What Maps Can Hide

Too often, I find myself looking at this or that new map on the happiest places to live in the United States, the states with the most craft beer, or, more importantly, the least social mobility. I glance at where I live and think, well, it could be worse. At least I don’t live in Alabama. And then I move on.

Maps like these have become ubiquitous–indeed, some media outlets have entire sections devoted to them. But the 50-state map infographic is becoming the new pie chart–overused, often abused, and not always best suited for the task at hand.

Clearly, not all of these maps are bad–sometimes they really are the most effective way to communicate the information at hand. But as Ben Blatt has pointed out in Slate, the underlying data are often much “noisier” and often the methodology doesn’t translate (methodology isn’t exactly good for generating clickbait).

Taking a simple example of popular girls names over the last couple decades, he walks through some of the false trends that appear in the maps based on how the data are aggregated and presented–maybe not that big of a deal for baby names, but might be for looking at unemployment rates.

Even more problematic, our infatuation with maps as infographics often masks the real analytical power of new mapping tools. Used properly, they can help us understand real issues–especially complex, as well as fundamentally local, issues like social mobility and educational access.

Some of the most effective uses of mapping tools are not these viral maps. Instead, recognizing how much place matters, they home in on communities and neighborhoods, seeking to better understand the many factors contributing to entrenched social problems.

Recent research out of the Kirwan Institute at the Ohio State University has sparked several such local mapping initiatives. In Richmond, Virginia, for example, the Office of Community Wealth Building has been working to map which neighborhoods in the city best position their residents for future success. As the Washington Post’s Tina Griego described the initiative, “The basic idea is to look at how where one lives–one’s ecosystem–impacts access to transportation, education, health, credit, and wealth, all indicators of mainstream economic success and physical well-being.”

This visual analysis did not uncover previously unknown truths about Richmond. (Though it is jarring to see how the outlines of poverty in that city today echo the boundaries created by the Home Owners Loan Corporation’s redlining in the 1950’s.) But by bringing together important local data at an unprecedented level of specificity, the project was able to spotlight where efforts must be directed, and begin to illuminate potential solutions.

Our infatuation with maps as infographics often masks the real analytical power of new mapping tools.

In education, the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families amp; Communities and United Way Worldwide is using a similar approach to better understand educational opportunity for young children. Its initiative–Transforming Early Childhood Community Systems, or TECCS–helps communities to collect, map, and analyze local data on children’s school readiness to target investment in early learning.

It’s not just universities that can take advantage of these new instruments. As these analytical tools become increasingly accessible to average users, mapping can offer a route for renewed civic engagement as well. For example, Chicago’s new open data initiative coupled with a newly developed, user-friendly mapping tool, Plenario, allows anyone with access to a computer and Internet to explore and visually manipulate city data to better understand the challenges facing neighborhoods throughout the city.

Local citizens keeping tabs on crime rates in the city have been quick to use these data to explore their neighborhoods and patterns of criminal activity. Last year, in the wake of almost 50 school closings, the city created so-called “safe passage” routes for students venturing through unfamiliar neighborhoods to new schools. Mapping prevalence of crime around those routes allows community members to keep tabs on the effectiveness of the program.

For those hoping to increase social mobility through policy, mapping can help to illuminate with greater nuance and specificity where opportunity is abundant and where it is lacking, and begin to identify important levers for change within a community.

One area where we need more of this mapping: education. In a recent report from New America, Putting Learning on the Map: Visualizing Opportunity in 21st Century Communities, I make the case for leveraging mapping tools to better understand the complex web of educational opportunities that communities need to provide residents with a chance for future success. The examples I highlight in the report have, by bringing together data at the neighborhood and community level, sparked new conversations, as well as additional investment, in educational opportunity.

These enduring divides require deep local analysis to drive change–not another 50-state infographic.

This post appears courtesy of New Americas Weekly Wonk magazine.

Six Steps to Calculating Your Retirement Budget

BUD HEBELER: Try living on your retirement budget for three to six months before making a commitment to retire with your employer. Keep in mind that retirement is a long time to go without working income, and preparation for it takes more effort than planning for a vacation. Here are some things to determine before you establish that budget for your trial period:

First, thoroughly consider what may be the best Social Security strategy for taking Social Security including deferring starting ages and possibly employing strategies such as filing a restricted application, file and suspend payments, or simple suspension. Deferral requires the use of savings, but that may be the best investment you can make.

Second, consider using retirement savings to pay down a mortgage or other debt. Generally, it’s better to pay off the debt if your after-tax return on your investments is less than the loan interest rate or there is uncertainty about a steady retirement income or possible future expenses. However, savings that are in a qualified account such as a 401(k) or IRA require a more careful tax look before paying off debt.

Third, make a comprehensive retirement plan that (1) includes a projection of the surviving spouse’s retirement income after the first death, but (2) excludes significant funds set aside for emergencies and known large future expensive events such as relocation, remodeling, roof replacement, new cars, etc. You don’t want to have to finance these things with credit once in retirement. If you include those reserves in your retirement savings when you use most Internet planning programs, you’ll likely pay for emergencies and expensive events with credit.

Fourth, make a long-term-care (LTC) decision about whether you will buy a LTC policy or self-insure or depend on a relative or welfare at that time.

Fifth, thoroughly understand what your health insurance will cost including Medicare monthly charges which vary with income and come directly out of your Social Security checks.

Sixth, base your plan on a conservative set of assumptions about inflation, returns and taxes. The future may not be as kind as the past considering (1) the growing number of elderly that will ultimately depend on welfare thereby requiring more government support, (2) the diminishing percentage of workers that will have to support the increasing percentage of elderly, (3) the growth of national debt and associated interest costs that compound as interest rates increase, (4) the appalling shortage of personal savings to support retirement, and (5) tripling of the money supply in the last few years with its impending inflation effect.

Henry “Bud” Hebeler was president of the aerospace division of Boeing Co. He has served on the board of MIT’s Sloan School and currently focuses on the dissemination of free, sound financial planning on www.analyzenow.com.

Scoreinc.com Expands into Development, Coaching and Technology for Credit …

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Scoreinc.com Expands into Development, Coaching and Technology for Credit Based Businesses – BWWGeeksWorld

Go Back To Living The Lie

By Jeffrey P. Snider

Commentary has not been able to ignore changes in the Feds balance sheet mechanics with all the potential systemic shifts occurring as QE ends and the FOMC contemplates going even further. As I said last week, the total balance of bank reserves declined but not due to anything other than an operational test of the Feds Term Deposit Facility TDF. With about $400 billion auctioned last week, the significance of the amount has only been to seriously confuse many observers who dont understand how a central bank actually works.

As for markets, there has been precious little attention paid to any of it, with much bigger problems drawing focus. There has been the little matter of a global collapse in oil prices terming out while global credit markets in an uneasy state all year are now turning toward perhaps outright fear. The TDF just doesnt rate, though perhaps it should (or it does, but in a manner wholly contradictory to how it is portrayed).

The TDF, like the reverse repo program (RRP) before it and the IOER before that, is an element of what is nothing short of curious fascination of the Federal Reserve with the European monetary operation. The Fed is seemingly obsessed with gaining a rate floor unlike anything it has ever done before but in full concert with the ECBs interbank corridor. The cursory pitch for gaining an interbank interest rate floor is as an exit measure which would allow the Fed to more easily contain spillage or leakage from thwarting its master plan.

In viewing interbank mechanics as they are, that fascination just doesnt make much sense. The Fed is worried that if they try to raise the federal funds rate, which somehow remains their main point of emphasis despite its almost total irrelevance to interbank markets today, the rest of the interbank market will not go along – creating a situation like that of late 2008 where the effective federal funds rate alongside repo rates and even t-bills remained durably and stubbornlybelow target. The TDF is supposed to soak up excess reserves to the point that rates remain almost fully harmonious.

If the Fed increases both the federal funds target and the interest payment on the TDF and IOER (regardless of the RRP which is almost useless to this point in the course of exit policy) their thinking is that the private interbank market will have to compete for funds, meaning a meaningful increase in rates in concert. It sounds easy in theory, but in practice there are numerous heady concerns not the least of which is sheer quantity.

When I speak of quantity it is not reserves that is relevant to interbank function, but collateral and balance sheet capacity. Neither of these factors is under the direct spell of the TDF, RRP or IOER. That includes, of course, the availability and demand for collateral in repo, but also extends to other interbank mechanics.

If, for example, the Fed raises the TDF rate but limits the quantity of accepted bids then it raises the specter of the same divergence in effective rates from targets that it is seeking to avoid in the first place. In other words, how much to be soaked up is the right amount to maintain both harmony and function? The Fed has absolutely no idea and neither does anyone else. Further, if they raise the TDF rate too much and place too high of a ceiling on quantity they may, in effect, take over the entire of the interbank market – which is what prompted (other than its ineffectiveness) a change in RRP with the Fed placing a cap on it.

The struggle of the FOMC to establish a rate floor is very emblematic of our times, as it is with the ECB unable to handle the relationship of Eonia and its MRO corridor midpoint. These problems are totally new to our banking experience. If you go back to the pre-crisis age, there were no interest rates refusing to get along with the program, as everything worked on its own without much by way of even minimal interference or manipulation from central banks. That is a key component that defies what is being proclaimed about current circumstances.

That fact had, until August 2007, led to the development of an apparently seamless financial system of wholesale dollars forming the basis of nothing short of massive asset bubbles. The transmission of monetary policy worldwide was based on this arbitrage opportunity of accounting convention, meaning that dollars would flow where rates were disparate – federal funds in the US and LIBOR in eurodollar London. The developing panic beginning in 2007 fractured this system, as you can plainly see on any LIBOR chart suddenly gaining a positive spread to federal funds – a spread that never dissolved throughout 2008 in sharp defiance of the FOMCs growing confidence.

(click to enlarge)

What happened in August 2007 was nothing short of a total break with the past. The global interbank markets have never recovered, and that is why these central banks are having so much difficulty engineering a return to the pre-crisis state. In other words, they all want to go back to 2005 before the housing bubble burst and use the financial system again as an easy boost to GDP.

(click to enlarge)

Central banks are not aware (they are aware of far less than you would think) how irrevocably the system has changed. The global dollar short is never going to regain its prior function and station, which is what central banks should be most concerned with at this point as that forced evolution is front and center with the current thrust of dysfunction. The harder they try to assert dominance and the narrative that everything in finance has been fixed, the more it shows up as stark contradiction.

In many ways, this parallels the economic dysfunction that continues to this point. That observation is especially poignant and striking in repo mechanics – a truly healthy economy (as opposed to one that might have some positive numbers attached to it) produces good and usable collateral as that is the nature of true wealth building. Productive investment can (not should) be financialized to form the basis of sensible credit expansion (as good collateral allows sustainable limitations).

Starting in the late 1990s (due to the massive shift in shadow operations in the 1980s then augmented by Basel rules and FOMC policy) the financial system eschewed that traditional limitation and instead began to engineer and transform junk collateral into quality collateral. It was a synthetic process of essentially counterfeiting, and it stands now as a good representation of the appearance and ultimate domination of artificial economic forces. The counterfeiting lasted until August 2007, as did the artificial global economy.

The revelation in the 2008 panic and the Great Recession was really that artificiality being exposed for what it was – in the financial sense the collateral (MBS and corporates) was not priced correctly because of what they now call reach for yield; while in the economic sense the foundation of growth was debt over income. The common factor between those two seemingly separate deficiencies was interest rate repression. The parallels are more than coincidence, as the artificial economy produced almost exclusively artificial collateral of financial engineering.

In that sense, it is totally impossible to recreate the world of 2005 in both the economy and in the financial system. The Federal Reserve and the ECB want to go back to living the lie. If the highly linked economies in each locale were actually healthy and producing good collateral it may be possible, but in that state it would be totally unnecessary. In that sense, again secular stagnation, central banks are admitting that economic problems are not at all near a solution, contrary to all the heated rhetoric about the recovery.

The eurodollar system has undergone a paradigm shift, meaning we dont know what awaits its ultimate attainment of a stable and steady state. What we can see right now is that it is still involved in morphing, thus upsetting the best laid plans of all the monetary best and brightest. They want you to believe that the crisis is all in the past and has been unquestionably fixed, but the reality is far different (October 15 put that notion to rest for anyone with at least passing familiarity). Crises are not always crashes, as the current situation can attest. In this case, it is a transition that has yet to fully develop, but the fact that such transition is still to be made is an indicator of where everything stands – including the global economy.

Disclosure: None

3 Ways Investment Funds Can Grow Pension Income

If you are wondering what to do with cash from your pension once easy access pension rules let you draw down your cash to spend as you like, take a look at a new video that explains how to invest for income.

Developed by The Association of Investment Companies (AIC), the short animation explains how buying shares in investment funds can generate income during retirement.

The AIC, which is a trade body for investment companies, argues that many investors can earn a better income from these investments than from other options vying for their cash.

According to the video, investment firms have three benefits for anyone investing for income:

  • Options to smooth tax by holding back excess income in good times and paying out more in leaner years.
  • Most investment companies can offer a wider range of assets that generate better returns than pension funds, so can pay a higher income. Assets would include commercial property, eco projects and infrastructure.
  • Investment funds pay income from trading assets as well as dividends

Balanced portfolios

AIC spokesman Annabel Brodie-Smith said: “The forthcoming changes in the way people can manage their pensions will trigger options for many to earn more from their savings by switching investments.

“Investment companies are a natural choice for many of these investors because they can give them a balanced portfolio with higher yields.”

Brodie-Smith warned that investment companies are not a suitable alternative for pension savers who cannot afford to lose capital or need a guaranteed income.

Although many retirement savers have indicated they will take advantage of the early access pension rules to drawdown their cash, they need to run the numbers before taking on their funds.

Fees and charges

It’s OK to switch from a pension to an investment fund offering a higher yield – but that comes at a higher risk and some times that extra income promise is wiped out by the income tax an investor pays on drawing down on their pension.

Besides the tax, some pension providers may add fees to the money you take as well, and all these charges will take time to pay back.

A higher yield does not necessarily mean more cash in the bank when tax is taken into account.

Also, many self-invested personal pensions (SiPPs) already offer the same investment benefits as AIC members. In fact, many AIC firms offer their funds on investment platforms under funds marked up as ‘inc’ for income.

Watch the AIC investment income video

How to avoid your own retirement crisis

–Work longer. Not everyone has this option, but those who do reap significant advantages. Working longer not only produces current income; it also results in a large increase in Social Security benefits, allows you to contribute more to your retirement plan for higher investment income, and shortens the length of retirement, reducing the lump sum required to maintain your standard of living.

3 Reasons Why Municipal Bonds May Offer More Than Just Tax-Exempt Income

By Stephanie Larosiliere

Tax-exempt income historically has been the main reason why investors buy municipal bonds. As a result of newer tax laws, including several provisions that expired at the end of 2013, tax bills for high-income earners have increased in recent years. Some of the significant changes to tax law include:

bull; A top marginal rate of 39.6%, up from 35%

bull; A 20% tax on long-term capital gains and dividends, up from 15%

bull; A new 3.8% tax on investment income, from which municipal income is exempt

We believe that these higher tax rates increase the incentive for taxpayers to seek tax-exempt income using municipal bonds. Municipals have the potential to offer a broad range of investment options that are exempt from federal income tax and, potentially, from state and local income taxes. In addition to those considerations, investing in this market has several other potential benefits that are often overlooked, including:

1. Attractive yields on a before- and after-tax basis, with relatively low volatility

The gap between perception and reality that was created in 2013 represents an opportunity for long-term investors who have a focus on after-tax income. As shown below, yields on municipal bonds, particularly high yield, are attractive relative to other fixed income asset classes – even on a before-tax basis. There is no guarantee that low-volatility stocks will provide low volatility.

Source: Barclays, as of September 30, 2014. High Yield Municipal Bonds are represented by the Barclays High Yield Municipal Bond Index; High Yield Corporate Bonds are represented by the Barclays US Corporate High Yield Index; Senior Loans are represented by the Samp;P/LSTA Index; Investment Grade Municipal Bonds are represented by the Barclays Municipal Bond Index; Investment Grade Corporate Bonds are represented by the Barclays US Corporate Investment Grade Index; Broad Fixed Income are represented by the Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. An investment cannot be made directly into an index.
* 2013 top marginal tax rate for single taxpayers with more than $400,000 in taxable income or couples with $450,000 or more. NIIT is the Net Investment Income Tax of 3.8% on investment income for single taxpayers with more than $200,000 in taxable income or couples with $250,000 or more.

2. Relatively lower default risk

Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of municipal bond issuers remain creditworthy, and municipal default rates have remained relatively low, especially when compared with US corporate bonds. As shown in the chart below, when the credit structure decreases, the odds of a default rise. However, the percentages are much higher for investment-grade corporates compared with municipals. Since 1970, there has never been an Aaa-rated municipal bond default. Similarly, in the same time frame, only 0.01% have defaulted with an Aa-rating. By contrast, Aa-rated corporate issuances have had a nearly 1% default rate since 1970.1

Source: Moodys Investors Service as of May 2014. A credit rating is an assessment provided by a nationally recognized statistical rating organization (NRSRO) of the creditworthiness of an issuer with respect to debt obligations, including specific securities, money market instruments or other debts. Ratings are measured on a scale that generally ranges from AAA (highest) to D (lowest); ratings are subject to change without notice. For more information on Moodys rating methodology, please visit moodys.com and select Rating Methodologies under Research and Ratings on the homepage.

3. Diversification potential

Diversification can potentially increase opportunities for growth and reduce overall portfolio volatility. Because municipal bonds, more specifically high yield municipal bonds, have historically had very low correlation to other asset classes, including equities and Treasuries, they can be effective portfolio diversifiers.

Over the last 10-year period, ending Oct. 31, 2014, the Barclays High Yield Municipal Bond Index has exhibited a low 28% correlation with the Samp;P 500 Index. This is in contrast to the Barclays US Corporate High Yield Index, which has had a much higher 73% correlation with the Samp;P 500 Index over the same time period. This lower correlation demonstrates that high yield municipal bonds have not moved to the same degree as their corporate counterparts when the equity market rises or falls. We believe that this low correlation can potentially enhance a portfolios diversification benefits.

Source: Morningstar, as of Oct. 31, 2014. Data from October 2004-October 2014. Changes in the value of two investments or asset classes may not track or offset each other in the manner anticipated by the portfolio managers, which may inhibit their risk allocation process from achieving its investment objective.

Talk to your advisor

While municipal bonds are rightly renowned for generating tax-exempt income, there are several other reasons to consider them as well, including their relatively attractive yields, low default risk and diversification benefits. Talk to your advisor to get more information about the benefits and risks of using municipal bonds in your portfolio.

Source 1: Moodys Investors Service, US Municipal Bond Defaults and Recoveries, 1970-2013, May 7, 2014

Important Information

Correlation indicates the degree to which two investments have historically moved in the same direction and magnitude.

Yield-to-Worst is the lowest potential yield that can be received on a bond without the issuer actually defaulting.

Diversification does not guarantee a profit or eliminate the risk of loss.

Municipal securities are subject to the risk that legislative or economic conditions could affect an issuers ability to make payments of principal and/ or interest.

Most senior loans are made to corporations with below investment-grade credit ratings and are subject to significant credit, valuation and liquidity risk. The value of the collateral securing a loan may not be sufficient to cover the amount owed, may be found invalid or may be used to pay other outstanding obligations of the borrower under applicable law. There is also the risk that the collateral may be difficult to liquidate, or that a majority of the collateral may be illiquid.

High yield bonds invest in non-investment-grade bonds and are therefore subject to greater volatility than investment-grade bonds.

Securities which are in the medium- and lower-grade categories generally offer higher yields than are offered by higher-grade securities of similar maturity, but they also generally involve more volatility and greater risks, such as greater credit, market, liquidity, management, and regulatory risks.

Fixed-income investments are subject to credit risk of the issuer and the effects of changing interest rates. Interest rate risk refers to the risk that bond prices generally fall as interest rates rise and vice versa. An issuer may be unable to meet interest and/or principal payments, thereby causing its instruments to decrease in value and lowering the issuers credit rating.

The tax information contained herein is general and is not exhaustive by nature. It is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer under US federal tax laws.

The Barclays US Corporate High Yield Index is an unmanaged index considered representative of fixed-rate, non-investment-grade debt. The Barclays High Yield Municipal Bond Index is an unmanaged index considered representative of non-investment grade bonds. The Samp;P/LSTA Leveraged Loan Index is a weekly total return index that tracks the current outstanding balance and spread over Libor for fully funded term loans. The Barclays Municipal Bond Index is an unmanaged index considered representative of the tax-exempt bond market. The Barclays US Corporate Investment Grade Index is an unmanaged index considered representative of publicly issued, fixed-rate, non-convertible, investment-grade debt securities. The Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index in an unmanaged index considered representative of the US investment-grade, fixed-rate bond market. Samp;P 500 Index is an unmanaged index considered representative of the US stock market. The MSCI EAFE Index is an unmanaged index considered representative of stocks of Europe, Australasia and the Far East. The index is computed using the net return, which withholds applicable taxes for non-resident investors. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is an unmanaged index considered representative of stocks of developing countries. The index is computed using the net return, which withholds applicable taxes for non-resident investors. The Russell 2000 Index is an unmanaged index considered representative of small-cap stocks. The Russell 2000 Index is a trademark/service mark of the Frank Russell Co. Russellreg; is a trademark of the Frank Russell Co. The Barclays US Government Bond Index is an index that measures the performance of all public US government obligations with remaining maturities of one year or more.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation of the suitability of any investment strategy for a particular investor. Invesco does not provide tax advice. The tax information contained herein is general and is not exhaustive by nature. Federal and state tax laws are complex and constantly changing. Investors should always consult their own legal or tax professional for information concerning their individual situation. The opinions expressed are those of the authors, are based on current market conditions and are subject to change without notice. These opinions may differ from those of other Invesco investment professionals.

Aberdeen Asia-Pacific Income Investment Company Limited Announces Monthly …

For the 12 months to November 30, 2014, the Company has paid total distributions amounting to CAD 55.0 cents per ordinary share.

The policy of the Companys Board of Directors is to maintain a stable monthly distribution out of net investment income and realized capital gains supplemented with paid-in capital as required.  This policy is subject to regular review at the Boards quarterly meetings.  The next review is scheduled to take place in March 2015.

Shareholders with registered addresses in Canada will receive distributions in Canadian dollars unless they have elected otherwise.  Although a portion of any distribution may be recorded as a return of capital for financial statement purposes, the full amount of the distribution will be foreign income for Canadian income tax purposes.  The Companys portfolio is managed by Aberdeen Asset Management Asia Limited, and it is further advised by Aberdeen Asset Management Limited and sub-advised by Aberdeen Asset Managers Limited.  The Companys Administrator is Aberdeen Asset Management Inc.

Information in this press release that is not current or historical factual information may constitute forward-looking information within the meaning of securities laws. Implicit in this information, particularly in respect of future financial performance and condition of the Company, are factors and assumptions which, although considered reasonable by the Company at the time of preparation, may prove to be incorrect. Shareholders are cautioned that actual results are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, including general economic and market factors, including credit, currency, political and interest-rate risks and could differ materially from what is currently expected. The Company has no specific intention of updating any forward-looking information whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.

Closed-end funds are traded on the secondary market through one of the stock exchanges. The Companys investment return and principal value will fluctuate so that an investors shares may be worth more or less than the original cost. Shares of closed-end funds may trade above (a premium) or below (a discount) the net asset value (NAV) of the Companys portfolio. There is no assurance that the Company will achieve its investment objective. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

If you wish to receive this information electronically, please contact InvestorRelations@aberdeen-asset.com

aberdeenfap.com

Logo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20121106/NE07292LOGO

SOURCE Aberdeen Asia-Pacific Income Investment Company Limited

For further information: Aberdeen Asset Management Inc., Investor Relations, 800-992-6341, InvestorRelations@aberdeen-asset.com, http://aberdeenfap.com

Start a Law Firm that Makes a Difference in the World

It takes a special person to do everything required to pursue and complete a degree in law. I have the deepest respect for the people who have run that particular gauntlet and achieved an admirable goal. But the degree itself is not what’s admirable. It is what you do with the degree once you get it. For many that pursue a law degree, the goal is to, one day, start their own law firm. The challenge is deciding on what specialty your firm will have.

There are many specialties from which to choose, and many reasons why you would choose one over the other. One of the key factors that drives the choice of specialty is money. While it is true that, as with medicine, some specialties are more lucrative than others, also like medicine, you will do well financially regardless of which specialty you choose. You are already in one of the most lucrative professions in the world. Choosing a specialty for the money seems like a really bad idea, and a wasted opportunity to do something more important.

My recommendation is that you choose a specialty based on your passion, and your humanity. While some specialties make more money, Others are needed more by humanity. Here are some of those specialties for your consideration:

Credit Repair

Personal finance is a big deal. We live in a credit-based economy. Yet financial education and literacy are at an all time low. According to TIME:

…people who have a lower degree of financial literacy tend to borrow more, accumulate less wealth, and pay more in fees related to financial products. They are less likely to invest, more likely to experience difficulty with debt, and less likely to know the terms of their mortgages and other loans.

Not only does low financial literacy lead to crippling problems with debt, it can also be the cause of an inaccurate and unfairly checkered credit report. Much of the American dream is simply closed off to people with damaged credit.

That is why it is fortunate that credit repair firms exist. Such firms do substantial good in the world by helping more people get out from under suffocating mountains of debt, and cleaning up their damaged credit reports. So far, Lexington Law has removed upwards of 5 million negative items from credit reports. That represents a lot of people who are now able to own a home, purchase reliable transportation, or pay for a much needed medical treatment. Credit repair changes the world for a lot of people.

Industrial Accountability

This is an intentionally broad category as it covers so many things. We have learned from bitter experience that what drives industry is profit. They will pursue profit without limits, save for those placed on them by government oversight and regulation. Even then, industry continues to push the limits. That is when law firms have to serve the public good by curtailing the damage done by industry.

Mesothelioma is a perfect example of the willful damage done by industry in pursuit of profits. Baron and Budd is the perfect example of a firm that exists to hold industry accountable. Their tagline is, “Sometimes justice for all starts with justice for one.”

Human Rights

Human rights can mean accessibility for the blind and physically handicapped. It could mean equal pay for women and minorities. It could even mean holding nursing homes accountable for senior abuse.

The latter is well represented by Law Garcia. They specialized in fighting elder abuse and neglect: practically a plague in nursing homes all over the US

Defending the defense less will never be the most profitable area of law. But it is usually the most rewarding, not just for the attorneys who fight those battles everyday, but for the entire world. There is plenty of room for more who desire an opportunity to fight the truly good fights.

Hockey won’t state confidence in surplus

Australia faces rising unemployment, bigger budget deficits and more public debt.

But Treasurer Joe Hockey insists the government has made a good start to its repair job of the federal budget even though hes not confident about when a surplus will be achieved.

Treasurer Joe Hockey is expected to reveal revenue has taken a further hit of 6.2 billion dollars.

After years of chastising Labor over its handling of the budget, Mr Hockey has had to bite the bullet and deliver a mid-year economic and fiscal outlook that is a shadow of his May budget.

There is more work to be done but we are on the right track, he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

The 2014/15 budget deficit forecast has blown out to $40.4 billion compared with the $29.8 billion deficit predicted in May.

Deficits over the next three financial years are also expected to be larger than previously forecast.

Mr Hockey blames two factors for the $43.7 billion deterioration in the budget over the four-year estimates – the impact of the economy on tax receipts and payments, and the Senates handling of May budget measures.

To try and recover these falling revenues now through new or higher taxes would unquestionably harm the Australian economy, he said.

A surplus of 0.8 per cent of GDP is projected for 2019/20 based on current settings, but Mr Hockey could not say if he was confident about achieving that result.

Maybe we can do better, maybe we cant, he said.

Labor noted the coalition was elected to government promising to improve the budget.

Instead it has become so much worse, shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the opposition and crossbenchers needed to get their heads out of the economic sand.

The budget position is a mess and they are not letting the government take the necessary steps to fix it, CEO Kate Carnell said.

Global credit rating agency Standard Poors said the review did not immediately affect Australias AAA rating or its stable outlook.

Government net debt is expected to grow to 15.2 per cent of GDP in 2014/15, up from the 13.9 per cent predicted in May.

Forecast economic growth remains at a subdued 2.5 per cent this financial year, but unemployment is expected to rise to 6.5 per cent rather than 6.25 per cent.

It was 6.3 per cent in the latest labour force update, released last week.

BUDGET BLOWOUT

  • $43.7 billion deterioration in the budget over the four-year estimates.

  • A 30 per cent collapse in the iron ore price and weaker-than-expected wage growth has resulted in tax receipts being revised down by $31.6 billion.

  • Delays in passing legislation and negotiations with the Senate have cost the budget more than $10.6 billion over the forward estimates.

  • There is a further $34 billion still to be legislated, including $5 billion of savings announced by the previous Labor government.