HAVING an alternate plan for retirement is becoming the norm today. With the changes in retirement rules and the fact that employers are cutting back on what they contribute to their employees’ retirement, consumers now realize they must take more personal responsibility for their older-age finances. In this economy, how do you go about making sure you will have the finances needed for a secure retirement?
According to the US department of labor, fewer than half of all Americans have calculated how much they will need to save for retirement. While it’s important to plan, it’s also important to set realistic, achievable goals. Know your options and ask questions. Set aside time to talk with your employer about retirement plans. Your employer might offer benefits like 401k plans that allow for an immediate tax-deduction growth on your savings.
While earlier generations of retirees relied on employer-provided pensions, today’s workers will need to rely on their own work-related and personal savings for retirement. People are also living longer now and will require more from a retirement plan than ever before. That’s why it’s extremely important to have an alternate plan and save as much as possible.
Houston Better Business Bureau and USDOL both recommend that consumers consider the following to ensure a more financially comfortable retirement:
A penny earned is a penny saved. Start saving now and continue to stick to your savings goal – it’s never too late to start saving. Make a budget and use it! Saving can be fun if you think big and realize how much it will pay off when the times comes to retire.
Be realistic about retirement needs. According to USDOL, experts estimate that you will need about 70 per cent of your preretirement income – 90 per cent or more for lower-wage earners – to maintain your standard of living when you stop working. The average retiree is in retirement for 20 years of their life. Plan ahead and familiarize yourself with how much you will need after factoring in social security and other sources of retirement income.
Take advantage of employer savings plans. While more and more companies are becoming less generous with retirement benefits, some still allow you to contribute to a 401k retirement savings plan. If it’s offered, participate. There might even be a chance that your employer matches a percentage of your contribution.
If your employer doesn’t offer a savings plan, consider investing in a traditional individual retirement account or a Roth IRA. You can put up to $5,000 a year into an IRA and even more if you are 50 or older.
Don’t stir the pot. Avoid touching your retirement savings if at all possible. If you withdraw your savings before retirement, you’ll lose principal and interest and you might lose tax benefits or have to pay withdrawal penalties. If you change jobs, leave your savings invested in your current retirement plan or roll it into an IRA or your new employer’s plan.

Jordan Rzad is the senior director responsible for internet marketing at Houston Better Business Bureau.

By Lora-Marie Bernard

THE STATE is to begin a legislatively-mandated study on the potential use of digital driver licenses.
Beginning this week, the state has one year to determine how feasible digital licenses are and what potential security risks could occur they pose.
The study was mandated in senate bill 1934 and signed by governor Greg Abbott on June 20.  Senator Donna Campbell introduced the controversial bill, which had significant opposition. Lawmakers approved its third and final reading in an 88-57 vote.
The bill also calls for Texas to review the use of digital driver licenses in other states. National reports state that Iowa is rolling out a pilot program next year.
Delaware has announced that it wants to be the first to use the new technology, while California has also mentioned an interest in the project.
The technology would allow the state to make its driver license a full-fledged smartphone app. The app would mimic current mobile programs for concert tickets, airline reservations, loyalty cards and online digital wallets.
The convenience has staunch opponents, who question how citizens would feel handing over their smartphone to a police officer. They say the technology also would allow the state to direct downloads into the app and collect real-time data about its users.
In the case of a traffic stop, a police officer would use a barcode system in a traffic and criminal-case software program called Tracs.
Officers already use Tracs to complete reports, manage incidents and file charges and Iowa’s pilot system will study how easy a barcode could be integrated into the program.
When that state announced its pilot program, technological experts were quick to blog that it would take years to achieve public buy-in as the effort will require a significant marketing and outreach campaign from state governments.
The opponents of the mobile digital license don’t see the current plastic driver’s license being discarded soon. Instead, they see the digital app becoming a complement to the credit-card-style license now in common use.

abbott,greg courtesy webready                Greg Abbott

A PILOT program for jails, the relocation of the department of motor vehicles and a Texas A&M University international law course are among seven projects the Texas public-accounts comptroller will not fund after they were vetoed by governor Greg Abbott.
Even though he questions the decision, comptroller Glenn Hegar, below, said he will not allocate funds to the projects Abbott vetoed before signing the state budget, which rolls out this week.

Hegar, Glenn-comptroller
As my colleague Ed Sterling reports on page 7, Hegar has asked attorney general Ken Paxton to form an opinion on the vetoes and argues that Abbott has overreached his authority.
In his letter to the attorney general’s office, the comptroller painted a picture that the Texas constitution limits the governor’s veto powers.
Abbott vetoed $209.4 billion from the two-year state budget approved by lawmakers during this year’s 84th legislature.
“The Texas constitution separates the powers of government into legislative, executive and judicial branches and no branch may exercise the powers of the other absent an exception created by the constitution,” Hegar wrote in his opinion request.
“The affirmative power to enact laws rests with the legislature. The governor has no general authority to legislate or make laws; only the negative power to veto laws. For most bills, he may only approve or veto the entire bill. His power to veto a portion of a bill is limited
to items of appropriation.”
The veto fracas began in June when Abbott cut $227.6m from the $209.4 billion two-year state budget. The legislative budget board immediately charged that he had vetoed budget riders, which are different from appropriations. They are directives to state agencies that are included in
the budget.
The seven projects vetoed by Abbott were:
• A capital budget rider for San Antonio’s GJ Sutton building, below, for the Texas facilities commission to replace the Elias Ramirez state office building new parking garage and to acquire and relocate the headquarters of the department of motor vehicles;
• Two budget riders for the acquisition and relocation of the department of motor vehicles headquarters and GJ Sutton building replacement;
• A jail-based competency restoration pilot program in the department of state health services;
• The southern regional education board at the Texas education agency;
• Water conservation education grants for the water development board;
• Identity theft and security funds at the University of Texas At Austin; and
• The international law summer course at Texas A&M University.

GI Sutton building                                                  

What a waste!

Nice surprise as sewage bills bring a solid start to the holiday season

THE WORLD’S plummeting oil price is about to bring an unusual early Christmas present to the residents of a Galveston County city.
The current low price of a barrel of oil has resulted in a three-month fuel credit from their municipal waste provider that started yesterday, Tuesday, and will run until the end of November.
Republic Waste Service will give the credits to its League City customers in line with an agreement that it will do so whenever the price of diesel falls to less than $2.75 per gallon.
That price has been triggered three times in 2015 and the city’s residents can now expect an average 60-cent discount in their next three billing statements.
Their monthly residential solid-waste rate will fall from $13.30 to $12.70 plus tax during the adjustment period, according to city manager Mark Rohr.
He also said that, if the diesel fuel cost is still below $2.75 per gallon on November 1, a fuel-allowance credit will be calculated for the following three months.
The allowance credit extends to commercial customers too.
“There is a fuel-allowance credit for commercial customers that is billed directly by Republic and … we anticipate [it] to start with their September bills,” Rohr said.
The adjustments were made based on Republic’s diesel-fuel costs on February 1, May 1 and August 1. The price of diesel fuel hovered between $2.61 and $2.66 per gallon during August, according to the energy information administration website. The next price announcement was expected as The Post went to press.
The city’s deal with Republic is not entirely one-sided. A rise in diesel costs beyond $4.75 per gallon would result in a price increase to residents and commercial businesses to cover the company’s costs, Rohr said.
It is unclear whether other municipalities will be extending the fuel credit to their residents. No other city in the county had announced a similar credit at press time.


WHEN THOSE first baby teeth start wobbling, you and the tooth fairy can combine forces to teach your kids about money.
Visa’s latest annual Tooth Fairy survey indicates that the average price of a lost tooth is $3.19 so far this year.
This is the fourth consecutive year that young Americans are finding more than $3 under their pillows from the fabled fairy. That puts a full set of 20 departing baby teeth around $63.
The survey also found that the most common monetary gift given by the tooth fairy is $1 and that dads report that the fairy is more generous, giving nearly 27 per cent more than the average amount that moms report.
First, how much should parents give? Visa offers a free Tooth Fairy app for iOS and Android devices and an online calculator to help parents determine an appropriate amount for children to receive per lost tooth. You can find the app and calculator online through the links included in our electronic version of this article at
While not an endorsement of how much money children should receive, the app and calculator use the credit-card company’s latest survey data and demographic factors such as gender, age, home state, family size, marital status, income and education levels to formulate how much money the tooth fairy is leaving in comparable households.
You might consider giving your little ones a piggy bank – or a series of piggy banks for specific purposes such as spending, saving or investing – to have ready once that first tooth comes out. Talk with your child about the importance of putting some money away for various purposes, including charity, when it comes in so he or she learns about the importance of helping those with less.
Here’s how the tooth fairy can help you guide your kids through their important, first-time money activities:
Learning to handle coins and currency. Kids need a bit of time to get to know coins and bills – what they feel like, what they’re worth and how they’re used.
Start by letting them handle a few coins and then start identifying their value – how five pennies makes a nickel and two nickels make a dime, and so on.
Before children can save, spend, invest or share, they have to understand the value of the money that the tooth fairy has left under their pillow.
Making their first purchases. Tooth-fairy money could be a child’s first source of income. Teaching your kids about the value of money is an important lesson. It’s a chance to balance fun with their priorities, wants and needs.
Once a certain amount of money is set aside for savings, then head to the store with your kid to look for a small toy or other treat. It’s important to discuss the item first and to encourage comparison-shopping for the best price but, once the item is selected, put the child in charge of the transaction.
Dealing with other sources of monetary gifts. The tooth fairy often provides that first connection between kids and cash, but other money resources usually arrive soon afterward. Starting school means allowances and children may already be getting birthday and holiday gifts of cash from friends and relatives. With every new source of funds, keep the discussion going on the importance of spending wisely while saving, investing and giving to those in need.
Budgeting. As kids get older and start using money more extensively, introduce them to the concept of budgeting – the practice of tracking, counting and allocating their spending.
You might want to give yourself a refresher course if you’re not consistent about budgeting your own money and The Post’s website version of this article also contains a link to Practical Money Skills’ budgeting guide.
Moving from piggy banks to real banks. Children can keep a piggy bank around as long it’s effective but they need to see how adults handle money. Regular trips to the bank allow kids to ask questions about how banks work and why they’re important.
Eventually, they’ll be ready for their first savings account so check out what options your bank provides for young children.
Bottom line: Lost teeth are an educational gold mine for your child. You and the tooth fairy can work together to make each little windfall an important lesson about money.
Nathaniel Sillin directs Visa’s Practical Money Skills For Life financial education programs. Follow him on Twitter at His articles are intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal, tax or financial advice. Always consult a tax or financial adviser for information on how the law applies to your individual financial circumstances.

TEXAS attorney general Ken Paxton entered a plea of not guilty on felony charges of securities fraud at his arraignment in Fort Worth on Thursday, August 27.
Tarrant County 396th state district court judge George Gallagher gave Paxton until September 30 to answer to the charges.
Paxton, below, is accused of encouraging two individuals to buy stock in Severgy, a Collin County-based technology firm, and being compensated for his actions without being registered as an investment adviser in accordance with the security and exchange commission’s regulations.

Paxton, Ken 2 cropped
He is also accused of falsely giving prospective investors the impression that he was an investor in Severgy.
The Texas Rangers turned over evidence gathered during an investigation that began in April, when a formal complaint was lodged against the state’s top legal officer by Texans For Public Justice, an Austin-based government watchdog group. The attorney general was indicted by a Collin County grand jury on July 28.
The court proceedings were then moved to Tarrant County because of Paxton’s closeness to the courts in Collin County. He was a state senator representing the county from January 2013 until he was elected attorney general in November 2014, having been the state representative for the county and part of Dallas County from 2003 to 2013.

Hegar seeks AG’s line on Abbott veto

STATE public-accounts comptroller Glenn Hegar is seeking an opinion from the office of the Texas attorney general regarding governor Greg Abbott’s June 20 veto of certain items in the 2016-2017 state budget.
Abbott cut some $295m from house bill 1, the general appropriations act, for a wide range of items such as contingent riders for bills that had not passed, projects that could be funded through other sources and duplicative appropriations.
In his announcement last Wednesday, August 26, Hegar noted that the legislative budget board’s staff had raised questions as to whether the vetoes exceeded the governor’s authority under the Texas constitution. The LBB staff’s job is to serve the fiscal policy
and analysis needs of the Texas legislature.
“I am seeking clarity and requesting guidance from the attorney general’s office,” Hegar said. “This is a constitutional issue that goes to the heart of separation of powers within Texas government.”

UT removes Davis statue

A BRONZE statue of Jefferson Davis, who was president of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865, was removed from the main mall of the University Of Texas’ Austin campus on Sunday, August 30.
On Saturday, UT president Gregory Fenves said the statue would be placed in an indoor educational display at the campus’ Briscoe center for American history.
The decision, in line with a multi-state trend to remove symbols of the pro-slavery Confederacy from government-controlled properties, was made after Travis County 250th state district court judge Karin Crump rejected a petition by Sons Of Confederate Veterans to prevent relocation of the statue.
Fenves said the university plans to refurbish the statute and install it at the Briscoe center within the next 18 months.
He also said the statue of president Woodrow Wilson, displayed opposite the Davis statue, is being moved to preserve the symmetry of the main-mall plaza and will be positioned elsewhere on campus.
Statues of Robert E Lee and three other Confederate figures remain in place on the main mall.

New teen driving program

THE NEW Impact Texas teen driver program, which aims to teach the dangers of distracted driving, was launched yesterday, Tuesday.
The Texas public safety department’s program requires driver’s license applicants who complete a teenage driver education course to watch a two-hour program promoting awareness of the dangers and to print a certificate of completion afterward.
DPS director Steven McCraw said: “This new component of teen driver education underscores the risks of distracted driving and is designed to provide young and inexperienced drivers with additional information and skills to help keep them and others safe on the road.”

More Hispanics take ACT test

MORE Hispanic students took the ACT college admission test than any other student demographic in Texas’ 2015 graduating class, according to a study by the Iowa-based organization that owns and controls the test.
Of the 124,764 Texas students who took the test, almost 40 percent – 48,934 – were Hispanic, the Texas education agency said when announcing the study’s Texas results last Wednesday, August 26.
“It’s the second consecutive year where the number of Hispanic students represented the highest number of examinees of any racial ethnic group,” the announcement read.
Since 2011, Texas has seen a 22.8 per cent increase in ACT test-taking graduates among all student groups.