TIME Companies

Apple Pay: Who Won and Who Lost?

Not all Apple Pay winners are created equal

Mobile payments are happening to the retail industry like bankruptcy happens to Mike Campbell in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises: gradually, and then suddenly all at once. Google has offered mobile payments for three years, and Walmart and Best Buy have been talking about mobile pay since 2012. But Apple is one of the few companies that many observers say can quickly lead a critical mass of people to wave their phones in the air for everything from bed sheets to burgers.

Retailers, credit card companies and banks all have made big bets on Apple’s new mobile payment system, which makes it more likely to succeed. “We will put our shoulders into a big step change like this,” says Matt Dill, a senior vice president at Visa, an Apple Pay partner, in an interview with TIME. “Apple Pay is a tipping point for major institutions going all in.”

If Apple Pay becomes as ubiquitous as most observers expect, it won’t just change the way consumers pay for things, it’ll reshape the financial institutions that facilitate our purchases. That’s not good news for everyone — many companies felt pushed to join up with Apple so they weren’t left behind. For some, it was either the Apple Pay-way or the highway.

Here’s a list of the major players, roughly in order of who won the most to who won the least.

Apple. Every time a customer make a purchase with Apple Pay, Apple earns a 0.15% charge. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but researchers say it’ll add up in the long run. Equity analysts at Nomura estimated that charge will account for $1.6 billion in projected revenue by 2017. On the lower end of estimates, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says that Apple Pay will generate revenue of $118 million in 2015 and $310 million in 2016.

Perhaps more importantly, Apple Pay, if successful, will increase demand for Apple devices. And once customers are using Apple Pay and all their purchases are wrapped up to their phones, it’ll be that much harder to leave Apple for Android or another smartphone platform.

“Just getting part of the transaction itself will be big” for Apple, says Rajesh Kandaswamy, researcher at Gartner. But “the largest issue is it’s harder to switch away if you’re an iPhone user.”

Banks. Consumers won’t have to pay for Apple’s 0.15% fee on Apple Pay transactions; banks will. The six big banks who have signed up for Apple Pay aren’t enthusiastic about that. But in the long run, banks expect Apple Pay will push people away from using cash and toward transactions that run over their networks. Online shopping will be faster, too, as customers won’t have to input their billing information every time they make a purchase.

Finally, because Apple Pay uses a difficult-to-hack system that encrypts all financial transactions, banks will experience less cybercrime breaches for which they’re held financially liable. “Banks are going to make less money on the transaction than if it were made on a regular card swipe” because of Apple’s fee, says Michelle Evans, an analyst at Euromonitor, “but they can make more money in the end if they can drive volume over the card network and reduce fraud.”

Credit Card Companies. Visa, MasterCard and American Express have loudly trumpeted Apple Pay’s rollout. They stand to make money off Apple Pay for the same reason the banks will: the program pushes customers to their global credit business. Dill, the Visa SVP, calls Apple Pay an “on-ramp” to Visa’s network and a growth-fueler. “If we didn’t encourage innovation” like Apple Pay, “then we would be the worst enemy to our own growth,” Dill says.

But there’s another reason credit card companies are enthusiastic about Apple Pay: the alternative, CurrentC, could be pretty scary. CurrentC is a payment system mega retailers like Walmart and Best Buy are working on that could cut out credit card companies altogether. While Apple Pay leaves the traditional credit card system intact by simply moving it to your phone, analysts speculate that the CurrentC program will link payments through a network connected directly to your savings account. Voila: no middleman.

“If a technology comes along that’s focused on getting you to not use Visa, then that’s a competitor to us,” says Dill. The threat of CurrentC makes Apple Pay look more like a rickety lifeboat for the credit card companies than the super-fast motorboat Apple has promised.

Retailers and Merchants. Walgreens, Macy’s, McDonald’s and other merchants that began using Apple Pay on Monday get the same bonus that they have always gotten from debit cards and credit cards: new customers who can spend money faster. If customers spend money more easily, retailers make money more easily.

Apple Pay is also a good way to move customers through lines more quickly. It could eventually lead to retailers adopting more self-checkout lines; for merchants, that means paying fewer cashiers and lower overhead.

But Apple Pay also reinforces a system that retailers never really liked: they have to continue to pay a fee for every credit and debit card transaction. “Retailers don’t like the fees they pay,” says Kandaswamy. “Apple Pay is going to consolidate power among the same players even more.” CurrentC, on the other hand, could allow retailers to collect customer-specific data. That would let businesses like Walmart target customers with products in the same way that Google or Facebook target their ads.

Two days into Apple Pay, there aren’t yet any data on the program’s success. It’s too early to know how many people have used it or how much money Apple has made from it. But financial institutions believe the way we pay for things is changing quickly, even if we don’t quite notice it yet. “The U.S. is in midst of an innovation in payments,” Carolyn Balfany, senior vice president at MasterCard, tells TIME. “Payment security is going to change more in the next five years than it has in the past 50.” If Apple Pay does take off, then it is happening gradually before it’s here all of a sudden.

MONEY Autos

With 56 Million Auto Recalls This Year, How Do You Know You’re Safe?

An airbag igniter is built into a steering wheel for a car at the Takata Ignition Systems Gmbh factory in Schoenebeck, Germany, 17 April 2014.
An airbag igniter being installed at a Takata factory in Schoenebeck, Germany Jens Wolf—picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

It seems like every other day, news breaks about a recall on millions of cars that, if left unaddressed, could prove deadly. Here's what consumers can do to ensure their safety.

There are two months left in the year, but 2014 has already broken the record for most auto recalls ever. As of October, automakers had issued recalls for an estimated all-time-high of 56 million vehicles in the U.S. “To put that in perspective, automakers have now recalled more than three times the number of new cars and trucks Americans will buy this year,” the Detroit Free Press noted.

The flurry of recalls has come fast and furiously in 2014. This week, Toyota issued a recall on roughly 250,000 vehicles in the U.S. related to faulty airbags, on top of a global recall of 1.7 million Toyotas for a wide range of safety defects that circulated last week. Through October 20, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists 29 separate auto manufacturer recalls thus far in the month.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. General Motors recalled 2.7 million vehicles last May, less than one month after the automaker announced it had spent $1.3 billion to recall 7 million vehicles worldwide, including 2.6 million for faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths. Ford recalled 700,000 vehicles last spring because of concerns the airbags wouldn’t deploy quickly enough, while some 16 million vehicles from 10 automakers have been recalled because the airbags, made by the Japanese company Takata, could inflate with explosive force strong enough to hurt or even kill the riders the devices are designed to save in the case of an accident. And on and on.

The numbers are so big, and the recalls pop up with such frequency, that you might be inclined to tune them out—not unlike the hacks and data breaches that occur with astonishing regularity at major retailers. But then, you know … there’s death and catastrophic injury. The potential of anything so dire affecting you and your loved ones should make you snap to attention and take action. Here are steps to take to stay safe:

For a Car You Own
When a car is subject to a safety recall, the automaker is required to notify vehicle owners via mail. The letter will feature the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) emblem and include the words “SAFETY RECALL NOTICE” in large typeset. Hopefully that’s enough to alert recipients that this isn’t junk mail. The notification will include instructions, typically consisting of the need to bring the vehicle into a local dealership and have the recalled issue fixed. The service should be provided free of charge to the owner.

You might assume that service departments would drag their feet on handling such recalls—customers aren’t paying money out of pocket after all—but a Reuters story from this past summer pointed out that the recalls represent opportunity for car dealerships. Recalls bring in new customers, or bring back customers that haven’t been at the dealership since they bought the car, and when they bring the recalled vehicle in to be serviced, they may be inclined to get the oil changed or have some other work done. Heck, many have been known to browse showrooms while waiting for their old cars to be fixed, where they wind up getting talked into buying new cars. The takeaway for consumers is: Don’t allow yourself to be upsold into a costly service job when you’re at the dealership getting a recall issue addressed, and don’t buy a new car unless it’s truly the model you want, at the price you want.

To make sure that your car is safe, the NHTSA offers a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) search feature online. Enter your VIN—which is displayed on the dashboard of the driver’s side is most easily seen looking through the windshield from outside—and you can find out if your car has been recalled anytime over the past 15 years, as well as whether or not the recall has been repaired on your specific vehicle. Unfortunately, the government site can be glitchy (the VIN search function has been listed as “temporarily unavailable” lately). If it’s not working—or even if it is and you want to be doubly careful—head to Carfax.com, which also allows people to look up recall issues for specific cars using VINs at no charge. For yet another option, the NHTSA allows you to sign up for email alerts for recalls on up to five vehicles, as well as alerts regarding any recalls of car seats and tires.

For a Car You Might Buy
Before buying a used car, do some due diligence on recalls. Carfax estimates that 3.5 million used cars were listed for sale last year with unfixed safety recalls. Get the VIN of the specific used car you’re interested in, and follow the steps above to make sure that any recall has been addressed. If it hasn’t, make the owner fix it before you buy—or use the fact that the repair hasn’t been made as a reason to cut the asking price. If you wind up closing the deal, don’t forget to bring the car into a local dealership to get the recall fixed asap.

For a Car You Might Rent
A bill currently under consideration in Congress called the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 would allow agencies to rent cars that have been subject to recalls only if the defects have been fixed. In other words, as of now, it’s vaguely legal for the Hertzes and Enterprises of the world to rent recalled cars even if the recall hasn’t been addressed. In fact, in recent years, some major agencies have tried to make the case that it’s OK to continue to rent recalled vehicles to customers because some recalls are unimportant, as they don’t qualify as serious safety risks.

USA Today columnist Bill McGee investigated the murky world of recalls and rental cars this past summer. What he found is that agencies generally proactively remove vehicles from their fleets or have them fixed pronto if they’ve been subject to dangerous, high-profile recalls—failure to do so could expose them to millions in lawsuits if an accident occurred due to an unfixed recall. Hertz and Avis, among others, have said that coping with recalls has cost their companies millions of dollars this year, because when recalled vehicles are being fixed at dealerships they obviously can’t be rented out to customers.

But again, until the Safe Rental Car Act—named for two sisters who died in 2004 in a rental car with power steering fluid recall that hadn’t been fixed—is passed into law (hardly a done deal), agencies aren’t obligated to have all car recalls addressed before renting them out. “Currently, there is no prohibition on rental car companies renting vehicles that are under a recall, but have not yet been remedied,” a former NHTSA administrator named David Strickland testified to Congress last year.

What can a renter do to stay safe? Start by clarifying your agency’s policy. Alamo, for instance, states plainly, “We do not rent recalled vehicles until the recall has been remedied.” But information regarding recalls can be vague or hard to find with some other rental operators. If the policy is remotely unclear, call and ask questions.

You can also use the NHTSA’s database to see if the vehicle model you have reserved has been recalled, but this strategy comes with complications. For one thing, rental agencies generally don’t guarantee a specific model with a reservation—you reserve a “mid-size” category of vehicle, not a Toyota Camry or whatever. What’s more, it’s impossible to know a car’s specific VIN until you pick the vehicle up, and therefore it’s impossible to check if the model’s recall problems have been fixed. In light of these problems, you might want to make another call—to your local representative in Congress, to urge support of the Safe Rental Car Act.

TIME stocks

Apple’s Big Week Continues As Stock Price Hits a New High

An Apple Inc. logo is displayed on the company's iPhone 6 Plus during the sales launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus on Sept. 19, 2014.
An Apple Inc. logo is displayed on the company's iPhone 6 Plus during the sales launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus on Sept. 19, 2014. Bloomberg—Getty Images

Technology giant is on track to surpass its record close of $103.30

Shares of Apple passed their all-time high point during morning trading Wednesday, putting an exclamation point on an already strong week for the tech giant.

Apple gained steadily to start the day and eventually touched a high-water mark of $104.11 per share, wiping out the company’s previous all-time high of $103.74 from early September. (In June, the company announced a 7 to 1 stock split.) While Apple’s shares have come back down a bit more recently, they are still up about 1% on the day and they have gained almost 6% in value so far this week. The company’s market cap is around $607 billion.

The uptick in share price follows in the wake of Apple reporting strong earnings on Monday that included a 12% third-quarter sales bump and record profits thanks to better-than-expected iPhone sales. The company also launched its new mobile payments system, Apple Pay, on Monday and the much-hyped Apple Watch is set to hit customers’ wrists early next year.

Investors will surely be keeping their eyes on Apple’s stock throughout the day today. The company’s record closing high is $103.30.

Of course, even the all-time high price for Apple stock likely won’t be high enough for Carl Icahn. The activist investor sent an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier this month asserting his belief that Apple’s shares should be worth more than $200 each and that the company should dramatically increase its share buyback program. Icahn owns almost a 1% stake in Apple.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Food & Drink

Here’s Why Millennials Need to Learn to Love Frozen Food

Why Millennials Need to Develop a Taste for Frozen Food
Evan Sklar—Getty Images

Though they have an aversion to it, they'll find it'll be a staple in the elderly care programs they will eventually join

On Oct. 21, senior citizens in Merrimack, N.H. participating in the Meals on Wheels service waited eagerly to be delivered platters of frozen turkey meatloaf with mashed potatoes, corn, kidney beans and flax-seed bread. Those with slightly more traditional palates opted for a dish of liver and onions—frozen, too. But tell any millennial about the menus of programs like Meals on Wheels, a global delivery service of mostly frozen dishes to the elderly, and the response isn’t likely to be as welcoming.

It’s no secret that millennials have an aversion to frozen food. The marketing of TV dinners targets empty nesters, and those dropping frozen meals in their grocery carts are getting older and older. Younger generations are instead flocking to services like GrubHub, which delivers hot restaurant meals, or AmazonFresh, recently launched in New York City, which delivers fresh groceries.

In fact, research suggests that millennials have a fear of the lifestyles commonly associated with frozen food eaters: lonely elderly people whose only social interactions are with delivery volunteers, or physically limited seniors who stockpile food in the freezer in lieu of grocery shopping. Millennials have made it a goal to avoid that kind of life, studies say. According to a report by Edelman, millennials distinguish themselves from Generation X and the Baby Boomers by living more often with others, a testament to a shared fear of being alone. And a collective desire for a healthy lifestyle has made them more conscious in resisting the forces of aging, according to research by Nielsen and the National Marketing Institute.

The inescapable reality, though, is that someday millennials will age. While millennials’ preferences for convenience and health have driven the evolution of online food delivery services, the options for seniors, particularly those who are alone, low-income or face dietary restrictions, remain unchanged.

Part of the reason is science: flash freezing meals not only is convenient, but it also prevents bacterial growth, according to Greg Miller, CEO of Magic Kitchen, which serves many elderly customers. Additionally, Miller said that when thousands of dollars are spent to analyzing their specially-made meals’ nutritional content, freezing the meals is often the only viable option for elderly who require, for example, a week’s supply of low-sodium meals. “There’s always going to be a need for this particular group of individuals,” says Ellie Hollander, CEO of Meals on Wheels, which partners with companies like GA Foods and Golden Cuisine to craft similarly specialized meals. “That’s not going to be replaced by [online food delivery services]. That’s just a fact.”

Still, some reports have argued that America’s “love affair” with frozen foods is over. That may only be true for the commercial frozen food industry, which includes brands such as Lean Cuisine, Marie Callender’s and Healthy Choice. The industry’s sales are in decline: U.S. revenue fell 2% between 2013 and Aug. 2014, the first drop in recent years, according to Nielsen data. Similar to research on millennials’ preferences, a 2012 survey found that shoppers were turning away from commercial frozen food for nutritional reasons. But that doesn’t mean the demand for senior services’ frozen foods—meals individually tailored to dietary needs—is also melting. It’s actually the opposite: Miller says Magic Kitchen has grown more than 40% year-over-year, while Hollander adds Meals on Wheels has grown by 98% since 2002.

Part of that demand growth is attributed to fewer federal investments in the Senior Nutrition Programs authorized by the Older Americans Act, which was passed in 1965 to provide community services to elderly citizens. As a result, seniors’ nutrition appropriations, which subsidize meal delivery services, have plummeted since 2009.

The lack of federal funding will only boost the proportion of American seniors who face “the threat of hunger,” which was 15.3% in 2012, according to a recent report by the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger. The percentage, which has risen from about 11% in 2001, also varies widely across state, but the lowest rate is still 8% in Minnesota. (Click on states in the map below to learn their exact rates.)

The figures are perhaps the most unsettling for millennials, some of whom, barring significant changes, will inevitably find themselves someday as senior citizens unsure where to obtain their next meal. Worse, demographic trends are making it harder for millennials to escape this fate. The 60+ U.S. population is projected to double between 2010 and 2050, with the proportions of single-person American households higher than ever, according to the Census Bureau. Meanwhile, the prevalence of cooking meals at home has decreased significantly across all socioeconomic groups since the 1960s, according to NIH research.

In other words, the stars are aligned for some millennials, whether they believe it not, to subscribe in their sunset years to elderly food services that serve frozen meals. And that’s only if they’re fortunate enough to obtain access to programs like Magic Kitchen or Meals on Wheels that carefully craft dishes to meet their nutritional needs.

Still, services popular with millennials now, like GrubHub or AmazonFresh, have the opportunity to remain popular with millennials by tapping into the expanding market of elderly meal services. In fact, both GrubHub and Amazon aren’t opposed to filling the smaller yet critical market of individualized elderly meal plans. “We’ve found that we have a wide range of customers,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in response to AmazonFresh’s target demographic. “Our job is to listen to our customers, invent on their behalf, and let them decide.” A GrubHub spokeswoman similarly said that while GrubHub is “focused on the opportunities within our current market,” that doesn’t mean “[an elderly meal service] isn’t something we may look into in the future.”

After all, data makes clear that senior services are in need assistance, too. And these programs, like Meals on Wheels, are more than ready to adapt to the digital platforms currently serving their future customers. “[Meals on Wheels] is a great public-private partnership,” says Hollander. “And there’s no reason why we can’t be excited that [services like GrubHub] may become partners as that same population ages.”

TIME Food & Drink

This Is McDonald’s Big Plan to Win You Over

McDonald's Q3 2014
A sign for a McDonald's restaurant is seen in Times Square on June 9, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

The fast food giant's sales are flagging, and it's about to give its menu a makeover to win over customers

After McDonald’s on Tuesday yet again posted disappointing quarterly earnings, the fast food chain is ordering up a supersize strategy that’s all about the smaller things: local ingredients, regional tastes and your own personal preferences.

McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson said Tuesday during an earnings call that the company is “changing aggressively” in the U.S., German, Australia and Japan under a new platform that emphasizes personalized meals alongside its classic options.

“Customers want to personalize their meals with locally relevant ingredients. They also want to enjoy eating in a contemporary inviting atmosphere. And they want choices: choices in how they order, choices in what they order and how they’re served,” Thompson said.

Thompson added that existing regional offerings include the chorizo burrito, which is being tested in Texas, and mozzarella sticks, which are being tested in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. More evidence of McDonald’s plan for tailor-made options include confirming that its McRib will be available at only participating restaurants and no longer rolled out nationwide, CNBC reported last week.

But that’s not all: McDonald’s is taking a hint from DIY outlets by expanding its build-a-burger program called “Create Your Taste.” The program has been tested in four Southern California chains since September, and allows customers to use a touch screen to pick out their preferred burger toppings like tortilla chips and jalapeños, according to Businessweek.

 

MONEY Gas

Last Time Gas Prices Were This Cheap, It Was January 2011

The price of regular gasoline dropped to $2.659 per gallon at the Hi Tech Fuels station on Brainerd Road and other stations in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014.
The price of regular gasoline dropped to $2.659 per gallon in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. John Rawlston—AP

Average prices at the pump have dropped roughly 10¢ in one week, and drivers in no fewer than 17 states are already paying less than $3 per gallon.

The analysts forecast that $3 gas was in our nation’s future, and indeed, according to AAA data, the average price for a gallon of regular is currently under the $3 mark in 17 states. The gas price tracking app GasBuddy reports that 46% of gas stations around the country are now charging less than $3 per gallon, compared with just 3% one year ago.

Nationally, the average has fallen by roughly a dime over the course of a quick seven days, landing just under $3.09 as of Wednesday. That’s about 25¢ cheaper than what drivers were paying for gas both one month and one year ago, and 60¢ less than prices in spring and early summer 2014. The cost of filling up has been positively plummeting for drivers in states such as Kentucky and Indiana, where gas stations lowered prices an average of 17¢ and 16¢, respectively, during a recent seven-day span.

Overall, the current $3.086 national average is the lowest the country has seen since early January 2011, when it was measured at $3.07. Could prices go even lower? Sure. In fact, that’s more or less what’s expected.

Earlier this fall, experts had predicted the national average would “perhaps” hit $3.10 or $3.15 by year’s end. What this means is that prices have dipped more quickly and sharply than most analysts ever anticipated—thanks to weak demand, increased global production, and the strengthening U.S. dollar, among other forces. Now experts such as GasBuddy’s Patrick DeHaan are projecting that the national average “will break the $3/gallon mark by around Election Day.”

The last time we were under the $3 mark as a country was December 2010. What’s interesting is that people weren’t particularly happy about gas prices at the time—because the average had been roughly 40¢ cheaper one year prior to that. Everything is relative.

MONEY retirement planning

22% of Workers Would Rather Die Early Than Run Out of Money

transparent piggy bank with one silver coin inside
Dimitri Vervitsiotis—Getty Images

Yet many of the same folks are hardly saving anything for retirement, study finds.

A large slice of middle-class Americans have all but given up on the retirement they may once have aspired to, new research shows—and their despair is both heartbreaking and frustrating. Most say saving for retirement is more difficult than they had expected and yet few are making the necessary adjustments.

Some 22% of workers say they would rather die early than run out of money, according to the Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement survey. Yet 61% say they are not sacrificing a lot to save for their later years. Nearly three quarters acknowledge they should have started saving sooner.

The survey, released during National Retirement Savings Week, looks at the retirement planning of Americans with household incomes between $25,000 and $100,000, who held investable assets of less than $100,000. One third are contributing nothing—zero—to a 401(k) plan or an IRA, and half say they have no confidence that they will have enough to retire. Middle-class Americans have a median retirement balance of just $20,000 and say they expect to need $250,000 in retirement.

Still, Americans who have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, especially a 401(k), are doing much better than those without one. Those between the ages of 25 to 29 with access to a 401(k) have put away a median of $10,000, compared with no savings at all for those without access to a plan. Those ages 30 to 39 with a 401(k) plan have saved a median of $35,000, versus less than $1,000 for those without. And for those ages 40 to 49 with 401(k)s, the median is $50,000, while those with no plan have just $10,000.

Clearly, despite its many drawbacks, the venerable 401(k) remains our de facto national savings plan, and the best shot that the middle-class has at achieving retirement security. But only half of private-sector workers have access to a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Those without access would benefit from a direct-deposit Roth or traditional IRA or some other tax-favored account, but data show that most Americans fail to make new contributions to IRAs, with most of those assets coming from 401(k) rollovers. One exception: a growing number of Millennials are making Roth IRA contributions.

Most people do understand the need to save for retirement, but they don’t view it as an urgent goal requiring spending cutbacks, the survey found. Still, many clearly have room in their budget to boost their savings rates. Asked where they would cut spending if they decided to get serious about saving, 56% said they would give up indulgences like the spa and jewelry; 55% said they’d cut restaurant meals; and 51% even said they would give up a major purchase like a car or a home renovation. But only 38% said they would forgo a vacation. We all need a little R&R, for sure. But a few weeks of fun now in exchange for years of retirement security is a good trade.

Of course, the larger problem is that a sizeable percentage of middle-class Americans are struggling financially and simply don’t enough money to stash away for long-term goals like retirement. As economic data show, many workers haven’t had a real salary increase for 15 years, while the cost of essentials, such as health care and college tuition, continues to soar.

Given these economic headwinds, it’s important to do as much as you can, when you can, to build your retirement nest egg. If you have a 401(k), be sure to contribute at least enough to get the full company match. And if you lack a company retirement plan, opt for an IRA—the maximum contribution is $5,500 a year ($6,500 if you are 50 or older). Yes, freeing up money to put away for retirement is tough, but it will be a bit easier if you can get tax break on your savings.

Related:

How much of my income should I save for retirement?

Why is a 401(k) such a good deal?

Which is better, a traditional or Roth IRA?

TIME Autos

Owners of Nearly 8 Million Cars Warned to Replace Airbags Immediately

Takata Airbags Lead Toyota, Nissan To Recall 3 Million Cars
The airbag unit for the passenger seat of a Toyota Motor Corp. vehicle is seen at the company's showroom in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, April 11, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Federal regulators said Tuesday that 7.8 million are affected by faulty air bags from supplier Takata

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday warned owners of nearly 8 million cars with potentially faulty airbags to “act immediately” on notices to replace the defective parts, in an alert sent over fears that car owners weren’t getting defective airbags replaced, leaving them at risk of injury or death.

 

The NHTSA has recommended that owners of 7.8 million Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors models replace air bags supplied by Takata. The airbags, which can explode in a flurry of shrapnel even after a minor accident, have caused at least three deaths and more than 100 injuries.

“Responding to these recalls, whether old or new, is essential to personal safety and it will help aid our ongoing investigation into Takata airbags and what appears to be a problem related to extended exposure to consistently high humidity and temperatures,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said in a statement.

A total of more than 14 million vehicles from 11 automakers have been recalled over Takata airbags, most in the last two years, the New York Times reports.

TIME

Here Are The Strange Things Dudes Are Asking on Lulu’s New Messaging Service

BC9209-002
Getty Images

The once women-only app is doing some serious male outreach

Lulu — an app that allows women to rate men as if they were consumer goods, including hashtags ranging from the good (#SelfMadeMan) to the gross (#PornEducated) — has now opened up the lines of communication between female and male users. After three weeks of beta testing, the two-year-old app launched its Truth Bombs feature Wednesday, which allows men to anonymously ask women questions. This feedback just might be what they need to raise their Yelp-like score.

“This is the first time we are doing any messaging,” said Lulu co-founder Alison Schwartz. “How it works is guys can ask an anonymous question or test out a theory they want to test out with women, some sort of query, and then they get instant feedback from millions of girls.”

The new feature pointedly marks the evolving relationship Lulu has with its million-plus male users. When the app launched in Feb. 2013, it was advertised as a secret, ladies-only space to swap information about former male relations. Bros stole glances at female friends’ phones and attempted hacks to see how they were doing. After a slew of Internet backlash (and anti-Lulu petitions) deriding the app for inciting bullying and gender-based double standards, Lulu made the experience more male-friendly in 2014 by having a policy where men had to opt-in and give their full permission to be reviewed. In May, the male-outreach went a step further and Lulu allowed men to check their scores, giving them tips and affirmations. (“Girls love your kissing.”)

And now, men can go straight to the source and ask women questions. But what have the men been asking? During the beta test, these were the most popular questions verbatim (there are some pretty bad typos), some of which led to 2,500 responses, although most questions average 15 replies:

  1. How many guys have you slept with and how old are you… GO !
  2. What age did you loose your virginity?
  3. Do women like abs or arms more?
  4. How frequently do girls masterbate?
  5. Do girls find it attractive if a guy claims p***y is being thrown at him left and right?

Um, woah. Some of these misspelled questions about “loosing” virginity (“Freudian slip?” asked Scwhartz) are just the type of sophomoric musings you’d expect from a dude who gets to anonymously crowdsource information from anonymous women. But when asked how the women were responding to the questions, Schwartz said, “They are meaningfully answering what the guys are asking about. They are trying to be really helpful.”

And there are moderation protocols — “we have designed a product against bullying,” said Scwhartz — to keep things clean, relatively. Although of the 60,000 Truth Bombs that were asked during the three week beta test, averaging some 100 Truth Bombs an hour, only 800 were flagged.

For now, the messaging option is all anonymous and each thread is limited to one guy (the one who posed the question) and millions of female users. Although other men can view the threads, they can’t participate in the conversation.

“But we see on the app that there’s interested in moving to a one girl one guy dynamic,” said Schwartz. Could the next step in Lulu be one-on-one communication, perhaps enabling dating? “Anything is possible, but we would do that in a way that this is very true to Lulu.”

See Also:

This Map Shows What Guys Are Like in Each Major City

Rate The Date Online: Lulu App Lets Women Review Hookups

TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Questions You Have to Ask During a Job Interview

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Don't be afraid to grill hiring managers. Chances are, they're hoping you will

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Earlier this month, I was interviewing a prospective designer for my company. The candidate asked, “Who does wireframing for your app, the product team or the design team?” A simple question. But it kicked off a great discussion about our processes and how he could contribute to the team.

I remember thinking, “Hey, we are already working together…” This candidate is now an employee and a good fit for our company. His simple question opened the doors for us to have a genuine conversation about each other’s motivations, needs, passions, and work philosophies. In my 20-plus years in the recruitment industry, I am still surprised by how rare this crucial conversation is in a job interview.

There’s no doubt candidates who ask questions have a better chance at landing their dream job. Here are eight of the best questions I’ve heard from candidates:

1. What role will I fill?

When it comes to an employee’s role in a business’s strategy, the job title explains only so much. You are filling a void on the living, breathing team. Is this company hoping for an ideas person, a mentor to other employees, a creative force, a rule follower, a rule breaker? Get to the specifics of “who” your position is supposed to be.

2. Why does this role matter to the growth of the company?

Use this question to explore the expected level of engagement. Are you more comfortable being in a low- or a high-impact role? Do you want to be in a role that is universally respected within the company or are you OK being the undercover hero?

3. Who would my colleagues be?

The best interviews include three to four team members. If that is not the case in your interview, use this question to gain insight into team dynamics and personalities. These are the people you will spend every day with, so they need to pass what Tom Gimbel calls “the airplane test“—someone you would enjoy sitting next to on a long flight.

4. What would I be doing that makes your job easier?

This question has two benefits—you will find out who is going to lean on you the heaviest and what you will need to do to keep the other teammates happy. The answers to this question will be the immediate problems each team member is hoping you will solve.

5. What are additional important skills I will need to do this job well?

What are the soft skills needed for this particular job? Find out if the company needs someone who is also a self-starter or works well in teams. This is also an excellent time to bring up any additional skills you have that are appropriate for position.

6. How does the company measure success?

Identifying how your progress in this position will be measured will give you a better idea of whether or not you will be successful. Get specifics on what your deliverables will be per project. Ask about common work habits of people who have had this position in the past whom the company considered successful.

7. What would you expect from me this month, in three months, and in a year?

Chances are that your employer has a trajectory for your role in mind. Find out what you will need to deliver in the next coming months. Ask yourself if this pace feels doable for the way you work.

8. What is your mission?

This is one of the most important questions you can ask. Research shows that employees are most happy when their goals align with those of their employers. Get philosophical here and find out why you are both here in this room and if you want the same things.

Repeat your questions for each hiring manager you meet, because you will get different responses from different people. As a CEO, I am often the last person in the round of interviews. It happens time and time again that I will say, “Do you have any questions for me?” and get a polite “No, I got a lot of my questions answered.”

I didn’t get my questions answered though. Keep the conversation going. If you want to work for my company, you have to ask for it.

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