May 31, 2016
Going Abroad? Is Currency a Work of Art?
As Squared Away readers scatter to the winds this summer, those going overseas should take a close look at the currencies in their travel destinations.
There are some gorgeous currencies out in the world, in places like Sao Tome & Principe off of the coast of Gabon in West Africa. June begins peak season for the island country, which The Lonely Planet says has a relaxed “leve leve” vibe to go with its miles of beaches, “swaths of emerald rainforest, soaring volcanic peaks and mellow fishing villages.”
Sao Tomean Dobra
Currency as art is a refreshing contrast to U.S. currencies, with their button-down images of presidents and buildings. Try the red-billed kingfisher bird on Sao Tome & Principe’s 50,000 dobra – or the curved bow of the boat on Norway’s 100 kroner note.
These were among the currencies selected by the coupon website, Couponbox.com, for its recent spotlight on the world’s “10 most beautiful banknotes.” To see the others, click here. …Learn More
May 24, 2016
Find Best Job Market with Online Tool
This online tool for exploring urban job markets is very cool.
It could be a big help for high school and college graduates looking for work, especially those willing to migrate to a new city and trying to figure where to go. What’s unique about it is that it ranks the nation’s large, mid-sized, and small cities based on the user’s personal preferences.
To use the tool, created by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), the job hunter decides how high to rank the importance – from 5 (most important) to 1 (not important) – of nine different aspects of the job market and lifestyle in their ideal city: low unemployment, high average earnings, high labor force participation, public transportation, highly educated peers, low rent, high diversity, plentiful bars and restaurants, and many arts and entertainment options.
To test it, I selected a 5 for low unemployment and high labor force participation and a 1 for everything else (the bar scene, public transit, diversity etc.). Cities like Minneapolis, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Austin came up as the best cities, when these two job-market criteria were most important.
AIER also compares different cities in a report, which is available here.
Of course, other things are important when relocating. But the tool forces job hunters to balance their priorities – a strong job market or a good bar scene? To play around with AIER’s gadget, click here.Learn More
May 19, 2016
Quiz: Financial Well-being or Unease?
What does it mean to have a sense of financial well-being? Or what does it mean to have its opposite, financial uneasiness?
Based on in-depth interviews with dozens of people in focus groups, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has developed a financial well-being quiz. The quiz is the agency’s attempt to quantify a very subjective concept so that researchers can measure it and integrate this measure into their research, said Genevieve Melford, a senior research analyst for the CFPB.
“It’s about creating a tool that allows meaningful research and effective interventions that might help people,” she said.
We think regular people can also gain personal insight by taking a short version of the CFPB’s quiz on this blog. After taking the quiz, write down your score, and return to the blog to learn what it means.
May 5, 2016
To Escape Stress, Some Workers Retire
Call it the “fed-up factor” – the uncomfortable circumstances at work that spur some older people to retire, sometimes prematurely.
Squared Away’s readers recently shared their personal experiences in comments posted to a blog post about three job characteristics, identified by researchers, that are linked to earlier retirements: stress, inflexibility, and increasing demands.
Working in the healthcare field has had unique stresses – at high levels – for one reader, Elin Zander, a dietician. Stress “is experienced by clinicians trying to provide quality care in an ever more difficult environment,” she said. “That is why I will retire as soon as I can afford to.”
Paul Brustowicz and his wife both retired to remove themselves from uncomfortable situations – her retirement was to relieve her stress from working as a manager in the demanding healthcare field. As for Brustowicz, “an abrupt change in management with a supervisor who treated me like a newcomer changed by mind,” he said. He had planned to work until 68 but didn’t make it to 67 in his non-managerial job as a training professional for a life insurance company.
John Schmidt’s stress came in working as a high-tech consultant after 30 years in the field – though not for obvious reasons. …Learn More
April 19, 2016
Seeking Roommate to Share Bills
Maria Machado estimates that women over 50 make up about three out of four of the Dallasites seeking to cut their living expenses either by renting out a room in their home or by renting from a homeowner.
Shared housing often isn’t their first choice. “We like our independence,” said Machado, head of the Shared Housing Center, a non-profit roommate matching service in Dallas. But “house rich and money poor” older women will turn to house-sharing when they become widowed or if Social Security is their sole source of retirement income, she said. Companionship is another benefit of match-ups, whether with another senior or a younger adult.
The Shared Housing Center is part of a national network of programs matching up homeowners with responsible, low-income adult renters. In another form of house-sharing, two or a group of people will pool their resources to buy a house and share the mortgage, upkeep costs, and taxes.
The network created a website, the National Shared Housing Resource Center, that lists agencies in 23 states providing these services. Many major cities (though not Atlanta or Detroit) have agencies, and several states have more than one (California has a dozen). Many programs in the network conduct background checks, the website says.
To find a house-sharing program in your city, click here. To read about “success stories,” click here and here.
Jamie Hopkins predicted “the Golden Girls scenario” will become more common as baby boomers age, and he recommended it as an option in his new book, “Retirement Risks: How to Plan Around Uncertainty for a Successful Retirement.”
Homeowners “say, ‘I’m going to live here as long as I can, and that’s my plan.’ But if people want to age in place, you’ve got to come up with a way to generate income from this asset.” …Learn More
March 22, 2016
Rise in Fraud Reports is Unrelenting
A nearly three-fold increase over the past decade in the number of fraud and related complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission has pushed the total to 1.7 million filings in 2015, according to the government’s consumer 2015 data book released this month.
As Squared Away reported recently, older Americans are often the most vulnerable, as their cognitive abilities decline or they become more socially isolated. Not surprisingly, the FTC said Florida had the highest rate of reported fraud per resident last year (followed by Georgia, Michigan, Texas, and Nevada).
One reason for the increase in complaints is that people are increasingly aware of fraud and more likely to report it. Another is that fraud-reporting agencies such as law enforcement and consumer groups are increasingly aware they can file complaints with the FTC. But 1.7 million allegations of fraud, identity thefts, and other scams is, by any yardstick, a lot of complaints.
The typical loss was $400 for an individual fraud complaint. There is evidence that more people are getting savvy: a smaller share of the people who filed 2015 complaints said they turned over any money to their scammers than in previous years. … Learn More
February 16, 2016
Can You Pass this Retirement Quiz?
Most people in a recent retirement survey fielded by the American College of Financial Services were confident that they had saved enough money to live in comfort in retirement.
But how do they know if they’re on-track? Four out of five also flunked the survey’s retirement planning quiz, answering less than 60 percent of its 38 financial questions correctly.
What’s striking about the poor results is that the quiz takers were a select and relatively well-off group: 60- to 75-year-olds with at least $100,000 in financial assets, excluding their home equity. A majority of them also have a financial adviser. One would think that people with both investment and retirement experience would do better. This also raises the question of what the quiz results say about the financial outlook for retirees with fewer advantages.
Think you can do better? With the American College’s permission, Squared Away selected five of its questions for a short quiz for our readers. Some of the answers incorporate the American College’s expertise with that of the Center for Retirement Research, which supports this blog.