The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 24, 1998 · Page 20
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 20

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, May 24, 1998
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Page 20
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THE SAL1 OURNAL Money NIGHT SHIFT / B7 PERSONALS AT THE WATERCOOLER HAYDEN GARRISON Restaurant theft Employee theft is a big problem in the restaurant industry, where entry-level workers admitted in a survey that they've stolen an average of $114 a year in cash and merchandise from their employers. The survey questioned 1,375 workers. It found that managers said they took an average $80 from employers each year. Side-view mirror Ward's Auto World magazine reports that the federal government is considering whether to let automakers install driver's side-view mirrors that will help eliminate the blind spot that plagues motorists trying to change lanes. Donnelly Corp. is working on a three-camera system that would give a full view of all sides of a vehicle. Social insecurity While most Americans are concerned about Social Security, many are ignorant about it, Paine Webber and the Gallup Organization found. Of 1,202 people surveyed, 60 percent had no idea how much Social Security tax they pay. Only 14 percent know the retirement age has been raised to 67 for Americans under 30. DECHANT MOUNIVONG Tony's Pizza Service promotes 4 staffers Four people have been promoted at Tony's Pizza Service. Trish Hayden has been promoted to accountant-special projects. A graduate of Fort Hays State University, she has worked in various positions with the company for 21 years. John Garrison has been promoted to manufacturing supervisor. He previously worked as an on-the-job-training supervisor sujddias been with the company fijT^seven years. * Kenneth Dechant has been hired as training supervisor. He previously worked for Dillon's |%es. J^tamse Mounivong has been promoted to manufacturing supervisor. She has worked for the company for eight years, most recently as a training supervisor. Mattison switches to American Family job Heather Mattison has joined American Family Insurance, 1400B S. Santa Fe, as a licensed representative. She previously worked for Sentinel Insurance Group as a claims customer service represen- MATTISON tative. Soukup leaves hospital for Computerland Computerland, 127 N. Seventh, has hired Julia Soukup as an application specialist. She will be responsible for product development and project management. She previously worked as network supervisor for Salina Regional Health Center. Reception planned for 3 Wilson teachers WILSON — A retirement reception for three teachers will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. today at Wilson United Methodist Church. Art teacher Kepka Betty Belton, junior/senior high teacher Darrell Thrasher and Marilyn Frevert, who teaches second grade, will be honored. O'Neal joins ad staff at Salina Journal Amy O'Neal has been hired by the Salina Journal as a marketing consultant/classified advertising representative. She takes over for Sandra Harder, who is leaving the newspaper. O'Neal previously worked for IKON Office Solutions of Salina. From Staff Reports Y STAYING AHEAD KELLY PRESNELL / The Salina Journal Larry Sevler is general manager of Rural Telephone Service Co., which from a tiny town of 300 residents has expanded onto the cutting edge of telecommunications. Growth Lines Rural Telephone grows by diversifying, building up its home region By LINDA MOWERY-DENNING The Salina Journal LENORA — Merlin Dennis remembers the bad old days when it was almost impossible to use the telephone because there were often 10 or more customers on a party line. And when the line was available, "people didn't talk as long because it was so hard to hear. The telephone was the community news system. Everybody listened, and that drew power from the system. We had poor lines and a poor connection between here and the central office in town." Today, at his rural Kensington swine operation, Dennis has entered a more modern era. He has two computers and other equipment that link him to a universe outside north-central Kansas. "It's an absolute must. We have fax lines we live and die by. We have all kinds of data passing back and forth. I have a screen where I can see market information. This is completely beyond voice communication," Dennis said. His escort into this brave new world of telecommunications has been Rural Telephone Service Co. The company, headquartered in tiny Lenora in southern Norton County, is a northwest Kansas success story. In a region with declining population, Rural has grown from 6,381 access lines in 1980 to about 11,000 lines in 1997. Since 1989, revenues have almost tripled to an estimated $20 million or more this year. The company's secret? "Top quality service is our number one goal," said general manager Larry Sevier. "That's above and beyond the bottom line. And people don't forget that. When people see Rural, they know they're dealing with a quality product." Dennis thinks leadership also played a role. He has been on the Rural board of directors since shortly after the company took over small exchanges at Kensington and Agra in the mid-1960s. "We've had some very progressive managers, and the board has been forward looking," Dennis said. "Our goal has been to serve our customers. As the company grows, it provides better service for everybody, and we're able to operate more efficiently." Rural was organized in 1955 as a member-owned cooperative to serve a small cluster of exchanges in Norton, Phillips and Rooks counties. It continued to add territory until now the company provides telephone service to 29 communities and nearby rural areas in 15 counties of northwest and north-central Kansas. "It started from nothing, really. Just a group of farmers who decided they Line by line NORTON Lenora GRAHAM Hill City needed better telephone service," said Sevier, who has been general manager since 1986. "Over the years we just gradually acquired other small companies." Building itself, its customers The most difficult years for Rural came in the 1980s. Depressions in the grain and oil industries shook the economic foundation of northwest Kansas. Population declines were dramatic. Rural officials knew they must act if the company was to survive. "You looked at the numbers, and you thought that somehow you had to turn this around," Sevier said. "Our subscription base was declining. We really felt we had to become diversified and do more than provide telephone service to our subscribers." Douglas Ziegler, a Grainfield farmer and chairman of Rural's board of directors for eight years, said trustees also wanted to boost the economy of the company's service territory. The two goals became the future of Rural Telephone. From its headquarters that cover a town block in Lenora, a community of about 300 residents, Rural officers oversee an operation that has expanded to include subsidiaries for cable television, computer sales and services, cellular phones, a regional telephone directory and economic development efforts. Ziegler said most jobs are done in- house, unlike in previous times when some projects, such as the telephone directory, were done by other companies under contract. "Our main objective was to keep the company sound — and to keep as many people employed in northwest Kansas as we can," he said. "In the past 10 to 12 years, we've tried to keep the growth in northwest Kansas on everything we can, and it has worked real good." See RURAL, Page B7 YOU probably don't need magic $1 million to retire JANE -BRYANT QUINN The Washington '• Post One woman's experience with planners shows it can be hard to get good advice NEW YORK — Are you saving enough to retire? Most of us don't have a clue. You hear amazing figures, like $1 million or more, and it probably depresses you. Fortunately, you won't need that much, unless you're feeding country- club tastes. So where does that famous $1 million estimate come from? To find out, my associate, Temma Ehrenfeld, 36, put her finances on the line. She visited a random group of retirement planners, who ran her data — salary, vested pension, 401(k) plan and other savings — through their computer programs. The results show an industry whose computers might as well be slot machines. She got wildly different answers, based on assumptions that weren't always relevant to her life. She did discover why some planners say you need $1 million. They assume that you're financing your retirement solely out of personal savings, with zero payments from Social Security or employee benefits — which, to me, is irresponsible. You might want to test a retirement projection with and without future employer contributions, just in case you're fired tomorrow. But most of the "experts" Temma saw dismissed her benefits out of hand. That had the handy effect of requiring her to save extra money, which the experts would be happy to manage for her. Here's what they had to say. 1. What Hank said. Hank, a financial planner, has a "fee-only" practice — charging fees for his time in lieu of taking sales commissions. Temma found him by calling the International Association of Financial Planners in Atlanta, which sends out free biographical data on planners in your area. They talked for an hour and a half, at $125 an hour. Hank concluded that Temma did indeed need the famous $1 million to retire at 65. To get it, he said she'd need to invest an additional $1,400 a year, on top of what she's saving now. But his calculation ignored her company pension, the money her employer adds to her 401(k) and her Social Security. Benefits like these are what most Americans retire on. 2. What Harold said. Harold, of Salomon Smith Barney, thought Temma should retire at 60 and at a higher standard of living than she has now. His projections counted Social Security, made a rough (inaccurate) entry for future 401(k) contributions and — voila! — produced a $1.5 million retirement "need." . Harold was hungrier than Hank. His computer told Temma that she ought to save an extra $13,000 a year — in his firm's IRA, of course, not in her company 401(k). 3. What John said. John, of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, advised Temma to treat her 401(k) as "gravy" and figure her retirement without it. His computer put her savings target at $650,000, if she quit at 65 — a sum attainable, he said, by investing an extra $1,300 a year. (John couldn't describe 401(k) plans correctly.) 4. What Mike said. Mike is an insurance agent for Guardian Life Insurance. Temma told Mike she didn't want insurance (she's single, with no dependents). He assured her that he also offered "traditional planning." Why am I not surprised at what happened next? Mike "proved" that 401(k)s were a waste by greatly inflating the tax she'd owe when she took the money out. Most people, he said, should ditch these plans and put their money into — yes — life insurance, instead. Mike made no effort to estimate what Temma would need to retire on. He called his service "Personal Financial Engineering." I call it garbage. 5. What Tom said. Tom, of Merrill Lynch, ran Temma through a comput- erized plan costing $175. It covered all her potential future income, including employee benefits. Tom concluded that Temma is already saving enough to retire at 65. 6. What two mutual funds said. Vanguard and T. Rowe Price put Temma's data through their computerized retirement planners. Their projections differed substantially, but both showed she is saving enough. 7. What a trusted planner said. The late John Allen of Arvada, Colo., whose computer I'd follow anywhere, died suddenly while working with Temma, and is much mourned. He'd concluded that she's saving more than she has to, and could quit before 65. With four projections essentially in agreement, that's probably the answer. But if Temma had stopped with Hank, Harold or the first John, she'd have come away scared of retiring broke. Most Boomers do need more savings, but that's no excuse for "experts" to fudge about how much. SUGGESTIONS? CALL MARY JO PROCHAZKA, MONEY EDITOR, AT (785) 823-6363 OR 1-800-827-6363 OR E-MAIL AT sjmprochazka@saljournal.com

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