TIME

The Super-Simple Way to Get More Replies to Your Emails

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New data shows you how

How much of the email you send gets deleted unread? A lot of it, if you’re like most of us in corporate America. But if you switch up the times and days when you send out messages, you can improve the chances that they’ll be read and replied to.

Email tracking company Yesware analyzed more than half a million sales emails to find out when recipients are more likely to open and reply. Their main finding: Send out email when there’s less competition if you want to grab a recipient’s attention. “When there’s little else being emailed, your emails are more likely to stand out and get noticed,” the company says in a blog post.

On weekdays, about two-thirds of emails are opened, but on weekends, that figure rises to about three-quarters. Weekend days only get about one-tenth the email traffic of weekdays, which means your message has a better shot of landing at the top of your recipient’s inbox. You’re also likelier to get a reply when you send email on the weekend, but you might have to be patient. A slightly higher percentage of weekday emails get same-day responses, but roughly 46% of messages sent on weekends are returned, compared to 39% of weekday emails. Contrary to popular belief, Yesware says, there’s no inherent advantage in sending emails on Monday versus any other weekday.

The time of day when you send messages matters, too. Yesware finds that although email traffic is highest during the workday and peaks during lunchtime, reply rates are highest when traffic is lightest. For the best results, Yesware’s findings suggest that you should send emails around 6 or 7 a.m., or around 8 p.m. During these hours, 45% — nearly half — of all emails sent receive a reply.

Previous research into Yesware’s data trove finds that another good way to boost your email reply rate is to copy additional recipients. An analysis of some 500,000 sales emails shows that messages sent to two people — one on the main “to” line, one on the “cc” line — were opened around 84% of the time, and replied to in more than six out of 10 instances. Copying a second recipient rather than sending it outright to both is the key, Yesware says in a blog post. If your recipients see that multiple people are included in the message, they figure somebody else will go to the effort of responding. “When a task is placed in front of a group of people, individuals are more likely to assume that someone else will take responsibility for it,” the company says. “So, no one does.”

TIME

This Is the Easiest Productivity Hack in the History of Work

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You can literally do this in one second

To learn better, hit control-s and “outsource” your remembering.

In a new study, scientists found that people tackling a mental challenge on a computer did a better job if they saved the previous work they had been doing beforehand.

“Saving one file before studying a new file significantly improved memory for the contents of the new file,” the authors write. “Saving has the potential to significantly influence how people learn and remember.”

In a series of experiments, participants were instructed to study two PDF files and remember words it contained. Subjects did a better job remembering material from the second file if they successfully saved the first file before proceeding onto the second one.

“Saving allows us to maintain access to more data and experiences than would be possible otherwise,” says says Benjamin Storm, assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lead author of the study. “Memory now works in concert with technology, and by saving information we are able to keep that information from interfering with the learning of something new.”

The act of saving something digitally gives us a sense of reassurance that the information is there when we need it, which psychologically frees up our mind and allows us to focus on the next batch of information we need to learn. Essentially, we’re reallocating our mental resources.

“To maximize memory and productivity we need to be able to set stuff aside and move on to other matters,” Storm says.

In earlier research, he found that thinking of new things makes it harder to remember old thoughts. If you’re worrying if or when you’ll need to refer to earlier information in the future, hitting the “save” button or shortcut is a quick, easy and low-risk way way to virtually hang onto that information without forcing it to occupy the forefront of your mind.

“Saving may protect us from this type of thinking-induced forgetting by allowing us to think of new ideas while keeping our old ideas safely saved and out of the way,” Storm says.

Storm points out that his experiments just looked at what happens when someone saves a file before closing it and starting a new task, but he says it’s not a bad idea to save your work on a regular basis anyway.

When new information crowds out older thoughts, people can even forget their own ideas, Storm says. “Save or write down good ideas as soon as you get them,” he advises. “Even if you think you’re going to remember them, chances are that you won’t, especially if you continue to try to think of new ideas.”

TIME

1 Number That Debunks Everything You Think You Know About College

College Student Graduation Debt Loans
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'Four-year degree' doesn't mean what it used to

There’s been plenty of ink and pixels spent parsing the problem of student loan debt: Why it’s so high, who to blame, how to stop it and so on. But a recent study sheds light on a huge contributor to the problem that goes largely overlooked: Public college graduation rates, even at big flagships schools, are jaw-droppingly low.

A study conducted by nonprofit group Complete College America tallied up both state-level and national data on graduation rates at two-year and four-year public colleges, and the results are sobering.

Only 5% of two-year students actually graduate in two years. The picture is hardly better for four-year institutions, especially when you consider that the cost of obtaining a bachelor’s degree is significantly higher. Only 36% of students at flagship public schools, and 19% of students at satellite and regional campuses, are able to walk out of the gates, diploma in hand, after four years.

“[We were] surprised at how pervasive the problem of time to degree has become at all public higher education institutions,” says Bruce Vandal, the group’s vice president. While two-year schools tend to attract more older, lower-income and first-generation students — all demographics more likely to be part-time students — Vandal says the issue goes far beyond that. “We did not expect flagship institutions and more selective public institutions to also have low on time graduation rates,” he says.

The numbers paint a clear picture showing that school administrators and policymakers, not to mention students, now consider a four-plus year timeframe to be the norm.

To some extent, Vandal says, this is a product of student error. Kids might not know what they want to major in when they first get to college and wind up taking a bunch of classes that don’t advance them towards the major they eventually choose. There also are a

But blaming a bunch of 17- and 18-year-olds for not being able to navigate the higher education system essentially on their own isn’t the answer. Vandal says there are plenty of things schools and states can do to make students better-informed consumers of the educational services they receive.

Some schools are experimenting with what Vandal calls a “guided pathways system:” Students have to pick a broad category — say, Health Sciences, for example — right away, then they get a year to narrow down their specific field of study.

“Another problem is that too few students enroll in the requisite 15 credits a semester that are necessary to graduate on time,” Vandal says. Students become eligible for “full time” financial aid while taking 12 credits a semester, and this mismatch adds up.

“For four-year students, registering for only 12 credits a term automatically puts them on the five-year plan,” Vandal says.

This has a big impact on students’ budgets and, ultimately, the debt loads they’ll carry with them for the first decade of their adult lives. “Once students’ time to degree exceeds four years, the costs to attend college increase and debt levels rise dramatically,” Vandal says. Every extra year of college for two-year degree seekers costs an average of $15,933 more. For four year degrees, it’s even higher: $22,826 for every extra year.

After four years, grants and scholarships may expire, and the savings of students and their families are more likely to be depleted, Vandal says, forcing them to rely more heavily on loans to complete their degrees.

“Reducing the time to degree and credits to degree for students will dramatically decrease student loan debt,” he says.

TIME

The Most Completely Depressing Stat About Americans’ Debt

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David Franklin

Oof, it's a rough one

Consumer confidence may be up, but the picture changes when Americans think about their debt load and the likelihood they’ll ever dig out from it.

In a new CreditCards.com survey, 18% of Americans with debt say they won’t eliminate those debts in their lifetime, double the number who said the same in a 2013 survey.

There are a few reasons behind this rapid increase, says the site’s senior analyst, Matt Schulz. Our ballooning student loan debt and increasing willingness to carry balances on credit cards play a role, but they’re not the only factors.

“Underemployment is still a problem as is wage growth, even though unemployment is lower,” he says. This malaise stretches across the economic spectrum. The survey found that higher incomes don’t translate to optimism. Households who earn more than $75,000 aren’t much more confident about their ability to shed their debt than less well-off families.

The average age when borrowers expect to be completely debt-free, owing nothing on credit cards, car loans, student loans, mortgages and loans, is 53, but a significant number of people think it will take longer. More than 40% of people who carry debt think they’ll be over the age of 60 before they pay everything off, and almost a third of debtors 65 and older say they’ll never get out of debt.

If these debtors are correct in their hunch, there could be some significant macroeconomic fallout, Schulz says.

“Continuous debt can mean indefinitely postponing retirement and that can cause a host of issues,” he says. “It can also cause great economic stress on those people’s children.” This “sandwich generation” are often caught in the middle trying to support both their grown children and their parents.

Those grown children — millennials — are considerably more optimistic than their parents and grandparents when it comes to their debts, but their optimism may be misplaced. Only 6% of millennials surveyed think they’ll die with debts, but the reality could give them a rude shock. Unlike even their struggling grandparents, young adults have fewer options for getting rid of their debt other than buckling down and paying it down, since much more of what they owe is in the form of student loans, which can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, rather than the credit card debt or even mortgages that weighed down older generations.

“Someone who sees themselves as trapped forever by debt might stop working to get themselves out of it,” Schulz says, and that inaction brought on by hopelessness could contribute to their balances ballooning if they stop trying to pay them down.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Why You Should Go Ahead and Quit Your Dead-End Job

Job Hopping
Businesswoman resting head on desk Cultura RM/Jason Butcher—Getty Images/Collection Mix: Subjects RM

If you do it right, that is

Conventional job-seeking wisdom is that bouncing from one gig to the next is a sure way to get your resume thrown out as soon as it hits a hiring manager’s desk. But a new survey indicates that, as millennials increase their numbers and clout in corporate America, this attitude could become as out of place in the modern office as a typewriter.

According to a survey about on-the-job attitudes among different generations conducted by PayScale.com and research firm Millennial Branding, roughly a quarter of millennials say workers should be expected to stay in a job a year or less before moving on. While more than 40% of Baby Boomers think an employee should stick around for five years before shopping around their resume, only 13% of millennials share that view.

“It wasn’t surprising to see that millennials had a more relaxed attitude about job tenure than older generations,” says Lydia Frank, editorial director at PayScale.

Some of this intergenerational mismatch could be because of the labor market millennials confronted when they first reached adulthood. The survey finds that roughly a third of young adults with advanced degrees consider themselves underemployed — meaning they’re likelier to jump ship if they find a job opportunity that makes better use of their skills and education.

What’s especially revealing, Frank adds, is that 41% of Boomers still believe a five-year stretch is the minimum a worker should stay at a job. This means there are still quite a few hiring managers who frown on job-hopping, which means employees should be strategic with short-term tenures.

“I think they tend to view very vocal success . . . the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world — and think that’s essentially the playing field they’re on,” says Aravinda Souza, senior marketing manager at HR software firm Bullhorn.

Still, millennials might have the right idea in some industries — especially high-tech ones, Frank says. “Five years can be a really long time in certain industries like technology, for example, where staying at one company too long can be viewed as a sign of stagnation rather than loyalty,” she points out.

Young adults have less of an expectation that a company will be loyal to them, so they don’t feel an obligation to be loyal to their employer. In its survey, PayScale finds that millennials want bosses who are friendly and who give good feedback, but they’re less concerned that their boss “goes to bat for you” — a top priority for Boomers.

That said, millennials who engage in job-hopping for its own sake are taking a risk. Without a strategy behind it, this is still a red flag for hiring managers, Souza warns. “Basically, what it’s saying is you’re not loyal to the company, you’re not in it for the long haul and any resources the hiring manager would invest in you in terms of training . . . isn’t likely to be worth it,” she says.

“You have to strike a balance and ensure you’re switching companies for the right reasons,” Frank says. This means you have to be prepared to defend your job-hopping.

“Significantly higher pay, opportunities for advancement and a better match with a company’s mission or culture can all be easily explained in an interview,” she says. If you can articulate those kinds of reasons, you’ll come across as focused rather than flaky.

TIME Money

These College Majors Have the Hardest Time Paying Off Student Loans

Student loans
Student loans Ian Jeffery—Getty Images

Some of them will surprise you

Most college students pick their major based on their talents and their interests, not on how easily that major can help them pay down their student loans. Maybe it’s time to rethink that.

A new study breaks down exactly how hard it is for former students to pay off their student loans based on what their chosen major. While some of the results are predictable, the research sheds new light on exactly how tough it can be for new grads in certain fields. The Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project crunched the numbers on more than 80 different majors to determine how much graduates typically earn right out of school as well as a decade later, and how that affects their ability to pay off their student loans.

At the median, someone with a bachelor’s degree earns $27,000 right out of school, but some majors make considerably less, with a number earning under $20,000. “In the first year of the career, when earnings are at their lowest, graduates from several majors in the arts and humanities would need more than 20 percent of their earnings to service their loans,” the report says.

The list of majors who have to put the highest share of their income towards their loans in the first year after graduation is an eclectic one. “Graduates in drama and theater face payments of 24% of their earnings during the first year of repayment,” the study says. In addition, those with degrees in health and physical education, civilization, ethnic studies, composition, speech, fine arts and nutrition and fitness studies pay the highest percentage of their earnings towards student loan repayment in their first year out of school.

The vast majority — 66 of the 81 majors examined — will have to funnel more than 10% of their first-year earnings towards their student loans. Even grads with degrees in business and math initially have to spend 12% or more of their earnings servicing their debts.

The study also takes a look at how fast graduates’ income rises after graduation. Some of the majors with the lowest initial starting salaries see the fastest increase, largely because starting salaries are initially so low. Many graduates, even those who start out paying a high percentage of their income towards their debts, see that percentage fall quickly. “Earnings grow quickly for graduates of almost every major and especially so for those who start with the lowest earnings,” the study says. By the sixth year of a 10-year payment plan, only a handful of majors are paying more than 10% of their income in debt payments.

Those low incomes right after graduation are still cause for concern, though. “A key problem with the current college financing system is that debt payments are often fixed, while for many majors, earnings are low in the initial years following graduation,” the study’s authors point out. “This mismatch can lead to a substantial financial burden on young workers.”

Is there a solution? The study makes some recommendations around expanding the use of income-based repayment programs, but for now, students might want to consider majoring in computer science, nursing, operations and logistics, or any kind of engineering: People who come out of college with these majors have to dedicate the smallest percentage of their income upon graduation to their student loans.

TIME Autos

Car Shopping? Brace Yourself For This Shocker

Car Dealerships Ahead Of Total Vehicle Sales Figures
Honda Motor Co. vehicles are displayed for sale at the Paragon Honda dealership in the Queens borough of New York, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

You'll be paying it off for ages

If you’re in the market for a vehicle, odds are good that you’ll be borrowing more than ever to pay for your new ride — and you could be taking on more financial risk as a result.

According to new data from Experian Automotive, the average amount of a car loan hit a record high last quarter. In just a year, the average new car loan soared by nearly $1,100 to $27,799, while used-car loans crept up by almost $700 to hit $18,576 over the same time period.

“Monthly payments are at near or all-time highs,” says Melinda Zabritski, Experian’s senior director of Automotive Finance. For Americans already coping with stagnant wages and rising costs of everything from food to healthcare, it’s a struggle to make those heftier payments.

To cope, more drivers are leasing cars; the number of leases is up about 7% from a year ago. In addition, we’re borrowing more and borrowing longer. A record-high 54% of used car deals are financed, while roughly 85% of new car sales are financed. (that number hasn’t changed much.)

Experian finds that more drivers are borrowing for longer terms than the typical five-year loan. The number of new car loans with six- and seven-year terms has shot up by almost 25% since last year. Used-car loans for those terms are up by almost 20% in that time.

Today, more than 42% of new car loans and nearly as many used-car loans are for six-year terms, Zabritski says. This can be a risky strategy, she points out. Although most of us hang onto our cars for eight years on average, stretching out payments for nearly the entire time you own a vehicle has drawbacks.

“This is a depreciating asset, and if you don’t plan on holding onto your car long enough, you very likely owe more than the car is worth upon trade-in,” Zabritski warns. There’s also the fact that a five- or six-year old car might be at the point where it starts needing costly repairs, an expense that can be a bigger burden if you’re still spending a few hundred bucks a month paying down the loan. It also doesn’t give you much breathing room to start saving towards your next car after you’ve made the final payment.

Even with loan terms that stretch out payment for a longer period, people are still paying more per month. The average monthly payment a new car driver makes on his or her loan is $470, while used-car loans hit an average monthly payment amount of $358, an all-time high, according to Experian.

Of course, a longer loan term also means you’re paying more in accumulated interest. Interest rates on longer loans also tend to be a bit higher. Although Zabritski says people who take six years rather than five to pay off their cars save an average of $75 a month, they actually wind up paying several hundred dollars to buy themselves that extra time.

“Understand truly how much car you can afford,” Zabritski advises. “Realize the additional costs involved in car ownership and do your research.”

TIME Careers & Workplace

The Surprising Reason Your Boss Is a Jerk

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Portrait of a Sulking Businessman Wearing Spectacles and a Pinstripe Suit Digital Vision.—Getty Images

It actually has nothing to do with your performance

If your boss seems tired, cranky or distracted, there’s a strong possibility that family issues rather than financial concerns could be to blame.

A study published in Personnel Psychology found that when supervisors have a high level of what researchers call “family-to-work conflict,” the negative effects tend to spill over into the workplace. If your boss is fighting with their spouse or has other troubles at home, look out — you could be collateral damage in his or her domestic battle.

Bosses with troubled home lives bring a bad attitude into the workplace that rubs off onto their underlings, the study found, and a boss dealing with family issues won’t be as good about offering guidance and leadership support.

“Someone coping with high demands at home is likely to have fewer emotional and mental resources available for dealing with stress at work,” says the Association for Psychological Science in an article about the study.

Since it’s probably unwise to suggest to your boss that they look into family counseling, here’s what career experts say you should do to try to mitigate the fallout of a supervisor’s turbulent home life.

Steer clear. “Give the leader a little extra space when you can tell that he or she is stressed out and ready to lash out at the first opportunity,” says Monique Honaman, CEO and partner at ISHR Group. Just staying out of the line of fire can keep your boss from transferring their bad mood onto you, so reschedule a call or a meeting if you sense storm clouds gathering. “Your boss may appreciate the opportunity to find some space in his or her schedule without having to be the one who canceled,” Honaman says.

Cut them some slack. This depends on what kind of boss they are and what kind of relationship you have with them, says Ben Peterson, co-founder and CEO of software company BambooHR, but it’s probably not worth alienating an otherwise good supervisor who’s just going through a rough patch.

Don’t go above their head. At the very least, this should be your last resort rather than your first, says executive coach Roy Cohen. “Sometimes companies will tolerate bad behavior . . . when a manager is well-liked, is a big revenue producer, or has a protector at a senior level in the company,” he says. Set out to rock the boat and you could find yourself cast as the problem. “When you draw attention to the issue, you risk the potential for you, your boss, or you both to be seen as problems,” Cohen warns.

Talk to your co-workers. On the other hand, if everyone is in the same boat, you might wield a bit more clout collectively, Cohen says. “When everyone complains the company has no choice but to pay attention,” he says. If you’re going to complain, go to HR or the boss’s boss as a group.

Ask what you can do. “I’ve found that asking sincere questions the right way often helps,” Peterson says. You obviously don’t want to pry into your boss’s personal life, but making your questions specific and work-related can help smooth over a rough patch. Peterson suggests asking, “How can I help make work less stressful for you?” It’s even better if you can suggest a specific task or two that you might be able to take off your boss’s plate.

Concentrate on your own work. Rather than focusing on how to make your boss drop the bad attitude, instead think about what you can do to ease the friction, says Dayna Fellows, president of WorkLife Performance, Inc. “Be one less irritant, one less distraction,” she says. Taking a proactive approach could even bring out leadership skills you never knew you had, Fellows points out.

TIME Money

You’ll Never Guess College Students’ Biggest Regret

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Female student worrying about money Image Source—Getty Images/Image Source

It's not what you think

You might think that when people look back on their college years, their biggest regret would be not being more involved socially, choosing the wrong major or partying too much. In reality, the biggest regret college grads face is a much more grown-up one, and it’s one with repercussions that can follow them well into their adult years.

According to a study conducted by Citizens Financial Group, 77% of former college students age 40 and younger regret not doing a better job of planning how to manage their student loan debt.

Student loan debts have ballooned in recent years, even as the demand for higher education has boomed as more companies in nearly every industry require that job applicants have college degrees. Earlier this year, Federal Reserve Bank of New York data showed that Americans collectively owe $1.1 trillion in student loan debt. By comparison, we owe $8.2 trillion in mortgage debt and $659 billion in credit card debt. Each indebted borrower owes nearly $30,000 upon graduation, and many of them are struggling. Citizen’s survey finds that current students carry roughly $25,000 of student debt, while their parents carry an average of $22,000.

Nearly a quarter of former students in Citizen’s survey say they can’t stay current on their debt payments, and almost two-thirds say they’re uncomfortable with their debt load. Almost half say they would have reconsidered going to college entirely if they knew how burdensome their debts would be years or even decades later.

Current students aren’t faring much better: Seven in 10 don’t think they’ll have enough financial acumen to do a good job managing their debt, and more than 80% say they wish they knew more about the long-term impact of carrying this debt — which will take nearly two decades to pay off for many borrowers, according to the survey responses of former students. What’s more, more than a third of former students don’t even have a guess when they’ll have those debts paid.

A lack of communication seems to be a big contributing factor to this situation: Families don’t talk about student loan debt or make a plan to tackle it in advance. Only 15% of former students and just under a quarter of today’s students report having detailed discussions with their parents about how to pay off those debts — 46% of former students say the topic never came up at all.

The heavy debt burden has some wondering if it’s even worth it. While almost 90% of current students think taking out loans to pay for school will be worth the investment, only about two-thirds of former students think so. And while nearly three-quarters of current students think college is necessary no matter what the cost, only 59% of former students feel the same way.

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TIME Money

Your Credit Score Reveals Way More Than You Realize

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Credit Balance Report teekid—Getty Images

Bad scores can be a sign of poor health

Never mind the blood pressure test: A new study finds that you can tell how healthy someone’s heart is just by looking at their credit score.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds a correlation between high credit, cognitive ability and self-control. Researchers studied health and financial data from more than 1,000 people who had been monitored since birth for nearly 40 years. They discovered that your credit does a lot more than tell a bank whether or not it should give you a loan.

Employers, insurers and even landlords regularly pull the applicants’ credit already, treating it as a proxy for a vague sort of approximation of your diligence, honesty and character. Consumer groups have raised questions about the use of credit as a way to assess things like people’s ethics, arguing that the two aren’t necessarily related.

“Credit reports were not designed as an employment screening tool,” says nonprofit group Demos. “Employment credit checks are an illegitimate barrier to employment, often for the very job applicants who need work the most.” In a survey of job-seekers, Demos found that one in seven people with blemished credit said that they’d been denied a job as a result.

But scientists insist the link is real and they have the proof to back it up. “What it comes down to is that people who don’t take care of their money don’t take care of their health,” study leader Terrie Moffitt says in a statement.

At least some of the factors that influence both health and credit have deep psychological roots. Moffitt’s team found about 20% of the correlation between credit scores and cardiovascular health can be attributed to attitudes and behaviors that are either innate or ingrained very early — the attributes in question were all observed before the participants were 10 years old.

On one hand, it makes sense that someone who exercises poor impulse control when it comes to their diet or fitness regimen might be similarly lackadaisical about their finances, but this doesn’t mean that hard-wired personality traits doom you to poor health and poor credit. Social scientists say they hope the knowledge can lay the groundwork for people to make positive changes in their lives.

“It provides hope that early life intervention can impede the development of life-long patterns of illness and financial struggle,” says Lamar Pierce, an associate professor of organization and strategy at Washington University in St. Louis, who was not involved in the study.

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