March 2018

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Creating Paths to Latino-owned Business

Rank-and-file workers’ wages have barely gone up since the 2008-09 recession, despite a U.S. job market firing on all cylinders for several years.

Latinos struggle more than most. Take restaurant workers. They are overrepresented in an industry that expanded rapidly post-recession, putting hundreds of thousands of cooks, waiters, and busboys to work. But “those are some of the worst jobs” says Carmen Rojas, who heads The Workers Lab in Oakland, which supports small entrepreneurs.

Food-service and other low-paying jobs not only lack benefits and security but typically don’t invest heavily in training and don’t provide upward mobility, “proving what it means to debase the promise of work away from opportunity and toward survival,” said Marie Mora of the University of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley.

She and Rojas were panelists at a recent Aspen Institute event to discuss Latino economic challenges and solutions. The focus was on new avenues to increasing their presence among small businesses, which are a good fit for their particular interests, needs, and culture.

There are, of course, extraordinary models of success in the Latino community. Maria Rios emigrated from El Salvador as a teenager and has the gumption of a character in a 19th century Horatio Alger novel. In the early years of her multi-million-dollar recycling and waste company in Houston, she drummed up commercial clients by showing up and pointing out their overflowing dumpsters.  “When I see trash, I see opportunity!” she says on Nation Waste Inc.’s website.

“I feel that if I did it, anybody can do it,” she told the other panelists and audience. …Learn More

spring break

New Use for College Loans: Spring Break!

Yup, more than half of college students are using some of their student loan money to pay for spring break.

It’s the peak season, and 21st century ingenuity is being applied to the age-old problem of paying for college trips to popular, sunny climates like Miami and Cabos San Lucas in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.  LendEdu decided to do a survey to answer a question that Mike Brown put so succinctly in his blog:

How can “so many students living on a shoestring budget afford to go on a not-so-cheap weeklong getaway”?

The mechanism allowing this can be found in college financial aid offices, which funnel loan money directly to students after, wisely, deducting tuition and fees.

Fifty-one percent of the students who were surveyed are financing their beer, hotels, and air fares with another popular source: parents. Spring break is typically paid for with whatever they can scrape together from parents, loans, and part-time jobs – frequently in that order.

LendEdu, a New Jersey credit card and student loan refinancing firm, hired Pollfish for its March survey of 1,000 college juniors nationwide who have student loans and are planning spring break 2018.

Brown is 24 and earned his University of Delaware degree in 2016. His parents paid for his Cancún trip during junior year, and he did not have to use his loans, which he’s still paying off.

“If my parents found out I was using that loan check to pay for spring break, they would’ve had a couple words with me,” he said.Learn More


Boomers are Longing to Retire Overseas

Australia, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Ecuador, Belize, Nicaragua – our readers living all over the world, or planning to, shared their experiences in comments posted to a February blog, “The Ultimate Travel: Retiring Abroad.”

The article profiled a Houston couple on the verge of retiring who are systematically exploring cities that interest them in Panama and Costa Rica. Few blogs have elicited so many comments – no doubt because thoughts of retiring overseas are more fun than worrying about whether the 401(k) account has enough money in it.

The success of retiree Dennis Desmond and his wife’s relocation to Australia makes it hard to resist temptation. “The weather here is incredible, the people are fantastically friendly, and the scenery is wonderful,” Desmond said in his comment.

But the picture isn’t all roses. William Pederson wrote in his comment that he knows five couples who’ve moved overseas and returned stateside. “You get what you pay for,” he said.

Here’s more of the fun stuff, and a few downsides, from our readers: …Learn More

floating girl

Dreams of Retirement? Watch for Pitfalls

Early last year, a client who was a month away from retiring walked into Matthew Jackson’s office and asked him to manage his money. Then the client started pulling financial statements out of a folder and slid them across the desk.

“I’m excited for you,” Jackson recalled was his first reaction. “But let’s talk more about what you want to do with your money, rather than want you want to do for your money.”

The client “looked at me and then past me. In 4 or 5 seconds he said, ‘Matt I have no idea.’”

To prod others into weighing this critical question for themselves, Jackson wrote a book, “The Retirement Dreammaker: Master the Art of Retirement Abundance.”

And the dream maker is not Jackson – it’s you.

People facing impending retirement are about to hop on a wild ride that will take them from the emotional high of having the freedom to do whatever they like to an unfamiliar low: no job to give them purpose.  Because of that, Jackson is on a mission to warn baby boomers they need to really prepare emotionally for retirement, just as they should prepare financially. (A financial planner turned financial coach, Jackson’s new book also includes a financial chapter.)

“The ultimate freedom is the freedom to follow your purpose,” he said in an interview.

Jackson’s goal in trying to help people who don’t prepare emotionally is not simple but boils down to this: he does not “pump people up – rah-rah.” He prefers to warn of the six retirement pitfalls: …Learn More

couple at breakfast

Retirement – Ripped from the Headlines!

When Squared Away first went live almost seven years ago, few reporters in the mainstream media wrote regularly about retirement.  Things have really changed.

The Washington Post recently declared a “new reality of old age in America.” The New York Times and The Boston Globe have regular retirement writers. Even The New Yorker – the go-to read for the aging but still hip – dived in and investigated an abhorrent case involving an abused elderly woman.

Retirement is a hot topic, because some 10,000 boomers have been retiring daily for years – in fact, the media frequently cite this statistic – and an unprecedented number of the boomers who still work are thinking a lot about whether or when to stop.

This blog publishes twice a week, and I don’t have time for the in-depth investigations I did as a Boston Globe reporter. But plenty of newspaper and magazine reporters are exploring retirement issues in great detail.

Here are five of the best articles in recent months:

The New Yorker: “How the Elderly Lose their Rights”:
Metropolitan newspapers often cover local nursing homes charged with elder abuse. This lengthy article is about one government-appointed guardian’s abuse of one elderly woman. This extreme case carries a larger message: how readily some people take advantage of the most vulnerable elderly.

The New York Times: “There’s Community and Consensus. But it’s No Commune.”
Here’s some good news: rather than funnel older people into housing strictly for the elderly, multigenerational “co-housing” developments offer children of the 1960s a place to live, where they can remain engaged with younger people – and society.

The Atlantic: “This is What Life Without Retirement Savings Looks Like”:
Analyses by our research center here at Boston College find that about half of working Americans should have enough money to retire.  But the other half of retirees will rely solely on their Social Security. This woman, age 76, had to go to work at a grocery store to supplement her income. …Learn More

stock market chart

Stock Market Jitters, Millennials? Relax

Back in December, the Vanguard Group predicted a stock market that would “remain placidly subdued” in 2018.   What a difference two months has made.

A Morgan Stanley analyst, echoing many on Wall Street, has now declared, “The long-anticipated return of [stock market] volatility has arrived.”  The Standard & Poor’s index of 500 stocks slid 10 percent in a few days in late January and early February, bounced back, and then dropped again last week: the S&P declined another 2 percent, and the Dow index was down even more, by 3 percent.

No one can predict the future, of course – not Vanguard or Morgan Stanley.  “Time will tell,” the analyst said.  But while baby boomers have been thrown around by the stock market and witnessed a recovery in their portfolios, young adults might not be so chill.

Here are some earnest words of comfort, Millennials: you are truly the lucky ones. …Learn More

older workers

Future ‘Retirees’ Plan to Work

Most people used to sign up for Social Security when they were fairly young – around 62, which is the earliest age allowed. Not today: fewer than 40 percent are filing for benefits at that age.

text box calloutSo what else are we doing differently?  Well, working in retirement is high on the list.

About one in three Americans calling themselves retired in a new AARP survey have worked or now work in part-time, seasonal and sporadic jobs or sometimes full-time.

Keeping in mind that people don’t always do what they’d planned, boomers’ expectations for work exceed what current retirees are doing. Well over half of workers over 50 plan to find some kind of work after they retire.

The seeming oxymoron – working “retirees” – plays out in various ways.  State and local government workers retire as early as their 50s if they’ve worked enough years to max out their pensions. Some of these civil servants find other jobs while collecting a pension. Boomers who’ve left career jobs but lack a pension cut back to part-time work in their field or find a full- or part-time job in a new field.

Money is a major reason, with a notable exception. Some people work into their late 60s or 70s because they just enjoy it. They’re usually the most educated and frequently see their jobs as a labor of love that sustains their personal growth, professional identities, or relationships. …Learn More