MONEY retirement planning

What Women Can Do to Increase their Retirement Confidence

150212_FF_WOMENDONTTALK
Izabela Habur—Getty Images

Knowing how much to save and how to invest can help women feel more secure. Here's a cheat sheet.

Half of women report feeling worried about having enough money to last through retirement, according to a new survey from Fidelity Investments of 1,542 women with retirement plans.

Those anxieties aren’t necessarily misplaced either.

Women have longer projected lifespans than men and even if married, are likely to spend at least a portion of their older years alone due to widowhood.

“So they need larger pots of money to ensure they won’t outlive their savings,” says Kathy Murphy, president of personal investing at Fidelity.

Earlier research by the company found that while women save more on average for retirement (socking away an average 8.3% of their salary in 401(k)s vs. 7.9% for men) they typically earn two-thirds of what men do and thus have smaller retirement account balances ($63,700 versus $95,800 for men).

Also, while women are more disciplined long term investors who are less likely than men to time the market, women are also more reluctant to take risk with their portfolios, says Murphy.

“And if you invest too conservatively for your age and your time horizon, that money isn’t working hard enough for you,” she adds.

How Women Can Increase their Confidence

Financial education can help women reduce the confidence gap, and get to the finish line better prepared, says Murphy.

According to the Fidelity survey, some 92% of women say they want to learn more about financial planning. And there’s a lot you can do for free to educate yourself, notes Murphy. As an example, she notes that many employers now offer investing webinars and workshops for 401(k) participants.

You might also start by reading Money’s Ultimate Guide to Retirement for the least you need to know about retirement planning, in digestible chunks of plain English. In particular, you might check out the piece on figuring out the right mix of stocks and bonds, to help you determine if you’re being too risk averse.

Also, simply calculating how much you need to save for the retirement you want—using tools like T. Rowe Price’s Retirement Income Planner—can help you make plans and feel more secure.

The 10-minute exercise can have a powerful payoff: The Employee Benefit Research Institute regularly finds in its annual Retirement Confidence Index that people who even do a quick estimate have a much better handle on how much they need to save and are more confident about their money situation. Also, according to research by Georgetown University econ professor Annamaria Lusardi, who is also academic director of the university’s Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center, people who plan for retirement end up with three times the amount of wealth as non-planners.

Says Murphy, “We need to let women in on the secret that investing isn’t that hard.”

More from Money.com’s Ultimate Guide to Retirement:

MONEY office etiquette

The Career Mistake You Don’t Realize You’re Making

talking too much at work
Anthia Cumming/iStock

Your colleagues and bosses might think of you as the office chatterbox.

When you’ve got the floor in a meeting, do you notice people looking at the clock or their phones?

When you’re chatting over the water cooler, do you find yourself chiming in before your colleagues finish their sentences?

Do you typically go off on tangents when you tell a story?

Do people nod blankly and say “uh huh” a lot when you’re speaking?

Do you notice that people at work prefer to communicate with you via email?

You may be an overtalker.

Most people who talk too much don’t realize they do it, says Annie Stevens, managing partner for ClearRock, a leadership development and executive coaching firm. No matter whether it’s fueled by insecurity or overconfidence, however, this quality can be deadly to one’s career—especially these days.

How Talking Too Much Can Hurt You

With 67% of people working “a great deal more” than they did five years ago, according to a survey by staffing firm Manpower, workers literally have less patience for distractions. “No one has time to sit down for an hour to get an answer to a question,” says Stevens. Your peers and supervisors may start avoiding you if you are sucking up a lot of their time.

Accurate, real-time salaries for thousands of careers.

Additionally, if you can’t get to the point in a meeting, your boss may wonder about your ability to communicate with higher ups or clients. Prattling on in an interview could obscure the points that you’re trying to make, and hamper your chances at getting the job.

Women seem to pay a bigger price for being loquacious. A Yale University study found that high-level women who talk more at work are perceived as less competent than men. According to lead researcher Victoria Brescoll, people tend to want to reward males who are garrulous by either by hiring them or giving them more responsibility, while females who talk a lot are seen as domineering and presumptuous.

For any worker, though, the ability to share information clearly and succinctly is an asset, says Stevens. In a world where big ideas can be conveyed in under 140 characters, there’s less tolerance for a verbal opus.

Stevens’s motto: “Be brief, be brilliant, be gone.”

Keep from Being Seen as a Blabbermouth

Become self aware. Watch for those red flags mentioned above. The surest sign of them that you’re talking too much is that you talk over someone who is speaking. “It can be a fatal error if it happens during a job interview, a career killer if done often with your boss, and will alienate co-workers if you’re repeatedly interrupting and hijacking the conversation,” said Stevens.

Strive to pay attention—at least for a few days—to other people’s reactions when you’re talking. Do your colleagues, for example, join in the digression when you veer off topic? You’re probably in the clear.

Pay attention to body language, too. You are likely losing your listener if he or she glances at a clock or a computer, stops making eye contact or is no longer taking notes. “Wrap up as soon as you can,” says Stevens.

Have a script. There are times when you do need to talk about yourself. Develop and memorize a 90-second verbal response so you are prepared with a summary when interviewers or networking contacts say, “Tell me about yourself.”

Similarly, if you’re giving a speech or presentation, outline a few key points before the meeting and stick to them. Watch for those cues noted above as signs you should get back on track.

Details are important in storytelling, but make sure you’re pared down to the essentials. “The annoying companion of over-talking is over-telling, as in disclosing too many, too personal, irrelevant and or inappropriate details,” says Stevens.

Practice active listening. Don’t just be lying in conversational wait for your turn to talk. Pay close attention to what is being discussed and ask relevant follow up questions.

Showing your listening skills can be just as important as showing how much you can talk, says Stevens. “If the person you are speaking with believes that you’re interested in what they’re saying, he or she will think positively about you.”

More from Money.com:

MONEY Ask the Expert

How To Tame The Unexpected Costs of Medicare

Ask the Expert Retirement illustration
Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: I got my annual notice from Social Security this week for 2015 and was surprised to find out that the Medicare premiums for me and my wife were going up for this year because of the amount of money I made in 2013. I did not know Medicare premiums were adjusted based on income. I am 71. Is there anything I can do? – Norman Medlen

A: You won’t be able to change your premiums for this year, but there are moves that can help lower your future costs.

First, though, realize that your confusion is understandable. Many people don’t know that Medicare premiums are calculated based on income, says Nicole Duritz, vice president of Health and Family Education and Outreach for AARP. Some people even believe that Medicare, which most Americans are eligible to receive when they turn 65, is completely free. It’s true that most people don’t pay for Medicare Part A, which covers hospitalization, but that’s because they have contributed to Medicare throughout their careers through payroll taxes.

But your income determines how much you pay for Medicare Part B, which covers routine medical care, including doctor visits and outpatient services, such as physical therapy and X-rays. Under the rules, your income can include a salary from working, as well as proceeds from the sale of a house or withdrawals from a portfolio.

Granted, the income thresholds are relatively high. If an individual earns $85,000 or less, or a married couple earns $170,000 or less, the premium is $104.90 a month. People earning more than $85,000, or a couple earning more than $170,000, will pay $146.90 to $335.70 a month depending on their income. Only an estimated 5% of Medicare recipients pay more than the basic $104.90 level. The premiums are deducted from your Social Security check.

Premiums for Medicare Part D, which is for prescription drug coverage, are also income-based, which add anywhere from $12.30 to $70.80 a month to the premiums charged by the plan you select.

Still, there’s good news: your premiums are re-evaluated each year based on your most recent tax return. So if the money you received was a one-time windfall, your premiums will drop back down the following year.

To make sure your premiums stay affordable, do some advance planning, says Rich Paul, president of investment advisory firm Richard W. Paul and Associates. That’s especially true if you think you may have more windfalls ahead. “It’s not just your Medicare premiums that will go up—the additional income may bump you into a higher tax bracket and your income taxes will go up too,” says Paul.

For example, if you are converting a traditional IRA to a Roth, consider spreading the amounts over several years. That way, you won’t have a large one-time jump in your income. Or make a large charitable contribution at the same time as you convert, since the deduction will offset some of your tax bill.

In addition to the premiums, the size of Medicare’s out-of-pocket costs surprises many people, says Duritz. Medicare Part B covers roughly about 80% of your medical bills, but you have to pay the other 20%, including deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays. And unlike many employer plans, Medicare doesn’t cover some major medical expenses, including glasses and dental work.

To cover those gaps, many people opt for a Medicare supplemental plan or Medicare Advantage. How much you pay depends on where you live and the status of your health, in addition to your income. “If you’re healthy, you won’t incur the same costs as someone with a chronic condition because you don’t need as much care or medication,” says Duritz.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can lower costs. She suggests getting regular health screenings to catch any problems early, exercising and maintaining healthy weight. If you are on medications, talk to your doctor about lower-cost options. “It doesn’t have to be a generic—it could just be an older brand name,” says Duritz. “We have had people cut their prescription drug costs by $1,000 or more using alternative medications.”

It’s also important to reevaluate your Medicare plans during annual open enrollment, which runs from October 15th to December 7th. Plans and costs change every year—and your medical needs may change too.

For help finding the best options, try AARP’s “doughnut hole” calculator—named for the gap in prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D—to find suggested drug alternatives to discuss with your doctor. AARP’s Medicare Health Care Cost calculator will estimate your overall Medicare costs and suggest ways to minimize your spending. And AARP’s Question and Answer tool walks you through all the costs of Medicare and how it works. With this information, you’ll have a better idea of the costs to expect from Medicare.

More on Medicare from Money’s Ultimate Retirement Guide:

What is Medicare?

What is Medigap insurance?

How do I select a Medigap policy?

Read next: So You’re Retired! Now What?

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MONEY Workplace

The Trouble With Being Friends With People Who Work For You

Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: Should a boss be friends with his or her employees?

A: Treating employees like pals didn’t always work out for Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott character on The Office, but you can be friends with people who work for you—if you set boundaries.

“When you’re working side-by-side, day after day with people, it’s perfectly natural for friendships to develop,” says Brian Fielkow, a CEO of a Houston logistics company and author of Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence By Creating A Vibrant Culture. “Some people believe work and your personal life should be separate. But most people don’t want to just punch a clock every day.”

Indeed, there’s lots of research that shows that having work friends is good for business. People with office buddies tend to be happier, more productive, and less likely to quit. Even workers who aren’t thrilled with the job itself are happier when they have friends at work because it gives them someone to vent to and reduces stress, according to Michael Sollitto, assistant professor of communication at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and author of a recent study on workplace relationships.

But the rules are different when the relationship is between people on different rungs of the corporate ladder. “Friendships with subordinates can be dangerous for your career and for the workers who are your friends,” says Fielkow.

If you’re going out to lunch, grabbing drinks after work, or playing golf with people who report to you, perceptions of an uneven playing field can fester. “Employees who aren’t part of that clique may start to feel like your chummy pals have better access to you than the rest of the team and are more likely to receive special treatment,” says Fielkow. People may not respect you if you play favorites.

Your friendship with a subordinate can also color co-workers’ feelings toward that person. If your friend gets a promotion or a big raise, it might be chalked up to your relationship, not his or her merits.

Plus, workplace friendships can make it harder for you to do your job. “It may be difficult to be critical of a friend you manage,” says Fielkow. “What if you have to lay to lay them off?” And if the friendship goes sour, that worker could undermine you by sharing intimate details about your life.

None if this means you can’t develop close relationships at work. If a friendship with a colleague grows, agree on boundaries. Don’t talk about other workers or business issues when you’re outside the office. Don’t share company information before it becomes public knowledge.

And make sure that you’re equally accessible to all members of your team. Communicate regularly with people who report to you. Walk around the office. A simple “how was your weekend” at the water cooler can go a long way toward making you approachable. “Showing a personal interest in your employees’ lives can help you be a better manager and create an atmosphere where people get more out of work than work,” says Fielkow.

MONEY long term care insurance

The Best Moves to Make So a Nursing Home Doesn’t Bankrupt You

Ask the Expert Retirement illustration
Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: I am 62 and my wife is 58. We are considering buying long-term care insurance. However, we are also wondering if we have enough assets to self-insure. We have more than $2 million and no debt. We plan to retire to North Carolina, where long-term care costs are considerably less than in New Jersey. Would you be able to help us make this decision? – Bob Hyde, Flemington, N.J.

A: The decision is understandably difficult. A nursing home, assisted living facility, or home health care can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year, and no matter where you live, a lengthy illness could quickly deplete your savings. But long-term care insurance policies are expensive and restrictive, and insurers are hiking premiums as people live longer and require more care than insurers anticipated.

The high cost is one reason fewer than 8% of Americans have long-term care insurance. Many people mistakenly believe that Medicare will cover long-term care needs. The reality is that most people use their own resources to pay, and when those assets are exhausted, they turn to Medicaid.

There’s no easy answer to the best way to plan for long-term care needs, even as people grow increasingly worried about having enough money to cover the cost of a protracted illness.

A recent study has some good news and some bad news on this front. While previous research seemed to overstate the duration of care for people who need it, the risk of requiring care at all may be higher than previously thought.

According to the study, by senior economist Anthony Webb of the Center for Retirement Research, U.S. nursing home stays are relatively short: 11 months for the typical single man and 17 months for a single woman. But the risk that an older person may one day need some kind of nursing home care is considerable: 44% for men and 58% for women.

In your case, you have substantial savings for retirement and no debt, so that should make it possible to self-insure without jeopardizing your retirement lifestyle, says Tom Hebrank, a long-term care insurance specialist and financial planner in Atlanta.

But it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision, Hebrank says. You could, for example, buy more limited coverage and plan to pay the rest from savings. That would bring the cost of insurance way down.

A couple your age would pay about $7,700 a year for a policy that would cover three years’ worth of nursing care and provide a 5% compound annual increase in benefits to keep up with inflation. If you reduce the amount of inflation protection to 4%, your annual premium drops to $6,000; at 3% it falls to $3,500.

Another way to reduce the cost of a policy is to cut the daily benefit from, say, $150 to $100. Or you could limit the number of years benefits are paid. A policy that covers three years will be about one-third cheaper than one that provides unlimited benefits, according to the American Association of Long Term Care Insurance. How much you can afford depends on your retirement income. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) suggests that you spend no more than 7% of your income on premiums.

You can get free quotes from the American Association of Long Term Care Insurance to price out different options.

When deciding whether or not to buy long-term care insurance, you should also consider how liquid your assets are and whether you want to preserve money for your spouse or heirs. If the bulk of your wealth is tied up in your home, it won’t be easy to tap if you need quick access to the money for medical bills. Long-term care insurance is another way to preserve your assets and protect a surviving spouse who may also need care down the road, Hebrank says.

For some people, having long-term care insurance buys peace of mind, so it seems worth the price. “They don’t want to be a burden to their spouse or kids,” he says, “so even if it’s expensive, they feel better knowing they have coverage.”

Get more answers to your questions about long-term care insurance:
What should I look for in a long-term care policy?
How much will a long-term care policy cost?
What’s the best age to buy long-term care insurance?

Read next: 5 Ways to Tell If You’re Really Ready to Retire

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MONEY salary negotiation

The Foolproof Way to Make Sure You Land a Big Raise This Year

fishing net with money in it
Diane Macdonald—Getty Images

Resolved to increase your pay in 2015? These steps can help you scoop up a better-than-average bump.

A few years ago, you might have been grateful just to have a paycheck—even if it wasn’t as fat as you deserved. Today, you finally have the upper hand again when it comes to asking for a raise.

You can thank the rapid improvement in the job market in the last year for that. Unemployment is expected to drop to 5.4% by the end of this year, and 57% of companies say they are worried about retaining workers, up from 20% in 2010, according to PayScale.com’s Compensation Best Practices Report.

That’s putting pressure on employers to boost compensation: 82% plan to increase salaries for current employees this year, up from 73% last year, according to CareerBuilder’s latest jobs forecast.

“Workers should be feeling pretty good about their chances for getting a raise this year,” says CareerBuilder’s Mary Lorenz. Music to your ears, right?

The average worker should see a salary bump of 3%, according to estimations from Mercer’s 2014/2015 U.S. Compensation Planning Executive Survey. But those who are top performers or have in-demand expertise could see their paychecks rise even more. The average boost for the most valued employees will top 5%, according to Mercer.

To go from a so-so raise to a big bump up, here’s what you need to do:

Get on Your Boss’s Calendar

Don’t wait until performance-review time, typically in the spring, to ask for a raise. Not only will you have more competition from coworkers then, but budgets will already have been decided—which will make it harder for your supervisor to get you more cash even if he or she believes in your cause.

Assuming you and your company have had a good year—the latter also being a must—schedule a meeting with your supervisor ASAP before your window for the year closes.

Sure, even the most confident of workers may find it intimidating to call a meeting with the boss and ask for more money. But the odds are good that your boldness will pay off: A recent PayScale survey found that 44% of people who asked for a raise received what they asked for, and 31% more still got a raise, just less than they requested.

Collect Some Evidence

In the meantime, to help make your case, gather accolades from the past year.

Pull together emails of praise from higher ups, ask happy customers or clients to write testimonials for your work, and make a list of your major accomplishments, quantifying them as much as possible. Bottom-line-focused supervisors will especially want to hear about how you’ve boosted revenue or cut costs.

Put a Number On Yourself

“It’s important to go in with a number in mind,” says CareerBuilder’s Lorenz. “You should know your value and be able to go in with an idea of what you think you deserve and be ready to explain why.”

Your ask should be based around what others are getting, since you’ll shut down the conversation fast if you request a boost that’s out of the ballpark.

Start by seeing where your salary falls compared to others in similar jobs with the same skill set and years of experience, using sites such as PayScale.com and Glassdoor.com. Keep in mind that top performers may earn 10% to 15% more than these averages.

Put your findings in perspective by determining what’s realistic at your company. If you have a manager you’re close with, a higher up mentor, or a friend in HR, ask for insight on salary ranges for people at your level or on how much the company is budgeting for raises this year on average. If you’re a top performer and can prove it, you should feel comfortable asking for more than the average.

Make Your Ask

You’ve got your proof and your number, so you’re ready, right? Not quite. Ideally, you’ll want to do a run through of the conversation with someone, since practice will make you more comfortable when you’re in the moment.

You might start the conversation something like this: “Hey Jane, my department had a really great year in 2014, and I was hoping to get your feedback, talk about ideas going forward, and discuss my compensation.”

Then, dig into your successes. Since your boss may not realize all that you’ve accomplished, you should make him or her aware by pointing out a few key highlights from the “to-done” list you made. You could say, “I don’t know if you’re in the loop on everything I’ve accomplished this year, so I just wanted to point out of few of my biggest successes…” Bring up the testimonials where relevant.

Talk not only about your achievements but also about what you are going to tackle next. Your boss is more likely to reward you if you’ve got a plan for what you will do for the company, not just what you did.

Have a Plan B

The best outcome is a permanent boost in your salary. But if that’s not possible, ask for a bonus. One-time rewards, including spot bonuses and project completion bonuses, are on the rise as more companies worry about retaining employees, the WorldatWork Survey of Bonus Programs and Practices 2014 found.

Spot bonuses typically range from $2,500 to $5,000.

Be aware that income taxes can lop off up to 40% of the bonus, so ask if your company will “gross up” the reward so you actually get the whole amount.

Be Ready to Jump

You’re not always going to get what you want. If budgets are tight or layoffs are looming, your manager’s hands may be tied.

So you may have to leave to get that raise. But the good news for you is that even in good times, the biggest pay jumps come when you switch to a new job.

Job switchers simply have more leverage when negotiating salary, especially since the number of employees voluntarily quitting is at its highest since April 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ quits rate measure.

That leaves employers with a lot of empty positions to fill, and they are showing their eagerness to put bodies in these slots: The average wage growth for job changers rose from 4.3% at the start of 2013 to 4.5% at the end of 2014, according to a report by the Kansas City Federal Reserve.

So whether you stay or go, the chances are good that you’ll make more money in 2015.

More on financial resolutions:

MONEY Job market

4 Strategies to Land Your Dream Job This Year

Garden gnome with "need work" sign
Andrew Bret Wallis—Getty Images

The employment market is the strongest it's been in six years. Here's how to boost the odds you'll find the job you want in 2015.

New year, new job. That’s the mantra for many workers as 2015 kicks off. According to a survey by career management experts Right Management, 86% of workers in North America say they plan to actively look for a new job this year. That’s up from 83% last year and just 60% at the peak of the recession in 2009.

Buoyed by a rapidly improving job market and strong economy, people are feeling more confident about seeking out new opportunities. There’s no time like the present: The first Monday after the New Year is the busiest day for job search, and January is the busiest month of the year, according to job search engine SimplyHired. It was a gangbuster day: On Monday, job searches were up 56% from the December average.

“We call it ‘Job Hunt Monday.’ It’s like a Cyber Monday for jobs,” says Kristy Stromberg, senior vice president of marketing for SimplyHired. “The holidays are over and people are thinking about how they can improve their lives. We all spend so much time at work, finding a new job is a great way to make a positive change.”

Job-seekers are justifiably optimistic. More than one third of employers expect to add full-time, permanent employees in 2015, according to CareerBuilder’s annual job forecast. That’s the best outlook from the survey since 2006, up from one-quarter of employers last year.

The hottest industries for hiring are information technology, financial services, manufacturing, and healthcare, according to CareerBuilder. The biggest demand is in jobs tied to revenue growth, digital innovation, and customer loyalty—think sales, data analysis, and customer service.

The War for Talent

You’ll be especially attractive if you have expertise in hard-to-fill positions. More than three-quarters of human resource executives polled by Challenger Gray & Christmas report they are struggling to fill open positions, and 91% say that if the economy keeps expanding at its current rate, the war for talent will worsen.

Experience is most in demand in emerging fields such as cloud computing, mobile and search technology, cyber security, managing and interpreting big data, alternative energy, anti-terrorism and robotics.

Even if those areas aren’t in your wheelhouse, you’ll have an edge if you are considered a top performer at your current company. That’s if you’ve been receiving higher than average raises, bonuses, or promotions in the past few years. Losing talent is a big worry for employers: Nearly 60% of 4,700 companies surveyed in a PayScale.com compensation report said keeping higher performing workers from jumping ship is a top business concern, up from 20% in 2010.

Recruiters also like to target passive job seekers, those folks already employed who are just too busy to look for work.

“The balance has really shifted toward the job seeker,” says Stromberg. “Even if you’re working in an industry that’s contracting, now is a good time to make a move. Competition for talent is hotter. Employers are going to have to take more risk in hiring someone outside their traditional industry.”

Accurate, real-time salaries for thousands of careers.

If you’re itching for a new opportunity, use these strategies to make it happen.

Get the inside scoop. Many job openings, especially those at higher levels, are only announced internally, so you need to get insider info. Reach out to people you know at companies where you want to work. If you don’t know anyone directly, tap your personal network or use your LinkedIn contacts to make a connection to someone in the know about internal job openings. SimplyHired has a tool on its website that allows you to match job openings with your LinkedIn profile so you can see who in your network is at that company.

Be top of mind. Attract employers’ attention by raising your profile. Speak at industry conferences. Be active in professional organizations and on social media. Look at what your online presence signals about you. Use language in your LinkedIn profile that matches the type of positions you’d like to land so recruiters find you when they search for candidates. Create a website that showcases your work so it turns up in online searches for you.

Try temp work. If you’ve been out of work for a while, part-time, temporary, or contract positions are a good way to keep your skills up to date and can be a steppingstone to full-time work. Temporary employment is expected to pick up over the next 12 months as a way for employers to fill in-demand roles or keep costs lower with a flexible workforce even as business picks up. According to CareerBuilder, 46% of employers plan to hire temporary or contract workers in 2015, up from 42% last year. Of these employers, 56% plan to transition some temporary or contract workers into full-time, permanent roles.

Be open to opportunities. If a recruiter calls you or a friend passes on information about a job opening, find out more even if you’re not interested in the position or looking for work. A recruiter may know about another opportunity that’s a better fit. It is also a chance to share the information with others in your field that may be looking to make a change.

If you pay it forward, one of those people may pay it back when you are ready to make a move.

MONEY

4 Surefire Ways to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

$20, $1, $5 arranged to read 2-0-1-5
Sarina Finkelstein

Aiming to make positive changes in 2015? It's easier than you think to reach your goals.

If you’re like most people, this is the time of year when you pledge to shed bad habits and improve your life. About half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions each January, according to research by the University of Scranton.

It’s no surprise that people set intentions. What is surprising is how much the failure rate of resolutions is hyped. In fact, a good number of people do make goals with staying power: 59% of people who made resolutions for 2014 say they kept them, a Marist poll found. The University of Scranton’s researchers found that 46% of resolvers maintained their pledge past the six-month mark.

Money-related goals are one of the most popular, making up one-third of resolutions that people set for the coming year. More good news here: When it comes money, financial resolutions seem to be easier to achieve than other popular self-improvement vows.

According to a recent survey by Fidelity Investments, 42% of people find it easier to pay down debt and save more for retirement than to, say, lose weight or give up smoking. Among those who made a financial resolution last year, 29% reached their goal, and 73% got at least halfway there, Fidelity found. Only 12% of resolutions having to do with things like fitness and health do not end in failure, other research shows.

Unfortunately, the booming stock market and improved jobs picture may be making people a little too confident about their finances. Just 31% of people are considering a financial resolution this year, down from 43% last year. But the top goals remain the same: Save more (55%), pay off debt (20%), and spend less (17%), according to Fidelity.

No matter what kind of changes you are pledging to make in 2015, here are four ways to improve your odds of success.

1. Resolve to resolve. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t articulate a goal, according to another University of Scranton study by professor John Norcross. After six months, 46% of people who wanted to change their behavior and made a resolution to do so were successful, vs. just 4% of people who desired to make a change but didn’t put it in resolution form.

2. Be specific. People who make vague goals are much more likely to fail. Set a well-defined goal and write down a plan of attack. For example, vowing to save more is too broad. Instead, make a plan to research savings accounts with higher than average rates, pick one by Feb. 1, and aim to save $3,000 a year, putting away $250 a month to get there. (For help, check out our annual list of the Best Banks and accounts.)

3. Keep a log. One key to sticking to your New Year’s pledge: track your progress. Two-thirds of those who set a goal find progress to be motivating, according to the Fidelity survey, and a study from the University of Washington found that the more that you monitor your performance, the better you’ll do at sticking to your goals. Use an app such as SavingsGoals to see how close you are coming to your savings target or DailyCosts to track your spending and see where you can cut back.

4. Enlist a buddy. Research from Dominican University of California psychology professor Gail Matthews found that people who shared their goals with a friend were 33% more successful than those who didn’t. So if you’re already contributing to your 401(k) but haven’t boosted the amount you’re saving in years, tell someone who is important to you that you’re going to do it. Then ask that person to call you in a week to see if you followed through. Make a pact to help your friend with his or her own goal, and you’ll both be more likely to achieve your resolutions in 2015.

Have you had success with your New Year’s resolutions? Write me with your tips and advice at drosato@moneymail.com, and I’ll share the best ideas in an upcoming post.

MONEY working in retirement

This Is the Toughest Threat to Boomers’ Retirement Plans

Most employers say they support older workers. But boomers don't see it, and age discrimination cases are on the rise.

As the oldest boomers begin to turn 70 in just over a year, an important workplace battleground already has been well defined: how to accommodate aging but productive workers who show few signs of calling it quits.

Millions of older workers want to stay on the job well past 65 or 68. Some are woefully under saved or need to keep their health insurance and must work; others cling to the identity their job gives them or see work as a way to remain vibrant and engaged. At some level, almost all of them worry about being pushed out.

Those worries are rooted in anecdotal evidence of workers past 50 being downsized out of jobs, but also in hard statistics. Age discrimination claims have been on the rise since 1997, when 15,785 reports were filed. Last year, 21,396 claims were recorded. Not every lawsuit is valid. But official claims represent only a fraction of incidents where older workers get pushed out, lawyers say.

One in five workers between 45 and 74 say they have been turned down for a job because of age, AARP reports. About one in 10 say they were passed up for a promotion, laid off or denied access to career development because of their age. Even those not held back professionally because of age may experience something called microaggressions, which are brief and frequent indignities launched their direction. Terms like “geezer” and “gramps” in the context of a work function “affect older workers” and erode self-esteem, write researchers at the Sloan Center.

These are serious issues in the context of a workforce where many don’t ever plan to retire. Some 65% of boomers plan to work past age 65, according new research from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Some 52% plan to keep working at least part-time after they retire. In a positive sign, 88% of employers say they support those who want to stay on the job past 65.

But talk is cheap, many boomers might say. In the Transamerica survey, just 73% of boomers said their employer supports working past 65. One way this skepticism seems justified: only 48% of employers say they have practices in place to enable older workers to shift from full-time to part-time work, and just 37% say they enable shifting to a new position that may be less stressful. Boomers say the numbers are even more dismal. Only 21% say their employer will enable them to shift to part-time work, and just 12% say their employer will facilitate a move to a position that is less stressful.

These findings seem at odds with employers’ general perceptions about how effective older workers are. According to the survey:

  • 87% believe their older workers are a valuable resource for training and mentoring
  • 86% believe their older workers are an important source of institutional knowledge
  • 82% believe their older workers bring more knowledge, wisdom, and life experience
  • Just 4% believe their older workers are less productive than their younger counterparts

The reality is that most of us will work longer. The Society of Actuaries recently updated its mortality tables and concluded that, for the first time, a newborn is expected to live past 90 and a 65-year-old today should make it to 86 (men) or 88 (women). The longevity revolution is changing everything about the way we approach retirement.

Employers need to embrace an older workforce by creating programs that let them phase into retirement while keeping some income and their healthcare, by offering better financial education and planning services, and by declaring an age-friendly atmosphere as part of their commitment to diversity.

For their part, employees must take steps to remain employable. Most are staying healthy (65%); many are focused on performing well (54%), and a good number are keeping job skills up to date (41%), Transamerica found. But painfully few are keeping up their professional network (16%), staying current on the job market (14%) or going back to school for retraining (5%). Both sides, it seems, could do better.

Read next: How Your Earnings Record Affects Your Social Security

MONEY Workplace

Why Smart People Send Stupid Emails That Can Ruin Their Careers

Producer Scott Rudin and Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairman Amy Pascal attend the Sony Pictures Classic 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards Party held at The Beverly Hilton hotel on January 16, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California.
Neilson Barnard—Getty Images Producer Scott Rudin and Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairman Amy Pascal publicly apologized for racially insensitive emails.

High-profile email leaks show, once again, the danger of assuming that what you write is for the recipient's eyes only.

What were they thinking?

When Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin were exchanging their now infamous emails, leaked in the Sony Pictures Entertainment hacking scandal, they clearly weren’t worried about what would happen to their careers if anyone else read their notes.

You have to wonder why not: Companies routinely monitor worker communications. Email is regularly used as evidence in lawsuits and criminal investigations. Now hacking is another threat. Email isn’t private. Everyone knows that.

Pascal, who climbed the ranks at Sony Pictures Entertainment to become co-chairman, and Rudin, an Oscar-winning movie producer, are not stupid people. Yet they are just the latest example of high-profile executives who send email without a thought about what would happen if the outside world read them.

Remember David Petraeus, the four-star general and CIA director who resigned from his job after an FBI investigation inadvertently turned up emails that exposed an extramarital affair? Ironically, Petraeus didn’t even send the emails. He wrote them and saved them to his drafts folder. He and his girlfriend shared the password and simply logged in to read the drafts.

Then there’s New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who fired his chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly after it was revealed that she sent emails joking about traffic tie-ups caused by lane closings on the George Washington Bridge. The closures, an alleged retaliation against the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie’s bid for governor, spawned a scandal that continues to affect Christie’s presidential prospects.

And most recently, a Harvard business school professor publicly apologized last week for an epic email rant that went viral, in which he threatened to sic the authorities on a local Chinese food restaurant that allegedly overcharged him $4 for a dinner delivery.

Even though senders should know better, “there’s an illusion of privacy, because the truth is, most of us haven’t been hacked or even know if higher-ups are reading our email,” says Dana Brownlee, president of Professionalism Matters. When it comes to successful people, she says, ego often trumps common sense. “Those with power often reach a point where they let their guard down because they feel somewhat invincible.”

It’s a trap that any of us can easily fall into, particularly in today’s time-crunched workplace, where it’s often easier to shoot off an email or text rather than pick up the phone—or, better still, walk down the hall—to discuss a sensitive issue. “We all have to be really careful about using email almost exclusively to communicate,” Brownlee says. “It’s dangerous.”

Brownlee suggests giving yourself this simple test: How comfortable would you be if your boss, a co-worker or the person you are writing about read it? Not sure? Don’t send it.

“Warning flags truly should go off in your head any time you prepare to hit send on anything you wouldn’t want to read on the front page of the paper,” says Brownlee. “Save the jokes and snarky or personal stuff for one-on-one time. You’ll be glad you did.”

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