TIME Money

This Is the Scariest Number Facing the Middle Class

Official Figures Indicate Britain Is Heading Into Recession
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The $20,000 retirement plan

The average middle class American has only $20,000 in retirement savings, according to a new survey that shows large swathes of the public are aware of those shortfalls and feeling anxious about their golden years.

Wells Fargo surveyed more than 1,000 middle class Americans about the state of their savings plans. Roughly two-thirds of respondents said saving for retirement was “harder” than they had anticipated. A full one-third of Americans said they won’t have sufficient funds to “survive,” a glum assessment that flared out among the older respondents. Nearly half of Americans in their 50s shared that concern.

But perhaps the most startling response came from the 22% of Americans who said they would prefer to suffer an “early death” than retire without enough funds to support a comfortable standard of living.

TIME Companies

Get an Inside Look at Amazon’s Mammoth Fulfillment Centers

Ordering holiday gifts on Amazon seems so simple. Ever wonder what happens between when you click "Checkout" and the items arrive at your door?

MONEY Insurance

Why Even a Fair Insurance Claim Will Send Customers Packing

The insurance claims process is so painful and outdated that about half of customers who confront it bolt no matter what.

The financial services industry has been among the slowest to embrace the mobile and other technologies that many consumers crave. Within the industry, insurers probably have been slowest—and their old-fashioned ways are stirring a high level of churn.

Insurance customers are generally pleased with their provider. Only 14% of those who submitted a claim in the past two years are unhappy with how it was handled, according to a report from Accenture. As you might expect, a high rate of those—83%—plan to switch providers. But even among the vast majority who filed a claim and were satisfied, 41% say they are likely to switch insurers in the next 12 months, the report found.

Why would satisfied customers switch? In general, their claims experience, while satisfactory, left them feeling it should have been better. “The bar has been raised and insurers now need to handle claims in a way that not only satisfies policyholders but also differentiates them from other insurers,” says Michael Costonis, global head of claims services at Accenture, a research and consulting firm.

Technology exists that would greatly streamline the claims process, he says. Consumers understand that, and when they file a claim and confront the old way of doing things they resolve to look for something better. For example, Costonis says, in the case of an auto accident, sensors could summon assistance automatically, notify a garage, and get a tow truck on the scene—all without a phone call. Your car could be fixed and delivered to your door, and if any money was due to you it might be put in your account without the tedious paperwork.

Customers expect quick claims and fair pricing. But they also want transparency and this is where technology can make a big difference. “More and more, especially with younger customers, this takes the form of providing anywhere, anytime access online or through mobile apps,” Costonis says. In the study, 44% said they would switch providers to be able to use digital channels to monitor the claims process.

Broader use of technology could help in other ways too. Three in four customers are willing to share more personal information in order to get better rates, the study found. Insurers could easily gather information about the condition of cars and customer driving habits. They could also gather information collected by smoke, carbon monoxide, humidity, and motion detectors. Such data could help them help their customers manage risks and wind up filing fewer claims—and that is the Holy Grail because customers hate the process and insurers lose a high percentage of those who file a claim no matter what.

Related: How to make sure you have enough insurance coverage

TIME Careers & Workplace

15 Exceptional Ways to Kick Your Productivity Way Up

To do
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Here's how you can quickly get on track

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Being productive is a great thing. Not only does it increase your self-confidence and sense of well-being, it can also make you more effective and your company more profitable. The ultimate reward for keeping your focus and being productive is more free time for you. And who doesn’t want more free time?

Everyone hits productivity lows, which is OK as long as they don’t last too long. Here are 15 ways to kick your productivity into high gear.

Don’t know where to begin?

1. The first step is to create a to-do list. When is the best time to create a to-do list? At the end of your workday while everything is still fresh in your mind or Sunday night after (hopefully) a restful weekend. This allows you to shut out work completely once you’re home for the night or weekend and to hit the ground running with your list in hand the next morning. It’s always a good idea to keep some paper handy during your workday to take notes and add things to your to-do list. This allows you to clear your head by getting those thoughts onto paper so you can continue to focus on the task at hand.

2. The next step is to choose one difficult, possibly longer task on your list to complete first. The sense of achievement you experience from checking off that one really hard thing on your list helps set the tone for the easier tasks to follow. They will feel like a walk in the park after you’ve tackled the hard stuff.

When is the best time to be productive?

3. A lot of this depends on who you are as a person. It is often suggested that we get up early and get to work while things are still quiet—less office chatter, fewer interruptions, just peace and solitude. Although this advice is good for some, it’s not good for everyone—we’re not all early birds. You need to dig deep and figure out when you are most productive. Maybe it’s closer to noon when you begin to feel the stirrings of being alive and able to produce. The point here is, don’t push through your to-do list during times when you tend to be the least productive—choose those times when you function at your best. Save easy to-dos for your less productive times of the day.

Hit a wall?

4. Take a walk outside and get some fresh air. Even a five-minute walk can wake you up and make you feel rejuvenated enough to dig back into work.

5. Take time out to clean and organize your desk and perhaps redecorate.Sometimes the clutter, the dust, and the really dirty keyboard can be a distraction. It’s amazing how cleaning your desk and making it an organized, beautiful place to work again can boost your productivity. Consider a new chair or adding some plants or a fish in a small bowl. Research has proved that the simple addition of a plant can increase productivity by 15 percent.

6. Take some time to browse the Web–look up things that are of interest to you.Research has shown that if you take a short break to surf the Web—say five to 15 minutes—you will feel refreshed and ready to throw yourself into work again. You may even find new inspiration and think of a new way to get through the current to-do.

7. Try laughter. Watch a couple of skits from Saturday Night Live or some other comedy show you enjoy, even if for only five minutes. Laughter increases productivity and makes you feel happier too.

8. Stand at your desk, stretch, and try deep breathing for at least five minutes. A good recipe for deep breathing: Inhale through your nose while counting slowly to 7; hold your breath for another slow count to 7; and then slowly exhale through your mouth for a slow count to 7. Go through this process 7 to 10 times. Now pat yourself on the back for completing your first meditation session and because you feel much better and can get back to work.

9. Take a snack break–the high-protein, high-fiber variety. This kind of snack—search the Web for ideas—will give you the brain boost you need for increased productivity. Sugary, high-carb snacks just bog you down and make it more likely that you will want to take a nap instead of work.

10. Stay hydrated. The older you get, the harder it is to sense that you’re thirsty. Dehydration can cause sleepiness, confusion, irritability, and other side effects (another great Web search opportunity). What is the best way to hydrate? Water—keep it handy at all times and keep drinking the stuff. It will help you maintain your focus, stay awake, and keep your productivity on high.

11. If your wall is still up, try taking a nap for up to 20 minutes. Yes, you read that right. Go to your car, a couch, or other place you feel comfortable—and take a nap. Naps as short as 15 minutes can increase alertness, improve your mood, and get your productivity juices flowing again.

Do you multitask?

12. Don’t. Research has shown that multitasking can be a productivity crusher, causing wasted time and more errors. Boost your productivity by focusing on one to-do at a time instead of switching from task to task. Occasionally, you will have to switch tasks if something hot hits your desk. Just make this the exception and not the norm. Better to place that hot item at the top of your to-do list and finish what you were doing first, thereby keeping your productivity from ending with a screeching halt.

If nothing seems to be working

13. Sometimes the problem is constant distractions. Shut off the email ping, put a Do Not Disturb Sign on your office door, or wear some headphones to shut out the noise. Research has shown that each distraction can cause up to a 20-minute delay in productivity. This can really add up, with multiple distractions decreasing productivity significantly.

14. Take a vacation. Not just a long weekend–a real vacation away from it all. If you can, take a couple weeks. Two weeks is optimal for complete recovery from the stresses of work. It’s amazing how real time away from work can give you a whole new perspective and research has shown that even a weeklong vacation increases reaction time and productivity.

15. Last resort. Perhaps you are having trouble with productivity because you simply don’t enjoy what you’re doing anymore. Think about your current work choice—is it still resonating with you? Do you ever feel excited about your work? If the answer is no, it may be time to find a new job or career entirely. If you can find your real passion in life, your productivity will go through the roof without your even trying.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Mark Zuckerberg’s 10 Best Quotes Ever

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg delivers a speech in Jakarta on October 13, 2014.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg delivers a speech in Jakarta on October 13, 2014. ROMEO GACAD—AFP/Getty Images

The best from the ever-quotable founder of Facebook

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg is a true pioneer in the realm of technology. Time has named him among the top 100 most influential people in the world, and his personal wealth is currently estimated at more than $34 billion. (A portion of that wealth, he just announced, will be dedicated to combating the Ebola virus.) Zuckerberg famously launched Facebook from his Harvard dorm room in February 2004. Today, the social network has, on average, over 800 million daily users, and was most recently valued at $200 billion, Time reports.

In honor of the wunderkind’s unprecedented success, here are 10 of his best quotes to inspire entrepreneurs in any industry. (We’ll admit, some of them are just as out-of-the-box as Zuckerberg himself.)

1. “In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” —From an October 2011 interview at Y Combinator’s Startup School in Palo Alto, California.

2. “The question isn’t ‘What do we want to know about people?’ It’s, ‘What do people want to tell about themselves?” —From a November 2011 interview with Charlie Rose.

3. “I literally coded Facebook in my dorm room and launched it from my dorm room. I rented a server for $85 a month, and I funded it by putting an ad on the site, and we’ve funded ever since by putting ads on the site.” —In the same Charlie Rose interview, Zuckberg spoke about the social media giant’s humble beginnings.

4. “A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.” —From a speech given to his colleagues at Facebook about relevance, as reported by The New York Times.

5. “Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.” —In an interview with Business Insider’s Henry Blodget, Zuckberg opened up about innovation, management, and more. Recently, however, he announced that Facebook would be changing this motto.

6. “This is a perverse thing, personally, but I would rather be in the cycle where people are underestimating us. It gives us the latitude to go out and make big bets that excite and amaze people.” —The entrepreneur offered his thoughts on dealing with skeptics, in an interview at TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF conference in September 2012, as reported by Forbes.

7. “People can be really smart or have skills that are directly applicable, but if they don’t really believe in it, then they are not going to really work hard.” —From a Stanford University speaker series on hiring the right people, given October 2005.

8. “People don’t care about what someone says about you in a movie–or even what you say, right? They care about what you build.” —From an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer in July 2010.

9. “In Silicon Valley, you get this feeling that you have to be out here. But it’s not the only place to be. If I were starting now, I would have stayed in Boston. [Silicon Valley] is a little short-term focused and that bothers me.” —Also from the October 2011 interview at Y Combinator’s Startup School in Palo Alto, California.

10. “The question I ask myself like almost every day is, ‘Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?’ … Unless I feel like I’m working on the most important problem that I can help with, then I’m not going to feel good about how I’m spending my time. —From Marcia Amidon Lusted’s biography Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook Creator.

Envious of the tech prodigy’s entrepreneurial success? Take his advice, and start breaking something today.

TIME Companies

Nike CEO Hints at Apple Collaboration

The athletic brand and tech giant may come together in the near future

For those looking for wearable tech that’s significantly less nerdy than Google Glass and the Apple Watch, you may not be looking for long.

TIME Apple

Apple Just Passed a Massive Milestone

Consumers Shop At An Apple Inc. Store Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Michael Nagle—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The news of its massive quarter has finally settled in

It took a few days, but Apple’s blow-out quarterly earnings report — driven by strong iPhone and Mac sales and bolstered by the largest stock repurchase program in the history of capitalism — has finally made its way through Wall Street’s algorithms and into Apple’s share price.

The stock closed Thursday at $104.83, up 1.8% for the day, 7.2% for the week and 50% from April 2013, the cruelest month, when it dipped into the high 300s.

Speculators who bought a lot of calls in September 2012, when Apple was approaching an intraday high of $705.07 ($100.72 post-split), will never get their money back.

But investors who held on to their shares through the rout of 2012 and 2013 are back in the green.

Apple is now not only the world’s most valuable public company, but it has left the nearest contenders in the dust. The top four market caps:

Apple: $617.9 billion
Exxon: $401.4 billion
Microsoft $371.0 billion
Google $369.0 billion

TIME Earnings

Heavy Growth Puts Drag on Amazon’s Bottom Line

Amazon logo
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Big spending and lower-than-expected forecast for the holiday season put a cloud over the e-commerce giant’s shares

Amazon reported a disappointing third quarter on Thursday in the period leading up to holiday season. Investors responded by pummeling the stock in after-hours trading, driving it down 10% to $280 a share. Here are the key points from the earnings report.

What you need to know: Amazon traditionally funnels much of its profits into expanding its already gargantuan business, resulting in razor-thin margins — and this quarter proved no different. The e-commerce giant reported a loss of $437 million on revenues of $20.58 billion, a 20% revenue increase year-over-year, but well below Wall Street’s estimate of $20.84 billion.

A significant chunk of that money went into content and technology — a spending area that jumped 40%. That’s unsurprising given Amazon’s announcement last quarter that it would spend over $100 million on original video content, including the well-received original TV show, “Transparent” with “Arrested Development” actor Jeffrey Tambor.

The big numbers: $27.3 billion and $30.3 billion. That’s the sales range Amazon expects for this holiday season, the company’s busiest time of the year. That represents growth of between 7% and 18% versus last year, but again, less than what analysts forecast.

What you might have missed: Amazon had an extremely busy summer. It acquired Twitch, the video-game streaming site, for $1.1 billion, unveiled a credit card reader for the smartphone called Amazon Local Register and brought its same-day grocery delivery service, Amazon Prime Fresh, to New York. Amazon also launched the Fire phone, which is widely believed to be a dud. On Thursday’s earnings call, CFO Tom Szutak suggested it was too early to call the Fire phone a failure given its launch just 90 days ago. Said Szutak: “When ever you launch something new, there’s a wide range of outcomes, but it’s also early.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Earnings

Microsoft’s Revenue Jumps, But Profits Decline on Job Cuts and Nokia Costs

The Microsoft Corp. logo sits on display during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C. on July 16, 2014.
The Microsoft Corp. logo sits on display during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C. on July 16, 2014. Bloomberg—Getty Images

Shares of the tech giant rose 4% in after hours after reporting a 25% sales bump in the first quarter of its 2015 fiscal year

Microsoft posted a 25% sales bump in its most recent quarter, beating Wall Street predictions on the strength of improved personal-computer sales as well as added revenue from the mobile phone business that the company Microsoft acquired from Nokia for $7.5 billion earlier this year. Here are the key points from Thursday’s Microsoft earnings report.

What you need to know: Sales improved to $23.2 billion in the first quarter of its 2015 fiscal year, which was also Satya Nadella‘s second full quarter as CEO of the company. But at the same time, Microsoft’s profits dipped more than 13%, to $4.5 billion, or 55 cents per share. The drop in profits was attributed to a $1.1 billion charge the company took in connection with massive layoffs, first announced over the summer, along with some ongoing costs of integrating Nokia’s handset business.

Microsoft got $2.6 billion from phone hardware sales in the most recent quarter, thanks to its new handset business, while the company’s unit that handles corporate sales grew revenue by 10% overall to $12.3 billion. The latter figure includes a 2.7% bump for commercial licensing sales, which cover server programs and corporate Windows and Office products.

The big number: Nadella has been putting a lot of focus toward selling Microsoft’s cloud-based business services, and the company said Thursday that its commercial cloud revenue, including sales from Office 365 and Azure cloud platform, grew 128% in the first quarter. Overall, the company reported a 50% jump in sales for its “Commercial Other” line, which includes the cloud products, to $2.41 billion. This is a closely-watched part of Microsoft’s business, as investors want to be sure that the tech giant is nimble and modern enough to be a big player in the cloud services market. Microsoft’s shares jumped almost 4% in after-hours trading, so it seems like investors were pleased with the company’s efforts.

What you might have missed: Microsoft also reported a 74% first-quarter revenue increase, to roughly $2.5 billion, for its computing and gaming hardware segment, reflecting sales growth for the company’s Xbox gaming console as well as the market-wide rebound in PC sales. Microsoft revealed Thursday that it sold 2.4 million Xbox consoles during the first quarter, representing a 102% bump. However, the company did not specify whether those sales came from the new Xbox One, which launched in 28 new markets during the quarter, as opposed to older iterations of the gaming system.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME stocks

Stocks Are Soaring on Strong Earnings, Giving the Dow Its Best Day of 2014

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Oct. 21, 2014 in New York City.
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Oct. 21, 2014 in New York City. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

The Dow lately up some 300 points thanks to big gains from 3M, Caterpillar

U.S. stocks soared in afternoon trading on Thursday, buoyed by a handful of companies releasing strong earnings reports along with some positive economic reports in the U.S. and Europe.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was recently up over 300 points, or 1.9%, enjoying its best day since October 2013. The closely-watched index received a major boost thanks to two Dow 30 companies, 3M and Caterpillar, releasing strong quarterly financial reports on Thursday morning. Both companies’ shares were up more than 5% Thursday afternoon after 3M reported a sales bump and Caterpillar posted strong earnings thanks to effective cost-cutting. General Motors and apparel company Under Armour also posted strong earnings on Thursday.

The Nasdaq composite and S&P 500 are on pace to post their third winning day of the week, despite small dips on Wednesday, as the two indices were lately up 2% and 1.7%, respectively.

The market was also propped up today by news that jobless claims filed in the U.S. over the last month fell to their lowest average in more than 14 years. Another positive note came from the Conference Board’s index climbed 0.8%, suggesting continued economic growth in the U.S. carrying over into 2015. Meanwhile, investors were also encouraged by positive Eurozone economic reports, including a rebound in German manufacturing and a drop in unemployment in Spain.

After slogging through several volatile weeks recently, the U.S. market has managed to recover some of its losses this week. The Dow is also on pace today to notch its third positive finish so far this week, including Tuesday’s 215-point jump, and has already grown by 2.3% this week. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 actually had a four-day winning streak broken on Wednesday, when the blue-chip index dipped 0.7%. The S&P 500 is now up 3.9% for the week, while the Nasdaq has improved by almost 5% so far this week.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

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