14 Cheap but Fun Ideas for a Valentine (or Any Time!) Date Night

Love isn’t free…that is, if you are trying to prove your love with an extravagant Valentine’s Day gift. In fact a survey from the National Retail Foundation found that Americans are expected to spend a record amount on Valentine’s Day this year…an average of $161.96, which is up 13 percent from the average in 2018.

Think quick: Where did that money go last year? We bet you don’t even remember because it was probably either wasted on an overpriced, mediocre meal at a crowded restaurant or spent on a “meh” gift like a stuffed animal or chocolates. This year, instead of spending money on stuff you don’t want or need, why not create some real memories with an activity that is both frugal and fun. Here are 14 choices we love.

  1. Get physical. Come on; we’re talking exercise. There’s not much that’s more romantic than working out with your partner—think about it; you’re in close proximity, you’re dressed down, and you’re doing something that will help you live an even longer life together. A class like yoga or Pilates can be a good choice with its relaxing combination of mindfulness and stretching, but you could also take a romantic stroll or go ice skating or roller skating. Don’t forget to hold hands during couples skate. 
  2. Cook at home. This is a no brainer…cooking together doubles as an activity and a meal. Since Valentine’s Day is the second biggest restaurant day of the year (after Mother’s Day), there’s no reason to go out with the masses when you can cook a perfectly fabulous steak or other luscious delicacy at home. 
  3. Dine out for dessert.  If you really want to eat out, your best choice is a sweet treat…you’ll spend far less than you would forking out big bucks for overpriced pasta. Less money, far more fun. Find a bakery that has your favorite desserts or go to the nicest restaurant in town and eat something decadent a deux, with a price tag that’s pretty sweet. 
  4. Sing karaoke. If there’s ever a night that calls for a power ballad duet, it’s Valentine’s. Find a local hotspot and sing your heart out to your beloved. 
  5. Go window shopping. Honestly just looking and trying on is half the fun. Go to a posh boutique or specialty store and indulge your inner fashionista by trying on clothes and shoes you’d never buy—and maybe would never even wear outside the dressing room. Or go to a thrift store and pick out comical options for your partner.
  6. See a production at a local community theater. Seek out free or low-priced local shows to have a Broadway-style evening at an affordable price.
  7. Get your paint on. Whether painting a keepsake piece of pottery or attending a “wine and paint” night where an instructor helps you create a masterpiece, getting arty together makes for a fun evening—and you’ll get to bring a souvenir home.
  8. Visit a museum. Fun fact: Many libraries have culture passes that offer free or reduced admission to local museums. 
  9. Babysit for a friend or relative. This maybe doesn’t count as the most romantic night ever, but you’ll feel good letting them have an evening out—and you can see whether parenthood appeals.
  10. Plan your dream vacation. Get on your devices and research a place you’ve always wanted to visit—or that you think your partner has always wanted to visit—and create an itinerary. Dare to dream.   
  11. Have a scavenger hunt. Make clues based on special places the two of you have been and hide them around town. Or if the weather is bad, take it indoors to a mall. 
  12. Participate in a trivia night. Many restaurants and pubs host trivia nights; make it a double date or join with some others and make a team for an information-packed night out. 
  13. Find a bar with free music. Check out the local arts paper to find a place or two that offers free music. Don’t forget to tip the musicians, though. 
  14. Huddle in with board games or a movie. Light some candles, open a bottle of wine…what more would you need? 




Millennials more mindful than their parents during the holiday season

Millennials have a more defined vision of kindness and thoughtfulness during the holiday season compared to other generations, according to new research conducted by Lovepop, a maker of handcrafted 3D paper cards.

According to a national study that questioned more than 850 people, all generations tend to agree on the “true meaning” of the holiday season, with 93 percent saying they consider “kindness” the most important aspect.

However, millennials tend to go above and beyond when it comes to demonstrating thoughtfulness during this time of year and creating new memories. According to the study, 60 percent of millennials think their definition of thoughtfulness is different than older generations, and 91 percent are more likely than any other generation to say they are “more thoughtful than their parents.”

Additionally, 80 percent of millennials say thoughtfulness means making an effort to spend time with friends and family, while 66 percent say its about creating shared experiences and another 70 percent saying its about making an effort to acknowledge the everyday efforts of those around them.

Across the study, millennials were the only generation to statistically agree they are nicer than their parents. In fact, 60 percent are more likely to put in an effort to show they care than boomers. In addition, more than half – or 54 percent – of millennial parents say they make more of an effort to teach their children kindness than their parents did for them.

The research also proves just how above and beyond millennials are going this holiday season. About 68 percent of them will travel to be with loved ones, and they will spend 44 percent more on travel than any other generation.

In addition, 25 percent of millennials plan to cover travel expenses for loved ones to be with them, while 85 percent are adopting what they deem a “difficult schedule” in order to be with loved ones.




What makes a millennial-friendly workplace?

Move over, foosball table and bean bag chairs. If your organization’s goal is to attract the next generation of workers – and it better be, given the fact that millennials are the largest generation in the workforce today, reports the Pew Research Center – you want to make sure you’ve designed a workplace that features the attributes they covet.

Of course, the good news is that the elements that make a workplace friendly to millennials actually will attract all generations; after all at our core most of us want the same things.

But the millennial generation isn’t shy about expressing their preferences, so here are some research-backed suggestions for creating the ultimate millennial-friendly workplace.

Millennials want: Training and development

The skills shortage is real, and millennials want to make sure that their abilities are keeping pace with today’s new workplace and its focus on ever-evolving expectations. In fact, nearly 90 percent of millennials say that “professional or career growth and development opportunities” is a key factor in their job satisfaction, finds a Gallup poll – and that’s surely one reason why more than three-quarters of companies are offering professional development opportunities as a way to retain employees, finds a survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Millennials want: Feedback

Forget the annual review. “Why look in the rear-view mirror when you can be looking toward the future?” millennials wonder. In fact, nearly three-quarters of those under age 30 said they that would prefer feedback either weekly or monthly, finds a PwC survey. And that’s a bonus for everyone because it allows employees to make small tweaks to their performance on an ongoing basis, rather than waiting for a deluge of information, many of which refers to incidents or behaviors that may have happened a long time ago.

Millennials want: Top-notch technology

You better ditch those balky workstations and outdated pagers: Close to half (42 percent) of millennials say they would quit a job if they had to work with substandard tech, and an overwhelming 81 percent said that the available workplace technology was a consideration when contemplating a job offer, finds “The Future Workforce” study.

Millennial want: A workplace that lives its values

In one study reported by Glassdoor, employees named “culture and values” as the No. 1 workplace factor that matters to them most. Today’s younger generations are finely tuned into corporate social responsibility (CSR), and how companies behave, but the important thing to remember anymore is that they won’t just take your word for it: They are going to rely on their own research to find the facts. In fact, the Cone Communications CSR study finds that more than three-quarters of millennials do research to make sure a company is authentic in what it claims about environmental or social issues. While the study primarily pertained to consumers’ purchasing behavior, it stands to reason they will be equally diligent about sussing out the facts before taking a job.

Millennials want: Work/life balance

It’s almost become a cliché, but millennials crave their free time. In fact, flexibility is incredibly important to them as they create a balance that works for them. And while that mean ducking out for a spin class at noon or leaving early to take advantage of great weather for a hike, it also probably means they are answering emails on the weekend. Offering them the flexibility to make their own hours (within reason, of course, if it fits with your industry) can make a huge difference in their happiness in the workplace: An environment of flexibility encourages a positive impact on overall wellbeing, health and happiness, say 82 percent, and 81 percent also said it made them more productive, finds the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey.

Millennials want: A cool workplace

Ah, yes, back to those foosball tables and beanbags. Because, as it happens, millennials do care about their work environment. Turns out that 70 percent of millennials choose their jobs based on the office space, finds the Capital One’s Work Environment Survey. The good news? The most-desired workplace design element is natural light. So let the sunshine in.




Gen Z attitudes more accepting of risk and failure in the workplace

Failure is not only accepted by Generation Z but also welcome, according to a study released this week. In fact, Gen Z attitudes reveal 80 percent think embracing failure on a particular project will lead to innovation, while 17 percent think failure leads to more comfort when taking on risk.

The study, which was done at the 22nd EY annual International Intern Leadership conference this summer, asked 1,400 Gen Z folks about the future of work as they enter the workforce. According to the results, the Gen Z generation is more eager for innovation and accepts that failure is often part of the process.

“With the next generation of our workforce not afraid to fail in order to grow and innovate, organizations should create an environment that allows them to bring their ideas forward, fail fast, and then learn from that failure,” said Natasha Stough, EY Americas Campus Recruiting Leader.

“At EY, this means embracing values like inclusiveness, collaboration, openness and flexibility that best attract these candidates and encourage them to be fearless innovators once they join us.”

Motivation and goals in the workplace

Workplace perceptions and goals were also touched on in the study. More than two-thirds of participants believe that having a curious and open mindset is more important than a specific skill or expertise. In addition, this generation isn’t afraid to look outside of their comfort zone when presented with a challenge. In fact, 24 percent answered they would be excited and honored to do so.

Gen Z is also open to feedback and learning from their mistakes. Ninety seven percent of those questioned said they’d be receptive to feedback on an ongoing basis, while 63 percent said they’d prefer timely, constructive feedback throughout the year.

Gen Z individuals do differ, though, based on gender when it comes to workplace preferences and priorities. Potential for progression and growth was important for 39 percent of respondents when looking for an employer. Competitive salary, however, was a key priority for men, while women prioritized flexible work opportunities.

Technology and teamwork

Even though tech is becoming increasingly prevalent in the workplace, more than 90 percent of those surveyed said they prefer to have a “human element” to their teams, working either with just innovative coworkers or with co-workers and technology paired together. More than twice as many males though prefer to work with tech that allows them to do their job faster and take on higher levels of work, compared to just five percent of females who agree.

Seventy-three percent of females would be more apt to ask a coworker for help with a problem to which they don’t have the answer to however, while only 63 percent of males agree. In addition, more females like to work with coworkers who can challenge and motivate them compared to their male peers.

Diverse education and skills are also critical elements to a successful team environment, according to those surveyed. Having a millennial manager also remains the preference over Gen X or Baby Boomer for 77 percent of respondents – an interesting increase over 67 percent who agreed last year.

Lastly, Gen Z thinks the future looks bright, with 65 percent saying they feel confident that financially, they’ll be better off at work than their parents – the same is said for their overall happiness.

 




For millennials, app use and financial literacy don’t go hand in hand

A recent study released last week found despite the number of financial apps millennials are using, their personal finance management skills are severely lacking.

The report, released by the TIAA Institute and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) at the George Washington University School of Business, examined the personal finance knowledge of millennials.

Titled “Millennial Financial Literacy and Fin-Tech Use: Who Knows What in the Digital Era,” the study utilized the TIAA Institute-GFLEC 2018 Personal Finance Index (P-Fin Index) to test millennials’ finance knowledge and found that 44 percent of millennials answered the P-Fin Index questions correctly, compared to 50 percent of the US adult population.

In addition, younger millennials (ages 18-27) answered 41 percent of P-Fin Index questions correctly, compared to 47 percent of older millennials (ages 28-37).

“The millennial oversample in this year’s P-Fin Index sheds a light on the use of mobile technology, and the impact that it has had on an increasingly influential generation,” said Stephanie Bell-Rose, Head of the TIAA Institute.

“As technology continues to develop ways to make our lives easier, it is clear that we cannot exclusively rely on it to guide us through our financial lives. Our research underscores the importance of financial literacy and its complementary relationship with fin-tech in producing good outcomes.”

Both older and younger millennials are hurting most in the areas of understanding risk and insuring, the study found. Understanding insurance, in particular, saw the greatest gap between younger and older millennials. Financial literacy is highest in the area of borrowing and debt management for both younger and older millennials.

The study also looked at how millennials use these apps to track their personal finances, as well as the effect of this fin-tech on financial outcomes.

About 80 percent of millennials use their smartphones to do things like pay bills and deposit checks, while 90 percent use their phones for things like tracking spending.

However, although apps make it easy to manage money, those who do via the technology don’t always make financially savvy decisions. Almost 30 percent of millennials who use their smartphone to make mobile payments report overdrawing their checking account, compared with 20 percent who do not make mobile payments.

In addition, one-quarter of those who track spending with their smartphone report overdrawing their accounts, compared with 20 percent of those who do not track spending via their smartphone.

“The low level of financial literacy among millennials speaks of the importance of equipping this large generation with the knowledge and skills that are needed to make financial decisions in the digital era,” said Annamaria Lusardi, Academic Director at GFLEC and the Denit Trust Chair of Economics and Accountancy at GW.

“This study shows that fin-tech users have different needs and characteristics, providing many opportunities for innovation for fin-tech developers.”

 

 




When millennials become the bosses: Helping generations work together

Today’s workplace is a historic mash-up, as it’s the first time we’ve had five generations in the workplace at the same time.

Of course, it’s true that the oldest cohort, the “traditionalists,” are aging out, but most generation watchers include them since their influence can still be felt in many workplace structures that continue today. And while Baby Boomers are also nearing retirement age, more workers are participating in the workforce, at least part time, for longer. And as they cling on to their former roles, Gen Z is fast approaching.

But the group that most HR professionals are attuned to are the millennials, and with good reason. Today, millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, according to the Pew Research Center. And that means that even though there are older generations still in the average office, more and more millennials are going to be “the boss,” even for these workers who are older than them.

Here are some tips that can help ease the path for generations working together.

Explain style differences.

The reality is that many of the elements that we typically think of as “millennial” in nature, such as wanting feedback and coaching, are actually prized by all generations. However, if older generations are used to an ‘”annual review,” they might worry that they are being micromanaged if they get more frequent one-on-ones. Millennial managers might consider talking to colleagues about how and when they prefer to receive feedback to make sure that the team realizes it’s for their benefit, and not to nag.

Focus on the benefits of a diverse team.

Often we think of “diversity” in terms of gender and culture, but age is a factor as well. Research shows that diverse teams produce better outcomes, and that includes having members of various ages on teams. In fact, the Randstad Workmonitor report found that 90 percent believed it was a benefit to have co-workers of different ages working together. By helping your millennial managers and their teams see the why behind diverse teams, they may be more liable to embrace them.

Beware of stereotypes.

Millennials are entitled. Baby Boomers are old fuddy duddies. It’s very easy to group every member of a generation together, but we all know that it’s rarely the case that all individuals follow a similar mold. Encourage teams to talk about what drives them and share past experiences, and avoid jumping to conclusions and assumptions about what another team member from another generation might be like. For every Gen Xer who wants a face-to-face meeting, there’s another one who’d just assume take care of all conversations on Slack. Millennial managers need to be open to finding out these individual preferences instead of assuming.

Share knowledge for a better overall product.

Older workers might have institutional knowledge that can help younger managers make better decisions and fast track projects. While no one wants to resort to a “This is how it’s always been done” mentality, it can be helpful to know what’s been tried before and learn from past lessons about why something might not have been effective. Similarly, older workers shouldn’t feel shy about asking for help with areas where they might not be as up-to-date, like lead management systems.

All generations have plenty to offer one another, so HR personnel should encourage a collaborative, rather than competitive, environment, no matter who is leading the team. Whether you institute a formal “reverse mentoring” program or just encourage colleagues to reach out to one another, teams that recognize each member can offer value are going to succeed.

The key to integrating mutigenerational work teams successfully — especially when one that is led by a younger manager — is realizing that different generations have as many similarities as they do differences. Working together can make the entire organization stronger.

 




Summer-proofing Your Exercise Routine: Six Tips for Fun and Safety

The heat is on – and that can make exercise challenging. However, there’s no reason to put your exercise habit on hold just because of the heat. It is important, however, to take some precautions to keep it pleasurable – and safe. Check out our suggestions to feel the burn, but not get burned.

 

Realize that exercising in the heat can be dangerous.

First, never downplay the risks of exercising in the heat – potential side effects include heat exhaustion and heat stroke if you aren’t careful.

 

Stay hydrated.

This is the No. 1 way to stave off the dangers mentioned in the first point. Hydration is important for sweat, which we sometimes consider a bad thing, but it’s actually the body’s natural mechanism for cooling off. That’s why you should drink plenty of water before and during your workout and then drink up throughout the day. You also can up your water intake with foods like watermelon and cucumber that have a high water content – and are refreshing, to boot.

One way to determine if you are drinking enough when exercising in the summer is to weigh yourself before and after a workout. Experts recommenddrinking 150% of the water weight you lost during the workout over the next few hours to replenish.

 

Check the forecast.

Before you head out, check the temperature to make sure it’s not too hot, but also look into the air quality. Sometimes when it’s hot, the air quality can deteriorate, which can lead to headaches or lung and breathing problems. Your town might have its own updated site, or check out AirNow, a service of the Environmental Protection Agency.

And don’t forget your sunscreenif you’re exercising outdoors.

 

Time your workouts carefully.

If you’ve never been a morning person, there’s nothing like a hot summer day to turn you into one. Many exercisers find that mornings are ideal to exercise, for the cooler temps of course, but also the pleasant byproduct of a gorgeous sunrise. And of course, if you take care of exercise first thing in the morning, you won’t be tempted to slough it off as your day gets busy.

On the flip side, some people prefer an evening workout. Just make sure you are exercising with a buddy someplace well-lighted and safe, if your session keeps you out in the dark.

And whether you’re enjoying the cool mornings or evenings, make sure you are wearing reflective clothing for safety if you are anywhere near cars.

 

Take it to the water.

Summer is the ideal time to take the plunge into learning a new water sport. Whether you want to try your hand at stand-up paddle boardingfor a core workout, kayaking for an upper body session or water skiing for an all-over burner, a new sport can keep your workout fresh – and is liable to work muscles you didn’t even know you had.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a good old pool workout if you have access. Swimming laps is a relaxing, low-impact cardio workout, and you can up the burn by doing any exercises you would do on land in the water for extra resistance, from running to arm circles.

 

Take it inside.

If you belong to a gym, summer is the perfect time to take that bike ride to a stationary peddler or your run to a treadmill. You might even learn something about your effort and stride when you pay attention to the machine’s feedback. Working with a machine also allows you to control the intensity of your workout, so throw in some hills or intervals that you might not normally encounter.

It’s also a great time to try a new class. Check out your gym’s offerings and give Zumba or spin a whirl, if you’ve never tried it. Shaking up your routine is not only more interesting, but can yield a huge fitness boost.

If you don’t belong to a gym, try the same tactic with an exercise program or DVD. Try a new workout you find online or on your cable package, or download a fitness regime that you can do on your own. Many boot camp style workouts require nothing more than your own body weight, and maybe a mat and some light weights so you can bust out those moves anytime, anywhere.

 

No matter what strategies you want to try, the important thing to remember is that it’s important to maintain your fitness program even during the lazy days of summer. Your body will thank you for it, through increased physical and mental fitness.




Five Best Practices for Onboarding New Employees

For most HR managers today, attracting and retaining employees is at the top of their list of challenges, given the current job market. So once you’ve gone through the hard work of interviewing and hiring, you want to make sure that the employee is as pleased to be working for your company as you are to have them.

And that’s where “onboarding” can come in. While most employees are eager to make a good first impression, it’s a two-way street; in other words, the first few days on the job can set the tone for those to follow and make sure that your coveted employees doesn’t defect.

The possibility is real: One survey found that a whopping one-third of employees quit within the first six months of starting a job. Here are five tips for helping your new employees start off on the right foot, increasing the chance they will stay.

  1. Begin communication even before the first day.

The interim period from when you offered the job to when they start is a key time to continue to communicate your interest. A few emails once you’ve made the offer will assure them you are delighted to have them join you – and ideally prevent them from accepting another offer since you can never be sure who else they have been talking to. You might consider introducing them to various team members or start CCing them on internal documents. Reinforce that you don’t expect them to do anything until they show up; you just want them to know that they are part of the team.

And then allay their first day jitters and the awkwardness they may feel not knowing where or when to show up. The night before they start, send them a message that gives them all the details they need for a smooth first day – from dress code norms to what time to come in to where they should park to who will be waiting to meet them and show them around.

  1. Have them complete their paperwork at home.

Most new employees start the first day sitting in a room by themselves filling out paperwork and reading about benefits. While this is crucial information, it’s smart to send these documents to them before they start. Then they can copy down their Social Security, driver’s license and other numbers in the comfort of their own home. Having their benefits information in advance also gives them ample time to carefully consider their choices. Make sure to include information on health, dental, disability, 401 (k) and any other programs you offer so they can read it at their leisure.

  1. Introduce them to a work buddy.

Being the new kid on the block means you’re often not sure where the copy machine is, how to replace the toner in the printer or how early people typically arrive for a staff meeting. New employees can be hesitant to bug colleagues with what might seem to be “silly” questions, but the sooner they understand the norms of the office, the more at ease they will feel as part of the team. Find a friendly veteran who is willing to answer these questions to help them settle in faster.

  1. Schedule an appointment with the HR team.

Once they’ve had the chance to read over all the benefits information, schedule a short meeting where they can come in and get all their questions answered. New employees might be reticent to reach out and ask details on the disability benefits or the procedure for asking for vacation days or how to get their commuting costs reimbursed. By setting aside time for them to chat with a knowledgeable representative, they will feel more comfortable availing themselves of the benefits you offer.

  1. Look at a robust onboarding program as an investment in better performance.

While training might seem to take time away from your team’s day-to-day output, remember that investing adequate time upfront to thoroughly explain your company’s procedures and answer questions is ultimately going to yield better results.

 

When you successfully onboard an employee, you’ll be sure they understand your policies and procedures and feel confident they are contributing from the start. And a confident employee is one who is going to work harder – and stick around.

 




Six Top Home Buyer Mistakes That Can Bust Your Budget – Solved

Ready to buy a home? The time could be right. In fact, in 2017, first-time buyers made up 35 percent of all home purchases, finds the 2017 National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study.

 

Buying a home will probably be the most expensive purchase you ever make, so it’s wise to make sure you’re making financially savvy moves.

 

Here are six common budget-busting mistakes first-time home buyers make and how to fix them.

 

Home Buyer Budget-Busting Mistake 1: Buying a house that needs a lot of work.

 

If the home inspection shows that you’ll soon need a big-ticket item like new windows or roof, foundation repair or an upgrade to the electrical system, you might want to reconsider – or at least ensure that the price you pay takes these costly upgrades into account. That’s because any of them can easily run you $10,000 and up, depending on the size of the job.

 

But an equally common home buyer mistake is avoiding homes that need cosmetic upgrades; say, one with unsightly wallpaper or outdated appliances. Most other home buyers might be snubbing the property, too, so it’s possible you can get a real bargain at purchase time, and then redo it to your satisfaction with some minor improvements when you move in.

 

Home Buyer Budget-Busting Mistake 2: Not thinking about the school district.

 

Don’t have kids or plan to move before they head to kindergarten? You might not even take the school district’s reputation into account, but that can be an expensive mistake when it eventually comes time to sell your home.

 

That’s because even if it doesn’t matter to you, it’s bound to matter to your future buyers. In fact, another study from NAR found that a quarter of home buyers named “school quality” as one of the most important factors in their buying decision. (This is a great site to visit for reviewing school district quality.)

 

Home Buyer Budget-Busting Mistake 3: Buying as much home as you can afford.

 

The mortgage amount that you are approved for and the amount you want to spend each month might not be the same. In fact, many new home buyers suddenly find themselves “house poor” when they stretch themselves to a house payment that’s at the limit of what they can comfortably afford.

 

Before committing to a loan amount, scrutinize your budget and see what areas you might have to cut back on – and if you’re willing to do so – from a weekly date night to a summer vacation. Also, don’t forget that a home purchase comes with a host of expenses that you might not be used to, from buying a lawn mower and new furniture, to paying for maintenance and repairs.

 

Home Buyer Budget-Busting Mistake 4: Not shopping around for a mortgage.

Finding out your options can save you a ton over the life of your loan. That’s because there are a crazy number of loan programs available — from conventional 30-year loans to Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs), FHA loans and others. Each one has pros and cons so make sure you work with a mortgage specialist who can help you understand the true cost of the loan, both in monthly payments and over the life of the loan. Sometimes a shorter term can save you big bucks in significantly lower interest payments over the time you own your home.

And, shopping around might save you angst, too. J.D. Power’s Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study found that customers who received two or more quotes were more satisfied than those who settled on the first one they received.

 

Home Buyer Budget-Busting Mistake 5: Not using a real estate agent.

 

Think that it’s too expensive to use the services of a professional real estate agent? Think again! That’s because some first time home buyers don’t realize that it’s the seller who pays the real estate commissions. And as a buyer, you need to remember that the seller’s agent is “working” for them. That’s why it’s smart to have your own counsel to help negotiate the home price in your favor. After all, it’s free, so why not use a trained professional who can help you make the most of your home-buying budget?

 

Home Buyer Budget-Busting Mistake 6: Not considering location logistics.

 

“Location, location, location” is an old adage in real estate, which means that where you buy is at least as important as what you buy. And that can certainly be true throughout the process. Hot neighborhoods (and yes, those school districts again!) can spark increased resale value, but it’s also important to think through your lifestyle and what you and your partner or family needs.

For example, if you buy a home that’s not near mass transit, you might end up racking up whopping bills on commuting costs, from gas to parking. Or, if all your child’s favored activities are a long ways away, you might end up becoming the definition of a Mom Taxi – and the car wear and tear that accompanies it. Finally, if you’re used to doing errands on foot, you’ll want to make sure your new location is pedestrian friendly. (You can check the “Walk Score” of your area here.)

With a little advance planning, you can make sure that the biggest purchase of your life is also the wisest.




Educating Employees About Disability Insurance? Ask Them 5 Questions

HR leader educating a group of employees.Employers are offering more and more voluntary benefits—and workers want these benefits. A 2017 study showed that nearly one third of eligible employees were signing up for voluntary offerings (that’s a higher participation rate than in earlier years). 

Amy Hollis is the national leader of voluntary benefits for HR consultancy Willis Towers Watson. She recently spoke to Workforce about their recent survey. It shows that 70 percent of employers claim voluntary benefits will be an important part of their value proposition in coming years. “Companies are using voluntary benefits to enrich their offerings without additional cost,” she said.

While there is a win-win element to this—it’s a good economic choice for both employers and employees—the story finishes with a stark warning. Rob Shestack, chairman and CEO of the Voluntary Benefits Association in Philadelphia says that HR teams need to be ready to educate. “The most frustrating thing is when HR makes the effort to provide these programs then does passive enrollment,” he says. “It’s like saying you don’t care if people use them or not.”

When it comes to disability insurance, education is that much more important. James Reid of CDA member company MetLife argues something similar in a story in Benefit News:While employees have a general idea of the benefits they use most often (medical, dental or vision), they don’t always grasp the value or need for some of the other benefits which may be available to them (disability or accident insurance, for example).”

Disability insurance is one of the most critical forms of coverage for working Americans—and one of most overlooked. Part of the problem is that people simply don’t understand how relevant it is for modern life

Here are five questions you can ask as a framework for understanding what disability insurance is: 

1. What does disability mean in this context?

Many people hear the word disability and assume it only means catastrophic health issues. In fact, disability can refer to a broken leg from a skiing accident, a pulled back while cleaning out your garage, a cancer diagnosis, or a pregnancy that can put an employee out of work for days, weeks, or months at a time.

Share the five most common reasons that keep people out of work for long periods: Pain in the back and neck, cancer, complications from pregnancy, and mental health issues all rank before accidental injuries, which many assume is the leading cause of disability. You can also share infographics.

2. What are the statistical chances of becoming disabled?

Eighty percent of us live with optimism bias. That’s to say we don’t have a realistic understanding of the risk of becoming ill or injured. This is particularly at work with the younger generations who have grown up with some of the most supportive parents in modern history.

These are the numbers: According to the Social Security Administration, more than one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will be out of work for a year or more for a variety of reasons before they reach normal retirement age. This includes common health conditions such as knee, shoulder, or back injuries, cancer, heart problems, or depression.

Add to that the fact that nearly six percent of workers every year will experience a short-term disability due to illness, injury, or pregnancy. Three quarters of these claims last up to two and a half months, and the rest can last for up to six months or a year.

3. How would you pay your bills?

Ask rhetorical questions as you educate: Will an employee be able to pay their mortgage, phone bill or contribute to their health insurance or retirement plans should a pregnancy, illness, or injury take them out of work for a few days, weeks, or more? This is about laying the foundations for their long-term financial stability.  

Data from the Federal Reserve shows that 40 percent of Americans do not have enough savings to pay for an unexpected $400 bill. Disability insurance pays a portion of someone’s salary when they need to miss work due to an illness, injury, or having a baby. For those who are single, disability insurance is the second most important insurance they can carry after health insurance. And if employees have a family that depends upon them, this insurance gives them an income stream if they need to leave work.

4. What does Workers’ Comp and SSDI cover?

Employees need a realistic understanding of the various safety nets that are in place should they become ill or injured—so they can make an informed decision:

  • Workers’ Compensation: Workers’ Comp only applies to accidents done on the worksite. Disabling illnesses or injuries are much more likely to be non-occupational in origin, which would rule out that coverage.
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): The Social Security Administration provides Social Security disability benefits for eligible individuals who have a disability that lasts for one year or longer. Many applicants are denied due to a lack of work history, lack of medical evidence, the temporary nature of their condition, or the fact that people may still be able to work outside of their profession. There are three important things to bear in mind: 1) workers who become disabled off-the-job won’t always qualify for SSDI, 2) they can face average wait times of 600 days for a hearing (that’s nearly two years), and 3) if they do eventually get benefits, the monthly amount (averaging around $1,200, based on the most recent data) probably isn’t enough to help them keep up with their ongoing expenses.  

5. If you want to start a family—what is your financial plan for maternity leave?

If your company doesn’t offer paid maternity leave, this is an important point to raise with women in the workforce. Disability insurance is a critical benefit for many new mothers in the U.S. Indeed, pregnancy is the most common cause of short-term disability (STD) claims. Plans typically cover two weeks before and six weeks after a routine pregnancy. 

Here’s an important note: One of the major differences between pregnancy and other types of disability claims is predictability. For a healthy woman, purchasing coverage through their workplace in anticipation of a planned pregnancy can be a fairly easy transaction. The key is that they buy coverage before they become pregnant. This way there is little risk of underwriting issues or denial of their claim due to a pre-existing condition limitation. (Read more on this here.)

By asking these questions, you can broaden the minds of your employees and give them the larger context of how disability insurance works in real life. That way, it isn’t just vague words on a list in a company intranet.  

To learn more about disability insurance, or to offer your colleagues further reading, guide them to our new consumer microsite: RealityCheckup.org