GREG ROBERTS’ ON THE MONEY: Tips for the summer

  • Posted: Sunday, June 9, 2013 11:04 a.m.
    UPDATED: Sunday, June 9, 2013 11:05 a.m.

In case you are travelling this summer, you should be aware that your costs to stay in a full-service hotel are going up.

One reason is that these hotels have restaurants that usually lose money or earn very little return for the hotel operator, so the overhead costs for these restaurants are included in room rates.

Other reasons include the low guest utilization of amenities such as minibars, spas and business centers.

I experienced this sort of thing several years ago when I attended huge industry convocation at a luxury hotel in Dallas.

As was my custom, I took my workout togs with me and arose one morning to use the hotel’s gym facilities, only to be informed that the daily cost was $20!

I was flabbergasted and drove to a nearby national gym chain of which I was a member at the time.

Then, too, the most popular amenities that today’s travelers want are free Internet access, free parking and a free breakfast.

When I was traveling for a living, it was a conundrum to understand why the value-brand hotels offered these services at no additional cost, while the full-service properties charged for them.

Due to their popularity, the number of value-brand hotels has risen by 16.7 percent over the past 10 years with the result that hotels of this ilk now number some 2.7 million in the United States versus 2.2 million full-service hotels.

The largest Hilton Hotel in New York City recently stopped offering room service to its guests, and in the future, when you check into a hotel, you may be greeted by a bellhop with a tablet computer who will check you in and assist you to your room. Another cost-savings move.

One more thing that I find fascinating is that many hotels are moving to dynamic pricing, whereby room rates may change during the day.

For example, if occupancy rates are too low at noon, many hotels will lower their room rates to increase utilization. Then too, if you book for multiple nights, you may be able to negotiate an even better rate.

James L. Glasman is the author of the book, “The 4% Solution,” and, in a recent edition of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, he wrote an interesting article on what he termed “faith-based investing.”

According to Glasman, the key is to find those companies that are not doing well currently, but as a result of their great brands, solid balance sheets and an undervalued stock value are likely to perform better in the future.

In this category he listed six stocks, all of whom had price earnings ratios of 15 or less. The stocks included Apple, Chevron, DuPont, General Electric, Merck and Netflix. All of these stocks pay dividends that range from 2.7 percent to 3.8 percent.

One stock that I really like is US Airways. If creditors of American Airlines vote to accept the merger deal (and the betting money is that they will), look for these shares to rise dramatically.

Additionally, the outlook for the airline industry is quite good over the foreseeable future, so Delta Airlines, whose stock is trading at six times earnings, is a good buy.

If you have an IRA, are under 59½, and you need to withdraw money, there is a technique to do that without incurring the 10 percent early distribution penalty.

Code Section 72(m) provides that if you withdraw money in substantially equal payments over a minimum of 5 years, or until you reach 59½, whichever occurs later, you can avoid the early distribution penalty.

So, if you were 52, you would have to take a minimum of 7½ years of these payments.

Naturally, you would be taxed at ordinary income rates, and you could not make any new contributions to your IRA during the period when you are taking these withdrawals.

The IRS provides three different methods to calculate the amount of each withdrawal: the amortization method, the annuitization method and the distribution method.

There is a website at www.72t.net so one can compare the three methods to determine which best fits your individual situation.

Got a financial planning question for Greg? You may email him at greg@lifesolutionsonline.net.

Greg Roberts is a certified financial planner with 35 years of financial and estate planning experience.

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