Henry Clay Eulogy

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Read by Larry Litwin on behalf of the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association at Henry Clay’s funeral on July 7.

First I’d like to acknowledge your late pastor Reverend Britt Stargell. I miss his advice, counsel and friendship.

When I got the call last Saturday, the news of Henry’s passing hit me like a brick. I couldn’t sleep Saturday night. Like all of you, I am broken hearted. BUT, I am an optimist and continue to be – because Henry is in a better place.

Where do I start? How about at the beginning…when we first met – where else, but in a press box? This one…during a Phillies’ game at the Vet.

What kind of person was Henry Clay? Let me read from an email colleague Phil Neuman sent me soon after hearing of Henry’s passing: Phil speaks for many of us…

        “This IS sad news,” wrote Phil. He said Henry was very good to him…especially when he first started in Philly back in the mid-80s. It was Henry who showed Phil how things worked in South Philly…little things like where to plug in his microphone during post-game news conferences and what rooms were used for other interviews.

        Phil remembers there were a number of times he had problems…a broken tape recorder or his microphone went bad … or he may have missed an interview because he was interviewing someone else. He said Henry would hang around and make sure Phil had what he needed…all stuff he didn’t HAVE to do….but just helped out anyway. Phil speaks for all of us when he says…Henry WILL be missed by plenty of people.

        My early memories of Henry are similar. While Phil met Henry in the 80s, I go back even further – to the late 70s. A few years later, I was one of his sponsors to join the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association. His membership goes back nearly four decades. I will miss Henry because of his regular emails – containing information about Philadelphia media…and the Sports Writers Association.

        Before the days of email, it would be a Henry Clay phone call…just to assure I was in the know and wasn’t caught by surprise when changes were happening in radio, TV or in print.

Here are a couple of recent examples:

  • He was the first to tell me about the Philly Journalism Institute getting millions in new donations assuring The Inquirer would be around for years.
  • He wrote a mail telling me to “Be careful with PayPal. There’s a scam going on and HE – Henry, didn’t want the Sports Writers to lose any money because of the scam.
  • He wrote about Dawn Staley – South Carolina’s women’s basketball coach: He suggested, she’s got to be at next year’s banquet. Wrote Henry: I nominate Dawn Staley who just added another chapter in her unbelievable life as a basketball player, leading the South Carolina Lady Gamecocks to their first NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. Getting her here will be difficult, he said, as they will be in the middle of conference play again. Just a thought, he said, she will be coaching in the USBA Basketball Season, this summer, but, she always comes into Philly for a girl’s summer league game no matter what she is doing. Maybe if she were chosen for the award, the presentation and speech could be pre-taped and shown at the banquet. If, she could be flown up here the night of the banquet and right back, I would think the ticket sales she would generate would offset a major part of the cost.
  • That was Henry – always thinking – not about himself – but of others.
  • He would mail me or call when one of the Sports Writers previous award winners was a guest on ESPN or another channel – or was interviewed on the radio and mentioned the Sports Writers Association and was among the first to call me when our colleague Frank Bertucci passed away unexpectedly. Henry would always say, “I just want to be sure YOU know so you can mass mail all the members.”
  • And: almost monthly, Henry would email me the Philadelphia radio ratings just so I could stay on top of the industry we love so much.

Henry – whose 73rd birthday would have been Aug. 19th –  spent years covering Philly sports…and thinking back to Phil Neuman’s experience…and mine, too, he certainly touched a lot of people – the athletes, writers and students who wanted to do what Henry did – cover the games we grew up playing and watching. There is no doubt in my mind, Henry – who faced personal challenges over years…as did many of us…  made a difference in this world and helped make it a better place for all of us. As we who are Jewish say of those who have passed: May Henry Clay forever be a BLESSED Memory.

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Firework safety tips

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  1. Do not allow children to light fireworks, even sparklers, without parental supervision.
  2. Do not allow young children to handle sparklers at all — certainly not those younger than 5, says Jefferson Hospital surgeon Randall W. Culp.
  3. Do not pick up firework debris. It might still go off.
  4. Avoid buying fireworks wrapped in brown paper. That often means they were made for professional displays, and are unsafe for regular consumers.
  5. Never position any part of your body over fireworks when lighting the fuse. Light them one at a time, then retreat to asafe distance immediately after lighting.
  6. Never point or throw fireworks at anyone.
  7. Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy to cool off used devices.
  8. Never shoot fireworks while holding them in your hand, or in metal or glass containers.

Sources: Consumer Product Safety Commission; Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

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Personal Finance — Some tips to help

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(From USA Today on Sunday, June 25, 2017)

From Robert Powell who suggests, “If you have to go it alone, use these tips to help you get started.” (See USA Today for full article.)

  • Knowledge is power
  • Build a budget
  • Set goals
  • Save as much as you can, as early as you can
  • Maximize the benefits you already have
  • Work with an adviser
  • (Powell is editor of Retirement Weekly and contributes regularly to USA Today.)

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Positive trend for small businesses

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(From USA Today and 2017 American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor survey of 700 USA small-business owners. Credit Jae Yang and Paul Trap, USA Today.)

Forty-five (45) percent of small -business owners are worried about their ability to save for retirement , down from 53 percent last year.

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Remote workers’ fear — “love”

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Psychologist Maxine Schnall once said, “Never love anything that can’t love you back.” Thus, one in six people have had a harder time “breaking up” with their car than ending their first relationship (CarMax survey of 3,044 drivers 18 and older) from USA Today – Michael B. Smith and Paul Trap.

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Sixty-two percent of remote workers fear that other employees do not think they are working as hard as them. (Polycom survey of 25,234 employees) from USA Today – Jae Yang and Janet Loehrke

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Finance by the numbers…

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Reasons people age 50 and older give adult children money — according to Robert Powell, USA Today

  • Don’t know. Just give money = 36%
  • Rent/mortgage/home purchase = 20%
  • Cellphone bill = 18%
  • Purchase or lease a car = 17%
  • Education expenses = 15%
  • Health care expenses = 15%
  • Pay down debt = 13%
  • Insurance = 11%
  • Student loans = 11%
  • Credit card bills = 10%
  • Legal matter = 9%

Credit score analysis from Experian and Jae Yano and Janet Loehrke, USA Today

  • Payment history = 35%
  • Amount owed = 30%
  • Length of credit history = 15%
  • Credit mix = 10%                         
  • New credit = 10%                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               [To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com]

Emergencies happen — here’s how to be prepared

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As warmer weather approaches, more travelers will be hitting the road, rails and airways. Not long ago, The Philadelphia Inquirer carried some hints from Shary Nassimi, creator of the UrgentCall emergency service mobile app. She offers Seven Ways to Be Prepared for a Travel Emergency:

  • Give your loved ones your emergency contact information.
  • Carry your health insurance card.
  • Set up and have medevac insurance so you can get airlifted to a medical center that can provide proper medical care.
  • Leave copies of your plans with someone at ho,e and tell someone where the copies are.
  • Carry money wisely and in multiple form. Do not just carry it all in your wallet or only as a card or cash. Mix it up. Put some money in your suitcase. Don’t just keep it on your person. Have a credit card on hand for emergencies.
  • Know the lingo. Be able to say I need help, and Please call police in the local language (or carry a card with the words in local script.)
  • Know yourself, know your locale. If you are traveling abroad, know where your embassy is and how to get there. Know where the nearest hospital and police station are.

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CHECKLIST: Improve you credit score

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Consumer Reports suggests the following to improve credit scores in the long run.

  • Sign up for automatic bill payment. A late bill can make your credit score drop by as much as 100 points.
  • Watch the timing of your spending, especially if you plan to apply for a loan. The lower the balance, the better the credit rating.
  • Limit credit-card applications. Each time a lender inquires to view a credit report, it gets noted and can reduce the score.
  • Think twice before canceling cards. Consumers gain points if they are tapping only a small percentage of the total credit available to them.
  • Make sure credit limits are posted

From: www.courierpostonline.com

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Record number of car buyers ‘upside down’ on trade-ins — ‘Under water’ with your car

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(From USA Today and The Detroit Free Press on Sunday, Nov. 27.

Greg Gardner, Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — The wave of easy credit and longer auto loans has left a record percentage of consumers trading in vehicles that are worth less than what they owe on their loans.

In auto finance parlance, these folks are underwater, or upside down. They already are affecting the market as automakers boost incentives and subprime lenders monitor their delinquency rates more closely.

So far this year, a record 32%, or nearly one-third, of all vehicles offered for trade-ins at U.S. dealerships are in this category, according to research by Edmunds.com. When these people go to buy a new vehicle they must add the difference between their loan balance and the vehicle’s value to the price of the one they want to buy.

For perspective, the lowest the underwater percentage has been was 13.9% in 2009, the depths of the Great Recession when credit was tight. The previous high was 29.2% in 2006, about when the housing market was near its frothiest point.

“There’s been a lot of water building behind this dam for some time because of higher transaction prices, lower down payments and long-term loans,” said Greg McBride, chief analyst with Bankrate.com, a consumer finance information service.

The average new car loan is for 68 months, according to Experian Automotive, which tracks the auto finance market. But subprime borrowers, generally those with FICO credit scores in the low 600s or lower, are borrowing over an average of 72 months, or six years.

While those loans reduce monthly payments, they also mean that the buyer’s equity, or the portion of the loan principal paid off,grows more slowly than the vehicle depreciates.

“It’s problematic for the consumer because there’s no foolproof way to eliminate his financial exposure,” McBride said. “If the car gets stolen, is totaled or you get new car envy while you’re upside down then it’s a big problem.”

This is happening as the average selling price of a new vehicle is near a historic high of about $34,000. Some of that increase is driven by consumers’ preference for larger, fully equipped pickups, SUVs and crossovers.

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The result is consumers borrow more to get the vehicle they want. The average new auto loan was $29,880 in the second quarter of this year, according to Experian Automotive. That’s 4.8% higher than a year earlier.

Moreover, leasing, which has reached record levels of more than 30% of all vehicle sales, has grown more popular for several years.

Already, especially in segments such as subcompact, compact and midsize cars, used car values are falling as a wave of 3-year-old models are returned by lessees. This increased supply is pushing down the price dealers are willing to pay for them at auctions.

Just last week, Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks told analysts that the company’s finance arm, Ford Credit, cut its forecast for 2017 pretax profits because of declining auction values for used cars.

Credit agencies, such as Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, so far, have expressed mild concern about the trend. Their focus is on the $38-billion market for securities backed by auto loans. These are bundles of auto loans, similar to the tranches of mortgages that collapsed in the 2008 crash of the housing bubble.

But they are also different. History shows borrowers are more likely to stay current on their car loans than on their house payments if the economy weakens. Lenders can repossess automobiles more quickly than it takes for mortgage holders to foreclose on a house.

Fitch reported that 60-days-plus delinquencies on subprime auto loans rose to 5.05% in September, the second highest level since 2001, and 13.2% higher than a year earlier.

“When you look at recessionary levels where unemployment was near 10% in 2009 and late 2008, we touched 5.04%,” said Hylton Heard, senior director at Fitch Ratings. “Today you’re pretty much at that peak.”

Fortunately, unemployment is down to 4.9% nationally. Prime borrowers have a 60-day delinquency rate of only 0.44%. Those factors tend to offset the higher risk in the subprime market.

New vehicle sales are expected to continue slightly below their record year-ago levels in November, according to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

Yet even their forecast flags some warning signs.

Incentive spending — discounts or extras to lure buyers to close a deal — in early November rose to $3,886 per vehicle, up 15% from $3,374 from November 2015 and the second-highest level ever behind the record $3,939 set in September.

“People’s monthly payments are being kept very low by low interest rates that most manufacturers are willing to subsidize,” said Ivan Drury, senior analyst at Edmunds.com. “But if we see those rates go up a bit, some of these people won’t be able to afford their cars.”

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