Browse > Home / Archive: July 2012

| Subscribe via RSS

Can We Avert the “Fiscal Cliff”?

July 18th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

2013 isn’t far off, yet both sides of Congress could end up far apart.

Recently, you may have heard about the “looming fiscal cliff”, the “coming fiscal cliff” and so forth. What exactly is it?

Briefly stated, the “fiscal cliff” is a potential $7 trillion dilemma facing Congress this fall – a Congress not known for ready cooperation. If America goes over it, our economy could stumble.1

Will Congress act before 2013? Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke introduced the phrase, referring to an economic downfall he fears will result from a potential 2013 combination of federal budget cuts, the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, the end of the payroll tax holiday and extended jobless benefits and other recent stimulus measures. Bernanke told Congress that together, these changes could send the U.S. over a “fiscal cliff” and into another recession.2

How bad might the potential downturn be? Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, thinks the U.S. could see a recession “immediately”. Moody’s economist Mark Zandi thinks it could shave 3% of off America’s inflation-adjusted GDP next year (read: zero growth).1

The hope is that Congress will come together and help the economy avoid the cliff. It won’t be easy. Remember the big fight over the debt ceiling in Congress? Imagine it expanded to other issues, its magnitude amplified to a new level.

What happens after the election? It will likely be November before Congress really starts to knuckle down and address this dilemma. Legislators have some options:

*They could punt again. The punt wouldn’t be as embarrassing as the one chosen by the ill-fated “super committee” that couldn’t agree how to reduce the deficit in 2011. It would be more like a handoff: the outgoing Congress could simply extend certain tax cuts or stimulus measures and leave the big and painful decisions for the new Congress. Many journalists and analysts believe that this is exactly what will happen in Washington. Some think a credit downgrade could result.2,3

*They could extend the Bush-era tax cuts again. If any political change in November is momentous, the stage could be set for another EGTRRA/JGTRRA extension and the planned cuts to defense spending and other key programs might be undone. That would certainly boost the morale of Wall Street and the taxpayer. The consequence? The nation could really pay for it later. Extending the Bush-era cuts would cost the federal government anywhere from $5.35 trillion to over $7 trillion over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office believes.1,3

*They could do nothing. Even if the waning days of the 112th Congress aren’t as fractious as feared, some analysts think that lawmakers will likely let the Bush-era tax cuts, the 2% payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment benefits sunset, as the need for revenue on Capitol Hill has simply become too great.2

What can the Fed do? In Ben Bernanke’s assessment: basically nothing. In fact, that is more or less what he told Congress this spring: “If no action were to be taken, the size of the fiscal cliff is such that there’s, I think, absolutely no chance that the Federal Reserve … could or would have any ability whatsoever to offset … that effect on the economy.”3

What could happen economically before we get to the edge? A June report from analysts at Bank of America expressed some fears: “As the cliff approaches, we expect first firms and then households to start postponing decisions, weakening the economy in advance of the cliff. When you are approaching a cliff, in a deep fog of uncertainty, you slow down.” This spring, Bernanke reminded Congress that “the brinkmanship last summer over the debt limit had very significant adverse effects for financial markets and for our economy” and “knocked down consumer confidence quite noticeably.” He urged lawmakers not to “push us to the 12th hour.”2

Expect a pitched battle on Capitol Hill. Alan Simpson, who for many years served Wyoming in the Senate, recently told CNNMoney that this lame-duck session of Congress could wrap up with seven weeks of “chaos”. Yes, just seven weeks; if lawmakers wait to tackle this in earnest after the election, that is all the time they will have to consider what could be some of the most pivotal political decisions they will ever make. 3

Some political theatre seems to be ahead – a drama with an uncertain ending, with the near-term fate of economy parked at the edge of a cliff.

Citations.
1 – money.cnn.com/2012/04/30/news/economy/fiscal_cliff/index.htm [4/30/12]
2 – articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/07/business/la-fi-bernanke-economy-20120608 [6/7/12]
3 – money.cnn.com/2012/05/16/news/economy/fiscal-cliff/index.htm [5/25/12]

Shopping for a Bank or Credit Union

July 18th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

What to look for – and watch out for – as you look around.

Moving your money to a smaller, better bank has become a trend. You can attribute it to poor service at the larger institutions, the promise of higher interest rates or more flexible business lending standards elsewhere, or even the Occupy movement. So what do you look for when you are shopping for a bank or a credit union? First, let’s detail the differences between the two.

How CUs & banks differ. A retail bank is a for-profit institution, and a credit union is a not-for-profit institution. A bank is owned by its shareholders; a credit union is member-owned. Any decent bank is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC); any decent credit union is a member of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), also a federal agency. Both insure deposits up to $250,000.1

Retail banks make a profit by using the money of depositors to make loans at greater interest than they pay to customers. They make even more money through fees, commissions and penalties.

Credit unions pledge to put customer service before profit motive. Even so, they are managed just like banks (though their boards of directors are made up of volunteers). Banks offers their services to the world at large; credit unions offer services only to those meeting eligibility requirements. You may qualify to join a CU because of your employer, your industry, a union or guild membership, or even your home address.

Upsides & downsides. Banking with a behemoth carries some advantages. ATMs and branches are convenient, products are plenty and varied, mortgage rates may be lower than at a CU, and you may even be offered cash bonuses and perks. (Who knows, high-yield savings accounts may even return in the coming years.) The downside: you could face out-of-control fees and relatively tight lending standards.

Small credit unions can ably compete with big banks. In fact, today many credit unions are offering better interest rates on savings accounts, money market accounts and long-term share deposits. Fees on credit cards and terms on auto loans may be better as well. However, a credit union may not offer you the same array of services and products that you find at a big bank, and some still have only one or two branches (though with the expansion of credit union networks, regional and nationwide access to money has really improved for CU members).2

Between the big bank and the credit union, you have a middle ground – the community bank, or the mutual bank as it is known in the Northeast. This is a bank owned by depositors, usually run with a conservative management and investment philosophy. These banks can prove vital to small businesses: lending decisions are made locally by people who know the community and its business climate.

If you are among the consumers shopping for a bank or a CU, inquire about these fees. Are they too numerous or too onerous? Then head elsewhere.

Account fees. Major lenders charge these “maintenance” fees largely because they can – “maintaining” your account is not financially taxing for a big bank. Occasionally, they are absent or waived as a reward for sufficient deposit activity, debit card usage or online banking. More often, monthly account maintenance fees may run $5-25.

Minimum balance requirements (balance fees). Many lenders will hit you with a monthly fee in the range of $5-20 if your savings or checking account diminishes below a set dollar amount.

ATM fees. Don’t forget the common $2-3 fee for withdrawals from third-party ATMs.

Overdraft fees & returned items fees. $20-40 penalties are not unheard of when you overdraw your account, or leave it overdrawn for a period of time.

Application fees. When you apply for a mortgage or a business loan, there may be a loan origination fee or “processing fee” of $20-100 involved.

Service fees. Need to check a deceased accountholder’s balance? Make copies of deposit slips? Set up online banking? Obtain a reference letter pursuant to an international visa application? You name it, there’s typically a fee for it at a big bank.

Commissions. A big bank’s investment division may be modeled on a full-service brokerage, with commissions and fees exceeding those of discount brokers.

The good news is that you may be able to dodge some of these fees. Just about any bank will still give you free checking if you sign up for additional services such as a direct deposit arrangement. Many online banks will actually reimburse you for ATM fees. Finally, perhaps the best thing about credit unions is that they haven’t yet dreamed up fees for everything under the sun.3

Citations.
1 – www.ncua.gov/NCUASafe/Pages/default.aspx [6/22/12]
2 – blog.oregonlive.com/finance/2010/02/credit_union_vs_bank_is_it_tim.html [3/5/12]
3 – abcnews.go.com/Business/money-101-tips-tricks-avoiding-bank-fees/story?id=14652687#.T-TzN_WAlAE [10/3/11]

An Alternative to a Bundled Retirement Plan

July 18th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

A solution where different entities provide different plan services to a plan has the double-barreled virtues of looking like a bundled plan, without actually being a bundled plan.

W. Scott Simon is a principal at Prudent Investor Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm. He also provides services as a consultant and expert witness on fiduciary issues in litigation and arbitrations. Simon is the recipient of the 2012 Tamar Frankel Fiduciary of the Year Award.

In my last two columns, I wrote about the case of Tussey v. ABB, Inc. which was decided on March 31 in Missouri by federal district court judge Nanette Laughrey. In May’s column, I discussed the case in terms of the complex, inefficient, and unnecessarily expensive Rube Goldberg-like contraption that is revenue-sharing. In June’s column, I discussed Tussey in terms of a bundled retirement plan and how that helps disguise where money is flowing from, where money is flowing to, and in what amounts. Without knowing such things, no plan sponsor can determine whether a plan’s costs are reasonable in relation to the services for which they’re expended within the meaning of section 404(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Tussey demonstrates in spades how the revenue-sharing bundled retirement plan model helps keep otherwise presumably competent employees at plan sponsors who are in charge of running 401(k) plans from reaching their full intelligence quotient. The consequences of their ill-informed decision-making contribute directly to a less secure and comfortable retirement lifestyle for plan participants (and their beneficiaries).

Such employees–whether serving in fiduciary or non-fiduciary capacities in their retirement plan–should be ever mindful that they can have an impact for good or ill on real flesh-and-blood people. Because many of these employees are in lower and middle management–and therefore not privy to the special retirement goodies often available to upper management–it would seem that much of their own retirement wealth accrues primarily in their company’s 401(k) plan. One would think that, if nothing else, the self interest of these employees would motivate them to influence a company’s decision-makers to establish a retirement plan with reasonably low costs and well-diversified investment options that would more efficiently build their own wealth.

Each of the 401(k) plans present in the troika of cases of Tibble v. Edison International, Braden v. Wal-Mart, and Tussey holds more than $1 billion in assets; they are not mom-and-pop plans. These companies have the means to devote significant monetary resources and personnel to their 401(k) plans. Yet despite that, they cannot seem to comprehend the harmful consequences of revenue-sharing or even understand that their plans need not submit to the inflexibilities of a bundled offering. (So just what were those 28 persons– all named defendants–on the retirement plans committee at Wal-Mart in Braden v. Wal-Mart doing all day?)

Take a moment to think about it: Isn’t it remarkable that giant providers of bundled retirement plans such as Fidelity ordinarily choose not to take onto their own shoulders the legal responsibility (and liability) for selecting, monitoring, and replacing their plans’ investment options carried by their plan sponsor clients? In fact, they choose normally not to assume any legally meaningful fiduciary responsibility at all. Even in cases where sponsors have the option of off-loading their selecting/monitoring/replacing duties and decide not to exercise that option, presumably they would still wish to offer plan participants reasonably low-cost (and well-diversified) plan investment options. And yet, as shown in June’s column, providers of bundled plans are indifferent to offering such investment options to participants because they have no incentive to do so. In fact, they are motivated to do just the opposite: offer investment options bloated with the added costs of revenue-sharing for the non-proprietary funds (and internal credits for their proprietary funds) on their record-keeping platform.

What’s more, even giant providers of bundled plans won’t be there to take care of plan sponsors if the sponsors get into legal trouble with plan participants, the DOL, or the IRS. These providers ordinarily are not sued, and even when they are, they rarely incur any serious liability. So any plan sponsor contemplating (or already) using such a giant can take little comfort from any perceived legal advantage offered by such “bigness.”

Errors that Retirement Plan Sponsors Should Avoid But Do Anyway

July 18th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

The Surgeon General’s report on smoking was released almost 50 years ago and people still smoke cigarettes. We know the effects of cholesterol, heart disease, and the calorie count at many fast food restaurants, yet their sales are still well. Alcohol consumption (which does have some medical benefits in moderation) has lead to impaired driving and abuse, yet liquor establishments are still in business. Thanks to advances in medical research, we know what can harm us. Even with that knowledge, we still do it anyway. The same can be said about common mistakes that plan sponsors commit in their role as plan fiduciaries, errors that increase their liability, but they still do it anyway. So this article is about common plan sponsor errors that plan sponsors continue to do even if they understand the error of their ways.

Not hiring a Financial Advisor
There are a lot of plan sponsors out there that have a negative view of financial advisors because they think they can do it all themselves. They reason that since they can manage their own finances, they can do the same for the plan. The problem is that the role of a retirement plan financial advisor is not just picking investments. Heck, I have been investing on my own since I started my career, but I know I will need to hire a retirement plan financial advisor when I have an employee join my 401(k) plan because I don’t know how to draft an investment policy statement (IPS) or provide education to plan participants. We can all do things on our own, like home improvement or self-medication, but we know that won’t work when that is going to start to involve an independent third party. Aside from purchasing fiduciary liability protection and hiring a competent third party administrator (TPA), there is no better protection for liability than the hiring of a competent financial advisor.

Not caring that Participants are footing the bill
Did you ever invite someone out to dinner and you noticed that your guest is only picking the most expensive items on the menu, only because you are footing the bill? Well if you did, then the harm is that you have to shell out for an expensive meal and you’ve lost a future dinner companion. When it comes to retirement plans, this may involve liability. When it comes to most retirement plans (especially participant directed 401(k) plans), participants are actually paying the plan expenses. The problem? A plan sponsor has a fiduciary duty to pay reasonable expenses, especially when the participant is footing the bill. A fiduciary duty is the highest duty, known to equity and law. So while a plan sponsor can certainly show no care about how much they pay for plan expenses from their own pocket, they have to be vigilant about fees if they are having their participants pay the “freight” of running the plan. Participants have sued too many plan sponsors because the fees the participants paying were not reasonable. So plan sponsors should care how much fees are being charged to the plan and being paid by participants.

Not Reviewing Plan Providers for cost and competency
We all our creatures of comfort, we visit the same establishments and keep the same service providers we always use because there is that comfort level and the fear of the unknown of hiring someone else. While there is nothing wrong with visiting the same pizza place again and again, plan sponsors don’t have that leeway. Since plan sponsors have a fiduciary duty to the plan, plan sponsors need to review their plan providers and ensure that the fees they are paying are reasonable. Plan sponsors usually have no idea if their plan providers are doing their job correctly, until the errors are discovered later down the line. This line usually happens when the plan sponsors changed the provider and the new provider tells the plan sponsor of a discovered “surprise”, that is more of a compliance nightmare. Since plan sponsors are on the hook for the work of their plan providers, it makes sense once in a while to have their providers reviewed by an independent consultant or an ERISA attorney that is reasonable in their fees (cough, cough). Now that plan sponsors get a review of the schedule of fees being charged by their plan providers, plan sponsors now have no excuse not to compare the services and fees they are currently receiving to what is actually out there. They can make these comparisons by hiring a consultant, a cost effective ERISA attorney (cough, cough) or doing the job on their own.

Not reviewing their Plans on an annual basis
Whether it’s their plan providers, their plan document, their plan’s administration, and their plan design, plan sponsors need to have their plans reviewed on an annual basis. The reason is not only to ensure proper compliance with the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code and ERISA, it is also to make sure that the plan still meets their needs. A plan type or plan design may make sense when there is 2-3employees, but may no longer be cost effective when there are 100 employees like a defined benefit plan or a 401(k) plan without a safe harbor plan design. In addition, when a plan increases in asset size, the TPA or bundled provider may no longer be cost effective. Inefficient plans may be costly or not maximizing retirement savings for their highly compensated employees. So it’s incumbent on plan sponsors to find out where their plan still works and where there are signs for improvement.

Having too much loyalty to current plan providers
Loyalty is an admirable trait to a degree. There is nothing wrong with wanting to use the same provider as long as there is a process to review their work and their fees. There is an issue when that loyalty is more idolatry than actual loyalty. Using a plan provider should not be confused with marriage, so speaking to another provider to compare services isn’t a form of adultery, but good form as a plan fiduciary. Loyalty is a two way street and often you find that your loyalty to an employer or provider isn’t met with the same duty of honor and loyalty on the other side. Plan sponsors may be loyal to a plan provider that isn’t competent and/or charging an excess fee, so the need for review is paramount in delineating which providers they can have some degree of loyalty and which need to hit the road.

Not admitting their limitations
As Clint Eastwood said in the Dirty Harry classic, Magnum Force, “A good man always knows his limitations.” When it comes to retirement plans, a good plan sponsor always knows their limitations. So while a good first step is hiring plan providers to delegate the bulk of their work, the fiduciary liability of the plan still sticks with the plan sponsor. So in order to manage that liability risk, plan sponsors should take the steps to minimize that risk since they can never fully eliminate it. Plan sponsors need to look in the mirror and determine what type of risk they actually handle and minimize the risk that they clearly do not have the sophistication to control. So that at least means the purchase of fiduciary liability insurance for plan fiduciaries to protect against any legal claims that plan participants my assert through litigation In addition, plan sponsors may want to consider hiring plan providers that will take on more of the risk and more of the liability, namely those willing to serve in a fiduciary capacity. A TPA offering an ERISA §3(16) service will serve as the ERISA defined administrator. A financial advisor taking on a §3(21) fiduciary role if offering to take on more of the liability that an advisor that is either not serving as a fiduciary or offering a vague co-fiduciary role. A financial advisor offering an ERISA §3(38) fiduciary service is willing to take on the role of an ERISA defined investment manager and assume the liability of handling the fiduciary process (note hiring any fiduciary is still a fiduciary function exercised by the plan sponsor). So it’s incumbent on the plan sponsor to determine how much help they need and when they need it. Clearly a ten person company without a human resources department is likely to need more help than a plan sponsor with thousands of participants where the main plan contact is a certified employee benefit specialist (CEBS). There is nothing wrong with a plan sponsor asking for help, there is a potential breach of fiduciary duty when it’s clear they need it and don’t seek it.

View Source

Monthly Economic Update for July

July 18th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Monthly Economic Update

6 Things to Know About Credit Scores

July 18th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

FICO isn’t the only number in town. The score that counts is the one your lender uses.

1. There is no single number. The compilers of the widely accepted FICO credit score allow lenders to customize their system, so different lenders produce different scores. Plus, each of the credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—has a proprietary scoring model. As if that weren’t enough, the credit bureaus together invented VantageScore a few years ago to compete with FICO.

2. Different scales, different scores. FICO scores range from 300 to 850. You’ll need about 760 or better for the best mortgage rates, but a score of 720 should be sufficient to get you the best deal on an auto loan. About 10% of lenders now use VantageScore, which ranges from 501 to 990 and has corresponding letter grades from A to F. The best rates go to borrowers with scores in the A range (above 900). If you are denied a loan or given less than the best rate, a lender must tell you the score it used, along with the corresponding range and factors that adversely affected your score.

3. Do a credit checkup. You can monitor your credit yourself by requesting a free report once a year from each of the credit bureaus through www.annualcreditreport.com. But the free report won’t include your credit score; you’ll pay about $8 to get the credit bureau’s proprietary number. The majority of lenders (especially mortgage lenders) use FICO scores, however, so if you’re in the market for a loan, that is the one you want. At www.myfico.com, you can get your credit report and a FICO score from Equifax or TransUnion (but not Experian) for $20.

4. Free doesn’t always mean free. If you are just looking for a ballpark estimate of how you’re doing, go to www.credit.com. You’ll get free estimates of your FICO score and VantageScore along with Experian’s own PLUS score. Sites such as www.freecreditscore.com and www.creditreport.com, however, will give you a free PLUS score, but only if you sign up for a free trial subscription to a credit-monitoring service; if you don’t cancel in seven days, the service costs $15 to $20 a month. Likewise, at MyFICO.com, you can get your FICO score free, but only if you accept a trial subscription to the com­pany’s Score Watch system.

5. Maintain credit health. All of the scores measure the same factors from the information in your credit file, and they all indicate the same thing: creditworthiness. Try to keep your credit-utilization ratio low—that is, be aware of the amount of debt you have compared with the amount of available credit you have. A history of paying your bills on time helps. Having a variety of loans—for example, a revolving line of credit (such as a credit card), a car payment and a mortgage—will boost your score, too.

6. It’s a moving target. The information in your credit files at the bureaus is continually changing—and so will your score. If you’re about to apply for a loan, check your reports for mistakes that could impact your score. Pay down balances as much as possible. And if you’re not applying for a credit card or making a big-ticket purchase anytime soon, says Jason Alderman, a senior director at Visa, “it doesn’t matter what your score is tomorrow.”

View Source

Best and Worst Summer Coffee Chain Drinks

July 18th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Find out which coffee drinks have the least fat and calories, and which sugary drinks to avoidFind out which coffee drinks have the least fat and calories, and which sugary drinks to avoidWith the summer heat already in full swing, it’s time to bring on the icy coffee drinks – along with the calories. While many are trying to keep their bikini bods in check, the sugary temptation of an ice-cold drink can be too much to resist. But just how fattening are these seemingly innocuous beverages? Fitness and nutrition professional Bryan Renaud shed some insight on how to get your sugary drink fix this summer without the harmful effects.

Click here to see the Best and Worst Summer Coffee Chain Drinks

In light of the recent conversation about the sugary drink ban, health officials are investigating other ambiguous beverages to determine which drinks will be affected by the ban. Starbucks Frappuccinos, for example, may qualify as milkshakes, which will not be affected by the ban.

But if the ban does eventually affect the ubiquitous Frappuccino, will the Light options still be available? That is yet to be determined, but according to Renaud, the calories and fat saved with the light option may not necessarily be healthier. “Everybody thinks it’s healthier to order the skinny version,” he says. “They don’t count the calories, but it’s the same harmful ingredients going into your body. To make something fat-free or sugar-free, it requires putting all this unnecessary stuff in there. It’s the same chemical stuff, just repackaged.”

The problem with these chain coffee drinks isn’t just the milk, it’s the sugar. Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything and New York Times columnist, agrees, calling sugar “the tobacco of the 21st century.” But where should legislators draw the line? “Sugar or sugar alternatives affect your body the same way,” said Renaud. So when ordering your next coffee drink, be wary of the light options, or even the teas and lemonades you think are so much healthier: sugar is sugar, in one form or another.

Consider yourself educated. If you’re trying to watch your calorie intake, or are looking for a safer way to indulge, look no further. We’ve researched the best and worst drinks from popular coffee chains to tell you which ones to sip, and which ones to avoid. Here are a few tips on how to make your favorite drink a little healthier:

• The easiest thing to cut, but often the most dearly missed, is the whipped cream. Because of those nifty plastic dome-shaped cups, baristas can put more on top of cold drinks than on hot ones, meaning that during the summer the calories stack up.

• If you don’t specify what kind of milk you want, most coffee chains will default to whole milk. “If you want to replace something, replace the milk,” said Renaud. “Almond or coconut milk are great options to get some nutritional value out of your drink. If you’re going to drink cow’s milk, 1 or 2 percent is fine. We need some good fat in our diet.”

• Eliminating pumps of syrup will save you about 20 calories and 5 grams of sugar. While there are sugar-free syrup options, the artificial ingredients in low-cal sweeteners can be just as harmful to your health.

• Remember – size matters. “If I’m going to order a coffee drink… I just order a smaller size,” said Renaud. “The quantity is just completely out of control. People have no idea how much is going on in there.” Scaling down from a venti size to a tall can make a huge difference in terms of fat and calories. You don’t need 20 ounces of your favorite drink, or the calories and fat that come with it.

While your favorite large coffee drinks are still on the menu, take a moment to educate yourself on the most fattening coffee-chain beverages and their healthier alternatives.

*Unless specified, calorie counts are taken from a Grande size made with whole milk.

With additional reporting by Emilia Morano-Williams.

Credit: Flickr/ owlpacino
McDonald’s

Worst: Chocolate Chip Mocha Frappé (530 calories/ 24 grams of fat]

Better: Iced Coffee (all flavors) (140 calories/ 5 grams of fat)

Best: Regular Coffee (0 calories/ 0 grams of fat)

McDonald’s Chocolate Chip Mocha Frappé may seem over-indulgent, and it is. This drink manages to put 530 calories and 25 grams of fat into the single serving size. While an iced coffee would normally be a better option (it certainly is a healthier option on most menus), steer clear of the McDonald’s version. With a laundry list of ingredients and a high calorie count – it comes with added milk and sugar – this drink clocks in at 140 calories and 5 grams of fat. Must go to the McCafé? Choose the regular coffee and add the milk and sugar yourself.

Credit: Flickr/ revrev
Caribou Coffee

Worst: Espresso Cooler (210 calories/ 4 grams of fat)

Best: Iced Northern Lite Mocha (140 calories/ 3 grams of fat)

While words like “mocha” generally indicate a high-calorie drink, the Iced Northern Lite Mocha at Caribou Coffee is one of the better options to satisfy your craving for a frosty drink. With 140 calories and 3 grams of fat, it packs less of a punch than some of their other, unassuming drinks. Despite the innocent name, the espresso cooler will give you 210 calories and 4 grams of fat for a small.

Credit: Flickr/ NeoXerxes
Dunkin’ Donuts

Worst: Iced Caramel Mocha Latte (220 calories/ 3 grams of fat)

Best: Iced Caramel Mocha Coffee (120 calories/ 0 grams of fat)

Headed to Dunkin’ Donuts to satisfy your sweet coffee craving? If it’s the caramel-mocha combo you crave, the Iced Caramel Mocha Coffee is your best bet. With 120 calories and zero grams of fat, it’ll satisfy your sweet tooth without destroying your diet. Ditch the Iced Caramel Mocha Latte, which, at 220 calories and 3 grams of fat for a small, will leave you with a sugar and caffeine high.

Credit: Flickr/ yoshimov
Starbucks

Worst: Tazo Chai Frappuccino Blended Crème (360 calories/ 15 grams of fat)

Better: Tazo Iced Chai Tea Latte (270 calories/ 7 grams of fat)

A blend of sugary chai tea, whole milk, and ice, topped with whipped cream, can set you back 360 calories. While the iced versions of these tea lattes do lower the calorie count, watch out for the hidden calories still lurking in your favorite drink. For a healthier chilled chai experience, try a nonfat Tazo Iced Chai Tea Latte, with 200 calories. It’s not the healthiest tea drink on the menu, but it’ll still satisfy your cravings.

Credit: Starbucks
Starbucks

Worst: Strawberries and Crème Frappuccino Blended Crème (470 calories/ 17 grams of fat)

Best: Strawberry Smoothie (300 calories /2 grams of fat)

All the milk and whipped cream added to your Strawberry Frappuccino drink cancels out any nutritional value it would have had. For a fruity flavor without the unnecessary indulgence, swap the Frappuccino for the Strawberry Smoothie and save 170 calories and 15 grams of fat. With strawberry purée, a whole banana, and whey protein inside, this smoothie satisfies even the strongest sweet tooth while nourishing your body.

Credit: Starbucks
Worst: Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino Blended Beverage (480 calories/19 grams of fat)

Better: Mocha Frappuccino Light Blended Beverage (130 calories /.5 grams of fat)

Best: Iced Coffee (90 calories/0 grams of fat)

Starbucks is promoting the Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino as its new summer drink, but this fat-laden Frappuccino contains roughly the same calories and fat as a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger. To get a similar chocolate and coffee frozen blend with significantly fewer calories, try a Mocha Frappuccino Light Blended Beverage and save a whopping 350 calories and 18.5 grams of fat. While it may be the best of the cold coffee beverages, just be aware that Starbucks sweetens its iced coffee when they brew it, so before you add any milk or sugar, your coffee is hitting the 90 calorie mark.

View Source

© Prime Solutions Advisors, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Visit our website at www.primesolutionsadvisors.com | Powered by OnLetterhead Digital Marketing Solutions.