TIME

5 Money Habits of the Filthy Rich You Can Learn Now

How to save and invest your way to seven figures

Think it’s impossible to save a million bucks? It’s not. Fidelity Investments took a look at the 401(k) portfolios of its clients to see if those in the million-dollar-plus club have characteristics that make them stand out from the crowd.

Surprisingly, being super-rich wasn’t one of them. Although the average annual earnings of people with more than $1 million in their 401(k) was a substantial $359,000, Fidelity found that a number of these people had reported earnings of under $150,000.

As of the end of last year, more than 72,000 Fidelity clients had 401(k)s with more than $1 million in them — that’s more than double the number who had reached that monetary milestone just two years ago. Sure, investors across the board have benefitted from the stock market’s recovery, but the most retirement-ready people also displayed some specific saving and investing habits that helped them reach their goals.

They go slow and steady. “They really took a long term approach… took most of their careers to get there,” says Fidelity retirement expert Jeanne Thompson. The average age of Fidelity’s 401(k) millionaires is just under 60, and have been in the workforce for 30 years. It’s also worth noting that many of the people with the healthiest nest eggs also started saving for retirement early. “It’s not like it happened overnight,” Thompson says.

They max out their contributions. Fidelity found that million-dollar investors contribute roughly 14% of their income towards their 401(k)s — $21,4000 a year, on average. Now, this is above the annual amount workers under 50 are allowed to contribute — those workers are capped at contributing $18,000 a year in 2015 — but the average age of Fidelity’s million-plus 401(k) clients skews about 10 years higher than that. In other words, the most aggressive retirement savers seem to ramp up their contributions once they get the legal go-ahead to sock away more. By contrast, those with portfolios under $1 million contribute only $6,050 a year.

They don’t rely on target date funds. Target date funds have been pitched as a kind of “set it and forget it” option for investors, but a peek into the portfolios of the people who accrued $1 million or more shows that they don’t rely on them entirely or even primarily. As of the end of 2014, about 40% of these investors’ portfolios is in domestic equities, another 12% is in company stock and 6% is in foreign equities, on average. Only 10% of the average portfolio is allotted to target date funds.

They stay in equities. “To some extent, if you’re invested in cash you’re only going to have what you put in,” Thompson says. “Many people may be in retirement for 30 years or more,” she points out, so people might want to reevaluate if or when switching to a more conservative allocation is right for them. “As people are working longer and living longer, many will hold higher equity allocations,” she says. “You still have 30 years your money has to last…If you go too conservative too early you might not keep up with inflation.” On average, about three-quarters of the holdings of millionaire 401(k) clients are in equities — and remember, these are investors with an average age of around 60.

They don’t panic. “The key is when the markets go down not to panic,” Thompson says. Although it can be scary watching those numbers go down, selling at a loss only makes it harder to recover when the market eventually recovers. “They did bounce back, and so they’re were able, as equities rose, to ride the upswing,” Thompson says.

TIME

5 Networking Mistakes That Keep You From Getting Ahead

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Every single roundup of career advice out there talks about the importance of networking. Less talked-about but just as important is doing it correctly. You might think you’re doing all the right things by hanging out near the boss at the sales retreat or passing out your business card to everybody you meet at the trade show reception — but in reality, bad networking technique can do as much damage to your career as not networking at all.

Here are some common pitfalls experts warn against falling into.

Relying on online social networks. Yes, LinkedIn and its ilk can be a great way to further your network, but the point of networking is to actually, you know, meet people. James Jeffries, director of career development at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, says this is a mistake young workers especially need to be conscious of, since they grew up having simultaneous online and real-life relationships. “As networking becomes synonymous with online networking… they can neglect the importance of actually meeting up with people for coffee, making a phone call, or showing up at an event. So far online connections have not supplanted these traditional interactions,” he says.

Staying in your comfort zone. Mingling with others at corporate, industry or alumni functions isn’t going to be nearly as effective if you just hang out with people you know. Yes, it’s a good idea to catch up with acquaintances, but unless you push yourself out of your comfort zone and meet new people, you’re limiting the effectiveness of your networking, says Amanda Augustine, job search expert at mobile career network TheLadders. “Casual networking events at local watering holes can quickly turn into mini-reunions with the friends you already see on a regular basis,” she says in a post on the company’s blog. Augustine says you should set a goal of talking to three new people at every event you attend. “They have the most potential to expand your network the furthest,” she says.

Doing the business-card “drive-by.” Some people take the other extreme when it comes to networking. They’re so determined to meet as many new people as possible that they have it down to a science: A quick introduction, handshake and then they’re pushing their business card into the person’s palm and moving on before the other person can catch their breath. “Networking is not a race to distribute as many business cards or get as many cards as possible,” career coach Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta advises on the blog of her consulting firm, OliveBlue. To be effective, networking needs to be about relationship building, not card collecting. It’s not and will never be just a numbers game.

Focusing on what’s in it for you. “Networking can be described as the process of interacting or engaging in communication with others for mutual assistance or support,” Akpoveta says. The mutual part is key here. If you’re always asking what somebody can do for you, it’s going to get old quick. Find out what the other person needs or is interested in, and make that happen. “We need to change our mindset from focusing on not just what we can get, but to also what we can give,” Akpoveta says. If you’re known as a person who can deliver, people are more likely to remember you — and more likely to reciprocate when you’re the one asking for a favor or a referral.

Not following up. This sounds like a no-brainer, but how many of us have been rifling through a desk drawer and stumbled across the business card of someone who would make a great contact — if only you’d emailed them back when you met them months ago. “Think of each networking event as a speed dating exercise,” Augustine says. “If you get someone’s phone number but never call them afterwards, the evening was a waste.” Shoot off a quick note following your meeting. It doesn’t have to be elaborate: Just say, “Hi, it was great meeting you. I wanted to make sure you had my contact info, too, because I’d like to stay in touch.” Even a brief email can get the ball rolling.

TIME

These States Have the Most Jobs For College Grads

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You'll never guess which little states hold the biggest opportunities

New college grads looking for work online have the best shot at getting jobs in Massachusetts and Delaware, a new study finds.

Since as many as 90% of jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher are advertised online, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce took a comprehensive look at online job listings around the country to figure out where the jobs are, along with what types of jobs they are.

As might be expected, large states with big populations — notably, California, Texas, and New York — have the most online job ads, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. Georgetown did a deeper dive into the data to see which states have the most online job ads relative to the number of working, college-educated residents, providing a more accurate measure of the labor market for bachelor’s degree-holders in each state. “Strong job growth doesn’t necessarily translate into good job prospects [because] job growth also tends to bring increased competition,” the report points out.

When the numbers are crunched in a way that takes into account the number of workers, a clearer picture of job opportunities emerges: Massachusetts, Delaware, Washington state, Colorado and Alaska have the highest number of ads seeking candidates with bachelor’s degrees or higher per worker, respectively. Higher still is the nation’s capital: Washington, D.C. has three times the national average of online job ads relative to workers with college degrees. “The college-educated job seeker who is willing to move to a state with a high concentration of job ads per worker has a greater likelihood of landing a job than remaining in or moving to states with fewer job ads per worker,” the report says.

West Virginia residents with college degrees, in particular, might want to think about relocating: This state has the weakest online job market, followed by (respectively) Rhode Island, South Carolina, Mississippi and Hawaii. The good news is that the states with markets higher than the national average are geographically disparate, with most regions represented.

When it comes to the kinds of jobs employers looking for college grads are trying hardest to fill, the story is the same as it’s been since the recovery in the labor market began. “We found that two large occupational clusters – managerial and professional office and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – dominate the online college labor market, accounting for three out of every five online job ads,” the report says. Employers in the industries of consulting, business, financial and healthcare services are responsible for more than half of all the online job postings seeking college-educated candidates, while STEM jobs have more than three available job postings for every worker, more than twice as many as any other field. The states that saw the biggest growth in STEM jobs between 2010 and 2013 are Wyoming, Missouri and Wisconsin, and relative to the number of college-educated workers, Georgetown says Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York offer the best job prospects for college grads with STEM degrees.

 

TIME

Many Young Adults Need Parents’ Help to Buy a Home

Mortgage Bankers Association To Release Weekly Mortgage Market Index June 12
Daniel Acker—Bloomberg /Getty Images

At least they’re out of the basement

Three out of four young adults who recently bought their first home needed their parents’ help to afford the down payment, closing costs or other expenses, a new survey finds.

Interest in homeownership is picking up, especially among first-time buyers, and mortgage lender loanDepot LLC commissioned a survey to find out how today’s millennials — 97% of whom will take out a mortgage to buy their homes — plan to pay for their investment.

It seems the “bank of mom and dad” is a fallback most count on, with 75% of young adults who recently bought a home saying their parents helped them out. Another survey, this one from BMO Harris Bank, finds that about a quarter of first-time homebuyers expect to get money from their parents or other relatives.

Among parents of future would-be homebuyers, 17% of respondents to the loanDepot survey say they expect to have to chip in, up four percentage points from five years ago — a gap that suggests a number of today’s wanna-be homeowners expecting financial assistance probably shouldn’t hold their breath.

There are some indications that, even as young adults expect more assistance from their parents, the older generation has a dwindling amount of resources they can use to help. Over the past five years, just under three-quarters of parents who helped their kids buy homes used their savings, but that number is expected to fall to about two-thirds in the future, according to the survey. Instead, more parents will refinance their own homes, take out personal loans and borrow against their 401(k)s — potentially risking their own financial security.

And parents are digging deeper into their pockets to help out in other ways, too: Almost a third say they’ll pay some of their kids’ other expenses to help the younger generation save money, and 18% plan to help their kids pay down their student loans. Of the parents who are contributing to their kids’ investments, half say they’ll help their kids make the down payment, 20% say they’ll help with closing costs and 20% say they’ll actually co-sign the loan.

This might be reasonable in markets where high down payments are the norm, but experts warn that parental assistance sometimes can mask the fact that the home just isn’t affordable for the aspiring homebuyers. “One of our clients helped the child buy into the same neighborhood they lived in. The parents were excited, but it turned out to be a huge burden for the kids,” Brett Gookin, principal at wealth management firm Aspiriant, told SFGate.com last year. (San Francisco has the second-highest average down payment in the country, just behind New York City.)

TIME

Yes, You Can Be Too Happy

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The surprising downside of cheerfulness

Every workplace has one: That super-cheerful, bubbly co-worker who — if we’re going to be really honest here — probably drives you up the wall a little bit.

Don’t feel bad. As it turns out, you’re probably a better worker than they are. A new study finds that happiness makes people productive in the workplace, but only up to a point. After a certain threshold, being too happy contributes to a lack of motivation — probably not exactly what the boss wants.

Researchers surveyed hundreds of workers about how happy they were as well as how often they perceived themselves practicing “proactive behaviors” like speaking up about issues and problem-solving.

“Positive affect can reach a level such that employees perceive that they are doing well and it is not necessary for them to take initiatives, thereby reducing their proactive behaviors,” lead author Chak Fu Lam of Suffolk University writes. In other words, if you already think everything is terrific, you won’t be motivated to make improvements, which is something every workplace — no matter how good an environment or how successful a company — still needs.

As surprising as this might sound, this isn’t the first data point that suggests the perennially perky might also be lackadaisical when it comes to, well, actually getting stuff done. A 2013 survey conducted by consulting firm Leadership IQ found that at more than 40% of companies, low performers said they were the happiest and most engaged at work. (Of course, this might be because they treat their workplace like a place to hang out for eight hours and socialize over free coffee rather than a place to do their jobs.)

“Low performers often end up with the easiest jobs because managers don’t ask much of them,” Leadership IQ CEO Mark Murphy told the Wall Street Journal. What’s more, this survey showed that these workers were utterly clueless about how bad they were at their jobs. They were more likely to tell surveyors that all employees lived up to the same standards.

But this doesn’t mean you’re resigned to scowling and picking up their slack. Instead of focusing on at-work happiness, it’s more useful to set a goal of thriving at work, says Gretchen Spreitzer, professor of management and organizations at the University of Michigan and another one of the study’s authors. “When one is thriving they have the joint experience of feeling energized and alive at work at the same time that they are growing, getting better at their work, and learning,” she says.

Thriving also gives you better focus than happiness, Spreitzer points out, which has a positive effect on performance. “High-focus work probably needs less activated positive energy,” she says. “If we are all hyped up, it may be harder to focus and get difficult or tedious work done.” Rather than being complacent, people who thrive at work are motivated, she says. “It is a more engaged positive emotional state than happiness and, I think, is more appropriate to think about in a workplace context.”

TIME

Proof That Millennials Finally Are Becoming Self-Sufficient

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They're finally feeding themselves, at least

Today’s young adults have gotten a reputation — some say unfairly — as Peter Pan types, clinging to adolescence and letting their helicopter parents do everything for them. Now, research says that millennials are definitely making headway countering that perception — at least in the kitchen.

Younger diners, along with their penchant for customization and preference for fresh foods, contributed to the growth of what the industry calls “fast casual” — Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill and the like. Even convenience stores and drug stores have been trying to get in on the popularity of “grab and go” prepared food. There are signs now, though, that young adults are drifting away from the drive-thru and picking up spatulas in front of their stoves.

Market researchers at The NPD Group say that millennials are cooking and eating more at home, and they’ve got the numbers to back it up. Older millennials, those between 25 and 34 years old, have made, on average, 50 fewer restaurant visits per person over the past several years. Over the past year alone, their use of the drive-thru dropped 6% and eat-in restaurant visits fell 1%. Younger millennials, those under the age of 25, still like ordering out, but they’re more likely to eat it at home. This age bracket led a slight gain in takeout orders last year, while their drive-thru and sit-down visits also fell.

Young adults are starting to see cooking as economic necessity, especially as they reach the age when they’re starting families. NPD finds that young millennials spend an average of $1,240 a year at restaurants, down $146 from 2007. The drop for older millennials, even though they presumably have more disposable income, is even steeper, down $213 per person to an average of $1,369 a year.

Instead, they’re investing in new gadgets and gizmos like panini presses and rice cookers. Another NPD report says shoppers under 35 accounted for roughly a quarter of all the money Americans spent on small kitchen appliances last year, up five percentage points from only a year ago. “Their fundamental need for the essentials is what is moving the needle in many home-related categories,” executive director and home industry analyst Debra Mednick says in a statement.

But it’s not just about the money. Millennial consumers are famously self-aware — you might even say finicky — about what they put in their bodies. Market research firm Mintel finds that almost 60% of millennials under the age of 25 are skeptical about foods that make health-related claims like “GMO-free.” Cooking at home gives them more control over what they eat. “It’s healthier and tastes better than what they can get away from home. Plus, it saves them money,” says NPD restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs.

“Another important factor for older millennials with kids under age 13 is that they are thinking of their families’ wants and needs,” Riggs adds. Dinner is back to being family time — plus, to a generation that grew up with Chopped and Iron Chef, food is also entertainment. NPD finds that about half of millennials say they enjoy cooking, and a slew of new ingredient-delivery services like Blue Apron and Plated bring home cooking, well, back home.

“I think in the now culture we have created, services like these that make it easier to eat and cook with ease will see an increase in popularity,” Morgan Oliveira, spokeswoman for food technology company Hampton Creek, tells Fast Company.

TIME

No Money For a Down Payment? Here’s Where to Move

Mortgage Bankers Association To Release Weekly Mortgage Market Index June 12
Daniel Acker—Bloomberg via Getty Images A "for sale by owner" sign stands outside a home in LaSalle, Illinois, U.S., on Friday, June 7, 2013. The Mortgage Bankers Associations weekly mortgage market index, which measures mortgage loan applications for purchases and refinancings, is scheduled to be released on June 12. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

…Along with places you should just avoid entirely

The logjam in real estate seems to be coming unstuck, with Zillow.com predicting that 5.2 million renters are going to buy homes in the next year, a nearly 25% jump from last year.

“Many current renters clearly seem to be re-thinking their attitudes toward homeownership, and are expressing more confidence in the overall housing market as a result,” Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries says in a post on the site’s blog. The site finds that the confidence of prospective buyers is on the rise from Dallas to Detroit.

But average down payments have a huge amount of variability across metro areas, new research from RealtyTrac.com finds, and that can be the make-or-break factor for first-time homebuyers. People who expect to buy in top-priced real estate markets like New York City and San Francisco had better bring their checkbooks: The average down payment in San Francisco is right around 30%, while it tops 37% in New York. And in both places, thanks to the high prices of homes in general, that adds up to an eye-popping $300,000-plus — more than the cost of a home in many parts of the country.

The rest of the top five markets with the highest average down payment percentages are more of the same: Marin and San Mateo Counties in the Bay Area, and Kings County — otherwise known as the borough of Brooklyn — in New York.

If that’s not your speed, how do you feel about Ohio or Michigan? Four of the five lowest-priced markets with the lowest down payments by percentage are in those two states, along with Macon, Georgia. In these places, down payment dollar amounts fall in a much more reasonable range, from just under $4,500 to a little over $7,000.

Of course, there are lots of other factors homebuyers have to take into consideration like the availability of jobs and quality of life. RealtyTrac also looked for the lowest down payments in what it calls “millennial magnet markets” where large numbers of young adults have moved over the past several years.

Here there’s a little more variety in terms of geographic location as well as the type of community: Towns in the metro areas of Fayetteville, N.C., Clarksville (on the Kentucky-Tennessee border), Little Rock, Des Moines and the Washington D.C. bedroom communities of Arlington and Alexandria all make the cut. The average down payments range from around 9% to just under 12.5%, and with the exception of the pricier Virginia ‘burbs, the average dollar amounts all clock in below $20,000.

Clarksville and Des Moines also make RealtyTrac’s list of the top markets for first-time homebuyers, along with Durham, N.C., Philadelphia and Davidson County outside of Nashville. All five have average down payment percentages lower than the national average of 14%, and have seen an increase in the number of millennial residents since the end of the recession.

TIME

It’s Unbelievable We Still Haven’t Learned This Lesson

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At $57 billion, it's an expensive one

You’d think the Great Recession would still be fresh enough in everybody’s minds that we’d be going out of our way to avoid putting ourselves through the financial wringer once again.

Nope.

We’re piling on credit card debt at a dizzying pace and experts warn we’re barreling towards a tipping point. The website CardHub.com’s annual study of credit card debt just came out last week, and the numbers are sobering.

In 2014, we piled on $57.1 billion in new credit card debt — a record number that’s 47% higher than the debt we added in 2013. After pulling back in 2009 and 2010, Americans have added a total of almost $180 billion in credit card debt in just a few short years.

Typically, the first quarter of each year sees a big pay down in credit card debt, as we leave the indulgence of the holidays behind (and probably make a few New Year’s resolutions about being more financially disciplined.) We started of 2014 behind the eight-ball by not paying off as much as we had in previous years, and just kept racking up those balances.

On average, every American household carries nearly $7,200 in credit card debt. That figure hasn’t been this high in five years, and it’s still climbing. “The average household’s credit card balance… is growing dangerously close to the $8,300 tipping point previously identified by CardHub as being unsustainable.,” the study warns.

That’s bad, but there’s another factor it’s likely all of these charge-happy American consumers aren’t taking into account: When lawmakers passed the CARD Act in the recession’s wake and prohibited credit card issuers from hiking rates for any old reason, the card companies pretty much en masse switched their customers from fixed-rate to variable-rate cards so they’d be able to raise rates when the prime rate increased.

In all fairness, it’s been pretty easy to overlook the prime rate of late, because nothing’s happening. It’s been sitting at a rock-bottom, near-zero level for years now, with any increase contingent on the Federal Reserve raising its benchmark rate, a move they’ve been reluctant to make — until recently.

With the unemployment rate improving and other signs of renewed economic vigor trickling in, economists expect the central bank to start raising rates sometime this year. And when that happens, the cost of servicing all that credit card debt is going to rise. Households who are just treading water making minimum payments are going to have to pinch pennies from somewhere else just to stay afloat.

How much rates will go up is the $64,000 question. Some think it will be a fraction of a percentage point, but others predict it could go up 1% or 2% this year. “I expect short term rates to rise during 2015, and hence credit card interest rates to rise,” Brigham Young University finance professor Hal Heaton tells CardHub.

In relative terms, that’s still a low rate, but if we’re adding rather than subtracting debt at the same time — which CardHub also predicts we’ll do — this could spell trouble for a lot of borrowers.

Read next: 5 Bad Money Habits You Can Break Today

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TIME

This Simple Fact Can Ruin Your Life for an Entire Decade

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But you don't have to let it

Anybody who’s ever lost a job knows it’s a miserable experience, but a new study shows that the aftereffects of being laid off last far longer than you probably suspected.

Research on 7,000 British adults by social scientists at the University of Manchester finds bad feelings that erode trust and lead to cynicism linger for a full 10 years, even if people have moved on in their careers.

“Even a single experience of redundancy can lead to depressed trust and what is particularly concerning is that people reported less willingness to trust others even after they got another job,” says James Laurence, the study’s author. The problem is especially acute for people whose identity is strongly tied up in their work.

“Losing a job often feels like a violation of trust because it meets all the right conditions, seen through the lens of ordinary human relationships. We build trust by making commitments and keeping them,” says James Jeffries, director of career development at Bard College at Simon’s Rock.

Jeffries says it’s not surprising that people whose sense of self depends on their job are more affected by job loss. “The more serious the relationship, the deeper we sense betrayal and the harder it is to recover,” he says.

But career experts say you’re not necessarily consigned to a year of giving other people the side-eye. There are coping tools that can help you recover without having to wait a decade.

Develop a more well-rounded sense of self. “In the U.S., so much of our ego and self-esteem tied into the work we do,” says Elene Cafasso, founder and president of executive coaching firm Enerpace. When that’s taken away, it leaves a void. To keep that from taking over your life, she says you need to engage in activities that can help you reclaim your identity as a person outside of a job.

“Focus on what gives you energy – working out, dancing, singing, volunteering, spirituality, time with friends – whatever does it for you, get more of that,” she says.”Focus on what you can control and… find an area where you can make an impact.”

Embrace the desire for concrete answers. “Their eroded trust will result in a desire to gain additional security in interactions,” says career coach Todd Dewett. People who have been laid off are less likely to accept general assurances about future career advancement and will seek out specific, concrete answers, which can be useful when looking for a new job offer or a promotion down the road. “Dealing with huge setbacks can be a catalyst that pushes people to more actively process… difficult feelings,” he says.

Don’t pull the plug on your professional life entirely. “Stay current in [your] skills. Keep doing something to revise, expand and update your resume,” says Patricia Malone, executive director of the Corporate Education and Training and the Advanced Energy Training Center at Stony Brook University. “Use volunteer work to boost your transferable skills on the resume,” she suggests. This has the dual benefit of forcing you to engage with — and re-learn to trust — other people in a professional setting.

Spend some time with other people who have been laid off. One of the biggest hazards of job loss is the emotional isolation that can lead to unproductive ruminating on your loss. “[Join] a group of peers who are in the ‘same boat,'” suggests Ofer Sharone, an assistant professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Yes, the networking might be helpful, but it’s more than that: They know what you’re going through like nobody else does, so you can drop the “game face” sometimes.

“Not only getting together for networking, where you have to present your ‘best self,’ but getting together to share the hard emotional stuff as well,” is an invaluable way to rebuild that broken trust, Sharone says.

But don’t spend all your time with them. “Do not spend all your networking time with others in transition,” Cafasso says. “Go where folks have a job.” She suggests attending professional association events, joining community service groups, participating in religious organizations and the like.

Think about where trust still does exist in your life. “Most of this advice asks a person to stop thinking in generalities and relentlessly pursue the details that make up a productive life,” Jeffries says. “It’s tempting to revel in cynicism and grief after losing a job until the wound becomes a scar,” he says, but he warns that wallowing will ultimately come back to haunt you. “If you’re feeling cynical, chances are you’ve become blind… to all the ways your life still depends on well-placed trust.”

Read next: How Not to Answer ‘Why Are You Interested in This Position?’

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TIME

You’ll Never Believe Where We Are Hiding $224 Billion

Americans No Vacation 2014
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Check your desk at work — no, really

They say time is money, and it’s true: Americans collectively have $224 billion in accumulated vacation time at private-sector corporations.

A new report commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association says this massive amount of unused vacation time, nearly half the size of the federal deficit, can languish on companies’ books for months or years. “The average vacation liability per employee totals $1,898, and in some companies studied is more than $12,000 per employee,” the report says.

The USTA says there are indications that this practice is increasing. “It’s telling that the liability grew by $65.6 billion from 2014 to 2015,” says Cait DeBaun, spokeswoman for the association’s Project: Time Off initiative. “This isn’t surprising, as Americans are taking the least amount of vacation time in nearly four decades.” (The USTA’s mission is to get people to take more vacations.)

When we don’t use our vacation time, it’s the equivalent of leaving money on the table. We forfeit more than $52 billion in unused time off (rollover days that expire, etc.) every year, and American workers roll over an average of more than a workweek from one year to the next.

Surprisingly, those who work for the smallest companies roll over the least amount of vacation time: People who work for companies with fewer than 100 people roll over an average of less than five days, while people at companies with five or fewer people only roll over a couple of days each year. (It’s possible that people at smaller companies might get fewer vacation days and have less to roll over.)

But American workers should pay attention: More companies are stopping the practice of letting workers roll over their accrued vacation and adopting “use it or lose it” policies. More than a quarter now have these kinds of policies, the report says.

In other countries, concern about the effect all work and no play has on workers’ outlook and output has leaders considering legislation to fix the problem. Japanese lawmakers are looking into a requirement that would make employees take all of their allotted vacation time. But since the United States doesn’t even have a law requiring workers get paid time off (unlike most other developed countries), that’s unlikely to emerge as a solution anytime soon.

Although 80% of workers said they would more readily use their vacation time if encouraged to by their boss, many say they don’t get the message that taking a vacation is OK. For employees stuck in a corporate culture where taking time off is frowned on, there are numerous benefits to bucking the system and taking the time off to which you’re entitled. HR experts say forgoing vacation isn’t just costing us money, but it’s taking a toll on our mental health, as well.

The Society for Human Resource Management says three out of four HR pros say people who take most or all of their vacation perform better than those who take less. “Happy employees are more likely to stay in their jobs, helping employers keep talent in place and turnover costs down,” the report says.

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