The Worry that Never Retires

Being able to retire in comfort, at a relatively young age, became an essential part of the American Dream in the past century. Now, this part of the dream is under threat, and many Americans are worried.
According to polling firm Harris, a whopping 74% of American adults who are not yet retired say they worry about having enough money to retire. Nearly 70% of these worried folk say that planning for retirement is a big concern of theirs.
Worries about retirement span the generations, but young people are particularly concerned about whether Social Security will be there for them when they wish to retire. Harris said that, overall, 35% of its poll respondents say they have faith in social security being there when they retire. However, just 30% of Gen Xers say they do.
Among Millennials polled, only 27% said they had faith that Social Security would be around for them when they were ready to retire.
Seventy percent of Harris’ respondents worried about being able to pay for their health care in retirement.
Things are not likely to get much better for these Americans, since 69% of them worry they are not saving enough toward retirement. It’s not surprising, with nearly half saying they live paycheck to paycheck, and simply cannot afford to save for retirement.
The findings of this poll track with so much of the personal finance data we’ve seen in recent years: wages have not risen for most middle-class Americans, while expenses have. College expenses (and debt), are of particular concern for younger Americans, while health care, education and elder care expenses have all added up for today’s middle aged and older American workers.
While last month’s jobs report was encouraging, a deep look at the data reveals that job growth is highest in jobs at the lower end of the pay scale. If these conditions persist, this will not be the last poll that shows Americans fearing that they might never be able to afford a comfortable retirement.

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Link:

http://www.harrisinteractive.com

A Strong Jobs Report Leads to a Tiny Bump in Mortgage Rates

The strong June jobs report from the government has excited job-seekers and economists alike. It also seems to have contributed to a slight rise in mortgage rates last week.
According to Bankrate.com’s weekly national survey, the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose from 4.28% to 4.31% last week, while the 15-year fixed mortgage rate rose from 3.40% to 3.41%. A slight rise, but no big deal.
This came after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 288,000 nonfarm payroll jobs during June, and that the unemployment rate fell to 6.1%. These numbers exceeded expectations, and had economists crowing about an accelerating recovery.
Now, normally this type of economic news should have a more dramatic impact on rates. When investors see this kind of increase in hiring, they imagine millions more consumers seeking loans for cars and houses, and running up credit cards. Hence, they see more demand for available capital, which leads to higher interest rates.
But this isn’t what’s happening.
In a statement, Bankrate said that a “…flood of cheap money from central banks around the globe…” is keeping a lid on rates. Many investors put this cheap cash into safe U.S. Treasuries, at today’s low rates of return. Mortgage rates are tied to Treasuries.
So, even as consumer ramp up their spending — and demand more credit to do so — the amount of available money is keeping up with supply. Central banks like the U.S. Federal Reserve or the European Central Bank – which ordinarily only lower interest rates in the face of economic slowdown – have continued to keep rates low, even in the face of economic recovery.
Bankrate isn’t being dramatic when it describes the situation as a “flood” of “cheap money.” As long as this overall low-interest, simulative environment prevails, it’s difficult to see where conditions would push mortgage rates higher in a dramatic fashion.
The Fed has indicated that it plans to ratchet up rates at some point – perhaps in 2015 – but this is anything but certain. So far we’ve seen rates come down for most of this year, with some modest rises in the past few weeks. Nothing dramatic yet.

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Link:

http://www.bankrate.com

Wellness and Professional Growth

Wellness and Professional Growth
Ask Lourdes
By Lourdes Cortez
Professional development is one thing many of us put to the side and all too often think about as an after thought. We lead such busy lives that rarely do we make time to think about growth, wellness and professional development.
Professional development and wellness is about improving your professional relationships within your work environment or with your clients.
Professional development is important to ones career for long-term and short-term prosperity. More importantly, it is important to have a development plan because the more established you become in your career the more income you will generate.
Why is professional development and wellness important? It is important to increase your knowledge base about your business, and to increase your earning power, which could increase your income. Some ways to do this is to be THE expert in your field.
First, one should master a specific skill. The way to become an expert in your field is by educating oneself about the product or skill set you are most interested in. Once you show an employer or client what you can bring to the table, work on finding out what other skills you can learn that would enhance your work performance. According to the National Business Research Institute, 23% of people leave their jobs due to lack of development opportunities and training. People want someone who is eager to learn and can bring something to a company or a team environment.
The next step to professional development is making sure you are a diverse addition at your job or have a diverse set of skills in your own business. What makes you stand out from others? It is important to be a master of a skill in addition to showing off what basic skills you have that will contribute to other projects or jobs in a positive and meaningful way. Diversifying your professional background helps you to stand out in what is a very competitive job market. If you are currently employed by an organization and have taken steps to perfect and diversify your skills set then your next step might be negotiating your salary based on work performance and time in your current role.
Lastly, build your network everywhere you go. A growing network benefits every professional no matter what their age, background or years of work experience. Every person you meet has the potential to help your business whether it’s expanding your brand awareness or getting referrals. In addition, spend time solidifying and building your professional relationships. That is critical because in today’s social media environment, what people say about you goes a long way in your career.
There are so many ways to network these days it has become the easiest way to build a brand and to possibly increase revenue if you’re an entrepreneur. An article in Forbes.com “about 15 to 20% of the workforce–regardless of age– is engaged in running a startup or a more established business”. There are so many tools to support growing businesses such as using social media strategies, attending professional conferences, or joining a trade organization.
After thinking this through, you will undoubtedly start to think about how to measure personal success. Sometimes success is measured in monetary value and sometimes it is measured by how well you live your life, spiritually, monetarily or in happiness. Wellness is the cornerstone of any professional’s career. Taking care of yourself means you are better equipped to care for your clients, co-workers, or employees. Be aggressive in becoming a better professional, but remember to educate yourself on what options you have for your growing income and how best to nurture it.
Lourdes Cortez, President/CEO of North Jersey Federal Credit Union, hails from Paterson. In 1984, she began her career at North Jersey Federal and served in several roles. In 2004, she was promoted to VP of Operations and soon thereafter became Senior VP and in 2005 was named President and CEO.
In February 2014, Cortez was appointed to the Board of Trustees of William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ. She also serves on the boards of the Workforce Investment Board of Passaic County, and Visions Academy Charter School in Newark, and as President of the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Paterson and Passaic. Cortez is the chairperson for the North Jersey Federal Credit Union Foundation and assistant treasurer for Executive Women of NJ. She has volunteered for numerous organizations including La Casa De Don Pedro, the March of Dimes, Eva’s Village in Paterson and the American Cancer Society.
As the first Latina CEO of a credit union in New Jersey, Cortez has been honored by NJ Biz magazine, which named her one of the Best 50 Women in Business in New Jersey. Other awards include the North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce 2010 Star Award in Business, the 2010 Salute to the Policy Makers Award from Executive Women of NJ, and the 2012 Women of Achievement Award from the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey. On May 15, 2014, the Hispanic Business Council presented her an award in grateful recognition of her achievement and her support of the Hispanic Community.

Some Homebuyers Choose Fancy Kitchens Over Good Schools

According to some new research, the perfect kitchen or bedroom often mean more to homebuyers than such practicalities as good schools and access to public transportation.
The latest Home Index Survey (PGHI) from homebuilder PulteGroup finds that 29% of Americans polled consider the kitchen to be the most important consideration when choosing a new home. The second most vital room in the house was the master bedroom, according to 22% of respondents.
Surprisingly, the living room was only #3, at 18%.
But are these home features more important than location? For many, they are:
Pulte said that 44% of respondents would give up a location near public transportation in exchange for having the most desirable features in a home.
Thirty five percent would give up better schools for their favorite amenities, while 34% would trade proximity to entertainment and shopping for that perfect kitchen or bedroom layout.
Looking at some of these poll results, it’s easy to see why people often choose to buy homes that are farther away from major shopping, employment or cultural centers (exurban) in order to get more interior space, or nicer amenities.
Home is where the heart is – but only if it comes with an island kitchen.

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Link:

http://www.pulte.com

What Came First, the Chicken or the Free Range?

You’ve no doubt noticed all the so-called “specialty” eggs available in the market these days: cage-free, free-range, organic, etc. Some of these designations carry a big premium in price, so it’s good to know exactly what they mean.
Research shows that these specialty designations are important to consumers. According to a poll done for egg producer Vital Farms, 50% of respondents said they look for the free-range label. Right behind that in popularity were cage-free (48%), then organic (47%).
When asked to describe the terms “free-range” and “cage-free” meant, most people thought these terms referred to hens roaming and feeding on open pastures, Vital Farms said. They were wrong.
The pastoral image of truly “free” egg-producing hens is a life guaranteed only to those that are “pasture-raised.” Yet, only 24% of the poll respondents said they looked for this designation on the label.
Vital Farms tells us that to be called “pasture-raised” or “pastured,” each hen must have unlimited daytime access to a minimum of 108 square feet of outdoor space. They must have sunlight and fresh air available to them, and must have freedom to forage for any foods that are naturally available on their pastures.
These hens are also rotated to new pastures every few days, so their vegetation is always fresh.
To be considered “free-range,” hens need only have limited access to an outdoor area that, according to Mother Earth News, may just be a pen with a concrete or dirt floor. Many “cage-free” hens are packed into barns with little or no access to the outdoors, Vital Farms said.
These hens may not actually be in a cage, but they certainly aren’t living the lives many consumers imagine when they pay extra money for those eggs.
Vital Farms adds that only the term “organic” on labels is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. No other labeling terms are regulated.
So, “organic” actually means something, and the term “pasture raised” must be on the label if you want eggs produced by chickens raised in that happy farm setting you have in your mind’s eye.

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More Men Left Out of Jobs Recovery

While the economy has replaced the jobs lost in the recession, not all members of society have reaped the benefits. According to Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), American men are still 582,000 jobs shy of their pre-recession employment peak.
IWPR said that American women recovered their pre-recession peak employment numbers by September of last year, but men have yet to catch up. Worse, they are continuing to fall behind:
Of the 288,000 jobs gained during June of this year, women gained 158,000 jobs, while men only gained 130,000.
IWPR – citing survey data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – said that among workers aged 16 and older, 5.9% of women were unemployed in June. For men, the unemployment rate was 6.3%.
While continued strong employment growth should “lift all boats” it is disturbing to see this gender discrepancy in the distribution of jobs. Ideally, no one should be left behind, but clearly some are, and they are disproportionately men.
Work needs to be done to understand why this is, and what can be done about it.

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Link:

http://www.iwpr.org

Foreclosures Still Too High

A new report from CoreLogic shows that foreclosures were down in May from a year before, up from the month before, and still at twice the rates seen before the recession.
According to CoreLogic’s May National Foreclosure Report, there were 47,000 completed foreclosures nationally during May. That’s down 9.4% from May 2013, when there were 52,000, but 3.8% higher than the roughly 45,000 recorded in April 2014.
The term “completed foreclosures” refers to a process that has resulted in a homeowner actually losing a home. Many homes are at some stage of foreclosure in a given month, but homeowners often pull their homes out of foreclosure by catching up on their mortgage payments, or getting their lenders to agree to a short sale, among other things. Only when the homeowner loses the home can the foreclosure process be recorded as completed.
While foreclosures are certainly down from their worst post-recession levels, they are still far more common than during the pre-housing market collapse years. For instance, from 2000 and 2006 there was an average of 21,000 completed foreclosures nationwide each month.
These statistics show that, while housing markets across the country had a robust recovery last year, there is still a way to go before we declare housing and real estate as being “back to normal.”

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Link:
www.corelogic.com.

Are Business Executives Really Calling for Higher Taxes on the Rich?

A new Harris poll finds that U.S. business executives overwhelmingly believe that economic inequality is a problem that government policy should address, with 56% of them in favor of higher taxes on people earning incomes of $1,000,000 per year.
While many Americans perceive business executives as the least likely group to be concerned about economic inequality – and even less likely to call for higher taxes on top wage earners – Harris has found the opposite to be the case.
For instance, the poll found that business executives were more likely than the general population to perceive inequality as a problem for our society (88% vs. 79%), but less likely to view it as a major problem (44% vs. 54%).
However, the overwhelming majority of business executives polled (81%) do see inequality as a political issue, and 73% of them believe it’s important that the government introduce policies to reduce it.
When Harris asked the executives what they felt were the causes of economic inequality, their answers contained yet more surprises for those who view business leaders as hard-nosed — and perhaps out of touch with the less advantaged.
Some of their top answers were fairly predictable: most executives identified some of the major causes of inequality to be the loss of manufacturing jobs to China, India and other low cost countries (87%); and the failure of the public school systems to educate many people (85%).
However, large majorities also felt that the causes included the tax system (84% execs); the influence of big business on government policies (81%); the influence of very rich people on government policy (81%) and the globalization of the world economy (81%).
When asked for ways to fix the tax system, 56% of executives polled expressed the opinion that taxes were too low currently for people with incomes of $1,000,000 per year. A full 63% of them felt that taxes were too low for billionaires, and 61% of execs felt that taxes were too high for the middle class.
Surprisingly, a bigger percentage of executives polled (76%) felt that increasing taxes on the very rich would be fair than was the case among the general population (70%).
What should we make of these findings? They certainly dispel the myth that U.S. business executives are hard hard-hearted and simply pursuing self-interest in their views on public policy. Many of these executives were in favor of raising their own taxes, for instance, and felt that big business has an undue influence on government.
Encouragingly, majorities of executives polled now see economic inequality as a problem, and are in favor of fixes that don’t necessarily serve their own short-term interests. With recent polls showing record distrust in government’s ability to solve our problems, it’s good to see that so many of our business leaders are paying attention, and looking for solutions.

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Link:

http://www.harrisinteractive.com

Job Trends Remain Positive in June

Last week, the Bureau of Labor statistics released a strong employment report for June. This week, a report that serves as a “look ahead” at hiring trends also came in with a strong reading.
The Conference Board said that its Employment Trends Index (ETI) for June was up from May’s reading, and represented a 6.3% gain versus June 2013.
According to the Board, June’s increase was driven by positive contributions from such factors as the Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now, Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales, Industrial Production, Number of Temporary Employees, Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get,” Job Openings, and Ratio of Involuntarily Part-time to All Part-time Workers.
These are all “leading indicators” of where employment is headed in the near future. The Board said that seven of the eight factors it measures increased during June.
What this means is that we could be seeing some strong jobs numbers in the months ahead. Given the very good performance posted in June, that could well result in unemployment and labor participation rates not seen since the “good old days” before the recession.
More importantly, a several months of better-than-expected jobs reports could signal a strong – and durable – economic recovery.

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Link:

http://www.conference-board.org

Prepare for Your Summer Trip

The summer vacation driving season is underway, and many Americans will find themselves having car troubles far from home. Your friendly insurance company wants you to be prepared.
The Hanover Insurance Group is offering tips for ensuring that you are covered in the event of a vacation mishap. But we’ll start by offering advice on how to avoid having those mishaps in the first place.
When it comes to auto breakdown on long summer trips, heat is probably the most common factor. Loading up your vehicle for a trip, then heading out into hot weather puts a lot of stress on a range of vehicle systems.
The most obvious point of heat-related failure is the cooling system. Inadequate coolant, dodgy thermostats and old hoses and belts are often the things that break on long trips. Be sure to have these items checked and serviced before you head out.
But heat also affects other systems, such as your brakes and tires. Brake pads that have worn thin can get dangerously overheated during summer vacation driving. Also, tires that are improperly inflated can fail when subjected to hours of high-speed use on a hot day.
One good way to avoid trouble is to be careful how – and how much – you load your vehicle. Before throwing in beach gear and summer clothes, remove anything that’s not necessary to your safe and enjoyable vacation. Also, be careful how you load the vehicle: loading too much in the rear or on top of a vehicle can cause handling and braking problems.
Bad things can still happen to your car, no matter how well prepared you are. So, review your auto insurance ahead of your trip. Hanover suggests that you consider trip interruption coverage, to reimburse certain expenses if you are involved in a covered accident far from home.
Also, be sure the policy has enough coverage against liability, personal injury and damage. Usually, states require minimum amounts of these coverages and they are, well, minimal. Do you need supplemental medical coverage? To answer that, you should check both your auto and health insurance policies.
Hanover also cautions that you make sure that any recreational vehicles you bring are covered. Standard auto or homeowners policies usually don’t cover popular tow-behind toys such as jet skis, boats, ATVs etc.
Another good insurance tip is to buy an “umbrella” policy that protects against legal judgments that exceed the protection offered by a standard auto policy. As Hanover points out, $1 million in added coverage often can be purchased for a few hundred dollars.
Take a few hours to check these things off your list before you are scrambling to pack the car for your trip. A little work now can prevent a ruined vacation, or worse.

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Link:
www.hanover.com