State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
The state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance has issued a consumer alert, warning senior citizens to be aware of and question sellers of insurance and annuities. There is a chance the seller is only in it for himself.
The Insurance Commissioner’s Office offers the following suggestions to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:
• Question the credentials of “experts.”
Individuals often boast designations and credentials using terms such as “certified,” “accredited,” “retirement planner,” “senior advisor” or “senior consultant” to convince people they have special expertise to help seniors choose investment strategies. This may not be true. While some organizations require members to complete a difficult study program and pass extensive exams to earn designations, other organizations have much less stringent requirements that can be completed in a three- or four-day course. In the worst cases, some senior “expert” designations are earned simply by paying a monetary fee. Ask about the person’s qualifications and training, and check them out for yourself. Find out how the person earned the credential, and whether the credential actually requires learning more about older adults’ financial needs and/or more about the product being sold.
• Beware of the “Free Lunch” Seminar.
According to a report from FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), four out of five investors 69 years and older received at least one invitation to a free lunch investment seminar in the past three years and three out of five received six or more. There is often a catch to a “free” seminar, even those advertised as unbiased and educational. Federal regulators examined 110 firms that offer free lunch seminars and found that every seminar was a sales presentation. While certain information provided at seminars may be useful, a seminar may end up being a sales presentation for life insurance, annuities, other insurance products, or investments. Such seminars often use enticements, including free meals and door prizes, or claims of “urgency” or “limited space,” in order to encourage you to attend. You should be aware that if you give contact information on a registration form, that information will be used to solicit you for future sales and marketing efforts.
• Does this product make sense for you?
Always be sure you understand what is being sold. Do not hesitate to ask questions. Financial products can be complicated even for the most informed consumer. You should be able to explain this product in your own words to someone (other than the salesperson) in a way that makes sense to both of you. The product must be right for you, your lifestyle, your financial goals, and your tolerance for risk. It’s rare that one product will meet the financial needs and goals of everyone attending a seminar. Be cautious about any promises that one product can meet all your financial needs. If the presenter doesn’t know your personal financial situation, he/she can’t know if the product is right for you.
• Never make a final decision at a seminar.
A Boston Globe article reported that “more than a third of ‘free lunch’ seminars aimed at seniors focused on unsuitable or fraudulent investments.” If you attend a seminar, you may be exposed to high pressure tactics, frightening stories about individuals who don’t have enough money to live on in retirement, and promises of amazing financial returns. Consider obtaining a second opinion from an accountant or other professional who will not benefit financially from the sale.
• Report scams.
If you feel that you may have been pressured into purchasing a product that is not right for you or if you feel that you may have been misled during a sales presentation about the product you purchased or if you simply don’t understand the product, do not hesitate to contact your state or federal regulator for assistance. Regulatory agencies are available to assist you. Financial scams happen to all kinds of consumers, including seniors. Do not let fear or uncertainty keep you from contacting the proper regulatory agencies.
Important ContactsIn all cases, before you disclose any personal or financial information, call the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance at (800) 236-8517 or the Department of Financial Institutions Division of Securities at (608) 266-1064 to verify that the person is licensed to sell insurance products or securities products, and that there have been no complaints or enforcement actions against the person. If a company hosted the seminar, contact the Better Business Bureau (or check their website at www.bbbonline.com) to learn about any complaints. To check for complaints against securities brokers, visit the Web sites of the NASAA (North American Securities Administrators Association) at www.nasaa.org, or FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) at www.finra.org.
Here is the Boston Globe article referenced above.
If you know a senior that could benefit from this information, please forward it to that senior.
The Wall Street Journal has a great editorial tracking the ramifications of ethanol. It reads, in part:
“Corn ethanol can now join the scare over silicone breast implants and the pesticide Alar as among the greatest scams of the age. But before we move on to the next green miracle cure, it's worth recounting how much damage this ethanol political machine is doing.
To create just one gallon of fuel, ethanol slurps up 1,700 gallons of water, according to Cornell's David Pimentel, and 51 cents of tax credits. And it still can't compete against oil without a protective 54-cents-per-gallon tariff on imports and a federal mandate that forces it into our gas tanks. The record 30 million acres the U.S. will devote to ethanol production this year will consume almost a third of America's corn crop while yielding fuel amounting to less than 3% of petroleum consumption.”
Here is the entire editorial.
The Capital Times is reporting Governor Doyle will bring back the hospital tax. The governor proposed the tax as part of the budget repair bill, but the tax was removed during budget deliberations by a conference committee.
I oppose the hospital tax.
Here is the Capital Times story.
The Wisconsin Realtors Association that was part of a wide-ranging coalition that worked on the legislation reports Assembly Bill 297 will protect about 99% of current piers by grandfathering standards for those piers. Piers up to 8-feet wide and loading platforms or “decks” that are 200 square feet or less will be exempted as will decks between 200 and 300 square feet, as long as they are no wider than 10 feet.
A balance needed to be struck between the rights of waterfront property owners whose families have maintained piers for decades and the rights of the public to have access to Wisconsin’s wonderful waterways. Assembly Bill 297 provides that balance.
Owners of piers that will not be grandfathered should find the process of obtaining permits to keep their piers easier.
There are plenty of details to consider about the new law that went into effect April 14, 2008.
Conditions under previous law remain intact in the new law. A riparian owner is exempt from obtaining a permit for piers and wharves that meet all of the following requirements according to the Wisconsin Legislative Council:
- Is not more than six feet wide.
- Extends no farther than to a point where the water is three feet at its maximum depth or where there is adequate depth for mooring a boat, whichever is farther from the shoreline.
- Has no more than two boat slips for the first 50 feet of the riparian owner’s shoreline footage and no more than one additional boat slip for each additional 50 feet of shoreline.
- Is located in an area other than an area of special natural resource interest, as defined in the statutes.
- Does not interfere with the riparian rights of other riparian owners.
The new law expands the exemption mentioned above for a pier (but not a wharf) to allow a loading platform at the end of the pier that is perpendicular to the pier, is located on either or both sides of the pier, and is no more than eight feet wide.
The exemptions apply to piers and wharves that were placed on the bed of a navigable water on or before February 6, 2004.
Piers and wharves that were in place on or before February 6, 2004 that do not meet the previously mentioned requirements are referred to as “grandfathered piers and wharves.”
The new law creates an exemption from obtaining a permit for certain grandfathered piers and wharves. These piers and wharves:
- May not be more than eight feet wide.
- May have a platform at the end of the pier (not wharf) that is 200 square feet or less or, if it is from 200 to 300 square feet, is no more than 10 feet wide.
- May not interfere with the riparian rights of any other riparian owner.
The toll-free hotline is operated by the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau and is now up and running.
Here is a Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel article, details from the Legislative Audit Bureau on how the fraud hotline works, and the history of Senate Bill 86 that contains links to Legislative Council memos and the enacted law.