Job Satisfaction Inches Up, But Is Still Under 50%

A new report finds that, while Americans have higher job satisfaction than they have in years, most are still unhappy with their jobs.

The report, by The Conference Board, is based on a Fall 2013 survey of 5,000 U.S. households. In it, 47.7% of respondents said are satisfied with their jobs — which was up from 47.3 in 2012 and 42.6% in 2010.

In fact, this new survey found the highest levels of job satisfaction shown since the Great Recession, the Board said.

However, the majority of Americans surveyed said they were not satisfied at work. Contrast that with the 1980s and 1990s, when these surveys often found job satisfaction levels in the high-50s.

According to the Board, the last time a majority of Americans surveyed said they were satisfied at work was 2005.

Hopefully, an accelerating economy will push those numbers higher before next year’s survey. It would be nice if we didn’t have to see a full decade of job malaise in the land.


Copyright Today’s Credit Unions




The Power of Generation S

Companies that focus too hard on the Generation Y youth market may be missing out on a big opportunity: the enormous buying power of America’s growing legion of seniors.

According to senior consumer agency Zillner, the over 50 market has long been seen as a “niche” market by companies, who focus their efforts on reaching those aged 18-34.

Zillner points out, however, that the senior consumer market – -which is comprised of more than 23 million seniors and another 81 million baby boomers – stands at more than 100 million strong, and is growing fast.

Spending in the age 50+ consumer market is estimated at $3.1 trillion across all industries, except health care. With healthcare, 50+ spending is estimated at an additional $1.6 trillion, Zillner said. That adds up to a whopping $4.7 trillion.

So, why is this cash cow overlooked? Zillner points out that marketers have long followed the conventional wisdom that young people go through a lot of life changes, while older folk tend to be more “set in their ways.”

While this may have been true in the past, today’s over-50 crowd is about the most dynamic in history – with a “change is the only constant” set of work and lifestyle interests.

After all, it is the Baby Boomers who defined the term “counter-culture” back in their youth. Many of these people are eager to follow their own unique paths in later life.

In another sense, today’s seniors are being forced to accept change, as depleted savings and rising expenses, force many of them to work until a later age.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with being focused on youth, and the future. But many marketers are discovering, (or need to discover), that the older crowd aren’t what they used to be.


Copyright Today’s Credit Unions





Credit Defaults at Lowest Rate Since 2006

Consumer credit defaults are running at an eight-year low, according to some new data from S&P Dow Jones Indices and Experian.

According to the data, American’s are keeping up with their credit payments at a rate not seen since May 2006 – which is a good sign that the economy is doing better than it has in years.

The companies said that the national composite posted 1.04% in May, with both auto and bank card default rates up a bit while mortgage default rates were down.

Auto loan defaults saw historic lows in March and April, and were up a tiny bit in May, to 0.93%. Bank card defaults stood at 2.97% in May, up 13 basis points from April.

Defaults on first mortgages, however, were down to 0.92% in May 2014. They were running at 1.30% in October 2013.

These numbers are all quite good, and signal that people are having an easier time managing their debt than at any time since before the recession.


Copyright Today’s Credit Unions





Will Anti-Bacterial Soaps Be Pulled from Store Shelves?

A coalition of industry groups is fighting a proposal by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that they say could result in antibacterial soaps and body washes being removed from store shelves.

The groups — the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) and the Personal Care Products Council – say that the proposed FDA rules could lead to 7.5 million new cases of food borne illness and more than $38 billion in health care costs annually.

For its part, the FDA asserts that manufacturers who use the antibacterial chemical triclosan – which is a key ingredient in most consumer products claiming to be “antibacterial” – should have to prove that products with triclosan are really more effective than using regular soap.

Triclosan has become controversial for both health and environmental reasons. Some public health advocates claim that the compound poses a health risk – and cite as evidence a 2010 study linking high exposure to triclosan with increased incidence of hay fever in children. 

Health experts are also concerned that heavy use of antibacterial consumer products may be cause a rising occurrence of drug-resistant bacteria.

Many environmentalists, meanwhile, claim that triclosan is toxic to certain naturally-occurring bacteria, and thus can upset nature’s balance when it is washed into the environment.

While the FDA has triclosan under review, the Administration admits that there is no current proof that the compound poses an elevated health risk. Instead, the FDA seems to be simply questioning its effectiveness in protecting human health.

So, does the use of “anti-bacterial” soaps really do a better job of protecting your health than washing with plain soap and water? The aforementioned industry groups claim it does, some consumer groups claim it doesn’t, and the FDA is saying “put up or shut up” to manufacturers of consumer products containing triclosan.

Copyright Today’s Credit Unions




Recovery Still Has a Way to Go

The sluggish recovery of the U.S. economy is in its fifth year as of this month. Unemployment remains too high — though recent data on jobs has been good and the recovery looks set to accelerate, according to economic research firm Moody’s Analytics’ Chief Economist, Mark Zandi.

Zandi – writing in Moody’s “US Macro Outlook: How the Labor Market Heals,” report – pointed out that five years is about average as an expansion period for a recovery.

Looked at historically, therefore, we should be nearing the end of the recovery expansion. What that means is that another recession would likely be expected soon, if historical trends were to be repeated.

However, Zandi sees an acceleration of recovery, not a contraction, in our near future. As he further points out, payroll employment reached a five-year high in May. The U.S. has now, (finally!) replaced the 8.7 million jobs lost in the recession.

Job growth has accelerated since the start of the year, to 200,000 new jobs per month.

Real GDP is running at a brisk 4% growth in this quarter. (Zandi is quick to add that this impressive number actually exaggerates the health of the economy, since it reflects the economy’s rebound from a weather-induced slump coming out of the winter.)

So, we’re getting the good and the bad from Zandi’s forecast. An acceleration in hiring and economic growth would indeed be wonderful. The fact that the economy has replaced the jobs lost in the recession is also positive.

However, our population has grown in the past five years, so we actually need more like 10 million jobs to “feel recovered” as an economy. There are far too many people still who have been out of work for long periods of time – sometimes years.

If this acceleration happens as expected, we may yet get to the point where the bad economy of the past five years feels, well, past. Let’s hope that Zandi is right with this prediction.


Copyright Today’s Credit Unions






National Association of Federal Credit Unions Calls for Retailer Data Standards

Alarmed at the rising number of customer data breaches happening at U.S. retailers, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU) is calling for action.

During the holiday season last year, Americans were shocked to learn that retailer Target’s systems had been breached, and that data from millions of customer debit cards had been stolen. The news only got worse in the weeks following, when several other retailers revealed that they, too, had experienced similar breaches.

The latest outrage involves restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s, who say that they have recently been hit by data thieves.

It seems that the Target breach was not an anomaly; it was the harbinger of a trend. Credit unions across the country are concerned about the integrity of their members’ data, whenever members use their debit or credit cards to make retail purchases.

NAFCU President and CEO Dan Berger has therefore renewed his call for national standards on data security and breach notification for retailers. “It has been almost six months since Target’s data breach, and we still have no new data security standards for retailers,” said Berger. “Since Target, there has been a major data breach discovered almost every month. The continued lack of national data security standards is an open invitation to cybercriminals.”

In a statement, the Association cites a report from Intel Security and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which says that cybercrime is costing the global economy $575 billion and the U.S. economy $100 billion annually.

According to the report, the U.S. is now the hardest-hit nation when it comes to cybercrime.

NAFCU wants national data security standards for retailers, and said it will continue to push for legislative action on Capitol Hill. The Association points out that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act already subjects credit unions and banks to such standards.

Under the law, credit unions bear what the Association terms, “a significant burden” as the issuers of payment cards used by millions of consumers. However, retailers have no similar law governing their responsibilities to customers, it said.

What’s clear is that all parties in the payments chain – from financial institutions to payment processors to retailers – need to work together, and maintain the highest standards for security. And when breaches occur, they must work together to protect customer interests, and to thwart cyber criminals. Credit unions are doing their part, but it’s got to be a team effort.


Copyright Today’s Credit Unions




Have Your Resume Written by a Pro

Career Igniter, a website that’s all about resume writing, said it has added a “professional writer” option to its service offering.

For many of us, putting together a winning resume is a real challenge. Even with online tutorials and professional advice, many of us struggle with the finer points of building a resume that stands out, and gets results.

For one thing, many people have a hard time effectively promoting themselves. Others fall back on clichés and use “blah, blah, blah” jargon to describe their accomplishments and experiences.

If you’re in that boat, Career Igniter claims to have a solution with its new resume writing service. The service allows you to turn your resume-writing challenge over to professional resume writers, for a fee.

We looked at the Career Igniter site, and found typical fees ranging from $179 for an “entry level” resume to $349 for an “Executive” resume. Cover letters are extra ($79–$99, in these categories) , as are “thank you” letters ($39 for both categories), lists of references and LinkedIn Profiles ($119 for both).

The service also offers options for Professional ($229), Federal ($319) and Military ($289) resumes.

Career Igniter said it offers a 30-day revision policy and “quick order turnaround” at its site. The company also offers its “resume builder” app, which has some free, and some fee-based, options to help you build your own resume.

The app does seem to offer some good features, and received a 3.6 rating on Google play. However, it is a DIY process; if you want to simply hand over the job to pros, you’ll have to pay the big bucks for the new professional resume writing service.

Overall, Career Igniter is worth checking out, since you can access quite a bit of good information – and some useful tools – for free. As for their paid services, one thing to keep in mind is that this company has a “no refund” policy in their Terms of Use. So, make sure you are satisfied with the breadth of services offered before you commit to paying them any money.


Copyright Today’s Credit Unions





Prepare to Have a Chip in Your Cards


The magnetic strip on your debit and credit cards may soon be replaced by a microchip, according to some new deals being made in response to the rising tide of cybercrime.

For example, banking and payments technology firm FIS said that a new licensing agreement will make MasterCard’s EMV debit solution available to all participants in its NYCE payments network.

EMV — which stands for Europay, Mastercard and Visa – is a global standard for the inter-operation of integrated circuit cards, or chip cards.

These are cards containing a sophisticated microchip that holds a wealth of account, cardholder and security data. It is to the traditional magnetic strip what a modern PC is to an abacus, security experts say.

With EMV, payment processors, financial institutions and retailers will have vastly increased security capabilities against the customer data breaches that have become all too common.

However, EMV implementation plans have their detractors in the U.S. The big complaint against EMV adoption has been cost: implementing the technology will cost billions, and financial institutions, payment processors and other groups have had an ongoing fight over who will pay for it.

Also, the U.S. plans allow for continued use of the magnetic strip. This could enable a smoother transition to EMV, since the strip cards would still work with “legacy” systems, but security experts warn that the vestigial use of the strips will negate some of the security benefits of having the chips installed in the first place.

Perhaps the biggest knock on EMV is that the technology does nothing to hamper “Card Not Present” fraud – which is a leading environment for cybercrime involving payments. These are transactions where the merchant doesn’t physically “swipe” a card – such as occurs when you buy things online.

While “Card Not Present” is another area in need of vast improvement, the fact that EMV doesn’t solve it is really not a good argument against EMV. After all, the recent, well-publicized, data breaches at U.S. retailers did involve “card present” crime – and may well have been thwarted by EMV.

What we all need is a multi-faceted approach in which all the players – financial institutions, payment processors, government regulators, law enforcement and retailers — step up to protect American consumers.


Copyright Today’s Credit Unions




Retiree Couples Will Need $220,000 to Cover Medical Expenses


The cost of living for retirees has never been higher, and it’s getting worse. This is especially true with the cost of healthcare.

Fidelity Investments said it has added up the cost of retirement, and determined that a couple retiring at age 65 will likely incur an average of $220,000 in health care costs during their retirement years.

The company disclosed these findings in its 2014 Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate. Fidelity warns that extra health care costs really add up for couples choosing to retire at younger ages.

For instance, couples retiring at age 62 can expect to spend an extra $17,000 per year in health care costs, based on insurance premiums paid prior to Medicare eligibility, and estimated out-of-pocket costs.

Couples waiting until age 67 could save as much as $10,000 per year on these costs, Fidelity said.

There has been a trend toward reining in retiree healthcare costs. For example, the gradual closure of Medicare Part D’s “donut hole” will help save retirees some money. Fidelity points out that this closure gives retirees a reduced, 25 percent co-insurance cost by 2020. Before the closure, there was no coverage.

However, it would be foolish to predict that these cost burdens will become truly manageable for American retirees anytime soon.


Copyright Today’s Credit Unions





Are You Ready for the Next Natural Disaster?


Natural disasters — such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires — have become so common that 92% of Americans polled by insurer Allstate say they have survived at least one. Yet, far too many people say they are unprepared for the next one.

According to published figures, The Federal Emergency Management Administration made 95 major disaster and fire declarations in 2013, and 112 in 2012. That year was particularly bad, given the combination of disasters including Sandy, Hurricane Isaac and the High Park and Waldo Canyon wildfires.

However, despite these seasons of disaster, many Americans are not prepared for the next big crisis. Allstate found that more than 90% of the people they talked to have not practiced an evacuation plan for when a major storm is approaching.

Sixty-four percent have no inventory list of their belongings, while 30% plan to take their chances, and ignore evacuation orders.

With each major disaster come stories of people who chose to “ride out the storm” – and suffered terrible consequences. Yet, we still see nearly a third of Allstate’s respondents planning to do just that.

Being prepared for a storm does take some effort, and planning, but it’s not that difficult.

Allstate recommends taking these steps:

Discuss an evacuation plan, including a meeting location away from the home.

Learn the best evacuation routes and keep a map or GPS unit in the car in case you are forced to take unfamiliar roads.

Fill up the fuel tank of your vehicle(s) at the first sign of a potential storm.

Stay informed of the latest weather in your area by signing up for a service like Allstate Alerts.

Let an out-of-state contact or neighbor know your plan and make sure family members know who to call in case you get separated.

The company also recommends that you prepare an emergency kit. The kit can include a first-aid kit, personal hygiene items, water supply, non-perishable foods, weather radio and flashlight.

People who are on prescribed medications should include them — or at least have a prescription. Also, bring cash, important papers and insurance policy numbers.

Your home inventory should include a room-by-room evaluation of personal belongings. Allstate also recommends you use an application like Digital Locker to help create an online inventory.

Natural disasters are overwhelming, and scary. This may be why so many people choose not to plan for them. But natural disasters are a fact of life, and a little preparation can go a long way toward making them survivable.


Copyright Today’s Credit Unions