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PFD funds the frivolous and fiscally wary

Posted: September 18, 2013 - 6:19pm

Toney Cloud will either spend this year’s Alaska Permanent Fund on his daughter’s college tuition, his family’s vacation fund or on a plane ticket to see his son in the U.S. Air Force.

“It’s higher than we expected,” said Cloud, of Kenai.

This year’s permanent fund is $900 and direct deposits will begin Oct. 3. Filing period was from Jan. 1 to March 31. This year, about 593,000 Alaska residents will split the $576 million permanent fund total. Although the permanent fund is a slightly larger sum than last year’s permanent fund, Cloud said he has seen much larger amounts in the 15 year’s he’s lived in Alaska.

In 2008, the largest year for permanent fund payout since the program’s first check in 1982, residents received $2,069. Since then, though, the permanent fund has mostly dropped: $1,305 in 2009, $1,281 in 2010, $1,174 in 2011 and $878 in 2012, according to the Alaska Department of Revenue’s website.

Linn Plous said as soon as she receives her permanent fund check, she’s depositing it in the bank. The Kenai resident and her husband bought a new roof this year with many year’s collective permanent funds, she said. This year’s permanent fund will serve similar emergencies, she said.

But most residents, Cloud and Plous said, spend the permanent fund more frivolously.

“They shop,” Cloud said. “They go and just blow it on big televisions and stuff like that.”

“It’s free money,” Plous said.

Most residents spend the amount of permanent fund money before they cash their checks, Dan’s TV & Appliance Manager Scott Shelden said.

There is a surge in buisness each year when permanent funds are announced, and the TV and appliance buisness anticipates it by offering package deals, Shelden said.

The same is true for most businesses, Stanley Chrysler Manager Travis Davidson said. Furniture stores, phone and electronic stores, Walmart — many offer deals around permanent fund time, too, he said. “I bet ya TV sales are through the roof,” he said.

Greg McCminn, store manager of Arctic Motor Sports, said each year he sees families walk into his store, their permanent funds pooled, and collectively buy an ATV, snowmachine or an out-board motor.

Arctic Motor Sports is one of six buisness this year participating in Radio Kenai’s Double Your Dividend. Participants in the program have a chance to win an extra permanent fund payment. The other five businesses are Stanley Ford, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Kenai Peninsula Harley-Davidson, Sweeney’s Clothing and Waterworks Spas & Saunas.

Deb Marshall, inventory manager for Kenai Peninsula Harley-Davidson, said one year, after signing up for Double Your Dividend, a man bought a motorcycle.

Peter Thomson, president of River & Sea Marine, said his buisness is mostly immune to the permanent-fund craze. His business sells snowmachines, ATVs, dirt bikes, boats, boat motors and trailers. Although the vehicles are popular, they are expensive, he said, and many don’t buy on impulse at his buisness, nor likely at others.

“You’re in Alaska,” Thomson said. “The psychology in Alaska is a lot different. … I don’t think the (permanent fund) money necessarily gets spent on four-wheelers.”

Most residents, he said, likely buy “necessities” this time of year, not “fluffy stuff.”

Permanent fund filing for next year begins Jan. 1.

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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