AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! If you pop open a can of soda and drink only half, what do you do with the rest? Are you so cheap that you save it – or so wasteful that you throw it out? I’ve been thinking about cans of soda since I saw a headline in a supermarket tabloid a few weeks ago. The headline, about a television personality who is a millionaire many times over, said he is “so cheap” he saves half-cans of soda. The tabloid and the story don’t deserve my attention, and I will spare you any names. My point, reinforced by the headline, is that our culture conspires to make it difficult for us to save but easy to waste. Start with the English language. We have plenty of words with negative connotations for folks tight with their money – niggardly, stingy, skinflint, miserly, tightwad, cheap and cheapskate readily come to mind. Positive words for smart savers are much more scarce. Even “frugal,” according to my Webster’s unabridged dictionary, can denote “excessive” savings. And can you think of a word – I can’t – to describe a person who is smart in all aspects of managing money? Being financially clueless also can be perceived as cute. Case in point: Producers of a planned new “reality” television series, “Broke Folk,” announced last month a nationwide search “for unusual, extreme and entertaining stories about real money messes from funny, outgoing and interesting people in over their heads.” You don’t have to wait for “Broke Folk” to air to get some laughs, or at least giggles. Just tune in to the financial call-in shows, where viewers ask the “gurus” and talking heads on TV for advice. Frequently, these callers are asked how much money they owe on their credit cards, how much they contribute to an IRA or 401(k) plan and what kind of investment return they are getting. A common answer, accompanied by giggles, is “I really don’t know.” This is not a putdown of people who find financial matters confusing or intimidating admittedly, they can be. It is, however, a loud warning to stop treating these matters so casually and to start taking financial responsibility. At a minimum, that includes getting a handle on cash flow (how much money comes in and goes out every month), net worth (the value of everything we own minus what we owe) and how our investments are doing. But again, our culture works against us. We don’t want to be perceived as “obsessing” about money, so we fiercely resist what’s arguably the most useful financial exercise we can ever do, which is to account for all our income and expenses as they occur. (We demand that corporations and the government do this but can’t be bothered with our own money.) And we get so caught up with the “daily living” including, for many, accumulating stuff and keeping up with the perceived expectations of others that we neglect to build a basic financial foundation that would make our lives both easier and simpler. “The general public absolutely treats (financial matters) too lightly,” said Benjamin Tobias, a certified financial planner and president of the Financial Planning Association of Broward County, Fla. His observation (I agree): Society puts too much emphasis on appearances, and appearances work against people saving. “People talk about what kind of car they are getting, and other ‘status’ things,” Tobias said. “But it’s a ‘no-no’ to talk (in social settings) about how much you’ve saved for retirement.” Maybe people should start speaking up more about their savings, Tobias said, creating “peer pressure” for others to save. I’ll speak up: I have more than enough money saved to live comfortably the rest of my life. And the few times I’ve had half a can of soda left I’ve always saved it. Humberto Cruz offers personal finance advice. Write him at AskHumberto@aol.com.
Some of the highlights and challenges of last year are included in the City of Dawson Creek’s 2010 Annual Report that was released recently. The report is a detailed summary of the corporation’s operations in 2010, including the goals and objectives set by city council and each of the city’s departments and the performance standards by which those goals were measured, and the goals and objectives going into this year. It also includes audited financial statements for 2010.The report will be presented to council for approval at its annual meeting on July 18, but council is seeking input from residents prior to the report being approved.“We put out this annual report so people can learn more about the community they live in, and we encourage everybody to go online and read it – or if you want a hard copy, you can come down to City Hall – and take a few minutes to see how great your community really is,” said Mayor Mike Bernier.- Advertisement -He said one of the highlights for him in the report is the amount of private investment and new construction that happened last year – 276 new business licences were issued and the value of building permits totaled a record-setting $59 million.“When most of the country was still trying to get out of an economic downturn, it was one of our busiest year’s on record,” said the mayor.He said it also encouraging to see all the new houses going up and the new residents moving into them – new residential housing starts totalled 76 units in 2010.Advertisement “We’re seeing a lot of new families move in, and it’s really great to get out and meet them and start to hear their issues and concerns and get them involved in the community,” said Bernier.Of course, a prolonged drought caused the City to implement Stage 4 water restrictions – the highest level possible – last August. The mayor said while the city can`t control the weather, the water shortage did emphasize the need for a new water reservoir to increase the city`s stored capacity, and for the council to implement changes to the city`s water and sewer rate structure.Those changes were approved late last year and implemented at the beginning of this year, and they have caused quite a bit of controversy, as many residents and business owners are irate over substantial increases to their water bills. City council has maintained the new rate structure is necessary to ensure the physical and financial sustainability of the city`s water and sewer systems, and Bernier said he is not worried about the political consequences of that decision heading into a civil election later this year.“I don’t make my decisions based on if it’s going to be popular in the community and get me re-elected – it’s is this going to be the right thing for the citizens of Dawson Creek and to make sure the city runs properly. We worked for three years to get all of the information and come up with a plan to have our water fund sustainable so we can continue running the water system.”Advertisement Preliminary work begun in 2010 on the new Calvin Kruk Centre for the Arts, being constructed inside in the old post office building downtown. The project hit a snag last October after bids for construction came in substantially over the approved budget, forcing council to seek voter consent to borrow up to $4 million to cover any shortfalls once the project was re-tendered.Bernier said it was clear from the town hall meetings held and the counter-petition process that the majority of the community supported the project and wanted to see it move forward.“The arts community is a big part of Dawson Creek, and obviously they were 100 per cent behind this. If you look at any community, they need to have an arts centre, it’s kind of an anchor and all part of our well-being of life.”Council also pursued another ambitious project last year, finalizing a deal with Shell Canada in September that would see the company fund the majority of the construction cost for a facility to treat the citys effluent water in exchange for a large proportion of that treated product over 10 years to use in its natural gas operations. Councils goal was to provide local oil and gas companies with an alternative to using potable water in their operations.That project was also met with controversy, as some residents questioned whether it was the best deal the city could have got to build the facility, some business owners expressed concerns about there not being enough product available to them once Shell took its portion, and even local pilots were concerned about the resulting reduction to their floatplane base at the airport.Advertisement Bernier said council remains firmly behind the agreement.“It just makes sense when you’re trying to save water in your community and trying to reduce the amount of water industry is using to do something like this. Somebody else is paying for it, it’s going to save our water, it’s keeping the industry in town – there’s just so many positives with it that it made sense from council’s perspective that we had to pursue this.”For those interested in providing feedback on the annual report, written comments received before July 12 will be included in the agenda for the July 18 annual meeting, though comments will still be received at the meeting prior to the final approval of council. For enquiries about the report, contact Brenda Ginter, director of corporate administration, by fax at 250-782-3202, by email at email@example.com or by mail at Box 150, Dawson Creek, B.C., V1g 4G4.The full annual report has been attached here for your convenience.