Reversing Burnout Series :: Nailing Your To-Be List

by Peter Atherton, AE Growth and Impact Expert, Consultant, Speaker, Author of Reversing Burnout
The Win-Win: Life Balance for High Performing Workers,  Sustained Growth for Your Organization


The previous parts of this series included  mastering the pastseeing our own big picture, and knowing when it may be time to pivot have helped us know where we stand.  We can continue to use our “margin” time to map out the places we would like to be in terms of our career, relationship with family and friends, finances, personal growth and development, and our connection to others.  In order to effectively design the path to connect us to our best selves and better future, we need to be sure of our starting point and the obstacles that could be in our way.


 

Imagine Your Best Self

Imagine how much more content and less stressful life would be if you could “do you” really well and effectively… and do so ALL the time?
The first steps in the process is to imagine being your best self, and for most this includes:

  • doing excellent work
  • doing what we do best every day
  • growing and advancing
  • having a life and impact beyond our career alone

The good news is that these are ALL possible and in our control.  Once we imagine them, we can begin to take the necessary steps to realize them.


 

Get in the Flow

Getting in the flow of our best selves will typically require that we answer “yes” to the following:

  • Do I strive for excellence at work?
  • Do I routinely deploy my best skills, talents, assets, gifts, and experiences?
  • Do I seek opportunities to continuously grow personally and professionally?
  • Am I known and revered outside the office?

These are high bars for sure… but don’t we all at least have that small voice inside reminding us that we aspire to achieve them?… and don’t we also want to inspire others to reach for these too? At any given time, we fall short… but at any given time we can also close the gap.


 

Analyze the Gap

We can perform a gap analysis and design a strategy to close the gap once we know: where we stand, where we want to be, and what’s holding us back. The previous parts of this series related to mastering our pastseeing our own big picture, and knowing when it may be time to pivot have helped us know where we stand.   We can continue to use our “margin” time to map out the places we would like to be in terms of our career, relationship with family and friends, finances, personal growth and development, and our connection to others. In order to design the path to connect us to our best selves and better future, we need to be sure of our starting point and the obstacles that could be in our way.

If you answered “no”, “I don’t know”, or “I’m not sure” then ask “why” at least four times to get to the root issue.

For example, why don’t I strive for excellence at work the way I once did?

  • Answer: I don’t really feel it anymore.  Why?
  • Answer: I have lost my motivation.  Why?
  • Answer: I’m doing the same old thing.  Why?
  • Answer: The work is the work and nobody is talking to me about anything different.

Real issues to be considered:  Loss of efficacy, burnout, disengagement, no paths available for growth, employee connected with an ineffective boss.

 

Another example:

I can’t say that I routinely deploy my best skills, talents, assets, gifts, and experiences.  Why?

  • Answer:  They’re not called for in my job.  Why?
  • Answer:  Ok, it is expected that I keep growing and leverage my work skills, talents, and experiences on the job, but not that other stuff.  Why?
  • Answer:  That’s just not part of the work; work and life are mostly compartmentalized.  Why?
  • Answer:  I guess that’s just the way it’s always been.

Real Issues to be considered: a lack of awareness of what each of these elements are and/or a lack of knowledge on how best to develop and leverage them to improve engagement, growth, and performance in today’s workplace. Once we know the real reasons for each of the “non-yes” questions above, we can begin to retarget toward the places we want to be.

 


 

Take Action

Identify three steps to move closer to where you want to be in terms of work, family and friends, finances, personal growth and development, and connections with others. As a way to get started, many high-achieving professionals and business owners identify steps from answering some version of the following questions. Take one step toward your targets each week… and then keep going.

Work: In terms of work, it could be establishing a long-term career plan and then sitting down with your supervisor to begin a new dialogue about creating a better future.   

  • What stops me from excelling at work?
  • Does work allow me to see, develop, and leverage my skills, talents, assets, gifts, and experiences?  If not, what other pursuits would allow me to develop and deploy them?

Family and Friends: In terms of family and friends, it could be scheduling a date-night with your significant other or picking up the phone to call a friend to make plans.

  • Do I have all the relationships I want at home and with friends?
  • Are the relationships I have in development, growing, maturing, or peaking phases… or are they in a decline and in need of a refresh?

Finances: In terms of finances, it could be establishing that long-term plan for more financial freedom.  

  • Do I have a savings and retirement “number”?  Am I on track?
  • Does my income exceed my expenses… and how can I increase the former and decrease (and avoid adding to) the latter to create more financial freedom?

Personal Growth and Development: In terms of personal growth, it can be reading a book, subscribing to a podcast, and committing to an exercise plan.

  • Am I growing personally, spiritually, and in terms of my physical health?
  • Am I taking on new experiences that push me out of my “comfort zone” and expand my horizons?

Connection with Others: In terms of connecting with others, it could be reaching out to a local non-profit to take a tour and learn more.

  • Do I know my passions outside of my work and family?
  • Am I learning more about issues that upset me and the causes that inspire me?… and am I taking action to make a difference?

Once we retarget, we can develop our “to-do” list and begin to bridge the gaps.  This process of moving forward step by step helps us to revitalize.

  • Begin to Revitalize  

 

In my case, in order to stay on track and begin to realize the full life I desired, I needed to see all my priorities at once.  To do so, I redesigned my weekly “to-do” list.  A previously “all-work” list transformed to a 6-box list with 2 columns and 3 rows with a “to-do” box related to: work, family, personal growth, professional growth, non-profit and community connection activities, and other items related to miscellaneous appointments, errands, or home projects.

Well informed and developed “to-do” lists can be designed to take us from where we are to where we want to be.   Taking action is what moves us to become our best self.   We can celebrate each step toward our targets as one step closer to being able to say… “nailed it!”


 

This article originally appeared on ActionsProve

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Reversing Burnout Series :: Knowing When to Pivot

by Peter Atherton, AE Growth and Impact Expert, Consultant, Speaker, Author of Reversing Burnout
The Win-Win: Life Balance for High Performing Workers,  Sustained Growth for Your Organization


Many of us have a sense that something may be off. That is, we may be tracking off-course, or that we may not even be on the right track anymore.  As a result, many of us are considering whether we need to pivot.
Given the desperate need for good talent and the high cost of employee turnover in today’s job market, this is a scary proposition for many employers. It shouldn’t be, however, if they are seeking to truly engage and develop their employees.

The fact is, some form of “pivoting” is the only way to avoid a decline.  Even if we know we are on the right track, we need to continuously pivot to progress and refresh along the way. Individuals who understand growth cycles, work-life seasons, and what is means to live a full life will be positioned to enjoy continued growth and success at the office and beyond.  When top talent has the choice to stay, be engaged, and grow, employers will be more apt to embrace cycles and design strategies to support that demand, and create opportunities for growth.


 

Cycles Within the Cycle

Just like cell regeneration patterns and planetary movements, as humans, we have growth changes within our overall career life cycles.  Over the course of my 24-years as a professional engineer, there were several sets of “learning and development”, “growth”, and “peaking” stages at each level of career advancement.  My movement from project engineer to project manager to principal to senior executive to “what’s next” were clearly marked in 5-year increments.  Each cycle along the path was critical to keeping me moving forward.


“Knowing exactly when to begin the pivot or refresh process requires the knowledge of cycles, vision of where you want to be, and the courage to act.”

 -Peter C. Atherton


 

The Personal Refresh

High-achievers, in general, follow a similar pattern of continuous growth through a series of advancements. Traditional leaders and organizations encourage and endorse this. However, especially today when is it clear that top talent wants more than just traditional success, this approach is short-sighted.  Once we’ve “mastered our craft” and “made our name,” pure professional pursuits begin to lose luster, even for the most driven employees.  Many successful professionals and business owners with 15 or more years of experience are feeling discontentedburned-out, and disengaged with business as usual.

Personal career stagnation can occur and a “personal refresh” needed, even when their organization has taken intentional steps to improve workflow and culture, .  This reset is needed personal growth and development that provides balance for our professional success. Once refreshed, we are in a position to regain perspective on both our lives and careers. Only then can we begin to develop a plan for continued and sustained success.  That success could be continuing on our current path, refreshing in place, or pivoting in a new direction. Without some form of continuous personal growth and development (or at least mid-career reboot), we are likely to realize the fate of most senior staffers and leaders in terms of losing emotional intelligence.

Regaining and maintaining our self and overall personal awareness is key to our overall professional growth and effectiveness.


 

The Process

The process of a refresh or a pivot is just that – a process.  The optimal time for either option is during the later portions of a growth phase. The goal is to continually push off the peaking and decline stages as illustrated in the graph below.

This is a process. To get through it, I needed a time-out with patience, support and tough love.  Allowing myself this opportunity,  helped me to understand where my  professional and personal interests and passions intersected. Ultimately, it pushed me to design a pivot from a comfortable and lucrative career I could have coasted in for decades.  This process is ideally done with the aid of an experienced coach, one who can guide you through the various steps and customize them for your unique career path, personal situation, and work-life seasons.  You can view some tips for starting your refresh on my blog as well.


 

This article originally appeared on ActionsProve

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How Companies Can Ensure Employees Feel Supported While on Leave


By Gene Lanzoni, Marketing, Thought Leadership, Customer Insights 
The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America


 

With the expansion of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) more than a decade ago, employers have become more aware of their responsibilities with not only how to stay compliant, but the role they play in helping employees return to work. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lost productivity due to absenteeism in the U.S. cost employers $225.8 billion annually, or $1,685 per employee. In today’s competitive labor market, many employers are looking for ways to retain their employees and adopting leave practices that help employees return to work from an extended absence due to injury or disability is becoming a priority.

As such, employers are responding with more personalized leave management and more robust stay-at-work (SAW) accommodations. Guardian’s most recent biennial Absence Management Activity Index and Study–“The Value of Leave Management Integration,” found three in four employers with a high level of return-to-work (RTW) and SAW programs reported decreased absenteeism, compared to only 40% of companies with no formal SAW program.

Guardian’s study also reveals employers are paying greater attention to the employee experience, one that offers a more supportive environment with additional flexibility, resources, and education. Employers seeking to upgrade their absence management programs to generate positive outcomes like high employee satisfaction and retention should consider the following:

Better Return-to-Work and Stay-at-Work Accommodations 

While it’s important to communicate with employees throughout their disability leave, it’s equally important to provide them with a smooth transition back to work. Employers should establish a strong RTW program that guides employees in a way that makes them feel supported. Guardian’s study indicates 70% of employees who completed an RTW program feel their employer cares about them. Additionally, companies that have four to six RTW initiatives see a 78% reduction in lost time, compared with 48% of companies that have no RTW initiatives. 

Employers have become more aware of their responsibilities under the ADA and are identifying ways to help their employees stay at work following an absence. These activities have expanded beyond traditional vocational rehabilitation to include interactive processes, transitional work plans, and worksite modifications to accommodate employees with disabilities. Providing employees with resources like nurse case management and duration guidelines can help reduce the likelihood of a relapse. Guardian’s study found organizations with the most comprehensive RTW programs appear to achieve greater success reducing lost time and improving employee retention. 


Flexibility and Personalization Go a Long Way 

Today’s technology makes it easy to communicate and inform a company’s workforce through various channels. So, it’s not surprising our study reveals that the accessibility of information has a great influence on employees when they are on leave. Every employee has a preference of how they’d like to communicate with their employer about leave, and Guardian’s study finds the majority of employees prefer to have 24/7 access to personal and mobile communications.

Employers that leverage new technology, including automated dialers, text messaging and chats are leaders in the absence management space because they demonstrate a willingness to accommodate to an employee’s schedule and individual needs. In fact, Guardian’s study reveals 21% of Index leaders use automated dialing technology, compared with 9% that lag on program improvements. The same goes for interactive voice response systems – 16% of Index leaders leverage this technology, compared with only 7% of those that rank lower in the Index. 

At the end of the day, many employees want to work for a company they feel cares about their well-being and that will help them navigate the journey through their disability. The data collected from Guardian’s Absence Management Activity IndexSM and Study supports the notion that employers who prioritize these programs see positive results in employee satisfaction and overall retention.


Unless otherwise noted, the source of all information is from the 2019 Guardian Absence Management Activity Index℠ and Study – “The Value of Leave Management Integration.




The Path to Financial Literacy

path to financial literacy

Financial literacy is not something that just happens to you.  In fact, it is a skill that involves education and practice.  And while you might believe you are financially literate because you make and stick to a budget, in reality, it is so much more than that. On the path to financial literacy, having a budget is but one of the many steps in the right direction toward being financially responsible. But being financially literate involves practicing and building on the skills you need to make sound decisions with your finances over a long period of time.

If you are a young or newly independent adult just starting out in the world, you will likely feel daunted by the trend in today’s high cost of living, especially if you are entering the workforce and learning what it means to balance new income with your new expenses. In fact, a recent survey from Merrill Lynch/Age Wave finds that 70 percent of adults aged 18 to 34 depend on their parents financially—whether for everyday expenses, like cell phones and groceries, or even rent or mortgage.  Despite this help, the survey found three-quarters of millennials define adulthood as being on their own financially.  So if this is the case for you, certainly you’re not alone.  

How Can You Build Financial Literacy? 

The topic of financial literacy is a timely one – April is National Financial Literacy Month – and here we provide some concepts for you to think about on your journey to a more financially literate future.

Create a Budget Consider Disability + Life Insurance
Start an Emergency Fund Plan for a Home Purchase
Check Your Credit Protect Your Apartment or Home
Maximize Retirement Options

Understand Your Health Insurance

Learn to Invest

Create a Budget

A personal monthly budget allows you to plan for how you’ll spend and/or save your money each month and also keep track of your spending patterns. Creating a budget may not sound exciting, it’s an important exercise in keeping your finances in order.

With a budget, you can begin to prioritize your spending and better manage your money and financial future.

Start an Emergency Fund

Charging an unexpected expense on a credit card can be financially devastating as high interest charges accrue. And yet, only 40 percent of Americans say they could cover an unexpected $1,000 bill with savings. While that sounds high, you could easily be hit with a staggering bill in one visit to the emergency room, the vet or the car repair shop. Building an emergency fund cushions the blow so you don’t have to rely on your credit card—or your parents.

Check Your Credit

What you don’t know can hurt you…and your financial future. We’re talking about your credit score…and if you’re like half of Americans, you haven’t checked your credit score recently.

A credit score ranges from 300 to 850, and anything over 700 is considered pretty good. A high credit score is a great advantage when you want to take out any kind of loan, including a mortgage. On the path to financial literacy, you’ll have lower interest rates, which saves you money in the long run.

It takes time and effort to build good credit by consistently paying your bills, but you can decimate your credit fairly quickly by defaulting on loans or filing for bankruptcy.

A study by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that about 20 percent of consumers discovered an error when checking their reports, and that number could be even higher considering the recent spate of data breaches. A strong credit score ensures you are offered the best possible rates for credit cards and mortgage and auto loans. Not sure how you measure up? See if your credit card offers a free credit report as one of its perks, or visit Annualcreditreport.com to take a look at yours.

Maximize Retirement Options

Even if you don’t plan on retiring for decades, it’s important to start saving now. If your employer offers a retirement plan, don’t wait to sign up.  Many companies even offer a match up to a certain percentage, and if you don’t contribute at least that much, you are literally leaving money on the table.

If your employer doesn’t have a 401k plan, you can look into a Roth IRA. Whatever route you take, make sure you’re putting away enough money so you’ll be comfortable in your retirement years.

While saving for retirement can seem futile when you have so many needs now, we promise that your future self will thank you—a lot—for saving early when you have the longest potential time to take advantage of compounding interest. Need some saving inspiration on your journey to financial literacy? Check out this chart that shows what happens to your money if you start saving early, compared to later. 

Learn to Invest

Once you have your emergency savings set aside and you’ve signed up for a 401k or Roth IRA, it’s time to start thinking about investments. Investments include mutual funds, stocks, bonds, and real estate—but be sure you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. This means you should diversify your investments. That way if some parts of your portfolio aren’t very profitable for a few years, your other investments will help make up the difference.

Consider Disability and Life Insurance

Think you’re invincible? Think again—the scary truth is that more than one-quarter of today’s 20-year-olds can expect to be out of work for at least a year due to a disabling condition before they reach retirement age. While on your path to financial literacy, consider getting disability insurance; it can help you pay your bills until you are back to work.

And while you especially need life insurance if anyone depends on you financially, it’s a smart benefit for anyone to have, since the policy can cover funeral and burial expenses. The next step on the path to financial literacy is to make sure to check with your HR department to see what your company offers in terms of disability and life insurance—and make sure you take advantage of this important benefit.

Plan for a Home Purchase

Along the path to financial literacy, you might find yourself considering the purchase of your first home. And while it is easy these days to be priced out of homeownership in many markets, in other places, a monthly mortgage payment can be close to the same amount as rent. (This calculator will help you determine the viability of buying vs. renting.) And if the common down payment of 20 percent sounds daunting, there are a wide array of programs that can get you into a home for substantially less. If you are relatively settled in your locale, it’s worth talking to a real estate agent and mortgage broker to find out the true cost of home ownership, as it’s still a tried-and-true avenue to long-term wealth.

Protect Your Apartment or Home

If you are not ready to buy, and you plan to rent, you might not think you need insurance, but you’ll regret skimping on it if your apartment gets broken into or your dog bites a visitor. Renter’s insurance will cover your belongings in the case of theft, fire, water damage, etc., and also can cover liability for a variety of scenarios—and it’s typically surprisingly affordable, averaging less than $200 a year.

If you own a home, chances are good that you probably have homeowners insurance as a requirement from your mortgage provider, but double-check your policy to ensure it covers as much as you think it should—such as the actual “replacement value” of your items, rather than just cash value, and short-term lodging in the even you are displaced.

Understand Your Health Insurance

PPOs, HMOs, HSAs…the alphabet soup of health insurance is enough to give anyone a headache. But if you don’t know what your insurance covers, you could be on the hook for an unexpected high bill…or you might be delaying services that would be covered. Some plans even offer free telemedicine services or other perks that you could take advantage of if you only knew.  Log in to your health insurance portal and click around a little to find out what’s covered and where…certain insurance only works at specific hospitals, for example. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to seek out your HR department. They are there to help make sure you understand your coverage and limits inside and out.

As life changes occur,  you naturally grow, learn, and build upon your experiences. In this way, it is important to understand that getting on the path to financial literacy is an ever-evolving journey; it takes time and perseverance. And while you may find one concept relevant now, you might find another one more relevant to your life situation later.  Each part of the process is not wasted, only propelling you to a more secure financial future.


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Retirement 101: Planning for your financial future

If you’re like many Americans, retirement planning may not be high on your “to-do” list. When life is busy and you’re shouldering the burden of looking out for yourself and your family, setting up a retirement plan can slide down the priority list – especially if you’re hoping it will somehow be easier in a year, two or more.

But if you look at the root causes of inertia behind retirement planning, it’s clear how the effects from your behavior can be significant.

Below are some insights to help you get on track and better understand the kinds of behaviors that can get in the way of planning for your financial future.

1. It’s overwhelming. Saving for retirement can feel open-ended and ambiguous, in large part because it’s difficult to predict just how much you’ll need. Adding to the stress are many hard-to-anticipate variables, including how long you will live and healthcare needs. The good news is there are on-line calculators that can assist you in determining what your future needs may entail.

2. We can’t see our “future selves.” Researchers have found that people struggle to identify with their future selves, according to a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research. It’s not just young people who have difficulty imagining how long they’ll live in retirement – older Americans also often underestimate how long their retirement nest egg will have to last. Increased life expectancy means we may live 20 or 30 years – or even longer – in retirement. The good news is that companies like Prudential Retirement now offer interactive games like an Aging App to help people better understand how the decisions they make today could influence their futures.

3. We procrastinate planning for retirement. Research shows that for many people, procrastination plays a big role in hindering retirement planning. On average, we spend two hours a day procrastinating. In our busy lives, it’s often easier to daydream about our future than it is to spend time planning for it. The good news is that if you haven’t begun saving for retirement, it’s never too late to begin. Try taking a small step forward and consider setting aside 1 percent of your paycheck for a retirement account. Or, if you already have a retirement account but you’re saving very little, increase your contribution by 1 percent.

4. Budgetary pressures. Families have other future needs to plan for, such as their kids’ college education or saving for a down payment for a home. Add in the immediate need to cover day-to-day expenses, and it always feels like it’s “the wrong time” to save for retirement. The good news is that there is a great deal of information available online to help with retirement planning. Take time to educate yourself and become familiar with the various tools that are available.

The push to make retirement planning easier

“It turns out that many financial companies and employers are acknowledging the psychological barriers that can get in the way of retirement planning,” says Harry Dalessio, head of full service solutions at Prudential Retirement. “Today, many employers have products and solutions to assist with student loan debt and that help employees set aside money for emergencies. Financial counselors are now available in many companies to discuss approaches to help get employees on the right path,” Dalessio said.

In addition, important innovations, such as automatic enrollment, where new employees are automatically enrolled in their company’s retirement plan, have led in many cases to plan participation exceeding 90 percent. Also, simplified products such as target date funds are making it easier for investors to benefit from savings products that are appropriate for each worker’s age and goals. Finally, innovations, such as the ability to use mobile devices and gamification tools, make it even easier to stay engaged.

“Even with these innovations, there is still ample opportunity to think bigger, and make retirement planning more accessible to employees,” says Dalessio.

The bottom line is that it’s easy to underestimate the importance of retirement planning. The good news is that with more tools and innovation, people may be better able to achieve the financial future they hope for as they grow older.




Americans agree: Financial planning isn’t fun but it is necessary

A new study conducted by Northwestern Mutual recently found that a vast majority of adults in the U.S. described financial planning as “not my favorite thing in the world, but [I] know it needs to get done like a medical checkup.”

The survey, called the 2018 Planning & Progress Study, is an annual research project commissioned by Northwestern Mutual and explores Americans’ attitudes toward money, financial decision-making, and broader issues impacting their long-term financial security.

When asked about their about their views on finance, only one in five of those surveyed – or 18 percent – said they are “excited and inspired, love to do it” when it comes to planning out their finances.

In addition, about 40 percent of respondents expressed a slew of negative emotions with regard to planning, including sentiments such as being “worried, nervous about confronting the financial details of my life,” they would “prefer not to deal with it until I absolutely have no choice” and they feel “frustrated, annoyed with my financial situation.”

There is one sentiment a majority of Americans agree on according to the survey – 70 percent of respondents said their financial planning needs improvement.

“People’s instincts are in the right place,” says Emily Holbrook, director of planning at Northwestern Mutual.

“There are pretty sizable numbers who say they either love to plan or do it because they know it’s good for them. Also, the fact that most Americans think their planning needs to be better is evidence that there’s a will to improve. We’re seeing high numbers of Americans who default to a position of avoidance or frustration and our message to them is to push through and get started–that’s often the hardest part.”

When asked what types of financial planner people are, nearly half of respondents said they consider themselves either “disciplined” or “highly disciplined” but the single most common answer was “informal.”

“A good financial plan should be flexible and adapt to your life, not the other way around,” says Holbrook. “It shouldn’t be approached as an overly rigid or static exercise. It should grow and change shape with every twist and turn that life presents. And it’s important to remember the aim of a plan is to allow you to live the life you want to live, not simply to demand sacrifice or delay your hopes and dreams.”

One in three Americans said they have not spoken to anyone about financial planning, according to the survey. And yet, a lack of planning is ranked among the top five obstacles to achieving financial security in retirement.

“Even if the intention is there, it can be hard to take action,” says Holbrook. “But we go back to what people told us in the study — they see planning like they see medical checkups. It’s not something to neglect. Even if you’ve never planned before, it’s not too late to get back on track. By doing so, people can take more control of their lives, make informed decisions, and begin to feel more financially fit.”

 




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.”

 

 




Relocation and your social security disability insurance: Your questions answered

Part of the American dream is being footloose and fancy free…and whether you are relocating to be nearer family, to find a place with a lower cost of living or just to see some new scenery, you probably will move at some point in your lifetime.

But in the midst of the goodbye parties, the packing and the moving, don’t neglect important tasks that are necessary for your financial well-being. And chief among them should be making sure that you have taken care of your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits before you relocate.

Here’s everything you need to know for a smooth move.

What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?

First, it’s important to know which of these programs you use. SSDI is the program that provides payments to those who are disabled or blind who qualify due to their work history – they have worked in jobs where they have paid FICA benefits.

SSI is a need-based program that makes payments to the elderly, blind and disabled who have limited incomes.

Will I have to reapply for SSDI and SSI if I move?

The good news is that it doesn’t matter if you move across town or to another state: You won’t have to for reapply these programs, which are overseen by the federal government, rather than individual states. That makes it easy for you to carry it over even if you move across the country.

However, whether you receive SSDI or SSI, you do need to make sure that you have changed your address so they know how to reach you should there changes to your benefits or other paperwork you need to file to remain eligible.

If you receive SSI, there’s another factor to consider — there could be a change to your payment based on what state you live in. That’s because most beneficiaries (except those who live in Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota or West Virginia) also receive a state supplement. The amount varies by state, so when you move, you then qualify for your new state’s supplement, rather than your previous one. (You can find more details here.)

Also, some states disburse their own state supplements while others are handled by the Social Security Administration. If your old state and new state are both administered by the SSA, then there should be no lapse. But if you are moving to a state that administers its own supplemental program, you’ll need to apply in that state.

There also may be changes based on your living situation; i.e. if you are moving in with additional housemates who are covering part of your food and housing, your benefits may be reduced.

When should I contact the government about my change of address?

Don’t delay…you’ll want to put this on your “to do list” right away. If you are receiving SSI, you need to report the new address within 10 days after the month the change occurs so they can adjust your state supplement. Otherwise you might receive less than you are owed or too much – in which case you will have to refund the money — and you also might be charged a penalty.

The good news is you can handle it with a simple phone call to the Social Security office at 800-772-1213 or online here.

What other disability insurance might I qualify for?

Most people find that the amount they would receive from the SSDI or SSI benefits is not adequate to cover all their financial needs. That’s why it’s important to sign up for a group or individual disability policy that will protect your income and provide financial security if you should become disabled.

While it’s not fun to think about, the truth is that disability is far more common than one might think…in fact, nearly 25 percent of those who are 20 years old today will be out of work for at least a year due to a health condition before they reach retirement age.

If you have to stop working temporarily or permanently, disability insurance will kick in – providing the paycheck protection you need to ensure that your bills remain covered.




Make fall foolproof — Save money by tackling winter house maintenance now

winter home maintenance

As we bask in the lazy days of August, there are subtle reminders that the change of seasons is around the corner – from the school supplies clogging the shelves of big box stores to that one tree whose leaves are reddening prematurely.

Before the first pumpkin spice latte hits the neighborhood coffee shop, take a weekend afternoon to knock out these cold weather household chores while it’s still nice out. You’ll save time – and money – when fall rolls around.

Clean your gutters

Yes, they will likely soon fill up with fall leaves, but now’s the time to remove any debris that may have built up over the past season. Clogged gutters can cause long-lasting, expensive issues around your property – water spilling over can damage your foundation, and heavy gutters can sag and break.

Inspect your roof

Even if you don’t want to climb up on your roof (and if you do, be very careful, as falls are a leading cause of disability), now is the time to do a visual check before the roof becomes hidden by leaves or snow. Use binoculars to get a closer look and note any missing, damage or slipped shingles that should be further investigated by a roofing professional before the rain and wind arrive.

Check your trees

Loose limbs can become hazardous in storms; they can knock out windows – or people passing underneath them, in the worst-case scenario. Cut back branches that are listing or that are too close to power lines or the roof.

Tidy up your landscaping

You might still be enjoying your summer flowers and by all means, continue to. But while you’re in your garden, pull weeds and rake up needles and leaves before the chore gets bigger in the fall.

Organize your garage

Late summer is the perfect time to try out those bikes and see if they are still the right size, or determine that no one is ever going to play ladder ball. It’s much easier to make a decision on what to get rid of when you know for a fact that no one has touched it all season. And there’s still time to hold a garage sale and make a little back-to-school cash.

Have your heating system checked

Need to service your furnace or heat pump? Now’s the time…before everyone else realizes they need to, too. Ditto your fireplace and chimney. You’re guaranteed to get faster – and probably cheaper – service from a repair person who’s not being pulled in a dozen different directions as other homeowners realize their heating element isn’t working up to par.

Get your back-to-school system in place

The night before school starts is not the time to remember that you never cleaned out last year’s backpack. Before the stress of September rolls around, take the time to fill out the paperwork that came in the mail earlier in the summer, sign up for music lessons, create a paper filing system – all those organizational chores that will make your fall less harried.

Coordinate your emergency supplies

What better time to establish your emergency kit than as you’re stowing your camping gear from summer getaways? Rather than relegating it to the attic or a hidden shelf, make an organized plan to have it ready should you need it if the power goes out or there is another weather emergency. Change the batteries in your flashlights and lanterns; wash and store the sleeping bags; replenish the waterproof matches and first aid supplies. While you’re at it, add a stash of non-perishable foods and an extra deck of cards – just in case.

Hang your holiday lights

Seriously…your future self will thank you – the one that’s not standing on a ladder as the wind gusts and the rain pelts. Of course you don’t have to turn them on – in fact, please don’t – but it’s nice to know they are ready and waiting for when the holiday spirit strikes.

And now that your house is ready for fall, enjoy that warm summer evening in your newly prepped yard. You deserve it!

 




Why You Should Start Your Holiday Shopping Now

Most of us groan when stores start displaying holiday decorations before the kids have gone back to school, but they may be on to something. In fact, the smartest way to shop is to forget about “Black Friday” and start your shopping in the summer. Here are eight reasons it will have you ho-ho-hoing come the traditional holiday season.

 

  1. You will have more time to buy just the right thing.

Impulse buys can kill your budget, but there’s something about holiday stress that can make you grab the first thing you see just to cross something off the list (or when the thing you were most hoping to buy is unavailable by the time you get your shop on). When you are able to start your buying early you have plenty of time to wait for a sale that puts the item you have your eye on within reach. Just make sure to save your receipts.

 

  1. You have more time to take advantage of price adjustments.

Speaking of saving your receipt, you’ll want to watch the item you’ve purchased to make sure that you get reimbursed should a sale roll around. To make it super easy, use an app like Paribus, which will track your receipt and “watch” your item for you to let you know if a price has fallen.

 

  1. You can shop the back-to-school sales.

Don’t want to give school supplies to your loved ones? Of course you don’t. But stores roll out the red carpet during the back-to-school season with a huge number of sales on everything from clothing to electronics. Even if the item you want isn’t on sale today, starting early gives you a much more likely “head start” that it will be eventually.

 

  1. And maybe realize tax savings.

We’re talking about “Tax Free Shopping Days”which many states hold in the summer to coincide with back-to-school shopping. Any discount counts so no reason not to head out and see what you can find on that magic day.

 

  1. You can get a more realistic idea of what things cost – and budget accordingly.

Were you misled that the jeans your daughter has her eye on could be had for a good price? You might be surprised at the price tag of coveted items and starting early gives you the chance to find out how they might fit into your budget – or if they do. If you do decide to get a particularly pricey item, you can then adjust the rest of your budget to accommodate it – maybe brown bag an extra day or two a week and put the savings aside — rather than getting stuck at the last minute having to shell out for the “dream gift” that comes with a nightmare price tag.

 

  1. You can spread out the bills.

No holiday hangover when you spend a little every month instead of a lot all at once in December. Considering that the average American adds an average of just over $1,000 in holiday debt, it can make it much easier to pay those bills when you spread it out over several paychecks.

 

  1. You won’t pay any rush fees.

We’ve all been there. You think you’ve done your shopping and all of a sudden you realize that you forgot something special for Aunt Mary. And just like that, you’ve incurred an extra $15 in shipping fees. Ordering ahead means that you have all the time in the world for the package to get lost or misdelivered – and you’ll STILL have it on time.

 

  1. You have more time to rack up (and redeem) rewards.

If you are in the market for a credit card anyway (we said “if” – don’t get a card just for this reason), you can spend the next few months putting expenses on it that you would pay anyway– from filling your gas tank to paying your electric bill, provided you intend to pay them off right away and not incur any fees. You can then use the points you’ve amassed to pay for gift cards or other purchases closer to the time.

 

And when you escape the holiday season with no extra debt, you can truly say “It’s been holiday miracle.”