MONEY 401(k)s

Why Millennials Are Flocking to 401(k)s in Record Numbers

hand clicking Apple mouse connected to egg with 401k on it
Jason York—Getty Images

First-time 401(k) plan enrollees are soaring as young workers enter the labor force. This is a positive development. But it won't solve our savings crisis by itself.

Young workers have received the message about long-term financial security—and with increasing assistance from employers they are doing something about it, new research shows.

In the first half of 2014, the number of Millennials enrolling for the first time in a 401(k) plan jumped 55%, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 401(k) Wellness Scorecard. This twice-yearly report examines trends among 2.5 million plan participants with $129 billion of assets under the bank’s care.

The brisk initial enrollment pace is due partly to the sheer number of Millennials entering the workforce. They account for about 25% of workers today, a figure that will shoot to 50% by 2020. But it also reflects a broader trend toward 401(k) enrollment. Across all generations, the number enrolling for the first time jumped 37%, Bank of America found.

One key reason for the surge in 401(k) participation is the use of auto-enrollment by employers, as well as other enhancements. The report found that number of 401(k) plans that both automatically enroll new employees and automatically boost payroll contributions each year grew 19% in the 12 months ended June 30. And nearly all employers (94%) that added automatic enrollment in the first half also added automatic contribution increases, up from 50% the first half of last year.

Enrolling in a 401(k) plan may be the single best financial move a young worker can make. At all age levels, those who participate in a plan have far more savings than those who do not. Another important decision is making the most of the plan—by contributing enough to get the full company match and increasing contributions each year.

Other added plan features include better educational materials and mobile technology. In a sign that workers, especially Millennials, crave easy and relevant information that will help them better manage their money, the bank said participants accessing educational materials via mobile devices soared 41% in the first half of the year.

The number of companies offering advice online, via mobile device or in person rose 6% and participants accessing this advice rose 8%. A third of those are Millennials, which suggests a generation that widely distrusts banks may be coming around to the view that they need guidance—and their parents and peers may not be the best sources of financial advice.

Millennials have largely done well in terms at saving and diversifying. They are counting more on personal saving and less on Social Security than any other generation, the report found. They seem to understand that saving early and letting compound growth do the heavy lifting is a key part of the solution. Despite its flaws, 401(k) plans have become the popular choice for this strategy.

Yet this generation is saddled with debt, mostly from student loans and credit cards, and most likely to tap their 401(k) plan savings early. Millennials are also least likely take advantage of Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs, which allow participants to set aside pre-tax dollars for health care costs. Health savings account usage jumped 33% in the first half, Bank of America found. But just 23% of Millennials have one, versus 39% of Gen X and 38% of Boomers.

Still, the trends are encouraging: employers are making saving easier and workers are signing up. That alone won’t solve the nation’s retirement savings crisis. Individuals need to sock away 10% to 15% of every dime they make. But 401(k)s, which typically offer employer matching contributions, can help. So any movement this direction is welcome news.

Related:

How can I make it easier to save?

How do I make money investing?

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

TIME Saving & Spending

The Secret to Getting a Ridiculously Cheap Thanksgiving Flight

Travelers Embark On Holiday Travel Day Before Thanksgiving
Delta planes at the Salt Lake City international Airport on November 27, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah. George Frey—Getty Images

Every travel agency is saying something different, but there are some tips that aren't up for debate

For years, travel search engines have scoured through their dense databases to determine the best day to book your Thanksgiving flights. This year, like every year, there’s a lot of mixed messages on what to do if you’ve procrastinated on booking tickets. Here’s what the big players are advising for cheap domestic U.S. air tickets:

  • Kayak: Book in early November, about two to four weeks before Thanksgiving.
  • Skyscanner: Two weeks prior to Thanksgiving.
  • Orbitz: This Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday. If not then, then before Nov. 18.
  • Cheapair: It depends on way too many things.

So what’s the takeaway? It’s better to be safe and book flights now, but you if you’re a risk taker, you can wait until the beginning of November to book your flights. But try not to wait until the week of Thanksgiving. It’s also important to weigh the risks of an unexpected fare hike in light of what your benefits of waiting actually are. These hyped “savings” are usually only about 5 to 10% less than the average fare, which amounts to $15 to $30 if your ticket costs $300.

In fact, since airline fares are notoriously difficult to understand, often the better question to ask is what not to do when you’re booking Thanksgiving.

Here are a few tips that travel search engines all agree on:

Don’t book a departure flight on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (Nov. 26), or a return flight on the Sunday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 30).

Airfares increase as flights get fuller, and the Wednesday and Sunday flanking the Thanksgiving holiday are when the most people are traveling. A simple airfare search shows just how much more expensive it is to book travel on one of these days. In some cases, fares are up to twice as high.

If you have to book for Wednesday or Sunday, then book your tickets as early as possible.

If you’re locked into a Wednesday departure flight, aim for a Friday or Tuesday return flight, which is around 25% cheaper than returning on Saturday, Sunday or Monday, according to an analysis by Cheapair.

Booking a return flight on Sunday results in the most dramatic airfare spike, and there’s not really much you can do to save money other than to book your departure flight on Thanksgiving Day. But the tradeoff of sacrificing a chunk of your holiday is a discount of only about 10%, so it may make more sense to pick a different day—even if it’s Wednesday. In general, having a Sunday return flight means you’re stuck with a sky-high ticket price.

Consider booking a departure flight or return flight on Thanksgiving Day—or both.

If you depart and return on Thanksgiving Day, your fare may be up to 30% cheaper than the average price, according to Kayak. And even if you only depart (and not return) on Thanksgiving, those savings are particularly meaningful when applied to longer, more expensive flights. For example, flying the JFK-LAX route departing on Thanksgiving instead of the day before can save you nearly $100.

Don’t book flights in groups.

If you’re booking as a family and there are only a few flights left in the lowest fare category, it’s possible the airline will bump the entire party up to the next fare category, according to Cheapair. That doesn’t mean you can’t travel as a family, though: you just might have to book each person’s ticket individually.

Check other smaller airports nearby.

There’s often regional and even international airports near the ORDs, JFKs and LAXs of major U.S. cities. If you’re in Chicago, for example, consider Chicago Midway Airport instead of O’Hare; if you’re in Los Angeles, consider Long Beach Airport instead of LAX. Both are cheaper airports than their neighboring giants, according to Cheapflights.com, which ranked the nation’s 101 most affordable airports.

Check smaller airlines.

The five biggest U.S. airlines—American, United, Delta, Southwest and JetBlue—all increased their base fares slightly despite lower fuel prices and a worldwide fear of Ebola. While the effect on consumers is not yet clear, it’s also worth checking out smaller airlines like Spirit, Frontier and Virgin.

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Surefire Ways to Write the Perfect Email Subject Line

Computers email symbol
Getty Images

Doing it right is not as obvious as it might seem

No matter how well an unsolicited email is crafted, the cold reality is that it’s likely to end up in the recipient’s trash folder, unread, if the subject line falls flat. We asked executives who receive hundreds of emails on a daily basis how they decide — at a glance — which ones they deem worth a few seconds of their time to open and skim. Here’s what to put in your email subject lines to elevate them to click-worthy status.

A personal reference. “Jim Smith suggested I contact you” — this is the gold standard for unsolicited emails. Mentioning a mutual acquaintance the recipient knows and respects paves the way for you. Yes, this requires that you have a connection in common, so it’s not the easiest threshold to cross. But some busy execs suggest it’s worth the trouble to seek one out, because that’s the only prayer your email has of making contact with them.

“The people you most want to reach are the people who, by default, delete emails,” says Seth Godin, an author, entrepreneur and blogger who maintains that a mutual reference is the only way to crack a top prospect’s inbox.

A specific reference to them. “Ideally, it mentions my company, products or projects, proving that it’s actually specifically meant for me rather than a generic blast,” says Chris Anderson, the former editor-in-chief of Wired magazine who went on to lead tech startup 3D Robotics. “[Make it] something specific and relevant to what I do.”

An introduction to you. “When cold contacting someone I like to specify who I am in the subject line,” says Cal Newport, a Georgetown University assistant professor of computer science and author of four books about excelling at school and work. “For example, a common subject line of mine is ‘a note from a Georgetown professor,’” he says.

A reminder that you’ve met. Even if you’ve met the recipient before, a nudge to refresh their memory can keep you out of the trash folder, especially if it was a fleeting encounter or a long time ago. “I tend to steer people away from ‘great to meet you’ or ‘follow up’ email titles,” says Deborah Asseraf founder of experiental marketing company Popcorn Productions. “Instead, it should be ‘met you at event x’ — something that’s clear, concise and gets the intention of the writer across.”

What you want. “I appreciate a subject line that specifies what action if any is being asked from me,” Newport says. “This calibrates my expectations for an email and makes it less daunting.” If you’re looking for a data point, email address or some other request, say so upfront rather than making the recipient wade through your email looking for it.

Pertinent details. “In an age when we are all so strapped for time and used to text messages, I like to view my subject lines as a text message,” says LisaMarie Dias, who owns a new media marketing company. This works especially well if you want to remind somebody of an upcoming event or appointment, she says. “Even if they don’t open the email… they have seen the full reminder.”

Plain English. Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, says “obviously commercial emails, spam or boring headlines” go straight into his trash folder. If your email subject sounds like a sales pitch, is stuffed with jargon or overwrought prose, your recipient isn’t going to take the time to parse your message — they’re just going to ignore it.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Habits That Will Actually Change Your Life for the Better

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Do these five things, and watch your mindset change

Inc. logo

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.

Why do most people fail to stick to something challenging, like losing weight or getting in better shape? They don’t start small. They immediately go all in.

They change everything, which pretty soon results in not changing anything.

Why going all in never works

The temptation to go all in is understandable. Take losing weight. Losing weight is hard. So we decide the only way to succeed is to adopt a complicated, comprehensive program of diet and exercise that requires significant changes.

And within a day or two at most that comprehensive program starts to feel oppressive. Sticking with every single change starts to feel impossible.

So we start slipping.

First we slip in small ways, like when we’re running behind one morning and don’t have time to cook egg whites so we gobble a couple of doughnuts in the car. Or our kid has a school event so we can’t fit in our evening jog. Or we need to bring work home so we don’t have time to stop at the gym.

And soon nothing has changed. We’re back where we started. Well, not quite where started–now we also feel bad about ourselves for failing to stick with something we committed to doing.

Sound familiar?

Most comprehensive weight-loss programs work. Most comprehensive fitness programs work. The problem doesn’t lie with the programs–the problem lies in the fact those programs require such major changes to our daily activities and lifestyles. It’s impossible to make every change overnight. So when you miss a workout or screw up a meal it starts to feel like you’re failing completely.

And soon our comprehensive program is in tatters and we think, “If I can’t do it all, there’s no sense doing any of it.”

So we quit.

Here’s a better approach. Don’t immediately go all in. Don’t waste your time adopting the latest trendy diet or the current fitness fad. No matter how incredible the program, go all in and you’re incredibly unlikely to stick with it.

Instead, just start with making a few simple changes to your day. You’ll lose a little weight, feel a little better, and then find it a lot easier to incorporate a few more healthy habits into your routine.

Building slowly over time will help you create a new lifestyle–in a relatively painless way–that you will be able to stick with.

So for now just make these five changes:

1. Drink a glass of water before every meal.

Everyone needs to drink more water. That’s a given. Plus when you drink a glass of water before you eat you’ll already feel a little more full and won’t be as tempted to eat past the point of hunger.

2. Eat one really healthy meal.

Pick one meal. Just one. Then change what you eat. If it’s lunch, eat one portion of protein that fits in the palm of your hand, a vegetable or fruit, and four or five almonds.

I know that’s not a lot of food, but it’s healthier than what you’re eating now and, just as important, it lets you take small steps toward better controlling your portions at every meal.

Other examples: Pack a can of tuna and two apples. Or bring a skinless chicken breast and some cucumbers. Just make sure you prepare it ahead of time–that way you won’t have to decide to eat healthy. You just will.

3. Use your lunch to be active.

It doesn’t take 30 minutes or an hour to eat. So make your lunch break productive.

Go for a walk. (Better yet, find a walking buddy or do like LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner and have walking meetings.) Or stretch. Or do some push-ups or sit-ups.

It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do something. You’ll burn a few calories, burn off some stress, and feel better when you climb back into the work saddle.

And you’ll start to make fitness a part of your daily lifestyle without having to add to your already busy schedule.

4. Eat one meal-replacement bar.

OK, so most protein bars taste like flavored sawdust. But most are also nutritious and low in calories, and they make it easy to stave off the midafternoon hunger pangs you’ll inevitably feel after having eaten, say, a light lunch.

Don’t get too hung up on nutritional values; just pick a bar that includes 10 or 15 grams of protein (think protein bar, not energy bar) and you’ll be fine.

Eating a midmorning or midafternoon meal replacement bar doesn’t just bridge the gap between meals; it’s an easy way to get in the habit of eating smaller meals more frequently, another habit you’ll eventually want to adopt.

And, finally, a bonus habit to toss in once a week:

5. Have fun completing a physical challenge.

It would be great if you could consistently hit the gym four to five days a week, but if you’re starting from zero instantly transforming yourself into a gym rat isn’t realistic.

Instead, once a week pick something challenging to do. Take a really long walk. Take a long bike ride. Take a testing hike.

Just make sure you pick an accomplishment, not a yardstick. Don’t decide to walk six miles on a treadmill; that’s a yardstick. Walk the six miles to a friend’s house. Don’t ride 20 miles on an exercise bike; ride to a café, grab a snack, and then ride back home.

The activity should be based on an accomplishment; it’s a whole lot more fun to say, “I hiked to the top of Bear Mountain,” than it is to say, “I walked five miles on the treadmill at an 8 percent incline.” Accomplishments are fun; it’s like they’re things you decided to do. Yardsticks are boring; it’s like they’re things you had to do.

Every time you complete a weekly challenge you will have burned calories, improved your fitness level, and reminded yourself are still capable of doing some really cool things.

Once you accept you are still capable of doing cool things–no matter how much you’ve let yourself go physically, it’s true–you’ll find all the motivation you need to make a few other positive changes.

And one day you’ll realize you actually have gone all in … and you didn’t even notice.

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 the 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. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists 29 separate auto manufacturer recalls thus far in the month of October, and the agency released a special consumer advisory this week, alerting the owners of 7.8 million vehicles that they should take “immediate action” to replace dangerously defective airbags.

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.

 

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