he wanted to do. So he would get up in the morning and for about an hour or two would look at the want ads and decided that he'd look for a job and didn't want any jobs," says Singletary.
Singletary decided to charge him rent to motivate him. After a few months, he seriously started looking for a job and got one. Singletary then started adding up the costs for utilities and food. She started ramping up the costs to simulate what it would be like to live in the real world.
Several of our listeners wrote in seeking help. They include:
- Carl, a 20 year old from Los Angeles, has a full-time job as a certified nursing assistant, making about $1,200 monthly. He moved back in with his dad, stepmom and half-sister after losing a job. They live in an apartment that only has two bedrooms and one bathroom so Carl sleeps in the living room. He is saving money to buy a car. He wonders what steps he has to take in order to move out.
- Thomas from New Jersey wrote to us from Facebook. He has an IT job that pays between $40,000-50,000 a year. He is living at home to save money to buy a house. He's saving about $18,000 to buy a home. Is he on the right path?
- Daryl from Oregon has two adult children who live at home. His youngest son is 23 and has pretty much continuously lived at home and another son had an accident that left him handicapped. He says he's spending about an extra $400-600 a month because of his two sons who live at home. He and his wife are ready for their two sons to move out on their own. He wants advice on what he should do.
To hear Singletary's advice, click play on the audio player above.
It seems like life is always handing out lessons about what you can and can't control. In your financial life -- and life in general. In small ways and sometimes really big, terrible ways. The pictures out of Moore, Okla., are heartbreaking. A tornado ripped through the town of more than 55,000 people earlier this week. What happened in Moore, Okla., is a sad story, a reminder of how precious life can be. It's also a personal finance story -- one about people who've lost everything that they have, everything they've worked for. Logan Layden, a reporter for the State-Impact Project in Oklahoma, joins us to talk about what's next for Moore.
"The first time I went there was on Monday evening, just a few hours after the storm. Just kind of drove through and it was utter devastation," says Layden. "The long, difficult process of cleaning this mess up is well underway. Streets have started to be cleared, things like that, roadblocks taken down. We're starting to see the process move along a little bit of people getting their lives back together."
Layden says after covering the basics (finding food, shelter, water, making sure their loved ones are OK) the first step of recovery for many residents is insurance. Layden says a group of insurance company tents have been set up in a church parking lot in Moore to help people get their claims expedited more quickly.
"You see a lot of people, everybody understands that it's important. Even though you're dealing with a disaster that's cost you a lot of property, maybe even lives, that there's important work still to be done. If you want to get the full amount of help that you feel like you deserve, then you've got to get right on that immediately," he says. "It's still a huge hassle for these people who are trying to deal with the fact that they've lost everything to have to now worry about making an inventory of the things that they owned and talking in great detail to adjusters about it."
Layden says most people in Moore have homeowner's insurance and that victims of the tornado will get paid more quickly than you might think. He says there is a process in getting aid.
"You've got to do the hard work of doing these inventories and talking to an adjuster and then getting your claim at least filed. And then going to FEMA and filing a claim there for whatever other assistance that you feel like you need. Then you're going to have a visit from an insurance adjuster to the property and then from FEMA as well. So it's a lot to have to deal with, but those steps are happening right now."
Despite the destruction, Layden says that the sense he gets from most people is that they are going to rebuild.
"There's a lot of resolve," he says. "There's a big sense of community. I think they'll rebuild just like they did in 1999 when a similar storm caused great devastation in the town."
Chances are the Dow could end up with a loss for the week. But the big story may be bonds.
A big chunk of private-sector infrastructure opens at New York’s JFK airport today. It's the new Delta Air Lines terminal, with its $1.6 billion worth of lounge area, gates, and services.
Delta’s Chief Executive Officer, Richard Anderson, joined Marketplace Morning Report to discuss the industry, mergers, passenger fees, and why he thinks Delta is about to have its most profitable year ever.
Chances are the Dow could end up with a loss for the week. But the big story may be bonds.
Chris Low, chief economist with FTN Financial, joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio with the details behind the numbers.
There has been a management shakeup at Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer products company. After a disappointing first quarter, CEO Bob McDonald says he will leave Procter & Gamble at the end of next month.
The company’s board didn’t waste any time picking a replacement. It plans to bring back A.G. Lafley, McDonald’s predecessor.
Procter & Gamble says this announcement “is not indicative of any kind of bigger problem or financial issue,” but the company is not in great shape. According to Bill Chappell, an analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Procter & Gamble had begun to implement a $10 billion restructuring program.
“They felt the need to really cut out some of the fat, and try to streamline the business,” he says.
Some investors didn’t think the turnaround was fast enough, including hedge fund manager William A. "Bill" Ackman, of Pershing Square Capital Management, who has a big stake in Procter & Gamble.
Morningstar analyst Erin Lash says he wasn’t shy about sharing his opinion with the board.
“If the current management group couldn’t do it, he thought that there were other managers who could,” she says.
Looking ahead, the former -- and now future -- Procter & Gamble CEO, A.G. Lafley, has his work cut out for him.
“We’re going to want to see innovation,” B. Riley & Co. analyst Linda Bolton Weiser says. “We’re going to want to see growth.”
Lafley, who turns 66 in a few weeks, also knows he won’t be able to get back to retirement until he picks his successor to lead the company long-term.
Safety nets come in many shapes and sizes. There are the safety net programs that government provides, from Social Security to food stamps to Medicare, the size and cost of which are the subject of much debate on Capitol Hill these days. But those aren’t the only safety nets people fall back on.
We've been asking you, our listeners, to tell us what your safety nets looks like. What has caught you when you've stumbled? What has helped you feel secure enough to take a leap? We've been getting a flood of responses that we'll be sharing in the coming weeks, in a series we’re calling “Safety Net Confessionals.” Here’s the first, from Frank Paiano of San Diego.
Frank Paiano is a stock broker and professor of financial planning with a huge smile inside a bushy white goatee. When asked to describe his safety net, he puts it bluntly.
“I am my own safety net,” he says. “I am also the safety net of our family and friends.”
Over the years, that distinction has earned Frank Paiano a nickname: Frank the Bank. Or, since he does live right near the Mexican border, “Banco Franco,” he jokes.
Plenty of people have stories of the "rich uncle" who helped them once, but Paiano takes that old saw to a whole new level. He has become a semi-official "lender of last resort" for more than a dozen of his loved ones-- friends, cousins. Occasionally, friends of cousins.
When they get in a pinch, Paiano often gets a phone call.
“My wife will tell me ‘Oh, so and so wants to talk to you,’ with a knowing look in her eye,” he says. And the deal goes down.
Paiano says he'll charge an average interest rate between 4 and 8 percent. He's a stock broker, and a professor of financial planning, so as you might guess, he keeps careful track of each loan.
“I have a spread sheet and I know how to use it,” he says, pulling one up on his computer. There, below the tallies for household cash flow and net worth, are several columns labeled “Bank of Frank Loans.”
Of course, to be a lending institution -- even a one-man lending institution -- you need money to lend. Paiano did not start out with much.
His dad was a mechanic. “He would work very very hard. He would work two jobs. It took a toll on the whole family,” Paiano says.
Maybe that’s why Paiano has always been a saver. As a kid, “we would be given a nickel for ice cream at night, and instead of buying ice cream I would save it,” he remembers. “I just thought it was important to have a cushion to fall back on.”
By the time Paiano was a teenager, all that ice cream money had become a big enough cushion that he wanted to share the wealth. He started with a loan to a friend who wanted to buy a stereo and grew from there.
Someone needed money for a deposit on an apartment. Someone needed money for equipment to start a business. Someone's car broke. Someone got sued.
Today, in Paiano’s financial planning classes, he explicitly advises his students against lending money to family and friends. “It can be poisonous,” he says. And yet, in Paiano’s case so far, he says each loan has been paid back in full but one.
Over the years, he calculates he has lent tens of thousands of dollars to friends and family. Many of them were self-employed, or had lousy credit, so banks weren’t an option.
“People needed help,” he says. “And they didn't know who to turn to.”
One of those people is Rolf Maennicke. “I've been helped many times by the Bank of Frank,” he says.
Maennicke is a self-employed carpenter, and a cousin of Paiano's wife. “Forty-third cousins, something like that,” says Paiano, joking.
“Yes,” laughs Maennicke. “Estranged twice.”
Maennicke turned to Paiano for financial help after a divorce. And after he owed way more to the IRS than he expected. And most recently, after he moved to Oregon right before the recession.
“Things didn't work the way I’d thought, and I could not earn the money I was used to earning,” Maennicke says. “I called up the Bank of Frank to get a short term loan to be able to move back home and start over.”
What would have happened to Maennicke without the Bank of Frank? When asked, Maennicke ponders it for a moment before answering.
“I would have put a lot more money on credit cards than I should have,” he says.
Then he pauses.
“Soup kitchens?” he muses, only half joking.
Then he pauses again.
“You know, I don't really know what would have happened.”
The possibilities hang in the air, when Maennicke looks across the table at Paiano and says, “I've always just thought of it as a big hearted gesture.”
The day after meeting these cousins, there’s a question I keep wondering if people will ask when they hear their story. So I email Paiano to ask him.
Why does he keep bailing people out? Why couldn't his friends and family have been more financially savvy, and become their own safety nets, like he did?
Paiano emails me back, with this reponse. “Personally, I do not fault people for making choices that are not in their best interest,” he writes.
He reminds me of the tour he’d given me of his home the day before, filled with things his cousin, Rolf Maennicke, had built over the years. A treehouse that looked like a ship. An elegant set of bookshelves. A pair of dark wooden French doors.
“We are not all the same,” Paiano wrote. “You saw how beautiful the work that Rolf did was. I could never build something like that, no matter how many years I practiced.”
Until recently, Google's X Lab was kind of a secret compound, or at least a place that wasn't broadcasting it's tech experiments to the public. Google Glass, the company's web streaming spectacles, was born there.
The Bay Area facility was recently visited by Bloomberg Businessweek editor Josh Tyrangiel. He says the labs are a place where scientists can think big ideas, with a lot of freedom.
Click on the audio player above to hear more.
Recently The Associated Press, the Onion, and the Daily Telegraph suffered Twitter hacks by a group which calls themselves the Syrian Electronic Army. Now the social media company is offering an extra layer of security. It will send a code to your cellphone that you need to enter before logging in with your password.
Hackers are already claiming they can get around the two-step login process in a matter of minutes.
Will Oremus, who writes for the blog Future Tense at Slate magazine, joins Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson to discuss.
President Obama delivered his most detailed comments yet on the use of drones to kill reputed terrorists yesterday. The use of drones at home and abroad is controversial, and has led several Congressional hearings and sharp debate among law enforcement.
The President confirmed that drone strikes had killed Americans abroad. But he strongly defended the U.S. drone program, saying its use has been important to the war against terrorism.
"Simply put...these strikes have saved lives," Obama said.
John Villasenor, a professor of electrical engineering and public policy at UCLA, thinks it's a little more complicated.
"I don't think anyone disputes the program has been 'successful' in the sense of reaching targets," Villasenor says. "The question is the significant amount of collateral damage."
Despite controversy surrounding drone strikes abroad, many see a long list of potential positives for domestic unmanned aerial vehicles. Villasenor is a supporter.
"Here at home, unmanned aircraft can be used for agricultural spraying, they can be used for surveying, for search and rescue, for spotting hot spots in a wild fire," he says.
This final note today, in which 9-year-old Hannah Robertson gives the CEO of McDonald's a talking to.
Hannah showed up at the company's shareholder meeting yesterday -- accompanied by her mother, who is presumably the actual shareholder. Anyway, Hannah lined up at the mic during question and answer time and said to CEO Don Thompson, "It would be nice if you stopped trying to trick kids into wanting to eat your food all the time."
Thompson said first off, they don't sell junk food; that his kids eat McDonald's. And that Ronald's a pretty nice guy.
Sure...unless you're afraid of clowns.
If you happen to have a burning question for the IRS, HUD or the EPA, it’ll have to wait until next week. As a result of sequester, some government offices are closed today as part of the largest wave of government closures since the mid-nineties.
Linda Bilmes, a professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, thinks the sequester, is, to put it quite simply, “dumb”.
“Because it treats everything the same," Bilmes says. "It cuts cancer research and air traffic controllers the same as it cuts the window shades at the regional office of the IRS in Cleveland,” she says.
The IRS is closed today. Bilmes says the government is thinking short term and forgetting about long term costs. She notes that if a taxpayer makes a mistake during one of the IRS’s furloughed days, it means more work for the revenue service in the end.
“Over the long term, it will require more government intervention to sort out the tax form and return it to the tax payer, or audit it, than we’re saving in the short term of furlough,” she says.
Some government closures may be felt immediately. Tori Lyon, executive director of the Jericho Project, works with the homeless in New York . She says HUD’s closure means funding and paperwork delays for non-profits like hers.
“It’s really a hard way to do business when your focus should be on helping homeless people and instead you’re worried about when you’re going to get your contract,” she says.
Harvard’s Linda Bilmes says furloughs may mean a penny saved, but in the end, they really represent a dollar wasted.
Here at Marketplace, we've been following the sequester and its impacts closely. Follow along with our furlough expo below:
Federal Aviation Administration: There has been a lot of talk about the potential consequences of sequester furloughs, but little action -- with one exception: FAA furloughs. Earlier this month, Congress suspended its automatic FAA spending cuts.
Airlines complained the cuts, which decreased the number of air traffic controllers, would harm their bottomlines and cause flight delays. One JFK air traffic controller shared his take on the first day of cut backs. And, never fear, corporate jets will live to fly another day.
Public Defenders: Public lawyers who defend the nation's poor in federal courts across the country say sequester budget cuts will force them to cut back on hours and delay cases. Some federal courts have already announced they'll stop trying criminal cases on Fridays.
Internal Revenue Service: The sequestration may cause more disruptions than justdelayed refund checks at the IRS. The budget cuts could give an edge to tax evaders and cheats, who already cost the government billions of dollars each year. If workers are furloughed, the IRS would have fewer eyeballs to scour tax returns.
Department of Agriculture: The threat of broad, sweeping federal budget cuts points out just how dependent a lot of things are on the federal government, including our dinner choices. Sequestration could leave America's meat inspectors sitting on their couches at home, not inspecting meat. Between March and September, USDA inspectors may need to take as many as 15 days off without pay.
Department of Defense: Some federal workers stand to lose as much as 20 percent of their pay. Erika Townes, a nurse at Andrews Air Force base in Maryland, describes how she plans to cope with the gap in salary. And get advice from our Marketplace Money team on how to deal with the uncertainty of a pay cut.
Curious how today's sequester compares to budget cuts past? Check out our guide here.