TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 18

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. What does the world’s indifference to Syria’s horror tell us about ourselves?

By Barry Malone at Al Jazeera English on Medium

2. California has about one year of water left.

By Jay Famiglietti in the Los Angeles Times

3. Traditional democratic institutions are failing. It’s time for an upgrade.

By John Boik, Lorenzo Fioramonti, and Gary Milante in Foreign Policy

4. For the first time in four decades, the global economy grew last year, but carbon emissions didn’t. That’s huge.

By Brad Plumer in Vox

5. Can we build an Internet that includes the hearing impaired?

By Steve Friess in Time

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY inflation

3 Signs Inflation May Be Lurking Just Around the Corner

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Kutay Tanir—Getty Images

While consumer prices haven't been rising yet, several signs point to higher wages in the future. Here's what you should do.

After fits and starts and ups and downs, the American economy is finally looking strong — especially compared to Europe. U.S. gross domestic product grew 2.2% and 5% in the last two quarters of 2014, while the unemployment rate dropped in February to 5.5.%.

Yet inflation and wage growth, which are natural outgrowths of an accelerating economy, haven’t seemed to materialize.

At least not yet.

Despite years of unconventional bond buying and warnings from politicians and economists, consumer prices have actually risen less than the desired rate of the Federal Reserve.

The Consumer Price Index declined 0.7% in January, the steepest drop since 2008, thanks to cheap oil. If you strip out volatile energy and food prices, so-called core inflation only rose 1.6% in January over the past year, well below the Fed’s 2% target.

In fact, prices haven’t hit that Fed target in almost two years. Your paycheck has hardly fared any better.

But lately, there have been signs that show America’s workforce might at long last receive an overdue raise. About 70% of companies have said that wages are beginning to outpace inflation, according to the latest Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey. Industries like technology, manufacturing and health care should see wages grow by 3%.

A small business report points to a tighter labor force, as 26% of companies raised compensation (although that includes benefits like health care), and almost half said finding a qualified employee proved difficult.

What’s more, the 10-year break-even inflation rate, which is a gauge of how much prices are expected to rise annually over the next decade based in part on the yield of 10-year Treasury inflation protected securities — has been ticking up lately to about 1.8%, after touching a recent floor of 1.5% in the beginning of the year. The rate, to be fair, is still well below levels seen before oil’s drop.

So is inflation and wage growth finally set to take off?

That’s a question for Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who has said the Fed will remain “patient” when raising short term interest rates while price growth remains so benign.

This six-year herky-jerky recovery has made fools of many prognosticators, especially those who have shouted loudly that inflation is nigh. “Given that CFOs expect continued strong employment growth, it is surprising that wage pressures are not even great,” says Duke finance professor John Graham. Indeed.

What does this mean for your portfolio?

Well, one option is to add to your Treasury Inflation-Protection Securities (TIPS) holdings, especially short-term TIPS if you’re a conservative investor (though this should still be only a satellite portion of your investments).

TIPS have struggled recently after outperforming equities by 11 percentage points in 2011, and investors have started to put their money elsewhere.

But the best time to get inflation protection is when there’s little fear of rising consumer prices — and when inflation-protected bonds are cheap, like now. For instance, the Vanguard Target Retirement 2015 fund currently allocates about 8% of its portfolio to short-term inflation protection.

MONEY We Try It

How I Outsourced My Most-Hated Chores for $15 an Hour

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Getty Images

This writer tried out Taskrabbit. Here's how it went

These days you can outsource even the most mundane chores—at a price point that isn’t out of reach for the average Joe. And a host of new web-enabled services have made the process a snap. MONEY asked freelance writer and busy working mom Cybele Weisser to try out some of them to see if the time they bought her was worth the price she paid. This post is part of a series recording her results.

The Chores: Odd Jobs at Home

Some items on my to-do list have been there for years because they seem so endlessly procrastinate-able.

Two examples: cataloguing the several hundred vinyl records my spouse acquired during college into a spreadsheet so that he’d know what he has (and what he could, I hope, one day toss), and deep-cleaning the gunk out of the crevices of our decade-old refrigerator.

Outsourcing options: TaskRabbit and Agent Anything help you find pre-screened independent contractors willing to execute almost any odd job. Zaarly is similar for home services; Thumbtack, for home repair.

→ What I tried: TaskRabbit, which has the largest national network of contractors.

→ What it cost: $75 for the record cataloguing; $88 to clean out the fridge. You pay by the hour, from $15 to $35 for unskilled labor depending on the person, location, and task.

→ Time saved: 3½ hours

→ How it worked: I entered a description of my job on TaskRabbit.com, and the site popped up profiles of dozens of “Taskers” available in the time window I chose.

Each profile showed the Tasker’s bill rate (each sets his own), a photo, and customer reviews. I looked for people on the lower end of the range with good reviews.

And since they’d be in my house with me, I picked individuals who looked like they probably weren’t serial killers.

→ The verdict: Mixed.

Both Taskers, fairly young folks who did the work to fund other pursuits, were friendly and polite, and they got the jobs done.

However, I didn’t love spending hours in my home with strangers. Also, the price seemed high.

And I think I could have done both jobs faster myself (though in the case of the fridge, less thoroughly—who knew masking tape would extract crumbs?). I wondered whether getting paid hourly may have caused the Taskers to work less efficiently.

Still, since I would have otherwise put off these jobs infinitely, it was probably worth the money to actually get them done.

More from MONEY’s outsourcing series:

The Easiest Way to Deal With Online Shopping Returns

MONEY

5 Best Ways Men Can #LeanInTogether to Help Women Get Ahead

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Alamy—Alamy

Be an ally—and benefit from your altruism, says Sheryl Sandberg.

Supporting women in the workplace is just a decent thing for men to do. But there’s also a selfish reason for men to care: Helping a woman get ahead on the job can help your career, too.

That’s the message from #LeanInTogether, a new campaign from Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s career empowerment organization LeanIn.org.

Coming on the second anniversary of the launch of Sandberg’s Lean In initiative, the campaign makes the case that changing women’s roles in the workplace can’t happen without a change in behavior from their male colleagues and partners. #LeaninTogether kicked off this week with PSAs from NBA and WNBA stars on ESPN (which has mostly male viewership) and an editorial in The New York Times.

“From stronger marriages and healthier, happier children to better outcomes at work, the benefits of men leaning in for equality are huge,” Facebook COO Sandberg and Wharton Professor Adam Grant wrote in the Times.

So, guys, are you ready to lean in together? These are the five best ways to be advocates for women—and indirectly, yourselves—in the workplace.

1. Be a Mentor.

Women often seek out other women as mentors. But research shows that women who also have male mentors get more promotions and make more money than those who have only female advisors.

A study of MBAs by Harvard Business School found having a mentor raised a man’s salary an average $9,260 vs. just $661 for women. That’s because the mentors for men tend to be male and higher up the corporate ladder (where there are fewer women) than women’s mentors, who are more likely to be female.

Offering to mentor an up-and-comer has some kickback for you as well: “Mentoring is a great way to identify future leaders, which can raise your profile,” says Anna Beninger from Catalyst, a nonprofit that works to expand opportunities for women in business.

2. Be an Advocate.

Look for ways for female employees to be better seen, heard and recognized, says Kathy Caprino, who runs a women’s career success and leadership coaching business.

For example, if you see female colleagues get interrupted in meetings, interject and say you’d like to hear them finish. Openly ask women to contribute to the conversation.

If you manage a team with women, give them chances to lead, present projects and manage others.

Women are less likely to toot their own horns, so help make sure your colleagues get the credit they deserve. So look for opportunities to acknowledge women when their ideas are implemented, both publicly and to higher ups. When you introduce female coworkers, emphasize their accomplishments.

3. Recruit women.

Hiring women can be a good thing for your company. One study found that start-ups that had more women on staff have greater odds of success. For start-ups with five or more females, 61% were successful and only 39% failed.

But know that some of the most promising candidates won’t come to you: Men will apply for jobs when they meet 60% of the hiring criteria while women wait until they meet 100%. So go after them, finding qualified candidates using LinkedIn and references.

Also when you see a job listing you think would be a slam dunk for one of your former colleagues, send it to her. She might not otherwise think of herself for it. Consider it good karma.

4. Promote women.

Make sure you’re helping to give the women who are already a part of your organization an opportunity to rise.

When it comes to performance reviews, be specific about what constitutes top performance so that both men and women equally know what to do to get ahead. Also get to know your female employees’ ambitions and make clear to them what they need to accomplish to get to the next step.

When you think a woman is ready for the next step and you’re not in control of the promotion process, tell her manager.

Tell her, too, so that she can advocate for herself. And push back when she says she’s “not ready” or “not qualified” for an opportunity—or when others say that about her.

5. Share the office housework.

Changing gender stereotypes about duties isn’t just for the home front.

Women often take on more “office housework”—things like taking notes at a meeting, organizing the office parties and training new hires. Those tasks steal valuable time away from core responsibilities and can keep a female colleague from participating fully, says Sandberg.

“The person taking diligent notes in the meeting almost never makes the killer point,” she writes on the LeanInTogether website.

Two-thirds of women in Fortune 200 companies are in support roles, but line roles with profit-and-loss responsibility more often lead to senior leadership positions.

Don’t fall into the trap of expecting women to take on stereotypical support roles like note taker. Raise your own hand. Not only will you make sure that a woman doesn’t get held back, but you may find yourself having new opportunities to collaborate with different coworkers and develop new skills.

Above all, understand that your actions can help set the tone for other men in the office. Be aware of your subtle biases when it comes to gender. You may not realize it about yourself – or others who work with you. “Walk the talk, be a role model,” says Caprino.

Read next: 5 Ways Women in Tech Can Beat the Odds

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5 Signs You Will Become a Millionaire

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MONEY Employment

Why It’s Time to Start Looking for Another Job

3 major economic indicators show why this might be the best time in a long time to start searching for other work.

Economists are pretty good at accounting for the unemployed and underemployed, but there’s one group that’s gone largely ignored during the economic recovery: people who have a job they don’t like, but are afraid to quit.

That’s probably because having a bad job was, at least until recently, seen as a pretty lucky problem to have. When times are tough and employment is scarce, any work is good work. But now the economy has sufficiently improved to the point where employees should stop feeling trapped in their current position and seriously consider making the change they’ve been longing for. Here’s why:

Hiring is way, way, up

Friday’s jobs report showed 295,000 jobs were filled in the month of February. That’s the 13th month in a row with more than 200,000 hirings, and the economy has added nearly 11.5 million jobs in the past five years.

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That’s a lot of jobs you could have instead of the one you’re stuck in.

Open positions are way up as well

Not only has hiring increased, but the number of positions has surged to a 14-year high. There were 5 million job openings at the end of last year, the most since 2001, and the ratio of unemployed job seekers to openings was 1.7, the lowest number since 2007.

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Employees are feeling more confident about quitting

A lot of smart people, including Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, think one of the best indicators of economic progress is whether people have enough faith in the labor market to quit their current jobs. That statistic, known as the quit rate, has been rising and is now closing in on pre-recession levels.

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If you’re feeling like it’s time to leave for greener pastures, you’ll have a growing amount of company.

Read next:

How to Catch the Eye of a Recruiter in Just 7 Minutes

500,000 Walmart Workers Are Getting a Raise. Here’s How You Can Get One, Too

MONEY Jobs

Employers Add 295,000 Jobs as Economy Keeps Rolling

Amid signs of turmoil overseas, the U.S. economy keeps chugging along.

The U.S. economy gained 295,000 jobs in February, the 12th consecutive month employers added more than 200,000 to their payrolls. Meanwhile the unemployment rate dropped to 5.5%.

This is yet another sign of an improving — or what economists would call a “tightening” — labor market.

The rate at which workers are quitting their jobs has risen near levels not seen since before the 2007-2009 recession, implying that workers are feeling more secure that better opportunities lie ahead.

The number of unemployed workers who’ve been out of work 27 weeks or longer, while still high, is 31.1%, compared with 36.8% a year ago. Average hourly earnings grew by 0.1% last month, after rising 0.5% in January. Wages are up 2% over this time 12 months ago. That’s being be read by many analysts as a relatively sluggish number.

That last bit is important. While the labor market has been improving for more than a year, wage growth has disappointed. That in turn has kept a lid on inflation, which is one of the main reasons why interest rates have been next to nothing since the Great Recession and why the Fed, even now, will be “patient” in raising the cost of borrowing.

Even so “labor tightness is showing up in several high-profile labor disputes,” notes BMO chief investment officer Jack Ablin.

Recent anecdotal evidence points to workers having more power in their dealings with management — take striking port and refinery workers and pay raises for Wal-Mart and TJ Maxx employees. And the economy is still plugging along: an index that gauges non-manufacturing business rose a bit last month despite the headwinds from West Coast port strikes. “It was a miracle that the ISM non-manufacturing index managed to tick up for the second month in a row,” says Gluskin Sheff chief economist David Rosenberg.

Americans are feeling more confident about their finances, too. In the first three months of this year, the Wells Fargo/ Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index jumped to its highest level since 2007. (Thank cheap gas prices.)

Wells Fargo Securities senior economist Sam Bullard believes the economy will continue to add workers this year at a clip of 224,000 per month.

“If realized, this strength in hiring would be enough to continue to pressure the unemployment rate lower and should result in a higher pace of wage growth–all supportive to a Fed tightening move in the coming months,” Bullard says.

MONEY Insurance

Injured Workers Are Getting Raw Deals

People injured on the job are getting shortchanged by workers' compensation, while employers and insurance companies are benefiting.

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