Posts by Althea Chang
Americans have been dining out less frequently since the recession, but while the economy has been recovering, consumers' willingness to spend at restaurants hasn't, according to recent data.
"During this recession, the restaurant industry covered a steep decline of 3 percent. We since then have leveled off, but we've not been able to recoup those losses," said Bonnie Riggs, food industry analyst at NPD, which surveys about 3,000 people per day on their restaurant spending habits.
That's largely because Americans ages 18 to 34 and families with children have cut down on dining out, and many still don't feel like the economy has improved enough to justify their prerecession restaurant spending, according to NPD's research.
In the year ending February 2014, families with kids made 1 billion fewer visits to U.S. restaurants than they did in the year ending February 2008, while adult-only parties made 306 million fewer visits, according to a recent NPD report.
More summer travelers are expected to take to the skies and the roads for a vacation this year, according to recent flight and hotel booking data.
About 88 percent of Americans are planning leisure travel this summer, between May 23 and Sept. 1, according to travel booking site Orbitz.com. That's an 11-percent increase from a year ago.
"This year we’re seeing more Americans traveling and, in fact, taking advantage of smart tactics to save costs and upgrade vacations,” said Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor at Orbitz.com. "The majority of consumers said that they would redeem credit card points on their summer vacations so if they have been using a card with good travel rewards it could be a big help in offsetting summer vacation costs."
And those costs have been rising. On average, airfares are up 6 percent and hotel prices are up 12 percent among top summer vacation destinations, according Orbitz.com data.
Target-date funds may seem simple enough: Retirement savers can take a set-it-and-forget-it approach with them, determining how much of their salaries to contribute and letting a fund manager adjust asset allocations over time based on a target retirement date.
But a majority of savers with money in target-date funds aren't using them correctly, according to Financial Engines, a firm that sifted through data on more than 700,000 workers with about $55 billion saved in 401(k) retirement plans.
"The idea is, you put all your money in one fund and you get a diversified 401(k) account. What we've seen though is a lot of folks start off on the right foot, and ultimately sort of spread their money out over time and as a result of that, see lower returns," said Financial Engines CEO Jeffrey Maggioncalda.
Target-date funds are intended to be used exclusively since they inherently control for risk and provide good diversification, according to the firm.
Graduation season is getting underway, and more party planners are looking to the web to create invitations for college, high school, even pre-school and other graduations, according to recent data.
Graduation season is actually the third most popular time of year for parties, following Christmastime and Halloween, according to Evite, a website which, like Paperless Post and Punchbowl, helps users customize electronic invitations and manage replies to those invitations.
In the first four months of 2014, Evite users planned 28,686 graduation parties, vs. 28,419 parties in that same period in 2013, likely because party planners are getting more comfortable with using free or affordable electronic invitations, which can make it easier to track responses.
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"We're really just entering the peak of the graduation season," said Evite Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Dominiquini, who adds that many more parties are still being planned from May into June.
Many CFOs who initially put off their retirement from top U.S. firms as a result of the recession have recently decided that their companies are financially fit enough to leave to a successor, according to recent data.
More than 36 percent of CFO departures were retirements versus a historical average of about 23 percent, according to a report from the Korn Ferry Institute, which analyzed company and CFO data on the top 1000 U.S. firms by revenue.
"Some of those CFOs planned to retire earlier on but stayed through the recovery and they found that as the shareholder value increased, they found it as a good time to cash out and take the retirement," said Bryan Proctor, global co-leader of Korn Ferry's Financial Officer Center of Expertise.
Last year, industrial and financial services firms saw the highest turnover as those companies saw improved financial results, but turnover is expected to level off in those sectors this year, according to Proctor.
Homeowners across the country are making more environmentally-conscious shopping decisions, but when it comes to powering their homes, many overestimate the cost of solar energy, according to a recent survey from a company that sells solar energy systems.
More than half of American homeowners are more likely to take consider a product's environmental sustainability into consideration than they were three years ago when making a purchasing decision, according to a survey commissioned by SolarCity and conducted by Zogby Analytics. About 62 percent said that they want solar power for their homes.
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"We think people just don't realize how affordable solar has become. Less than half homeowners surveyed said that they realize that solar power is less expensive today than it was three years ago, when in reality the costs have fallen dramatically," said Jonathan Bass, vice president of communications at SolarCity.
Stricter government regulations are forcing CFOs to better manage the massive amounts of information their firms gather, according to experts.
In particular, complying with Dodd-Frank reforms and Basel regulatory standards is a challenge for financial services companies, and solvency rules and the implementation of Obamacare have been a challenge for insurers, according to Glenn Finch, IBM's global leader of big data transformational services.
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IBM surveyed 576 CFOs across the globe and found that the office of the CFO, not the CIO, is the one that could actually be using big data the most, particularly since data can be used to help contain costs, develop forecasts and manage risk.
"We found a pretty significant shift in the office of the CFO. They saw a 205 percent increase in their work on just integrating data across the enterprise," Finch said.
The spring break travel season is upon us and for some air travelers, flipping through the SkyMall catalog is the best way to pass the time it takes to get from point A to point B.
Last year, $156 million in credit card transactions were made in flight by top North American airline carriers, according to GuestLogix, a retail payment technology company. But a majority of those transactions were first made offline, then processed with credit and debit card companies on landing.
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As a result, when transactions are made on a plane but are declined upon landing, shoppers are ultimately walking off planes with items they'll never pay for, said GuestLogix CEO Brett Proud.
About 1.2 percent of North American in-flight transactions were declined in 2013, according to GuestLogix data, usually as a result of low balance or credit limits. Luckily for airlines, 30 to 40 percent of those declined transactions are reprocessed and authorized on the ground, Proud said.
Retirees and soon-to-be retirees may be confident in their ability to make the right Social Security claims decisions, but many could still end up losing out on as much as $250,000, according to a recent study.
That's because many Americans are simply not aware of their options, such as delaying their claims until they're 70 years old, according to experts at retirement plan manager Financial Engines.
"Near retirees ... really don't understand Social Security and are basically overconfident," said Kelly O’Donnell, executive vice president of Financial Engines.
About 77 percent of retirees or near retirees are confident about making Social Security decisions, according to a Financial Engines survey of 1,008 people between the ages of 55 and 70. Meanwhile 73 percent of those surveyed who took an eight-question quiz about Social Security scored a C or worse.
Spring breakers are ready to flock to warmer destinations this month and next, and some will be spending more on their vacations than they did last year, according to recent travel booking data.
Five of the top 10 most-popular spring break destinations are in Mexico and the Dominican Republic and five are in relatively warm-weather climates in the United States, according to Orbitz.com hotel booking data for trips between March 15 and April 30. New York is the only spring break destination in the top 10 located in the Northeast.
"Overall, hotel rates are up about 6 percent over the spring break period. However, Las Vegas is our most popular destination this year, with the most affordable hotel rate of about $115 a night," said Marita Hudson Thomas, an Orbitz.com spokeswoman. Hotels in Orlando, Fla., a popular family destination, are also affordable, at about $125 a night.