How Many Americans Have ‘Good’ Jobs?

Having a job is one thing. Having a good job is another. If you’re a professional who endured the Great Recession, earning a paycheck was your main concern. From a broader economic perspective, those tough times ended in June 2009, the official close of the last recession, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, which tracks business cycle expansions and contractions. Your personal experience might be very different, however. Just because there are more job openings in today’s market, doesn’t mean they’re good jobs.

good jobs

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What Is a Good Job?

Everyone has their own definition, but most would agree that a good job offers a few essential things, including earning potential and benefits, as well as intangibles like work-life balance and rewarding work. Still, it’s hard to generalize and come up with one answer for what a good job is for everyone.

For instance, a good job for a worker who is single and childless is probably going differ from one for a professional who is married with kids. Likewise, someone who is just starting out in their career will have a different definition compared to someone at mid-career (e.g. 401(k) options, vacation, etc.). However, for the sake of this article, we’ll have to work with what the different bodies of research have to say.

If you’re asking Gallup, then a “good job” is considered “one with 30+ hours of work a week with a consistent paycheck from an employer.” Each month, Gallup conducts a poll that tracks the percentage of U.S. adults whose jobs meet the aforementioned requirements, called the Gallup Good Jobs (GGJ) rate. According to its poll of nearly 30,400 participants, the GGJ is 46 percent for June 2016, which is the highest monthly rate since 2010, when measurement commenced. In other words, nearly half of U.S. adults have “good jobs,” according to Gallup’s standards.

The Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), on the other hand, indicates that a good job is “one that pays at least $37,000 per year, has employer-provided health insurance, and an employer-sponsored retirement plan.” According to CEPR’s estimates, the number of U.S. workers with “good jobs” has declined over the decades, falling from 27.4 percent in 1979 to 24.6 percent in 2010. When factors like increase in age and education are controlled, it’s estimated that the economy has “lost about one-third of its capacity to generate good jobs,” compared to 1979.

The Realities of Today’s Economy

Today’s workforce is much more educated than generations prior, so why don’t more people have good jobs? Much of the American workforce believes that the economy is still trying to recover from the massive hit of the Great Recession of 2007. While that may be partially correct, the reality is that the U.S. has been recovering from its recession since mid-2009, seven years ago.

In fact, as U.S. News points out, more Americans are employed today than any other time in U.S. history. Some 14 million new job positions have been created since the recession hit, and the national unemployment rate of 4.9 percent is at near pre-recessionary lows. If you look at the latest job report figures, it appears that the job market (and the economy) is doing quite well. However, if you take a closer look at the numbers, you’ll notice that a disproportionate number of those jobs being added are low-wage jobs. Since 2006, wages have risen 9.5 percent overall in the U.S., but when inflation is factored in, “real wages” are down 7.4 percent, compared with 2006, according to the The PayScale Index. Essentially this means that a person’s income today affords him less than it did before the recession.

Where Have All the Good Jobs Gone?

The CEPR suggests that the decline in good jobs is “related to a deterioration in the bargaining power of workers” that is a result of “the large-scale restructuring of the labor market that began at the end of the 1970s and continues to the present.” More specifically, the CEPR says the following have contributed to the decline in bargaining power among American professionals:

  1. Decline in private-sector union workers from 23 percent in 1979 to less than 8 percent today.
  2. Deregulation of several large industries, including trucking, airlines, and telecommunications, which is very costly to workers.
  3. Privatizing and outsourcing of state and local government jobs.
  4. Trade policies that put lower- and middle-class workers in the U.S. in direct competition with lower-wage workers in the rest of the world.
  5. A dysfunctional immigration system that leaves immigrant workers in the U.S. at the mercy of their employers.

When it’s all said and done, it looks like the issue here is quality versus quantity. If you’re looking for a “good job” that tops the charts all around, then you may want to consider a profession in the healthcare industry.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s your definition of a good job? Share your thoughts with our community on Twitter, or leave your comment below.

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The Disney Hangover: Are Brand-Name Vacations Worth the Price?

If you ask nearly any American kid about their trip of a lifetime, almost all will mention Walt Disney World or Disney Land. Obviously, my kids are no different. They’re both girls and ages 5 and 7, after all, which means most of their waking hours are spent daydreaming about princesses and different ways to have fun.

Even though they’d never visited either park until earlier this summer, they were somehow already well aware of Disney and its magic. Starting at around three years old, my oldest daughter began asking about it, almost as if it were a rite of passage.

When are you going to take us to Disssnnnneyyyyyy, Momma?” she would beg with a scandalous smile. My youngest child, who is seriously into Minnie Mouse anyway, got into the conversations shortly after.

She wanted to go to Disney World and eat in a castle with princesses, she once told me. And another priority – giving Minnie Mouse a hug – has also been mentioned ad nauseaum since she was around three.

I never planned to take my kids to Disney World, but I changed my tune when I ran into a work-related activity that would leave us with a few days in Orlando earlier this summer. Excited to surprise them, I dove right into planning.

But once I began digging into the details, yuck – I started questioning my thought process right away.

Disney World Costs How Much?

Scoring tickets into any of the Disney parks isn’t cheap, but the cost is exacerbated if you plan to visit only one day. A one-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom for anyone ages 10 and up costs $124 during peak season, for example, while someone under the age of 9 can enter the park for $118. Of course, add-ons like “park hopper” passes and water park tickets can boost the price tag of your visit even higher if you let them.

Multi-day one-park tickets ranged from around $96 per day down to $40 per day for a 10-day stay, but we didn’t plan to spend more than a day, nor did we see how spending more time at Disney World could possibly save us money.

And while it’s true there are any number of ways to save nominal amounts of money on Disney tickets – using the Disney credit card, for example or buying Disney gift cards at a discount – we were running out of time for this last-minute trip. As such, we bit the bullet, paying $515 for four peak-season tickets for one day at the Magic Kingdom. Ouch.

Assessing the Value of Our Day at Disney World

Since I was already planning our flights and hotels as part of my work stay, I only took them into partial account. Still, the other costs of our Disney trip added up quickly once we got inside the gates – like a $32 double stroller rental to keep my kids out of the 100-degree heat, for example. A round of so-so pineapple whips for around $5 per pop. An air-conditioned, sit-down lunch that cost around $90 with tip, but was totally worth it to escape the scorching heat outside. Souvenirs were cheap, but also musts considering I gave each child a $20 budget to spend at the park.

We saved money by bringing a cooler of water and lugging it around with us all day long. If not for that, we would have easily spent another $30 to $40 on ice waters to keep us from melting right into the steaming hot pavement.

In total, we wound up spending around $200 at the park that day – and that was only possible because we got too hot and left before dinner. In my eyes, that’s a huge amount of money for frugal people to spend at a theme park for lunch, a few snacks, and a stroller rental. But it gets worse than that.

Remember how my daughter wanted to hug Minnie so bad? We didn’t see the character all day, and when we finally did, the line to get that hug was around an hour long. We did see other Disney characters elsewhere, but the lines were long and cumbersome all around. As a result, my daughter never got that character hug from, well, anyone.

Eating in a castle with princesses was also out of the question. Cinderella’s Royal Table, which is the premier character dining event at Disney World, was not only sold out for our dates, but exorbitantly expensive. According to the Disney Website, meals range from $35 for kids to $59.99 for adults, which left me with a big fat, “nope!”

At the end of the day – and after around 10 hours at the park — we had managed to go on about 10 rides, eat a few snacks, and avoid melting in the summer heat. And while we didn’t get much “magic” out of the experience, I will acknowledge that there was something special about letting my kids see that giant castle for the first time.

My kids loved more than just the sight of Cinderella’s castle; they loved the idea of what might be lurking inside, as well as the way it towered over the entire park. Plus, there was something especially fun about going on rides that were themed with Disney characters they already know and love. All things considered, nearly everything about our day at Disney was fun and entertaining as well. As for the lines for the rides, they weren’t all that long, either.

But, will we go back? Heavens no. 

In total, we spent more than $700 for a single day at a theme park, and that didn’t even include the costs of airfare to get there or a hotel stay nearby. It was fun, yes, but it was also a horrible value – especially when you consider what you can get closer to home.

Comparing Our Disney World Experience to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari

A subsequent experience that drove home the poor value Disney offered was our trip to a local theme park a few weeks later. Set in Santa Claus, Ind., Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari is a small, local amusement and water park that is a fraction of the size of Disney World — but also a fraction of the cost.

Tickets start at around $40, and you can ride a combination of water rides and roller coasters throughout the day since the two parks share the same entrance. Plus, the park offers free soft drinks and sunscreen all day, making it an exceptional value.

During our two days there, we literally rode dozens of rides – mostly the same ones over and over. My kids hugged at least five or six different characters and spent a lunch break speaking with Santa Claus to boot. None of the creatures my kids stalked around the park were Disney characters, mind you — but what’s not to love about a giant stuffed cat and dog?

Lunch and dinner, while basic, was also a much better value at around $30 for a four-person meal. And without the need to haul around a cooler of prepaid drinks to save money, we were a lot more relaxed and a lot less tired as well.

With no magic castle and without a single Disney character in sight, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari was an absolute blast. Better yet, we left feeling as if we could actually afford to come back one day – instead of feeling ripped off.

Final Thoughts

After visiting both a Disney park and a local theme park in the same month, I’ve reached a conclusion: In my eyes, Disney World is a fun “bucket list” place to take your kids at least once – but one where high expectations can easily leave you feeling underwhelmed.

For the price of one day at the Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom, I could take my kids to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari for four days. That’s three extra days of laughter, a lot more rides, and a whole lot more memories to cherish forever.

And truth be told, it’s worth a lot more to us than the “oohs and ahhhs” of seeing one giant castle and a few Disney characters in passing. Plus, visiting a local park saves money on driving, hotels, and transportation costs to boot. When you add all of that up, what’s not to love?

If your family already loves Disney World or obsesses over Disney characters, then the price tag might be well worth it. But if your kids don’t care too much one way or the other, you might want to save yourself the trouble and hit up a cheap, local theme park instead. You’ll still have fun, but without the regret that comes with spending four times more than you really needed to.

Chances are, your kids won’t know the difference anyway.

Does your family love Disney World, or do they prefer local theme parks instead? What are some different ways you have saved money at Disney World in the past?

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Let’s Fix These 4 Awful Open Office Problems

Open offices are the worst, right? Even though some signs point to them going away as a trend, most of us are still stuck in a giant former warehouse with some half-high cube walls. So if you’re still looking to find some peace in a sea of humanity, here are some hopefully easy solutions.

open office

Image Credit: Unsplash/Pexels

Problem: You’ve Run Out of Podcasts to Drown Out Your Neighbors
Solution: Try Some Ambient Apps

Using an app or website that offers continual (or timed) ambient music helps you find focus in the storm of your open office. Try a few today and keep things fresh by switching up where your input is coming from. Sea sounds today might change to some noodly electronic grooves tomorrow.

Problem: You Feel Like You Work in a Warehouse
Solution: Add Some Green (or Fuzz)

Soften an open office’s often sterile lines (hello, formerly abandoned warehouse space?) with plants, carpet (in moderation), or even some more interesting textural elements that speak to company culture. You can even go ahead and make walls out of all these things, if your boss will let you. Walls of plants? Not a bad idea to inspire minds with some pops of green and much-needed oxygen, too!

Problem: Hey Can I Bug You For a Second?
Solution: Big Red Lights Show You’re Busy

Think a Post-it is going to keep Chatty Kevin from asking about Game of Thrones? No way. Get a little more extreme with some kind of big light on your desk or cube wall to let the whole office that they’re not to disturb you. Or if you want to go small, try this little guy that affixes to your laptop.

Think a Post-it is going to keep Chatty Kevin from asking about Game of Thrones? No way.Click To Tweet

Problem: No Place to Talk Quietly
Solution: Some Sort of Phone Booth?

This seems to be a problem that Silicon Valley both created and solved. When you want to talk to a doctor, a family member, or just pay a bill and call out your credit card number, an open office is your worst enemy. Some solutions include a series of quirky “privacy booths” (also known in the past as “rooms” before open office plans made walls passé) or fancy acoustic tiles.

This one is on your company. Really, employers need to dedicate some soundproofing attention to work spaces, so that employees can say something out loud that they’d rather not share with the entire department.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you fixed an annoying open office problem? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

The post Let’s Fix These 4 Awful Open Office Problems appeared first on Career News.

Eight Numbers That Show How American Families Struggle with Money

When it comes to managing our money, Americans have plenty of room for improvement. Sure, we’re the richest country in the world… but most of us still struggle financially to some extent.

Either we’re mired with debt, can’t seem to improve our incomes, or have trouble budgeting for the things we really want in life. These issues are so prevalent that struggling with money has practically become the American way of life. But, why?

While it’s hard to pinpoint the root cause of some of our issues, the fact remains that we could do better. The vast majority of us could stand to save more, invest more, and quit relying on credit as if it were some long-lost friend.

But before you can improve on something, it helps to take a look at where you stand right now – today. Here are eight statistics that show how Americans continue to struggle with money in nearly every aspect of our lives:

$16,048

The average American household with credit card debt carries a whopping $16,048 balance from month-to-month, according to a recent analysis from Value Penguin. While this figure doesn’t take into account households that are debt-free (many of whom have no debt simply because they can’t qualify for credit), the analysis does show that 38.1% of American households do carry credit card debt of some kind. Households with the lowest net worth – either hovering at zero or below that – carried an average balance of $10,308 on their credit cards in early 2016.

While credit cards can be wielded as valuable financial tools, these numbers show they can also be a destructive force under the right circumstances. After all, how do you get ahead when you’re struggling to pay off credit card bills each month? Ask anyone struggling with credit card debt and they’ll tell you the sad truth: Most of the time, you don’t.

$5,000

The median, working-age couple in America only had $5,000 stashed away for retirement in 2013, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by economist Monique Morrissey of the Economic Policy Institute. Worse, Morrissey’s figures show that around 43% of couples had no retirement savings at all.

Morrissey blames the shift away from defined pension plans toward individual retirement savings as the culprit of this crisis, along with the long-term effects of various economic recessions. Regardless, the fact remains that too few of us will be adequately prepared for retirement when the time comes.

$17,000

Younger couples may not have a lot of money stashed away, but at least they have time. Sadly, the same can’t be said for those ill-prepared couples who are already approaching retirement age.

A further analysis from Morrissey and the Economic Policy Institute shows that the average American couple in their late 50’s or early 60’s had just $17,000 saved in a retirement plan such as a 401(k) or IRA.

While this is surely better than nothing, it won’t be enough to cover much in retirement. With just $17,000 in retirement savings, older couples will have to work longer and rely on Social Security for the bulk of their living expenses in old age.

$75,000

Even some high-income households were living hand-to-mouth in 2015. In a SunTrust survey of households earning $75,000 or more in 2015, nearly a third reported living paycheck-to-paycheck at least part of the time last year. That number soared to 71% among high-earning millennials, and nearly half of those surveyed, 44%, said that lifestyle purchases made it harder to save as much as they should.

You might not expect these problems among high earners. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that, in a lot of ways, we’re our own worst enemies. A third of the survey’s respondents said that a lack of financial discipline was the biggest problem they faced in their finances. And among those who said they’re not saving enough due to lifestyle purchases, a full 68% blamed dining out for their money woes.

That’s right: Plenty of high-income households are literally eating away at their savings each month. If that isn’t enough to make you lose your appetite, we don’t know what will.

$30,032

Each quarter, credit bureau Experian releases a report on the state of the automotive finance industry. And each quarter, the news gets worse. As of the first quarter of 2016, the average loan for a new car surged to $30,032. That’s up from $28,711 for the same quarter in 2015.

By and large, we borrow crazy amounts of money to finance cars each year, to the detriment of our other financial goals. With the average new car loan now teetering above $30,000, it’s not surprising that the average new car payment is a whopping $503 per month. And amazingly, we have convinced ourselves to spread out those payments over an average of 68 months!

Imagine what you could do with an extra $503 a month — for more than five and a half years straight. Even if you stuck it under your mattress without earning a penny of interest, you’d still have $34,204.

$400

A 2015 report from the Federal Reserve Board showed just how fragile American household incomes and budgets really are. Nearly half of American households, 47%, said they couldn’t come up with $400 to cover any type of emergency if they had to.

When you think about it, this statistic explains a lot. Without even $400 in an emergency fund, it’s much easier for families to fall behind or get themselves into debt. What do you do when your car needs a $500 repair that you can’t pay for, yet you have to drive to work? You charge it to your credit card, or maybe even take out a payday loan if you don’t have one.

And from there, it’s much harder to dig your way out. The more debt you have, the more interest you’re stuck paying each month, and the harder it becomes to sock away even $400.

7 million

We all know that student loan debt has reached epic proportions in the United States. As of this writing, cumulative student loan debt has surged to over $1.3 trillion nationwide, with no end to that growth in sight.

But it gets worse: Close to 7 million student loan borrowers are severely in default on their loans – as in, they haven’t made a single payment for a year or longer.

Since student loans aren’t normally discharged in bankruptcy, and default can have devastating consequences to a person’s credit and financial future, this statistic spells doom for far too many Americans who are already struggling.

And the problem appears to be getting worse — as the Wall Street Journal noted, the nearly 7 million borrowers in default today represents a 6% increase from just a year earlier.

60%

recent Gallup poll shows that 60% of Americans worry that they won’t be able to cover unexpected medical costs, up from 55% in 2015. While this number can be partly blamed on our expensive and complicated health care system, it’s also a byproduct of our lack of savings — particularly emergency savings.

When almost half of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency, it’s no wonder the prospect of large medical bills from an unforeseen accident or illness weigh heavily on our minds.

Final Thoughts

While these statistics paint a grim picture, there are certain areas where we can exert some control.

We can’t always shield ourselves from medical emergencies or an unexpected job loss, for example, but we can try our best to save for them. We can’t predict the future, but we can plan for it, and create a monthly budget that allows us to save for a rainy day. We can’t always get a raise at work, but we can try to earn extra money through a side hustle, a part-time job, or an at-home business.

At the end of the day, it’s up to each of us to reach our financial destiny and find small ways to make improvements in our lives. The most important thing to know is, you have to start somewhere. Whether you’re in debt and struggling to pay your monthly bills, or you haven’t started saving for retirement yet despite a solid income, or you don’t have the savings to ride out even a small rough patch, the best time to get on a path toward a brighter financial future is now.

What do you think about these statistics? Do any of these situation apply to your life?

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The post Eight Numbers That Show How American Families Struggle with Money appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Are Your Emails Sending the Wrong Message?

Over 100 billion business-related emails are sent and received every day, according to a report released by The Radicati Group, a technology market research firm. The same report also declares that emails are and will remain the most popular and dominant means of communication in the business world. In fact, it’s expected that the number of business emails will rise to about 132 billion sent and received every day by the end of 2017.

emails

Image Credit: stokpic.com/Pexels

However, despite their popularity, business emails still serve to complicate things from time to time. Miscommunication happens, and it can lead to dire consequences for individuals as well as companies. So, if you fear your work emails might sometimes be sending the wrong message, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Turn them around quickly.

Many organizations have policies about how quickly folks ought to turn around important emails. But, whether your company has a rule like this or not, it’s a good policy to respond to important emails within 24 hours of having received them. If you push it beyond that time frame, you could risk coming off as disorganized at best and untrustworthy at worst.

When you’re not getting together with colleagues in meetings, you have less opportunity to use body language to demonstrate trustworthiness. Instead, you have to show your character and your professionalism in other, more subtle ways. How quickly you respond to emails during business hours sends a message. Be sure it’s the right one.

  1. Be mindful of spelling and grammar.

This era of text messaging has ushered in some pretty lazy practices as far as spelling and grammar are concerned. In your personal life, especially via text message, it’s all right to leave off the punctuation at the end of a sentence and even to skip capitalizing the word at the beginning, if you so desire. However, the same does not apply to your work emails. You wouldn’t make a mistake on your resume or cover letter, would you? Well, an email deserves the same treatment. Grammatical errors can make you seem careless, uninterested, unreliable, or even uneducated or unprofessional. Be careful.

  1. Avoid “actually.”

There are some words that come off as a bit rude, whether they are spoken aloud or written in an email. One example is the word “actually.” When correcting someone, beginning that correction by saying, “actually…” seems condescending and a little nasty: “Actually, that final number is 1.76 not 2.76.” Instead, try just skipping it altogether: “That final number is 1.76 not 2.76.”

  1. Don’t rush in.

It’s easy to get carried away in the fast-paced business world we work in today. The sheer number of emails, and the pace at which we are expected to get through them, can understandably feel a little overwhelming sometimes. But, don’t let the pressure rush you into making a decision. If you receive an email and you’re not sure how you feel about it or what to say, gather more information before responding, or ask questions in a follow-up email rather than rushing to make a choice. You should respond to the email promptly, but that doesn’t mean you need to make any final decisions until you’re ready.

  1. Don’t let a brief reply make you seem curt.

We want our clients and coworkers to feel as though we have all the time in the world for them, even when we’re really feeling pretty swamped. So, it’s important not come off as rushed in our emails. Brief sentences, or sentence fragments, and not signing off are all ways in which we can seem rushed. If you’re responding to an internal email from a coworker, “Yes, sounds good,” is a perfectly proper response in most cases. But, if you’re emailing with someone who is still building their impression of you, take the time to be a little more clear and thorough, while still being efficient.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever received a business email that sent the wrong message? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

 

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