Good Day Alabama: Dec. 22, 2015

Good Day Alabama: Dec. 22, 2015

Here's what you saw on Good Day Alabama:

BETH K - Celebrate Don't Inebriate! There's nothing like a cup of good cheer for getting into that holiday mood. For many of us, enjoying the holidays also means enjoying the foods and drinks that embody the spirit of celebration. But UAB Nutritionist Dr. Beth Kitchin says here's the bummer: those drinks – alcoholic or not - often pack a lot of calories.  And too much alcohol can get us into trouble and take the fun out of the holidays. The number of fatalities due to drunk driving increases over the Christmas and New Year period – although, surprisingly, the Fourth of July is the most dangerous day. The trick is to enjoy your holiday beverages without suffering the ill effects. Let's start with some sobering facts about the calories that some of these drinks pack - but notice that even non-alcohol drinks can pack in the calories:

  • Eggnog Nonalcoholic 8 ounces: 342 calories
  • Chocolate Liqueur 3 ounces: 380 calories
  • Mulled Wine 5 ounces: 200 calories
  • 12-Ounce Can Regular Soda: 150 calories
  • Spiced Cider with Rum 8 ounces: 150 calories
  • Champagne 5 ounces: 150 calories
  • Gin and Tonic 7 ounces: 190 calories

Where are all these calories coming from? Yes, some of it is the alcohol. But for many holiday drinks, the mixers are adding sugar and fat that jack up the calories. Here are some tips for keeping your beverage calories at bay and lowering your chances of having a hangover the next day:

  • Go for No Calorie Mixers: If you like the taste of diet drinks, ask for diet mixers like diet coke and diet tonic water. You'll cut the sugar and the calories but still get the same great taste. Carbonated water makes a good no cal mixer too.
  • Make the No Cal Switch: Alternate every alcoholic drink with a no-cal, non-alcoholic drink. You'll profit in several ways. You'll lower your chances of alcohol intoxication. You'll lower calories. And, you'll stay hydrated, which is good for general health and warding off cold-weather illnesses. This trick also helps you to keep from getting intoxicated, endangering yourself and others, and feeling lousy the next day.
  • Some is good, too much is bad!  Don't let the health benefits of alcohol lead you to drink too much. Remember, moderation is the key. One for women, two for men is the average. And while you can safely practice some alcohol budgeting day-to-day, binge drinking is not a good idea. Binge drinking means five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women on one occasion - usually within 2 hours.
  • Designate a Driver.  If you know you're going to overdo it, just admit it and plan ahead.  Safety for yourself and others is by far the most important thing to remember when it comes to holiday drinking.

Follow Beth on Twitter at @DrBethK.

ASK THE ANGLER - Reed Montgomery answered viewer questions about fishing. You can contact him with your questions at 205-663-1504 or on his website - there you can find lake reports, fishing tips, upcoming events, and more.

MONEY TUESDAY - "The Good, Bad and the Ugly of Fed Rate Hike" - It's been almost ten years since the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates.  As the Fed cut rates in the aftermath of the Great Recession, retirees have suffered through historically low-interest rates on savings instruments such as CDs, money market accounts and savings accounts.  What does this one-quarter percent rate hike mean for investors and consumers and what actions should you consider taking as a result?  The results fall into what Stewart Welch calls the "Good, Bad & Ugly": First, it's important to understand that raising the Fed funds rate .25 percent is far less important than how fast and how far the Fed will continue to raise rates.  A review of history suggests that once the Fed changes the direction of rates, it sets in place a multi-year trend.  In other words, expect rates to continue to rise over a number of years.  For example, the Fed lowered rates in Apr 2007 from 6.75 percent to 6.25 percent.  It continued to lower rates twelve more times until it hit a Fed funds rate of .0% in December of 2008.  Rates remained at that level until this past week's rate hike of .25 percent.  This obviously was a very aggressive rate reduction policy and, this time, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen has indicated the Fed will be deliberate and conscious when raising future rates.

  • The Good - For savers, particularly retirees, you should see higher interest rates being paid on new bank CDs.  Unfortunately, I think many banks will be slow to raise interest rates on money market accounts and savings accounts as they seek to increase profit margins.  Higher rates will eventually come, but not right away.

What you should do now:  First, be aware that rates are trending up so be cautious about locking in rates for long periods of time.  For example, if you go ahead and lock in a 5-year CD for 2.25 percent, you may be unhappy when rates quickly rise above that level.  The same is true when buying individual bonds.  One strategy that might help off-set this negative result is using a laddering strategy.  For example, you could invest an equal amount of money in 5 CDs or bonds maturing years one through five. That way, as interest rates rise, your bond maturing in one year can be reinvested at the new higher interest rate using a 5-year maturity.  This will allow you to 'track' interest rates as they rise.

  • The Bad - Many consumer loans are tied to what's referred to as 'bank prime lending rate' which has been 3.25 percent for the past few years.  If you have a consumer loan tied to prime, your interest rate and payments will increase very soon…potentially as soon as your next payment cycle.  These can include personal bank loans, Home equity lines of credit or HELOCs, some car loans and adjustable rate mortgages as well as some student loans.  New loans, even those not tied to prime, are likely to demand higher rates.

What you should do now:  Review your existing loans to determine if they are fixed rate verses variable rate.  If variable rate, consider whether it would be advisable to convert it to a fixed rate even if that rate is higher than you are currently paying.  You might be better off paying a higher fixed rate now rather than allowing rising rates over the next few years climb much higher.  I can remember back in the eighties when the prime interest rate rose to 21%!

  • The Ugly - As interest rates rise, the values of existing bonds fall.  Nowhere will this be more apparent than with long maturity individual bonds and bond funds.  Over the past few years, investors have shifted to longer-term bond funds or long-term bonds in an attempt to earn a decent rate of return on their money.  That worked out pretty well but with the rate trend now in a multi-year rising mode, these bondholders will likely face eroding values.

What you should do now:  Here I think you have two choices:
• Swap out your bonds: Replace your longer term bonds and bond funds with bonds of shorter maturities.  Good news: You may have a profit!
• Hold your bonds: For individual bond holdings, you can choose to hold them until they mature and all you've lost is the opportunity cost on your money.  If you choose to hold longer maturity bond funds, you'll need to plan to hold them until the rising interest rate cycle is completed likely several years and expect losses in your bond funds in the early years.  However, you should see the yields rise on these funds as the fund manager replaces maturing bonds with ones of higher yields.  My main caution with this strategy is that you avoid finding yourself in the position of having to sell bonds to raise money for cash flow.

Tomorrow on Good Day Alabama, the veterinarian joins us to take questions about your pet's health! We check out what's going on at Aldridge Gardens and find out how to take care of your crepe myrtles! Mickey takes us for a visit at the Birmingham Zoo! And we enjoy some more Christmas music! Join us for this and much more tomorrow on Good Day!