Friday, March 30, 2007

Financial Planning 101: Managing Money as a Couple

Merging money isn't that easy for many couples, experts say. In fact, young couples fight about money more often than they do about housecleaning and sex, according to a recent study by PayPal, a money transfer service.

Because money is such a hot-button topic, couples need to find a way to talk about it as early as possible, even before they walk down the aisle. By discussing it and setting guidelines for spending and saving, couples can avoid a lot of tension and fights down the road, experts say. It's not enough to just lay out your salary, your savings and your debts. It's also important to understand each other's approach to money -- either to make sure you are on the same page or to understand where conflicts might arise.

You also need to discuss your fiscal habits, broaching subjects such as:

Are you a saver or a spender?

How did your parents handle money?

Do you pay your credit card bills on time?

What's your credit score?

If you are having trouble, consider starting with a discussion of your financial goals. Talk about big dreams: When do you want to buy a house? What kind of house do you hope to buy? When do you want to pay off your debts? And when do you want to retire? But look at smaller goals, too, such as an annual vacation or a weekly night out.

Ideally, you want to set aside money in your budget for these smaller objectives so you don't have to put them on a credit card.

Setting goals is a great way to start ''because it is positive,'' said Carmen Wong Ulrich, financial expert and author of ''Generation Debt: Take Control of Your Money -- A How-to Guide.'' Come up with a savings plan so you can one day take your vacation, buy your home, send your children to college and maybe even retire happily ever after. That process addresses savings -- but what about spending?

Couples need to figure out who's going to pay the bills and where the money is going to come from. It's common for newlyweds to wonder whether they should have joint bank accounts and credit cards or separate ones. Experts generally advise them to have joint checking accounts and credit cards for household expenses and joint savings accounts for their goals, but it's really up to each couple. Decide how much each of you will contribute to the household each month.

If your salaries are similar, you can come up with a dollar amount that will cover the expenses and set aside savings. If one spouse makes considerably more than the other, each one could contribute an equal percentage of salary.

The same goes for your pre-wedding debts: Experts say it's important to agree whether each of you will pay off your own debts or the two of you will try to whittle away the total. In most marriages, one person handles the bills, experts said.

But both partners need to be informed and involved in the process, as well as know about all the bank, brokerage and credit card accounts. And make sure you both review your tax returns each year.

When it comes to spending, partners need some autonomy, said Dayana Yochim, personal finance expert at the Motley Fool, an investing education and advice firm. A person should not have to ask his or her beloved for permission for every purchase. In fact, 82 percent of respondents in the PayPal study said they hid shopping bags and purchases from their partner.

To avoid having to hide things, partners who keep separate checking accounts and credit cards for their own purchases are advised to agree in advance on how much they can spend each month.

''You don't want every little financial decision to turn into a formal summit or a fight,'' Yochim said.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

College to condos in Coopersburg

The property at 600 S. Main Street in Coopersburghas been through several incarnations in its nearly 130-year history: the estate of a cattle merchant, an orphanage and most recently, Pinebrook Junior College.

Now, an Allentown developer would like to put it to one more use: posh condominiums.

Tom Williams, owner of Cityline Construction of Allentown, bought the former college campus in 1997. He subdivided the property into three parcels: one including the now-refurbished Cooper mansion, one with three homes and the last with the college buildings.

It is the three-story college building that Williams hopes to renovate into 20 to 25 upscale one- or two-bedroom condominiums, his attorney, John Roberts, told Coopersburg Borough Council

Two young professionals behind Allentown's $175 Million Waterfront Project

The developers of the huge waterfront project in Allentown are two young men who formed their company two years ago.
Developers Ryan Dunn and Andy Twiggar
Dunn is 28 years old. Twiggar is 35. They formed Dunn Twiggar in 2005, after working together for a year at Dunn Noble Development Co., a company that included Dunn's father and built Walgreen's drug stores in the area.

City officials are satisfied, in large part because Dunn and Twiggar don't plan to develop the Waterfront alone. They have had discussions with a Philadelphia company, which they won't identify, and others about partnering. They are open to selling building sites to other companies.

The pair say they have built an experienced team around them. It includes market analyst Tripp Umbach and architect Burt, Hill, both of Pittsburgh; traffic consultant Taggart Associates of Bethlehem; attorney Joseph J. Plunkett of Allentown; and Dunn's father, Michael Dunn, who has 30 years of development experience.

Ryan Dunn has worked in development and real estate for about six years, Twiggar for about nine. Together, they have a resume of about $40 million in development projects.

They spent more than a year on the project, identifying hurdles and how to jump them, before they had it together enough even to publicly announce it.

'We definitely know the hurdles,'' Dunn said. ''We feel this is a project we can accomplish. We wouldn't be spending our time and money to do it if we didn't feel this way.''

The Waterfront would be the most expensive redevelopment project in Allentown's history.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski tires of the naysayers who doubt good things can happen in the city. He says Allentown's successes don't get enough attention.

''Everybody said we would never do anything with Hess's,'' he said of the site of the former department store that's now the Plaza at PPL Center. ''Everyone said nothing would happen with those buildings across the street,'' he said, referring to the Alvin H. Butz Corporate Center across from the plaza.

Development along the Lehigh River has been spotty. Only one significant plan has been floated: the Lehigh Landing entertainment district at Front and Hamilton streets. That was in the late 1980s, three mayors ago. Initial plans included night life, dining, ball fields, town homes and an elaborate transportation museum.

Only recently has work started on the first component, the America on Wheels transportation museum. It is slated to open in April 2008.

What makes the Waterfront project different from the city-driven Lehigh Landing, city officials and the developers say, is the Waterfront is privately financed and driven.

Two springs ago Dunn and Twiggar first eyed the Lehigh Structural Steel site, stretching from the proposed location of the American Parkway bridge to just south of Allen Street.

It's a collection of industrial buildings including a tire warehouse, dog kennel, cryogenics business and an Air Products facility.

Dunn and Twiggar focused on what isn't easily seen behind the old buildings: one of the most-navigable stretches of the river.

The site was just what they were looking for -- urban, riverfront land that was accessible and could be redeveloped with an orientation toward the water. Dunn and Twiggar wanted to try the nationwide trend of pedestrian-friendly, environmentally responsible, socially interactive development. They want to build something to encourage public gathering, what urban planners call ''a sense of place.''

The developers estimate that the Waterfront would generate $6.6 million annually in property taxes for the city, county and school district, and ultimately employ 610 people.

More here.

Easton Riverwalk heated discussion rages on

The opposition to the Riverwalk condominium project hit a crescendo Wednesday when Easton City Council agreed to wait nearly a month before voting on whether the 12-story building belongs in the local historic district.

The vote to table a resolution to award a certificate of historical appropriateness came after City Council heard a barrage of complaints about the project's potential impact on flooding, city finances and the neighborhood of mostly two-story homes.

It was an emotionally charged meeting with Councilwoman Carole Heffley, the only elected official to publicly oppose the project, receiving a standing ovation after an almost tearful plea to her fellow council members.

''Tonight could be the darkest night of the city's history,'' Heffley said. ''Some may be dazzled because it's big and new, and some may be tempted by the promise of retail.''

But Heffley, like several of the 15 residents who spoke, warned of its detrimental consequences, comparing it to the now ill-fated decisions made in the 1960s to demolish entire downtown neighborhoods in the name of urban renewal.

Now, it's economic development Mayor Phil Mitman is after and the promise of luring high income New Yorkers to live and spend in Easton's downtown.

Heffley was surprised to receive support from Councilman Ken Brown, who after hearing from the public, decided council needed to gather more information before voting.

Council voted 4-0 to table the resolution until its April 28 meeting. Councilwoman Pam Panto was absent because of a death in her family.

Councilman Dan Corpora stressed the only issue before council is whether the building would be appropriate for the historic district.

Mitman said the delay means the Easton Parking Authority will have to wait to advertise for bids, which will be the only way to determine whether the project is financially feasible.

Residents have been predicting for months that Riverwalk has the potential to bankrupt the city.

As they have at past meetings, they said the high-rise could become a low-income housing project if the real estate market continues to falter. The viability of second-floor retail spaces also was questioned.

Because the complex is being built on Riverside Drive in the Delaware River's flood plain, the first floor will be used only for parking and bus traffic. The bus station and retail shops will be on the second floor.

A representative from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network presented a letter urging City Council to vote against the certificate until it can determine its impact on flooding and until all of the appropriate state and federal agencies have reviewed it.

About 50 people attended the meeting, and resident Maurice Luker presented a petition signed by 269 people against Riverwalk.

No one spoke in favor of it.

An no one involved in the project spoke either.

The Parking Authority has been working with a private developer, Arcadia Properties of Bethlehem, to build about 150 condominiums on top of its five-story parking garage and bus terminal.

Funding for the bus terminal is coming from a federal grant the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority received.

Although there were representatives from the authority, LANTA and Arcadia at the meeting, none of them spoke. Representatives from Arcadia declined comment outside the meeting.

The project, estimated to cost $50 million to $55 million, is similar to The Majestic condominiums being proposed for S. Third Street by Ashley Development Corp. The Majestic, though, has escaped criticism because only a fraction of the project is in a flood plain and it is not being built with a large infusion of tax dollars.

Riverwalk has received nearly $9 million in public grants, plus the city Parking Authority has borrowed $5.2 million.

Dennis Lieb, who has been the lead spokesman for residents opposed to the project, said after that meeting that City Council's decision to delay was a victory because it gives other agencies an opportunity to intervene.

Beth Gorin leaves LVEDC post

Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. said its chief executive officer, Beth R. Gorin, resigned Wednesday. Sources said she was pressured to step down.

Gorin replaced longtime CEO Ray Suhocki in August 2006 and quickly became a lightning rod for criticism. Her eight-month tenure at the region's main agency for attracting companies was shorter than the 10-month search to fill the position.

High staff turnover marked her tenure. Two longtime high-level employees were let go, and a third left without lining up another job.

Gorin, 36, who made $140,000 a year, was the first woman to lead LVEDC, which also administers loan programs and offers assistance to companies already in the Valley.

The organization's chairman, Robert Episcopo, said Gorin stepped down for personal reasons. Her resignation was effective immediately. Gorin did not return phone messages.

LVEDC said it plans to appoint an interim or, if possible, a permanent replacement within two weeks.

The organization has been embroiled in controversy of one kind or another for the past couple of years. In 2005, a volunteer chairman caused upheaval in the organization when he questioned whether it needed new leadership and pushed the group to disclose more information about its finances. The chairman, John Englesson, stepped down before his term ended.

Last year, elected officials complained LVEDC made major decisions without their input and said it needs to have more people at the table making decisions.

During Gorin's tenure, officials complained about a number of issues, including LVEDC's decision to hire an executive coach for her and the dismissals of longtime employees.

Janet Smith, the organization's No. 2 employee, said she was let go in November 2006 and not given a reason. Smith, who had been vice president of finance and administration, this month took a job with a state team that works with companies planning to relocate in Pennsylvania.

Roger Mellin, the former director of business development, was let go in October 2006.

Some elected officials say those departures cast a pall over the organization.

''She may have made some errors in judgment in terms of some of the staff firings,'' Northampton County Executive John Stoffa said. ''I think that hurt her.''

In an interview in January, Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham said he told Gorin to ''stop the bleeding.'' After the dismissals, Cunningham pushed to have the county executives and area mayors added as officers of LVEDC. The proposal, adopted in January, gives the elected officials more say in the day-to-day operations of the group.

At the time, Cunningham said he had fielded ''lots of questions from Harrisburg officials about the way things have been handled'' at LVEDC.

Others were not as concerned about the staff changes.

''I think turnover is not always a negative thing,'' said Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. ''New blood is not bad.''

Episcopo, the chairman, said turnover did not slow LVEDC and was not a factor in Gorin's departure. ''I don't see that at all,'' he said.

He said he was disappointed that the organization will have to start the long process of choosing a new leader. ''We have our work cut out for us,'' he said.

Episcopo's comments were echoed by Pawlowski, who said it's a setback any time an organization like LVEDC loses its chief executive.

Pawlowski was disappointed Gorin left because he hoped her background in downtown development could help Allentown.

Gorin's arrival seemed to herald a new era for LVEDC. Its former chairman, Englesson, had urged the group to welcome more women and young professionals into the fold. She had worked previously as president of the Bergen County Economic Development Corp. As a longtime New Jersey resident, she brought perspectives from outside the Valley.

But Stoffa said Gorin's personality was at times off-putting. ''I think at times she could be somewhat abrasive,'' he said. ''She played many roles. She could be cordial, and then I think she could be cutting. In the kind of business she's in, you almost have to be cordial all the time.''

Some officials said the organization needs someone at the top who knows the Valley. Episcopo said it would be quicker, and might be advantageous, to choose a local replacement. ''I think there is a preference for trying to identify someone in the Valley,'' he said.

Gorin was chosen from a final slate of three candidates that included Don Maxwell, who, when he was interviewed for the job last year, was director of economic development for Virginia Beach, Va.

Maxwell, who has since become director of community and economic development for Phoenix, was the first choice of Stoffa, Cunningham and other public officials on the search committee.

Cunningham said in January the choice of Maxwell ''was vetoed by the non-public sector people on the board.''

Episcopo said he didn't recall who favored which candidate.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

First Home Workshop

Join us at one of our First Home® Workshops and learn how you can build wealth through homeownership. You’ll learn what you need to know to make your dream come true. We’ll help you work through any challenges you may have and walk away with the tools to help you purchase your first home.

By attending this workshop, you’ll learn the fundamentals of financing your first home from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage consultants as well as other information from local real estate experts. You’ll receive a free First-time Homebuyer guide to help you start down the path to homeownership. Plus, our mortgage consultants will give you individual guidance on your specific situation. We'll include financing options to help you select the program that best fits your needs and help you apply for a pre-approval. It’s free. Register today!

Sponsored by Wells Fargo.

When: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m., April 11

Where: Penn Corporate Center, 3001 Emrick Blvd., Bethlehem, PA 18020

Admission: FREE!!


NET Organizational Meeting

This is when we discuss the business side of the NET. Have a good idea? Want to volunteer? Have questions? Please attend to discuss.

All Members and non-members welcome.

When: Wednesday, April 11, 7 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Where: Wired Cafe, 520 Main Street, Bethlehem 18018

Admission: FREE!!

Contact: Laura Ulbrich at

More parking planned for the Five Points

Bethlehem officials are negotiating the sale of a 22-spot parking lot and garage near Five Points, providing a haven for the vehicles that are expected to be attracted by a new retail district planned to emerge there.

Mayor John Callahan said the parking was needed to help restore the storefronts of the 400 block of Wyandotte Street, once known as Palace Row, to their original grandeur.

''A key component of introducing retail and commercial is parking, and there is a significant parking deficit in that area,'' Callahan said. ''We need to address that, and we're working on it.''

A dozen property owners near that garage participated in a block-long face-lift of its Victorian-era architecture last year. In the late 1800s, the block was known as Palace Row for its posh shops catering to the wealthy who lived in nearby Fountain Hill. In recent years, the block has been punctuated by boarded-up windows and chipped woodwork.

The city provided grants and low-interest loans to the building owners, under the condition they keep or restore storefronts to commercial use. The city also coordinated a temporary relocation of overhead power lines to make restorations possible.

NET Events Planning Meeting

Have an event idea? Want to pitch in and don't know how? Please attend to discuss future events plans including a fall young professionals gala.

When: Wednesday, April 11, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Wired Cafe (520 Main St, Bethlehem, PA)

Cost: FREE

Contact: Wendy Gerlach at

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wings and Trivia with the NET

Join the NET team for Trivia night at Our Beerbelly's. As an added bonus,
it's also 35 cent wing night!

When: Tuesday, April 10, 7 p.m. dinner/sign-up, 8 p.m. trivia begins

Where: Our Beerbelly's, 21 E. Elizabeth Avenue, Bethlehem PA 610-861-8120

Cost: Pay only for what you eat or drink.

Contact: Vanessa Williams at

Meet and Greet Downtown Allentown

Allentown’s Finest are pulling out all the stops to make this a great welcome and an enjoyable get-together. There will be beer, wine, and soda. They’re working hard to have some local eateries donate food! It sounds like another great way to socialize after hours and meet some off-duty police officers.

When: Monday, April 2, 5:00 p.m.

Where: FOP, 26th North 10th Street, Allentown

Cost: FREE

Monday, March 26, 2007

NET Swing Lessons and Dance - only a few slots left!

If you are interested in joining us for a beginner swing lessons and dance on Saturday RSVP now! Slots are going fast!

Where's the best all you can eat?

Everyone likes a good deal now and then, and if you're a big eater, nothing sounds better than "All You Can Eat." Here is a selection of places that offer all you can eat in the Lehigh Valley. Do you know of any more?

Dad's Hot Dogs (a NET partner) - Dogs any night from 4 - 6 p.m.

Blue Monkey Sports Restaurant - Wings on Tuesdays

Riverside Barr and Grill
- Pasta on Thursdays

Horsepower Grille - Pasta on Wednesdays, Wings on Thursdays, Crab Legs on Fridays, Ribs on Saturdays, and Fried Chicken on Sundays