#incomes #SixFigureIncomes #inflation #FinancialProblems #MoneyManagement
Yes, it’s possible that a couple making a six-figure income together can still have financial issues.
Nedra Rhone, “This Life” columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution discussed this in a column published June 23, 2022.
Rhone says many people believe that anyone making six figures a year with financial problems have money management, not money, problems.
But as rents skyrocket and prices for gasoline and other goods rise to levels not seen in decades, it is possible for two people making a combined, six-figure income to have trouble making ends meet – never mind saving for the future.
Some decades back, a young couple just starting out in life might have thought that if they could just make $20,000 a year together, they would be OK.
Inflation has kicked that goal up fivefold, or more.
As Rhone points out, it’s great to teach kids, and young adults, good money management skills. It takes some discipline to watch what one spends money on. And, certainly, we all can improve our money management skills.
But, the lesson here is that costs of living can’t keep rising without some, if not everyone, feeling the pinch.
Food, shelter, clothing, energy etc. are all necessary for living and working. People certainly can cut out frivolous expenses, unnecessary trips etc. But everyone has to eat, have a roof over his or her head, drive to work etc.
Some recent trends are helping. For example, more people are working from home. That saves on energy, clothing and, perhaps, some food costs.
But, not everyone can work from home. In fact, it can be assumed that the less money you make at your job, the less ability you may have to work from home. Trades people, hospitality workers and others have no ability to work from home.
Fortunately, the world economy works in cycles. That means prices won’t stay at these levels forever.
Much of the high-price trends have to do with pent-up demand after pandemic lockdowns. More people are working than there were two years ago.
Wages are trending up, but many are no better off because of that pent-up demand. Some economic sectors are still having trouble filling jobs, even with offers of more pay and, perhaps, benefits.
A narrative is circulating that government policy is the prime driver of the inflation we are seeing. In reality, there is very little that can be done by government at any level to make a real dent in inflation.
The couple in Rhone’s column could look for a cheaper apartment. Those are hard to find in most areas. In fairness, landlords have had trouble the last two years getting tenants to pay rent on time because the pandemic cost the tenants their jobs temporarily. These landlords, along with retailers and other merchants, are trying to recover some of what they lost.
Rhone’s point in her column was not to criticize others’ financial situations. Don’t try to put a simple solution on a complex problem. Chances are, if you were in the shoes of the six-figure couple, you probably would face similar problems.
Times are tough for most of us. It’s time we all be less critical or judgmental of others, and more sympathetic and helpful.


#CollegeEducation #education #colleges #EducationDecisions
Does one get a college education simply to get a good job? Or, does one get a college education to expand his or her mind, and learn to think critically?
It appears most students today view a college education in practical terms: what’s the (employment) payoff at the end?
But, should they?
Maureen Downey, education columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, explored this topic in her May 10, 2022 column.
Downey quotes from the book “The Real World of College: What Higher Education Is and What It Can Be,” by Wendy Fischman and Howard Gardner of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
The authors accuse college of “mission sprawl” and abandoning their main purpose, which they describe as enabling students to analyze, reflect, connect and communicate on the critical questions they will encounter in their lives and in the world, Downey writes.
“You go on a college tour and you hear about 100 different things,” Downey quotes Gardner. But what they don’t hear enough, in the authors’ minds, is how colleges develop the mind, Downey writes.
“If students don’t leave college better thinkers, writers and communicators, the colleges fail their core mission, Downey attributes to the authors.
Let’s break down what a college education is, and should be.
First, let’s establish that no college education is wasted, if the student vigorously pursues his or her studies, regardless of what his or her major is.
But, if a student, or his or her family, is paying dearly for that education, the student and family can reasonably expect a payoff at the end. Usually, that’s defined as a good job and career launch for the student. Worse yet, if the student incurs thousands of dollars in debt for that education, he or she had better have a good income to pay it back.
Today’s political environment might describe what the Harvard authors say the colleges’ mission should be as “indoctrination” of a certain political position. Or, as Downey calls it, “political correctness and free speech.”
A college education today also involves fun, new friendships, sports and other entertainment that can help mold a young person’s life.
This begs the question: why can’t a college education accomplish both the academic and practical goals students may have?
Certainly, some students’ studies can focus on critical thinking. Others can focus on the practical skills and knowledge that will help them launch the careers they want.
It boils down to choices. A student first must figure out what he or she wants to do after college. That requires him or her to take a certain batch of core courses toward that end. But in every semester schedule, there are usually electives that a student can choose to take that may have nothing to do with his or her major, but are of personal interest.
The smart student will choose those electives to help him or her develop his or her mind and make him or her a more well rounded, or well grounded, person.
Remember, too, that a college education isn’t for everyone. So, students and parents must determine whether the prospective college student is suited to college and ready for college (academically and financially).
The choices the student makes if he or she goes to college will determine how he or she uses his or her degree after graduation, and what kind of person he or she becomes.


#GreatWealthTransfer #BabyBoomers #wealth #inheritances #EstatePlanning
A few generations back, the parents of Baby Boomers turned, or were about to turn, huge amounts in inheritance to their children or other heirs.
Those parents had built usually modest homes for relatively modest prices, though they didn’t think so at the time. Much of that homebuilding was thanks in large part to the federal GI bill that was passed as veterans came home from World War II to start families and new lives.
Those modest homes increased in value many times over during that generation’s lifetime.
That gave the children of that generation a big chunk of wealth to inherit.
And, many of them did – big time.
Now, the Baby Boom generation has a bunch of wealth to pass on to its children – the GenXers and Millennials.
Wes Moss, who writes a Money Matters column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and has a similar weekly program on WSB radio in Atlanta, calls this “The Great Wealth Transfer.”
He discussed it in his column published April 24. 2022.
Moss writes that between $30 trillion and $68 trillion in wealth will be passed down from Baby Boomers.
To put that in perspective, the U.S. GDP (gross domestic product) for 2021 was $22 trillion, Moss writes.
When you take the 136 million people who are GenXers or Millennials, and you use the $30 trillion figure, that would mean each of those folks – statistically speaking — would get $220,000, Moss writes. We know that not everyone will inherit that much individually, and some will inherit much more.
Think you don’t have that kind of money in your family? Moss sites a person with a great aunt who died. The great nephew didn’t realize how much money she had. She was able to give all her great nephews and great nieces a nice chunk of change.
In other words, there could be that kind of money somewhere in your family, and you may not know it until a death occurs.
For Baby Boomers, this lesson brings about the need for proper estate planning. Yes, you may have more than what you think you have. How it gets distributed upon your death, or even before, should not be left to chance – or probate court. It would be worth the investment to draw out an estate plan, such as a will or living trust, to make sure the money goes where, or to whom, you want, when you want.
If you are a GenXer or Millennial, talk to your parents and other family members about how THEY want their estates distributed. Make sure that, if you believe you may have something coming to you, that your interest is protected.
Of course, if there are no heirs or your family members have not shown themselves worthy of inheritance, having an estate plan is even more crucial, so that your money goes where you want.
If you are transferring your wealth, get an adviser you trust to tell you how, when and to whom to give your assets – according to your wishes. Keep in mind that you should do all YOU want to do while alive with your assets. Don’t think about your heirs first. Think of you first.
Remember, too, that how, when and to whom you give will likely have tax consequences. Know those consequences, and what could happen if a mistake is made, well ahead of time.
It’s certainly great to reward loyal, loving family members or other heirs with your wealth. But if you think about you first, and plan carefully, all concerned should be, if not happy, assured that the distribution was done as you wanted it to be done.


#StudentAchievement #MeritCommendations #schools #education #competition
Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County, Va., favors student “equity.”
As a result, TJHS and other secondary schools in that county chose not to promptly disclose that students had won Merit Commendation awards from the National Merit Scholarship Corp.
There were 230 affected students in total, who did not get the news in time to include it on college applications.
Why? Most of the commended students were Asian-American. Other non-commended students’ feelings might be hurt.
Washington Post columnist George Will discussed the Fairfax case in a column that was also published Jan. 22, 2023, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In other school districts, some books are being banned and certain historical facts are not being properly taught, or even disclosed, because the majority white students might feel ashamed to be white.
The first instance is a matter of competition. There are some winners. Others should not feel like losers, but, to put it bluntly, they didn’t make the grade.
It may not make them any less smart, but they didn’t make it. As Will points out, do school track meets not declare winners because it might make the other competitors feel bad?
Students will learn, either in school or outside, that they will have to compete for things, such as jobs, college admissions etc. They may not always win. They may as well learn that lesson sooner rather than later.
It’s tough to see “equity” in not telling students that they won something legitimately. Most of the winners’ schoolmates are likely to congratulate them, even if they may be disappointed that they didn’t win themselves.
The second instance is a matter of deprivation of learning. Students should know about the behavior of their forebears, even if it may not have been pleasant, or commendable.
Rather than make them feel bad that they are white (and privileged), it might make them think about how they treat others. It might make them more empathetic to schoolmates whose upbringing may have been filled with discrimination and lack of privilege.
In either instance, schools should do the right thing, regardless of how it might make some children feel. Most children are resilient. They will get over temporary feelings. Schools do a disservice depriving students of information that they deserve to know.
Another lesson here is that if Asian-American students do so well on Merit tests, find out why that is. Perhaps their parents and their culture make educational achievement a top priority. There is certainly nothing wrong with that.
There could be an argument here that book education by itself doesn’t always create the best people. The A students often end up working for the C students, as the adage goes.
It is also argued that certain cultures put too much pressure on students at too young an age.
More likely, the students put the pressure on themselves, since parents can’t MAKE them succeed.
Make no mistake. History has shown cavernous opportunity and achievement gaps among students of certain races and backgrounds. If we want to correct those, we should find ways to close the gaps by helping the underachievers, without depriving achievers of their rewards.
We can also learn that the U.S. is a multicultural society that includes people of many races, backgrounds and circumstances. In that milieu, students, sooner or later, will learn that not everyone is like them. They will either adapt to that, or try to disrupt that in some fashion.
Such disruptions will help no one and hurt many. Do you really want your child to become that sort of disrupter?


#teachers #education #parents #SchoolAuthorities #TeachersQuitting
First, the pandemic imposed extra stress on teachers.
Then, politicians started telling teachers what they could teach, how they could teach it and what books or other tools they could use.
It’s hardly a wonder why teachers are asking why anyone would do this job.
Maureen Downey, education columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, tackled the rapid departure of teachers in a recent column.
She quotes a Rand report on the pandemic’s role in teacher resignations. Researchers found that half the teachers who resigned did so because of the pandemic, she writes.
She also writes that stress, more than low pay, was almost twice as common a reason for resigning.
“At least for some teachers, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have exacerbated what were high stress levels pre-pandemic by forcing teachers to, among other things, work more hours and navigate an unfamiliar remote environment, often with frequent technical problems,” Downey quotes the Rand report.
Teachers didn’t leave the profession necessarily for higher-paying jobs. The Rand researchers said most teachers who left took jobs with either less or about equal pay, Downey writes.
The Merrimack College Teacher Survey, a poll of more than 1,300 teachers conducted by EdWeek Research Center in January and February 2022, says the profession is in free-fall, Downey writes. Only 12 percent of K-12 teachers are very satisfied with their jobs, down from 39 percent a decade ago,’ Downey quotes the survey. It also says the salary satisfaction rates are lowest in the South and Midwest. Only 21 percent of teachers in those areas believe their pay is fair for the job they do, Downey quotes the survey.
In 2011, 77 percent of teachers believe their profession is respected. Now, only 46 percent of teachers believe that, Downey writes.
In short, teaching is a relatively low-paying profession that politicians love to pick on. There is already a teacher shortage, which could become acute if the pressure and restrictions on teachers continue.
Certainly, everyone wants parents actively involved in the school(s) their children attend. Some mostly inner-city teachers have seen a lack of parental involvement as a serious problem.
But, there is a difference between involvement and interference. Involvement means parents are supporting what teachers are doing, and encourage their children to vigorously participate in their education.
Interference means parents are standing in the way of teachers teaching truth to children. Few teachers will put up with that for a long time.
People go into teaching, and education in general, for the love of the job. They certainly don’t do it to enrich themselves. Yet, good teachers can play a significant role in making the world a better place by encouraging students to learn.
If the current milieu continues to chase away teachers from the profession, we may soon have schools that can’t educate students.
Those in authority over schools should not only know the difference between parental involvement and interference, but also the difference between educational improvement and educational destruction.
Teachers acutely know the difference and are voting with their feet.


#CleanPoweredCars #GasolinePoweredCars #California #cars #transportation
California wants to ban the sale of new cars solely fueled by gasoline by 2035.
Used gas-powered cars will be allowed, but no new ones can be sold, according to the plan.
Certainly, climate change is real, and California is among the places hardest hit.
But it begs the question: how many used gasoline-powered cars will still be on the road?
It also begs the question: how long will it actually take to eliminate all gas-powered cars? The big issues are having enough rapid-charging stations, and how governments will cope with the decreased revenue from the gasoline tax, according to David Wickert, transportation writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Georgia is poised to become a leader in the manufacture of electric cars and the batteries that fuel them.
Here’s a thought: what if someone could come up with a way to convert internal-combustion cars to electric, hybrid or hydrogen power?
But, first things are first. As previously stated, there have to be more rapid-charging stations before we go entirely non-combustion.
Then, we have to look at auto manufacturing. It appears the big car companies are moving quickly away from internal combustion engines. That’s a good sign.
Then, the price of the clean-powered cars has to come down. The recent bill passed by Congress offers assistance in purchasing clean-powered vehicles, but to qualify, the vehicles have to be priced in a certain range. In other words, there are no subsidies to buy expensive cars, even if they are clean-powered.
Getting back to a previous thought, what does one do with a perfectly good gasoline-powered car? The body may be good enough to last for years. Would you spend, say, a few thousand dollars, or perhaps a bit more, to change out the guts of your car so you can drive your “new” clean-powered car?
Many would, perhaps. But now, there is no technology to do that. One might predict that someone, somewhere is working on that technology.
This news reminds us that transitions are hard. We may all want to do the right thing — the world may command us to do the right thing.
But moving from one era to the next requires infrastructure changes, innovation and the courage to move to something different. It’s also requires government to re-imagine revenue streams, as Wickert points out. All of these things can take time.
California is trying to provide that transition time. Can the innovators pull it off within that time?
Transitions are also messy. For example, if your gas-powered car craps out on you between now and then, and you can’t live without a car, what do you do that will solve your practical problem now, yet comply with the future new rules?
The lesson here is that we should have been preparing for this transition long before we did.
Certainly, it’s easier said than done. Hindsight is always 20-20.
But just because we are starting the transition in earnest later than we should have been doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.
The warming planet certainly isn’t waiting for us humans to act. It will keep warming, causing all sorts of disasters.
We just have to do the hard, messy things as we can. In fact, most of life’s journey involves hard, messy things. What’s convenient at the moment is not always the right thing for the future.
So, if you are not ready to ditch your gas-powered vehicle for something that runs much cleaner, your best bet is to hope you can buy enough time until the technology allows you to convert that vehicle, or the vehicle craps out on its own. Hopefully, you’ll be able to afford the change.


#workplaces #workers #pay #benefits #childcare #COVID19 #coronavirus #FlattenTheCurve
The pandemic changed everything.
First, it gave workers a bit more leverage in how they deal with work/life balance.
That has good, and bad, effects.
Workers are leaving jobs that paid little, with no flexibility in their lives, to either stay home with children – day-care costs are rising and options are limited – or moving on to jobs that pay more and, perhaps, offer some of the flexibility they want.
A story by Marc Fisher for the Washington Post, and a “This Life” column by Nedra Rhone tackle this issue in detail. Both were published Dec. 30, 2021, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Post story focuses on Liberty County, Ga., along the state’s coast. Liberty is a small county, with a major military institution, Ft. Stewart, as its biggest employer.
But the county is growing by adding big warehouses. These allow people to leave the small, mom-and-pop hotel and restaurant jobs for higher-paying, and often more flexible, warehouse work.
That hurts the lower-paying sole-owner businesses, causing them to cut back on hours, service etc., for lack of help.
Some employees had been laid off when many of these operations shut down. When they reopened, many of the workers did not return, for various reasons – not the least of which is the risk of being infected with COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Rhone’s column discusses the differences among various generations in how they react to changing workplaces.
The youngest generation of workers had their world turned upside down. Many now want to be entrepreneurs, meaning they may never work for anyone but themselves in their lives.
(What these young folks may not realize is that working only for oneself may have its own pitfalls. They still have to serve clients, who will be their ultimate employers).
So, all of this begs the usual question: where do you fit in this changing workplace?
Is the idea of going back to work too risky? Or, is it going to cost you more to go back to work (commuting, day care etc.) than you would make?
In summary, workplaces are changing. Workers no longer feel forced to take, or go back to, jobs that put them at risk, will cost them more to work than not, and not get a good return from the employer(s).
Employers currently are adapting by cutting back on things that could decimate their businesses. They have to find more creative ways to entice people from multiple generations, who have different hopes, dreams and attitudes toward the workplace.
To quote Donald Lovette, chairman of the Liberty County, Ga., Commission, from the Post story: “It’s not that people are lazy. It’s that some of them are better off financially by not paying for child care, staying home for a while … It’s simple economics.”
Employers, even those in basic businesses like hospitality and restaurants, have to come up with new ways to get and keep workers.


#Nonplayer #jobs #complainers “LaborMarket #employers #employees
A line from a Dilbert cartoon, by Scott Adams, says. “I’m a non-player character. I can only complain about my job and comment on the weather.”
The cartoon was published July 14, 2022, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The purpose of the line is to humorously illustrate how people think – or don’t think – at work.
People may complain about a job, but take no action to improve their situations.
In other words, “I’m here. I’m stuck. And I hate it!”
One may not be able to do much about the weather, but one can certainly do something about his or her work situation.
If you like WHERE you work, but don’t like WHAT you do, perhaps there are other jobs in that locale for which you can apply.
If you like WHAT you do, but don’t like WHERE you are doing it, you can look at other employers.
Today’s labor market is the best in decades. There are employers begging for help. Your options are probably greater than you imagine.
One should not feel he or she has to stay where he or she is, because there is nowhere else to go.
Employers in this market have to be creative to not only find the help they need, but also to keep the help they have.
This kind of labor market, plus disruptions in supply chains, oil markets, the food industry etc., coupled with post-pandemic pent-up demand for goods and services, are causing inflation today.
In the Dilbert cartoon, the question posed before the non-player statement was, “What do you think the government should do about inflation?”
The government has little control, and few available actions, to curb inflation. Politicians like to blame opponents for problems no one can really control single-handedly, but the reality is that foreign wars, pandemics and other phenomenon can dictate our terms of living.
Given how good the job market is, employees can be fortunate that they are getting raises that can help mitigate inflation, though most raises are not enough to make those employees feel significantly better off in these times.
Regardless of the uncontrollable problems in one’s life – the weather, inflation etc. – being a “non-player” and just complaining about things is not an option. YOU still have some control over your life. Work on the things you can control, and work around things you can’t.
Complaining and blaming are not strategies. You may not like someone or something, so you either improve your own situation, or move away from it.
Here’s hoping the labor market stays strong, inflation eases and storms are minimized.


#teachers #schools #students #education
The thrill is gone.
So says Maureen Downey, education columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, when talking about why teachers are leaving the profession in droves.
Certainly, teachers, in fact schools, are being asked to do more than just teach kids. They have to be a psychologist, cook and other things for children under their care.
Teacher pay is relatively low, and the responsibility keeps increasing.
On top of that, teachers are being used as political cudgels when parents protest the teaching of “critical race theory,” which is not taught in any K-12 environment.
Downey talked about all of this in her column published Nov. 23, 2021.
Many non-teachers have, over time, thought teachers had it pretty good. They made “decent” pay, and had great benefits, including three months off every year, the thinking went.
If teachers thought their pay was low, they could augment it during the summer and on extensive school breaks. In fact, many teachers had summer jobs, and worked in department stores over the Christmas holiday break to supplement their income.
At the same time, back then, parents had a good deal of respect for teachers. If a child’s teacher reported to parents that their child did something wrong in school, the parents almost automatically believed the teacher.
Today’s parents seem to have less respect for teachers. The parents, particularly those who’ve experienced hard economic times, see them as public employees who have economic protections many parents don’t have.
The teachers have become handy targets for abuse – much of which is unjustified.
Therefore, teachers are walking away in large numbers. They are looking at other opportunities that seem to be popping up. To them, teaching has become something they didn’t sign up for. Even the dedicated teachers who love what they do are becoming increasingly frustrated.
This begs a question: what will public education do to keep teachers in the fold? Many locales are reluctant to significantly increase school funding. In fact, many taxpayers want their schools to do even more, with even less than they get now.
We consider our teachers as essential workers. The pandemic made teaching children even more difficult.
School systems will have to reckon with these problems for the foreseeable future. How they attract and retain teachers will be a big part of that reckoning.
To parents who unfairly criticize teachers and schools, think of what it would be like without them.


#RemoteWork #WorkingRemotely #coronavirus #COVID-19 #FlattenTheCurve
If you thought working from home, or, at least, away from the crowded office was a temporary solution to combat a contagion, think again.
Now, 40.7 million Americans expect to be working remotely by 2026.
Meanwhile, 86.5 million freelance workers are expected by 2027.
Those statistics come from Upwork Inc. Statista data, and were part of a Bloomberg News article also published Sept. 30, 2021 in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The article says that businesses, in a survey of 1,000 hiring managers, have increased their willingness to use freelancers.
The coronavirus pandemic was a catalyst for this trend. But it probably has been building for a long time.
If you are in business, it’s better to pay for tasks than hours. When employers hire people as employees, there is a tacit, if not written, agreement that the employee will work, and be paid, for however many hours they are hired for.
Sure, employers can cut, or add to, an employee’s hours at will, in most cases.
But the employers are essentially paying for time. It means more security for the employee, and more obligation for the employer.
Sometimes, that security and obligation also comes in the form of non-salary benefits, adding to the employers’ costs.
When employers hire freelancers, there is no such obligation. The freelancer performs a task(s) and gets paid for that task. That’s much less secure for the worker, but, at the same time, provides more flexibility for the worker to do other things.
The ultimate flexibility for the worker is the ability to work from home. He or she may not get as much from the employer in this arrangement, but the tradeoff (no commuting to a work site, for example) may be worth it.
For some, the fear of loss of secure employment may not be desirable. Some depend on an employer’s benevolence. But, for others, being one’s own boss, essentially, provides coveted freedom.
Given issues with child care, inflation and the increasing costs of commuting, being one’s own boss, in the long run, may be a great tradeoff to the old time-for-dollars, strict schedule model.
To work successfully from home, however, you have to be sure that distractions, like children, won’t hurt your productivity. You still have to give the boss what he or she wants, when he or she needs it.
In short, the trends toward more freedom, flexibility and freelance work are coming. That may not suit everyone, but there may be little anyone can do about it.
It’s best for everyone to prepare for those trends now. That may mean staying with your on-location job and work a gig on the side. Perhaps that gig could be your answer to following the coming trends.