Archive for August, 2012
In the old days employers used to provide welfare benefit to any employees who got into difficulty and some of the retirement plans were remarkably generous. Those were the compassionate times when employers recognized the levels of pay were low and prevented the employees from saving for their retirement. Indeed, this practice actually hung on through the decades and new laws were required as recently as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. This deals with the management of the retirement funds established over the years. All employees pay a small percentage of their pay into the fund and it tops up the pension when they retire and leaves enough to cover funeral expenses.
While the country remain in the grip of these socialists, everyone saw good returns from these retirement funds. Even though there were minor recessions and more serious depressions, these funds were solid, steady performers. During the boom years, they grew spectacularly. And that’s when the problems began. The owners of these businesses began to question why so much cash was being left sitting around doing nothing. With the economy doing well, many of these funds were therefore used to fund dramatic expansions of the businesses. The owners always meant to pay the money back except, this was a cheaper source of funding than using the banks. Repayments were therefore delayed.
When they looked at the retirement plans, many owners discovered the plans could be amended without having to ask for permission from anyone. This came as a surprise to many who had retired. They began receiving notices regretting the reduction in their benefits. A recent case against Qwest Communications International has just been decided by the Court of Appeals. The employers won. So the moral of this story for you is a simple one. If your employer currently offers you a pay package including insurance and retirement benefits, look at the small print very carefully. If you see anything along the following lines, “the Company reserves the right to amend or terminate any of the benefits under this section. . .”, don’t rely on the plans and policies apparently on offer. The courts are not going to protect the rights of an employee against an employer in the face of an express contract term.
The life insurance policy you buy, whether directly or through an agent, is a contract made for life. So long as you continue paying the premium installments and don’t cancel, that policy is good for decades. But no matter what the appearances, including the appointment of well-known individuals as trustees to administer the fund, no employer who reserves the right to amend or terminate the plans can be relied on to leave the fund untouched. If this applies to you, you should seriously consider topping up the coverage apparently available. Discuss your options with an experienced life insurance agent and find out how best to protect your retirement prospects and the welfare of your family.
There are some very comprehensive rules protecting European citizens when they travel around Europe. If the airlines fail to comply with these rules, they will be prosecuted and heavy fines are payable. So it’s in your interests to know your rights. Let’s start with the not uncommon situation of overbooked flights. You have paid for your ticket, you told the airline you were coming, and you present yourself at the airport on time only to find there are too many bodies waiting to get on the same flight. If this happens to you, the airline must first call for volunteers to give up their seats in return for agreed compensation. But suppose no one volunteers. Well, the choice falls to you.
If you decide not to travel, you are entitled to a full refund and compensation of up to 600 Euro. The actual amount varies depending on how long the intended flight and how many miles. But if it will still be worth traveling onward, you are entitled to be booked on to the first available flight to your destination. If you are offered a seat upgrade, the airline cannot ask you for the difference in price. If you must now break your journey and catch a connecting flight, all expenses must be met. Food and accommodation may also be necessary. Should the only available seats be in a lower class, you are entitled to a refund of the difference in ticket price.
If you have had a cheap flight, especuially that booked as a package through a travel professional, you will be in line for significant compensation if you lose the benefit of car rental or hotel accommodation. If you did buy through a travel agent, the airline is obliged to compensate the travel agent and, in turn, the agent is obliged to pass on the compensation to you. If you have any complaint about the airline and the treatment you received when you were refused boarding, make a complaint to the National Enforcement Body in your home state. Officers are supposed to help you recover the full amount of compensation available under EU law.
Over the last two decades, there’s been a revolution in the way we assess childhood behavior. In the good old days because the pharmaceutical industry began inventing new drugs to treat all these new diseases and disorders, we had well-behaved children and those we were forced to tolerate. Now the medical profession has invented Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and now prescribes several varieties of pill to control it, we have a cultural dilemma. In the good old day, parents would give their “naughty” children a gentle blow to the head or some other sensitive part of the body and, repeated as necessary, this tended to produce a sullen silence. Today, we’re not supposed to use corporal punishment, at least in public. Instead we administer pills and sit back quietly hoping they will soon take effect and give everyone’s eardrums a rest.
The problem with traveling comes down to two factors. Children are more likely to make a fuss when they are bored and, let’s face it, sitting for hours waiting for a flight or on a plane once it has taken off, can test the patience of even the best of children. Then there’s the problem of tiredness. Some children react by going to sleep – something to be encouraged. Others lose their tempers, shouting and throwing anything to hand.
A recent survey found slightly more than a third of passengers on cheap flights were so deeply frustrated by the failure of the parents around them to control their children, they agreed they would pay more to travel child free. It was worth a few extra dollars to have peace. Scale that up to business and first class and opinions were equally divided on whether children should be excluded. So what do you think? Should airlines offering cheap flights change the options so you can pay a little extra to travel without children? Or is this something the long haul legacy airlines should introduce? How many times have to sat with a child kicking the back of your seat, or pushing the seat in front down into your lap? Would it not be better to deal only with thoughtful and sensitive adults?