With dividends in hand, Alaskans head to stores

Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Annie Slater, human calculator, performs math on demand, a talent that served her and her kids well Wednesday afternoon.

"If you buy 'Monsters Inc.,' you'd have $80 left," she told 7-year-old Josh. "If you bought this, you'd be buying it totally on your own, because your brother doesn't want it."

Josh thought for a second and decided to go for it. He put the video game based on the movie in a shopping cart. Soon he made another selection.

The Alaska Permanent Fund dividend at a glance

2002 PFD amount: $1,540.76

Total amount to be distributed: $911.42 million

Number of eligible Alaskans: 591,537

Number of applications under review: About 7,700

Direct deposit date for PFDs: Oct. 9

First mailing date for PFDs: Oct. 17

Largest PFD: $1,963.86, in 2000

Smallest PFD: $331.29, in 1984

2001 PFD: $1,850.28.

For more information on the Alaska Permanent Fund and the permanent fund dividend, visit the Permanent Fund section.

"OK, you're at $30," Annie said.

Josh stood on his tiptoes to reach for "Monkey Ball," another video game. Price: $29.99. He looked at his mom.

"It's $30," she said. "It's the last of your money."

Sold. Josh added the game to the growing pile in the cart and called it a day.

Permanent fund dividend day, that is.

The Slaters are among more than half a million Alaskans who will pocket dividends worth $1,540.76 this month. Most received their annual windfall via direct deposit Wednesday, and, for many, the money didn't sit in the bank for long.

Josh and Japheth Slater, age 10, each got $300 of their dividends to spend on anything they wanted. The rest will go into savings.

The boys knew exactly what they wanted: a Game Cube video system and games to go with it. Their mom kept track of each boy's spending amid considerable noise and congestion at Best Buy, an electronics store.

Traffic through the store was steady all day, and the checkout line was usually long. Sales Manager Derrick Kelley said the store scheduled more workers than usual in anticipation of a busy day.

The Hansons - mom Martha and sons Josh, 18, and Matt, 16 - browsed for televisions. Josh was looking for something in the $200 range; the rest of his dividend was earmarked for repairs on his Blazer.

Matt was just along for the ride, because his dividend was already spent. He's paying off $4,300 worth of expenses incurred in a car accident earlier this year.

"I'm the only one who didn't screw up this year," Josh said, getting a laugh at his brother's expense.

The Hanson brothers attend West High, where much of the talk Wednesday was about spending money.

"It's Dividend Day," Josh said. "It's like Christmas."

And it's not just for kids.

Wesley Anaruk Jr. was deciding the fate of his money at Turpin Gun & Ammo Shop in Muldoon. He filled out paperwork for the purchase of a $300 shotgun, "and I'm still debating on another one," he said.

Jim Broyles, working behind the counter, said a number of people put guns on layaway in recent weeks in anticipation of Dividend Day. "Last Saturday a guy bought five long guns," he said. "It was a good ticket."

The dividends trigger booming business that lasts through Christmas.

Broyles has heard what he calls "the gloomy news" about next year's dividend. The payouts, given annually to Alaska residents since 1982, come from interest earned by an investment account made up of the state's oil royalties.

Those investments have dropped sharply because of a swooning stock market, and if the market doesn't recover in the next several months, there will be no dividends next year.

Broyles doesn't think that should deter people from spending this year's money.

"You got to spend it," he said. "It might not be good next year. It might spoil."

Distributed by the Associated Press.



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