By Kristen PlankUniversity of Georgia“It has been almost 10 years since natural gas has been deregulated,” said Cynthia Johnson, director of public affairs with the Georgia Public Service Commission. “But when asking consumers who their natural gas provider is, the answer is almost always the same: Atlanta Gas Light Company.”That’s a problem, because AGL isn’t a provider. When problems arise, consumers need their natural gas marketers. This is where University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agents come in handy.The UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences was granted a $1.9-million grant to educate Georgians on using natural gas in their homes.“The grant was funded by Atlanta Gas Light Company, which is also working with the Georgia Public Service Commission,” said FACS associate dean Jorge Atiles. “It’s really designed to help consumers in choosing a gas marketer, understanding their bills and knowing exactly what they’re buying.”Ten UGA Extension county FACS agents will be teaching consumers about safety practices, gas maintenance and preventing unnecessary disconnections in service. “The agents are spread all over the state,” Atiles said.The information is aimed at everyone who uses natural gas. High-income, low-income and everyone in-between will have access to the educators.For Johnson, this is great news, since she deals with consumers daily.The relationship among UGA, AGL and the Georgia PSC is a “perfect partnership,” Johnson said. The grant money will enable more consumers to gain information in more effective ways.“Typically, information about natural gas is printed in newspaper ads and on billboards and buses,” she said. “But people can walk by those without really noticing them. But the commission gave explicit instructions on what educators’ initiatives should look like.”The grant will allow more face-to-face contact with consumers, she said, “from large gatherings with agents to one-on-one communication with households.”“We’re taking a multilayer approach now,” Atiles said.The information on how to help consumers with natural gas problems will still go out through the media and through UGA Extension offices. Atiles said they’re trying to get gas marketers to reach out more to their customers.None of this is lost on Johnson, who said many people don’t know other options are available.“We have elderly consumers on fixed $8,000 annual incomes with gas bills that can be more than $300 a month,” she said. “They don’t realize they’re eligible for discounts or that they can choose a provider with a lower rate.”She points to other consumers who get disconnected after a late payment. “Once they finally pay the bill,” she said, “they find out they have a $200 bill for reactivation and reconnection.”Many people don’t realize they have a right by law to set up a reasonable payment schedule so they can afford their bills, Johnson said.“This grant with UGA will help us get these consumers educated (on their options),” Johnson said.(Kristen Plank is a student writer for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
Over the long term (since 2000), both calculations show an average annualised return for Swiss Pensionskassen of approximately 2.6%.Meanwhile, Towers Watson reported an improvement in the quarterly reports of Swiss company pension plans regarding funding levels.Over the second quarter, the average funding level increased by 100 basis points to 100.7% as per end-June.However, the 103% mark reached at the beginning of the year was missed, the consultancy said.Peter Zanella, head of retirement solutions at Towers Watson Zurich, said cutting the conversion rate to 6%, part of the Altersvorsorge 2020 reform package, would give Pensionskassen more flexibility in tackling the “most pressing challenges of this century”, including increasing life expectancy and low interest rates.But he also stressed that the debates have “only just begun”, and that the final wording of the reform package was yet to be determined.“Until then, the possible effects on Pensionskassen will remain unclear,” he said. Swiss pension funds produced an average return of 4.9% over the first half of the year, according to estimates by pension fund association ASIP, while Credit Suisse, using a different sample, calculated a 4% average return in its Pensionskassenindex.One reason behind the differing figures is the allocation to foreign equities, considerably higher in ASIP’s sample, ranging between 12% and 41%. In the CS Index, the average was 17.5% as per year-end 2013.According to the pension fund association, there has been a “significant” shift towards foreign equities in recent years, from an 11% median allocation in December 2008 to 23% in June 2014.The average exposure to domestic equities in ASIP’s sample, 4-20%, is closer to the Credit Suisse average at 14%.
FORMER Aston Villa and Manchester United star Dwight Yorke has a struggle on his hands.Just as he did when he tried to break into Premier League football in England, so it is today, where the Trinidad and Tobago native, the most successful footballer in the countries history, is finding it today.Based in Dubai, Yorke is now trying his hand at managing but has found that the colour of his skin provides barriers just as it did during his playing days.“I’m actually trying to get into coaching here, which is another challenging part of my career. It’s a different challenge now,” said Yorke during an interview with T&T radio station i95FM.“The challenge was to break in as a black player in the UK,” said Yorke speaking of his 10 years with Aston Villa where he scored 97 goals before becoming a household name with Manchester United in a famous partnership with Andy Cole.“I managed to do that, and now I have to fight extremely hard and … it’s the same thing coming to management. You have to fight extremely hard to get a look-in to it,” Said Yorke.“You just have to look around the world; it’s very challenging. I’m not ashamed to say it – the black aspiring managers are not getting a look-in. You look in the Premier League and you look around globally.”(Sportsmax).