So, that was a big announcement about Cuba on Wednesday.
People already are talking about the money to be made and spent by Americans after President Obama announced far-reaching changes to U.S. policy aimed at restoring relations with the Caribbean island.
“Travel professionals say there is significant pent-up demand among Americans to see Cuba,” Charles Passy wrote for MarketWatch.
A headline in the Detroit Free Press captured it well: “What Cuba changes mean to travelers, including cigars.”
Americans won’t able to immediately book flights and “laze on Cuban beaches,” but the changes are still huge for travelers, wrote Ellen Creager, travel writer for the Free Press. She explained what the announcement means:
● Easier travel for those who can still go to Cuba. It means “travel providers will not have to undergo ominous and lengthy application processes to offer travel to Cuba,” Creager wrote. “Until now, the U.S. Treasury Department has severely restricted travel to Cuba, and companies wanting to offer even simple ‘people-to-people’ educational travel had to obtain special licenses. Americans were banned from visiting Cuba for leisure travel.”
● American travelers can use their credit and debit cards there.
● Americans can still travel for only 12 approved non-tourism reasons, such as family visits, professional research and professional meetings, educational and religious activities, and humanitarian projects.
● Americans can legally bring back $100 worth of Cuban cigars or rum. (For “cigars to make their way into American shops, Congress would need to lift the trade embargo on Cuba, which is codified in U.S. law and beyond the scope of the executive power that Obama exercised on Wednesday,” The Washington Post’s Lillian Cunningham pointed out in On Leadership.)
Fortune magazine’s John Kell reported that shares of cruise-line companies — Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean — jumped Wednesday as investors bet that “improving relations between the United States and Cuba could lead to new opportunities for tourism.”
“The tropical island’s attractive beaches and proximity to the United States make it a potential vacation hotspot,” Kell wrote.
Still, for most travelers there’s time to save for a Cuban cruise or beach getaway.
As The Post’s Matt O’Brien wrote, “The economic impact, in other words, of normal relations with Cuba will be close to nil at first — though perhaps more important over time.”
Come chat with me at noon Eastern time Thursday for my last online discussion of 2014. I’m available to answer your financial questions. Or we can talk about your financial plans for next year.
Join the chat by clicking on this link.
I will resume my live chats on Jan. 8. My weekly electronic newsletter also will return Jan. 8. Happy holidays.
If you still have holiday shopping to do, you may want to read a post from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine about retailers with the most generous return policies.
“Getting a gift you don’t want is bad enough,” Kiplinger’s Cameron Huddleston wrote. “Not being able to exchange it or get a refund because a retailer has a stingy return policy is even worse.”
Kiplinger’s looked at the return policies of dozens of retailers and came up with a list of 14 with the most flexible terms, although Huddleston notes that several give store credit for an item only at its lowest selling price if you don’t have a gift receipt.
Click here to read about the return policies on this list.
This week, Congress approved changes that would allow cuts to retiree benefits in some struggling multi-employer pension plans. It would for the first time allow the benefits of current retirees to be severely reduced, wrote The Post’s Michael Fletcher.
Not surprisingly, retirement security advocates are worried that opening this door would lead to cuts for other retirees, too.
For last week’s Color of Money Question of the Week, I asked: Do you have a pension? And if so, do you feel it’s secure?
“I do have a pension and continue to pay into it, but I don’t think it’s secure,” wrote B. Hudson of St. Louis. “Congress is hypocritical and cold-blooded. The government is supposed to be ‘for the people’ by the people. I feel now the government has turned on its people, especially the middle class.”
Another reader wrote: “I am a Teamster retiree and have been warned that the funding is low. I fully expect to be cut off in the near future.”
Mary Zawoysky of Woods Hole, Mass., wrote a warning many should heed: “All of our pension plans are at risk, so we’d better all get politically active!”
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or email@example.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.