Watercooler

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2003

BOOSTING FRUGALITY: If your credit card debt is piling up, the folks at BillSaver.com have some tips to help you cut spending, free up cash and get those lenders off your back.

-- Lower your interest rate. Call the company and request a better rate. If they say no, transfer the debt to another card.

-- Consider what magazines you read and what cable channels you watch. Sure, there are hundreds available, but you might look at only a few. Go to the library for your reading material instead of buying.

-- Shop at yard sales and thrift stores.

-- Put some savings to work. If you have cash sitting idly in a savings account or CD, earning a minuscule rate of return, apply it to the credit debt. Consider that payment a ''return'' of whatever percentage the monthly interest cost you -- it's no longer sapping your financial health.

-- Shop around for lower costs on basic household services such as Internet access, insurance, mobile phones, long distance. If you log onto the Net with a dial-up modem, for example, there are hundreds of local service providers around the country.

The Federal Reserve estimates American households will spend nearly 15 percent of their disposable income to service debt.

BillSaver.com, based in Birmingham, Ala., was founded four years ago as a way to help consumers sort through endless telephone pricing plans.

FRAT BROTHER CEOS: If you want to be a chief executive or politician when you grow up, consider joining a fraternity in college.

Forty-two percent of U.S. senators and 40 percent of Supreme Court justices belonged to a frat. So did a quarter of the CEOs of the biggest companies in America, including billionaire Warren Buffett, outgoing Sprint CEO William Esrey, Wal-Mart Stores founder Sam Walton and Sanford Weill, the Citigroup leader.

Forbes.com perused the college fraternization of CEOs on its Forbes 500 list. Beta Theta Pi, the Ohio-based fraternity founded 163 years ago, led the corporate list with 11 CEOs, followed by Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Chi with nine each.

MUTED SEVERANCES: Although golden parachutes have been legendary at big U.S. corporations, most companies are actually restrained when it comes to executive severance packages according to a survey by Right Management Consultants, a career-transition and consulting firm.

Nearly 83 percent limit severance pay to a month or less for each year of service. And half of the 1,495 companies polled said their severance pay was determined solely by years of employment.

On the benefits front, continued medical insurance was most common, 66 percent, followed by outplacement services, 58 percent. Less than a third of employers, 31 percent, paid for continued life insurance.

Additionally, only 12 percent of companies offered an ''over 50'' compensation differential for departing executives.

''With all the publicity surrounding the hefty severance packages given to certain prominent top executives, it was surprising how few companies choose, as a rule, to provide some elementary services, like financial and retirement planning and office space, to their highest-paid people on their way out,'' said Geof Boole, executive vice president of Philadelphia-based Right Management Consultants.



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