When to diversify, and when to consolidate

You have probably heard that diversification is a key to investment success. So, you might think that if diversifying your investments is a good idea, it might also be wise to diversify your investment providers. After all, aren’t two (or more) heads better than one? Before we look at that issue, let’s consider the first half of the “diversification” question — namely, how does diversifying your investment portfolio help you? Consider the two broadest categories of investments: stocks and bonds.

George Lambert, in chair, and his wife Debbis Lambert with their dog Rufus inside their apartment at The Carriage House off Watkins Avenue in Rutland. The house is part of a housing complex run by the Housing Trust of Rutland County.

Report: Vermont housing too costly, difficult to find

Affordable housing is becoming something of an oxymoron in Vermont. Many low-income renters, according to a recent report, are finding that even a modest two-bedroom apartment is neither affordable nor in decent supply in many parts of the state. “The costs are driven by the economy, and we are not necessarily responsive to the affordability level,” said Elisabeth Kulas, executive director of the Housing Trust of Rutland County, a nonprofit corporation that provides affordable housing to residents of the county. Kulas said housing affordability in Rutland County and across Vermont is a “multifaceted” problem based on a ratio of income versus rent. She said many low-wage earners lack the necessary skills to work at a higher-paying job, or that their skills don’t match up with the jobs that are available locally.

Project aligns education with Vermont employers’ needs

It’s a problem being repeated by employers around the state with increasing regularity: a shortage of qualified workers. That problem has grown more acute as the state — with an unemployment rate of 3.1 percent — is at or near what’s considered full employment. It’s a serious issue, and one the Vermont Business Roundtable has taken on. Made up of CEOs from around the state, the organization has created the Vermont Talent Pipeline Management Project to tackle the problem from the employer’s perspective. The idea is to expand the role of the employer as the “end customer” of the education and training pipeline, said Lisa Ventriss, president of the Vermont Business Roundtable.

Donny Chan throws darts at his apartment, one of a growing number of tiny, upscale units known as “microflats” in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s mini apartments boom as property prices soar

The Associated Press
HONG KONG — With its marble-clad lobby, sweeping balcony views and sleek, modern decor, Donny Chan’s apartment building would seem the kind of upscale tower most young Hong Kong professionals aspire to live in. But not for Chan, 39, who avoids spending time in his 19th-floor apartment because it measures just 193 square feet (about 14 feet by 14 feet). His parking space-sized studio in the grandly named High One building is part of a growing trend for so-called micro apartments that are diminutive even by the standards of space-starved and densely built Hong Kong. “Every time that I step back into this (apartment) I kind of feel like a cat squeezed into a box,” said Chan, an art director at a medical equipment maker. To avoid returning to his cramped and claustrophobic apartment before bedtime he plays basketball or badminton, goes to the movies or karaoke bars, and gets together with friends and family.

Is nonmonetary compensation the same as wages?

For most injured employees, the calculation of the workers’ compensation wage replacement benefits is straightforward: They will receive two-thirds of the average of their earnings over the 26 weeks prior to injury. If you are an employer who provides some form of nonmonetary compensation as part of a remuneration package, however, the calculation can become much more complicated. Vehicles, ski passes, cellphone service, cows, and food and lodging, to name a few, can all factor into the calculation of what your carrier pays out in weekly wage replacement benefits. Most recently, the commissioner of the Department of Labor ruled in Haller v. Champlain College that tuition-free college credits Champlain College offers to all full-time employees should also be included in the calculation as a form of nonmonetary compensation. Champlain appealed that decision to the Vermont Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in February.


Big motivation hides behind ‘Small Data’

“Small Data: The Tiny Clues that Uncover Huge Trends” by Martin Lindstrom, 2016, Picador, $16, 244 pages. It’s always the little things. A chocolate on the pillow or slippers beneath a turned-down bed. Stickers for a customer’s kids. A lagniappe in the box to make a baker’s dozen: all things to ensure a speedy return of buyer or client.

Visitors tour the wastewater treatment facility in Waterbury.

Treatment plants are robust sites for energy efficiency upgrades

Vermont’s communities are trying hard to use less energy for their buildings, facilities and services — reducing both municipal energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions. When thinking about how we use energy we tend to focus on the most obvious consumers of electricity and fuel. Lights, furnaces, water heaters and appliances are the first that come to mind. It’s easy to forget about the many processes taking place behind the scenes. One such process that may fly under the radar is wastewater treatment.

Erica Fucello, general manager at Positive Pie in Barre, holds a limited release Fancy Grade beer from Magic Hat.

Magic Hat brewery thinks small with Vermont-only batches

Magic Hat Brewing Company in South Burlington has a new take on local cuisine, partnering with 20 of Vermont’s top beer bars to let locals sample some of its most innovative brews with a line called, “Locals-Only.”
“We are proud to be a part of the Magic Hat scene. When we first heard of the line, we were excited to jump in and support them. We are currently serving their fourth beer, the Fancy Grade, maple doppelbock,” said Brandon Fox, owner and general manager of Big Fatty’s BBQ and the Crowler Pit in White River Junction. “We carry Magic Hat in our Crowler Pit as well with their Locals-Only line next door in Big Fatty’s.”
A “crowler” is a large, aluminum can that can be filled directly from a beer tap and sealed to last a while. The program began in January and is slated to run through 2018.

Locksmith Kat Coleman, owner of #1 Lock Security, picks a car door lock to generate a new key for the owner.

Coleman brings secrets of locksmithing home to Barre

BARRE — A locksmith is typically pictured as a person who makes or repairs locks and keys. But after talking to Barre locksmith extraordinaire Kat Coleman for any length of time, you quickly realize there’s a whole lot more to what is quite possibly one of the most secretive trades around. “A lot of people don’t really understand what locksmithing is,” said Coleman, who at 30 has already been working in the field for a dozen years and sounds like a seasoned expert. “It’s not what locksmithing used to be back in the day. But it’s definitely still the same concept, which is cool.”
Coleman, a Barre native who grew up in Websterville, learned the trade in various locations around the country from a variety of experts after leaving central Vermont following high school.

Margie Barton, a financial counselor at the IU Health Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, helps to explain how health benefits works once patients arrive at the hospital. Shrinking insurance coverage and soaring treatment costs can swamp patients with piles of unexpected bills. AP PHOTO / DARRON CUMMINGS

Talking money with the hospital trying to treat you

The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — The financial counselor will see you now. Many people hit with a terrifying medical diagnosis like cancer also have to deal with another worry: whether the care will bankrupt them. Insurance that covers less and soaring treatment costs can swamp patients with piles of unexpected bills. To help ease money worries, hospitals and other care providers are increasingly using counselors to guide patients and, in some cases, arrange for financial help. Financial counselors can tell patients about help they didn’t know existed or coax them into accepting assistance they might be reluctant to request on their own.