MONEY 401(k)s

The Three 401(k) Moves Millennials Should Make Now

Millenials sitting on the floor discussing 401k investing
Roberto Westbrook—Getty Images/Image Source

A few smart—and easy—choices in your 401(k) can go a long way toward getting off to a good start.

For the so-called Millennial generation, born after 1981 (yes, that includes you, 30-year-olds!), retirement might seem far off.

But if you’re lucky enough to have a job with an employer-sponsored 401(k), you ought to take advantage right now. Assuming you—like many of your peers—feel too perplexed by your options (or too busy multi-tasking) to put in much effort, here are the best bare-minimum moves:

1. Contribute even if you don’t get a match. Although the vast majority of large employers offer some matching 401(k) contributions, smaller companies don’t always do the same. But your account is still worthwhile. A 401(k) lets you set aside a chunk of your paycheck before it gets taxed and shields that cash from Uncle Sam as it grows. Yes, you’ll pay income tax on the money you take out when you retire. But because you got to stash more to begin with—and that money will have had many years to build—you’ll do better than you would have in a taxable (e.g., savings or brokerage) account.

For example, imagine you put away $4,000 annually starting at age 25. Here’s how much more you’d have saved by 65 if you kept that money in a 401(k) instead of an unsheltered account:

401k mill
NOTES: Assumes 6% investment returns and a 25% tax bracket. SOURCE: Paul Herman, CPA

In addition to being hit with income taxes, money in a non-retirement account is subject to taxes on earnings—whether from dividends, capital gains, or just simple interest. Not so with a 401(k). And therein lies another big advantage. “The less money coming out because of taxes, the more available for compounding, which is the real wind at your back,” says Brooks Herman, head of data and research at BrightScope, which rates 401(k) plans.

If you’re fortunate enough to get a match, maximize it. Say your employer matches up to 6% of contributions (the most common match), but you save only 3% of your salary each year? You’re leaving free money on the table.

2. Take the cheap and lazy option. If you feel clueless about the funds offered in your 401(k) plan, you’re not alone: A TIAA-CREF survey recently found that more than 40% of millennials who participate in retirement plans are not familiar with their investment options.

Assuming you’d like to do as little work as possible, go with a target-date fund. These funds—which automatically adjust your relative holdings in bonds and stocks (your “asset allocation”) to be less risky as you get older—are particularly attractive if they charge less than 0.5% in annual fees, or $5 for every $1,000 invested.

3. Don’t touch that money, unless you need it for a medical emergency. Millennials have it tough, financially, with higher debt and unemployment (and lower income) than Gen Xers and Boomers had when they were young, according to a recent Pew study. So it might be tempting to view your retirement account as a good rainy-day fund. But money in a 401(k) is meant for retirement, and if you try to pull it out early (before you are 59 ½) you will have to pay an extra 10% tax on top of standard income tax. That penalty could wipe out all the benefits of the account, and then some. The only real exception to the penalty is if you are using the money because you’ve been disabled, or for certain qualified medical expenses. Likewise, borrowing against your 401(k) should be only a last resort.

If there’s a serious chance you’ll need to use your savings for future educational expenses or for buying your first home, an individual retirement account (IRA) not sponsored by your employer might be a better vehicle for your cash, because those come with slightly more flexible rules for early withdrawals. But in general, retirement accounts—whether 401(k)s or IRAs—should be left untouched until you actually retire.

MONEY Careers

New Degree, No Job? 4 Steps Grads Should Take to Jumpstart the Search

Now that commencement's over and real life is about to begin, career coach and former HR exec Caroline Ceniza-Levine offers strategies to get your career in gear, stat.

As a former recruiter, I have hired thousands of new graduates into their first full-time jobs, so I’ve seen the hiring process up close, inside and out.

Some industries—like management consulting and investment banking—do the bulk of their hiring well before graduation. If you have classmates entering these fields, you might be anxious if you don’t have your own first career step confirmed. (This goes for parents, too!)

Temper your anxieties by keeping in mind that the vast majority of companies only hire as needs arrive. Some of those companies are looking to fill entry-level slots right now, just a few heartbeats after commencement. So it may not be long before you (or your child) is launched—assuming you’re strategic. Take these four steps to take now to get the search in gear:

Figure out the finances first

You need to have time for your search. Even in the best-case scenario, it may take a month or two for you to go through the interview and vetting processes and land your first gig. In that time, you need to have a stable living environment where your basic needs are met so that you can be confident and relaxed as you meet with employers.

That requires answering this question first: How are you going to cover your expenses as you look?

Talk to your family about how long you are welcome to stay. If you have student loan payments that had a grace period while you were in school, find out when the first payment is starting and how much it is. Sketch out the rest of your budget, so you know what you’ll need to cover yourself.

Pick the low-hanging fruit

If money is tight, you’ll need to land something quickly and start earning. But even if you have the finances to support a longer search, you’ll want to avoid a long gap on your resume.

People who already know, like and trust you will more readily hire you or refer you for positions. So start your search by reaching out to family, friends, former employers from past internships or side jobs, even professors. Let them know you’re available.

Employers get inundated with resumes, but if someone the hiring manager knows personally refers you as a candidate, there’s a better chance your resume will get noticed.

Don’t discount “stopgap” jobs

First jobs do not have to be exactly in your area of interest to be valuable.

One of my coaching clients worked a retail job after she graduated, while searching for something in her target area (media). That job not only gave her the means to support herself, but also introduced her to other recent graduates working the store; and as her fellow store clerks got hired into their corporate jobs, she got introductions to those companies.

One new graduate I hired had been referred to me by a senior executive—she had babysat for his kids, and he was impressed by her work ethic.

In other words, these so-called stopgap jobs can set the stage for bigger career moves.

Keep going after your ideal job

Block out specific days and times for the search for your ideal job, even if you take that retail job or freelance project in the meantime.

Identify the companies you’d want to work for, check their websites regularly and follow them on social media to hear about openings. Also, use LinkedIn to find people in your network who work there and can introduce you or at least give you more information about the company to make you a more informed (read: more competitive) candidate.

Additionally, join a professional association in your target industry or a broader networking group like your university alumni club. The member events allow you to get comfortable in professional settings and meet new people, some of whom might work for your ideal companies. You never know who might help get you your first job—or your next one.


Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column will appear weekly.

TIME career

Attention Grads: Being Overeducated for Your First Job Can Hurt Your Career

Portrait of a exhausted female cafe worker Jamie Garbutt—Getty Images

So think twice about taking that bartending job to pay the bills after you graduate

Bad news for all those college-educated waitresses: a new study shows that being overeducated for your first job can have salary implications that last long into your career.

Researchers from Duke and UNC Chapel Hill found that people with some post-secondary education who were overeducated for their first jobs were making less than their peers of a similar education level, even ten years after they entered the workforce, according to a new report published in the National Bureau of Economic Research. They followed almost 13,000 people since 1979 to determine how their initial jobs affected their subsequent careers.

And the disparity extended beyond people with a college degree. Among those who had done some graduate work, people who started off overeducated for their jobs were at first making more than their peers (probably because education-level jobs for people with graduate degrees are few and far between for young people.) But 10 years later, they were making far less.

In other words, starting off in a position that doesn’t match your education level can slow you down later in life.

That’s bad news for many students who find themselves taking any job they can get in a tough job market, especially when they have student loans to pay off.

The researchers found that women were 5 to 13% more likely to be overeducated for their jobs, but that this may have something to do with female workers placing value on non-wage-related things like flexibility. They also acknowledged that workplace discrimination might have something to do with that.

And blacks and Hispanics with 14 years of schooling are more likely than whites to be stuck in jobs for which they are overeducated — blacks are 16% more likely and Hispanics are 12% more likely to have more education than their job requires. Furthermore, overeducated black workers are far less likely to transition into a job that matches their education level than whites are. That’s also probably because of workplace discrimination.

Moral of the story: think twice before you settle for that bar tending gig.



MONEY groceries

Your Grocery Store May Soon Be Cut in Half

Bottled juice on supermarket shelves Spaces Images—Getty Images/Blend Images RM

Many grocers known for the gigantic mega-supercenter shopping experience are trying out store models shrunk down to the size of the old neighborhood market.

For decades, the average American supermarket’s size evolved similarly to the average American’s weight: It grew and grew. Lately, though, many grocers known for gigantic mega-supercenters are trying out store models shrunk down to the size of the old neighborhood market.

A few years back, the average size of a grocery store was measured at over 45,000 square feet, up from 35,000 square feet in the mid-’90s. The supersizing of supermarkets may have come to an end, however. The shrinking of grocery stores has been a noticeable trend in recent years. Chains such as Aldi and Trader Joe’s, which both operate stores typically under 20,000 square feet—and which both happen to be owned by the same German company—have been extremely successful, opening new locations left and right. Walmart, the ultimate big-box megachain, has stepped up efforts to expand its small store formats, especially in urban neighborhoods, to compete not only with local grocers but dollar stores as well.

Plenty of other big names in groceries are also now jumping on the small-store trend. The Orlando Business Journal reported that Publix, which runs supermarkets as big as 60,000 square feet, mostly in the South, is working on a store prototype in the neighborhood of 20,000 square feet. RetailWire noted that several other large—and typically large-sized—supermarket brands, including Kroger and Hy-Vee, are also launching or expanding mini-grocery stores.

Last fall, Kroger opened three 7,500-foot-square-sized stores operating under the name Turkey Hill Market in the Columbus, Ohio, area. The markets are a fraction of the size of the typical Kroger (67,000 square feet), and it’s being presented as a cross between a convenience store and a supermarket. Hy-Vee opened a 14,000-square-footer under the “Hy-Vee Mainstreet” concept in Iowa in mid-April.

Obviously, with dramatically smaller stores, some compromises must be made. “In one of [the larger] stores, we may have 40 kinds of hamburger helper, [in the smaller stores] we have ten,” explained Tim Stupka, assistant vice president of operations for Hy-Vee’s northern district. “Or, instead of having four different types and styles of bananas, we have two. We have pretty much everything those stores have, but we don’t have as many varieties.”

Such tweaks could hurt customer perceptions of their favorite grocer brands. One of the reasons that Publix, for instance, scores highly among consumer ratings is that it’s known for outstanding selection.

But for a variety of reasons, big grocery companies think it’s worth a shot to shift small. For one thing, whereas megastores typically require an undeveloped suburban location, smaller stores can fit almost anywhere, including densely populated cities, college towns, and even college campuses. Millennials, in particular, are more interested in living in such locations—and are more interested in quick-stop shopping, as opposed to the overwhelming, impersonal, time-consuming experience of roaming aisle after aisle of a ginormous megamart.

Supermarket companies also like the idea of creating stores where the typical customer pops in several times a week, as opposed to the big-haul, once-a-week shopping visit. Hy-Vee has been opening bars and restaurants inside grocery stores with the idea that customers will visit more often, and linger longer.

All that said, there’s certainly no guarantee that a smaller store size will be a hit with consumers. The Fresh & Easy grocery chain was based on a neighborhood-quick-stop store size and it wound up as an epic flop.

MONEY First-Time Dad

What?! How Can Child Care Cost as Much as the Rent?

Or, why my family might move to Sweden. The first in a series of dispatches on being a new dad, a Millennial, and (pretty) broke.

I was born in 1986, my wife the year before. Our son was born this year. That means that we are Millennials, we entered the job market when the economy went to hell, and we will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next two decades caring for our son.

Throw in a two-bedroom apartment in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn ($2,000 a month) and an Amazon Prime account, and it is expensive being us. That’s what this space will detail: the travails of being young, a family, and (relatively) poor, all at once.

The Talk

Child care is one of the first conversations a newly pregnant couple needs to have—for the obvious reason that paying someone (or, gasp!, a daycare center) to mind your child for a third of the day not only chips away at your perceived parental self-worth, but it is also insanely expensive. Like, really expensive. One daycare center near our house costs the same as our rent.

So, naturally, that was not our first conversation, not even close.

Baby Pie Chart
Note: Numbers vary by night

Despite the fact that I report on personal finance and knew better, we went months avoiding the discussion. It’s just not a fun conversation to endure, and perhaps I was hoping that the situation would be resolved deus-ex-machina style, maybe with a tidy inheritance from a flush octogenarian on my wife’s side of the family.

Whenever the topic did pop into my head, I would have two competing reactions: sheer panic and indignant rage. The panic stemmed from the expense of it all, while the indignant rage was born from the fact that we would have to bear that expense because we lived here, well, in America.

In Sweden right now there’s a couple (let’s call them William and Alice) that just had a baby. William and Alice’s Stockholm apartment looks similar to ours—we both have cribs from Ikea, except they can pronounce the name—and they are just as excited for their new family. (Maybe they too had an intimate, shotgun wedding.) But there is one aspect of William and Alice’s marriage that is wholly dissimilar to ours: They will not have a prenatal chat about child-care costs.

Average weekly child-care costs
Notes: Based on 2013 dollars; for families with working mothers. Sources: Pew Research Center and U.S. Census Bureau

That’s because William and Alice get a combined 480 days off from work (60 of those days are reserved for William), paid for by the good people of Sweden. After that, William and Alice’s little tyke will be scooped up by Sweden’s Educare–a kind of daycare and preschool wrapped up in one–for less than $200 a month.

My wife received about two months of paid time off. I got two weeks. Our respective companies—businesses that have nothing to do with child care—set policies and foot the bill. And we’re lucky. I cannot imagine having a child while working as waiter or a janitor or a medical assistant.

Eventually we did have the conversation–sort of. She would take an additional couple of months off, and we’d pay for it by using up pretty much all of our emergency savings. But come July she’s going back to work (Mrs. Tepper is a teacher at a charter school and makes much more than I do), and we’re going to have figure something out.

Maybe we’ll shell out the $2,000 a month for daycare. Or move to Sweden.

TIME Crime

Teen Admits He Killed His Parents Because They Took His iPod Away

Technological Waste
Getty Images

Their punishments apparently prompted a fit of rage

A teenager in Norfolk, Virginia, who was accused of murdering both his parents pleaded guilty in court this week. The reason he committed the crime, he explained, was that he’d gotten angry over routine punishments.

“I just remember getting mad,” 16-year-old Vincent Parker told investigators. “It’s all from my dad. All this stuff like my dad taking away my iPod and stuff.”

Warning: the details of the murders are gruesome. Parker first attacked his mother by dousing her with pepper spray, stabbing her in the eye and beating her with a baseball bat and crowbar until she stopped breathing, CBS affiliate WTKR reports. When his father got home afterwards, Parker attacked his father with a crowbar and stabbed him several times.

Parker pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in adult court this week, and his sentence will be handed down in September. His family members were puzzled because he has no criminal record and he’s an honor-roll student.


How to Manage a Boomer

Getty Images

Five tips for Millennials who are beginning a life that will be spent alongside some very frightened coworkers

Good news, proud members of the Class of 2014, you’re out of school now and in the real world. You might even be that strange creature–a new graduate who has managed to pick up a job along with your diploma. Nice going!

Not to tug your mortarboard tassel, but there could be trouble ahead: first up, you are about to spend your days with something called a Baby Boomer. Perhaps more than one. Don’t be scared. Although Boomers are terrified of you.

You can’t let their fear get to you. It’s good to remember what one Boomer wrote about you and your friends in Inc. magazine last spring, “Most Millennials grew up in a warm, supportive environment in which they were constantly told they were the best or brightest–regardless of the facts.” Let me just say, you are doing wonderfully.

Now on to those spooked Boomers. Even after years of downsizing, there may be a few Boomers left in your place of work. Boomers have been through a lot. Treat them with care. They are an unhappy bunch: The Pew Research Center once called Boomers the Gloomiest Generation (and this was before the Great Recession had them reaching for the Lexapro).

Since I’m a Millennial, some more about me. I’ve worked apple cheek by drooping jowl with Boomers for a half decade—that’s equal to a quarter century in Millennial time–so my advice comes with a little thing Boomers call “experience.”

Tip number one: do not call a Boomer, a Boomer—at least not to his face. Boomers do not like this. Tell a Boomer he’s being a Boomer, and a particularly brave one might say something like, “I’m not a Boomer. I’m an early member of Generation X.” This is a very Boomer thing to say. Some pencil pushers may tell you that no person born later than 1964 qualifies as a Boomer. They are wrong: Boomerdom is as much a state of mind as it a demographic cohort.

Tip number two: Find common ground. There happens to be plenty. A Gallup survey from January reported that 17 percent of Millennials were actively disengaged at work. Twenty percent of Boomers said they shared the same flaky feeling. Talk about that while you’re busy not working together.

This time last year, this magazine called Millennials the “Me Me Me Generation.” The Boomers brought us the “culture of narcissism” and the “me decade.” Never before have two generations thought so highly and so much about themselves. Sometimes navel-gazing is improved by a partner. Find yourself a Boomer. Compare selfies.

Tip number three: don’t talk money. Boomer bankers have a lot of explaining to do. Boomer CEOs have disappeared these things called pensions (it’s complicated, but basically they once paid you even after you stopped working). Now fellow Millennial-fearing Boomers, with their rotten 401Ks, are stuck working next to you when they had planned on spending mornings in lawn chairs counting the cars that drive by the house. But, here again, good news and still more common ground: According to a recent Forbes report, “Millennials aren’t motivated as much by money.” Because Boomers have lost so much and Millennials can hope for so little the zipped lips on the money thing should be easy for everyone.

Tip number four: Be patient. You’re going to be working together for a long time. Gallup again: Forty-nine percent of Boomers say that they don’t plan on retiring until after they are 66 years old or older. Ever scarier, one in ten Boomers say they will never retire. Look around your office: count to ten Boomers. One of these guys is leaving the office feet first.

Until that happens, try to find what makes each Boomer special. Every Boomer is like a snowflake, different in his own way. As one director of marketing told Fox Business readers about Boomers, “We are not all the same. Stereotyping is always dangerous, and with Boomers, it simply can’t be done.”

Tip number five: Keep things in perspective. One Boomer, claiming to be a member of Generation X like so many Boomers do, told the Washington Post, “Dealing with Millennials for me is like drinking water from a fire hose — it takes my breath away.” Remind a Boomer that there could be so many more of you. That fire hose has a giant Boomer-made knot holding back its true pressure.

You could show the light-headed Boomer the copy of the Economic Policy Institute’s Briefing Paper No. 377, published in May, that you were just reading. You could tell the Boomer it says, “In today’s labor market, there are nearly 1 million ‘missing’ young workers—potential workers who are neither employed nor actively seeking work…because job opportunities remain so scarce.”

Watch the Boomer walk away slowly. Give him the rest of the day to think about the prospect of a Million Millennial March, coming up the elevator, down the hall, past the cubicles and making a parade right for the Boomer’s office door.

MONEY Food & Drink

National Crisis! Free Bread Disappearing at Restaurants

Selection of breads in restaurant
Kieran Scott—Getty Images

The free bread basket, once a staple at any halfway decent restaurant, is increasingly off the table around the country.

You want bread with your meal? Then be prepared to pay up. More and more restaurants around the country are upending decades of tradition by doing away with the bread basket.

The obvious reason that free bread is disappearing—or being offered upon request instead of showing up automatically—is that it’s expensive. According to one baker interviewed recently by the Boston Globe, “a restaurant used to be able to get a roll for 10 cents. Now it can be 50 or 55 cents. Bread used to be cheap, but now it’s a serious cost.”

Even worse, restaurateurs are facing the proposition of paying more for bread during a time when diners are less likely to eat it, thanks to dietary restrictions and trends—in particular, the two big pushes to eliminate or restrict carbs and gluten. These shifts in eating habits don’t appear to be going away anytime soon. The National Restaurant Association trade show in Chicago last week featured no fewer than 75 booths with gluten-free products.

In San Francisco, where it’s become common for restaurants to either charge for bread or offer it only upon request, the new policies are promoted as a means to limit unnecessary waste. “I’m all for” it, wrote the San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer, because in the past, much of the free bread wound up in the trash, untouched. “Why waste bread if the diner really doesn’t want it?”

Baby boomers, who have lived for decades with complimentary carbs, seem to be much more upset than younger generations about the disappearing act. The Arizona Republic, which last fall noted the phenomenon at restaurants in the retiree-heavy Phoenix area, quoted one 51-year-old man who spoke for many when he said the change was a way for a restaurant to “chintz out.” A 20-year-old customer, on the other hand, felt quite differently: “I usually prefer that [restaurants] don’t give me bread because it fills me up.”

For restaurant owners, the decision to bread or not to bread tables comes down to figuring out a way to keep customers happy while maximizing sales and limiting unnecessary costs. Sensitive strategizing is needed to avoid putting off patrons.

Earlier this year, The Record (N.J.) reported that many restaurants in northern New Jersey have either stopped placing free bread at tables or deliver it only by request after customers have placed their orders. Why the latter? Because restaurants want people to order when they’re hungriest, and customers are less likely to spring for appetizers and big entrees if they’ve already started chowing down on bread.

“If we can’t sell plates because people are filling up on bread, it’s a financial burden,” said one New Jersey restaurant owner. “We’re in the business to sell food, not to sell bread.”

One sneaky strategy, employed by Abby Lane Food & Spirits in Boston, involves subbing homemade spicy barbecue blue potato chips for free bread at tables. The chips cost a fifth as much to produce as bread, and they are gluten-free, the Globe reported, which works out brilliantly for the restaurant. Even better—for the restaurant—because the chips are so salty, customers tend to spend more on drinks.


New College Grads Are About to Get a Major Reality Check

© 2011 Dorann Weber—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Today’s college grads feel pretty optimistic about their ability to land a good job, but the reality is it’s not likely to turn out the way they expect. A new survey shows that the class of 2014 is wildly over-optimistic about their job prospects, and this rose-colored view of their future could burn them.

Consulting company Accenture polled this year’s crop of graduates about their work and career expectations, then compared those responses to the real-life experiences of the graduating classes of 2012 and 2013.

The comparisons are sobering. While 85% are confident they’ll find work in their chosen field, only about two-thirds actually will. Finding a job will take longer than they plan; 69% think their job search will take less than six months, but only 42% will actually find a job in that time.

And when these grads do find jobs, they’ll be on their own. Although 80% expect their employer to train them once they get on the job, fewer than 50% will actually get formal training.

Today’s grads also have a disconnect when it comes to how much money they expect to make. More than 80% expect to make more than $25,000, but fewer than 60% actually will make more than $25,000 once they do finally land a job. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary for this year’s college grads is $45,473, but that can be deceptive. Computer science and engineering, business and health science fields all command higher average starting salaries, which means humanities students could be in for a rude awakening if they assume this average will apply to them.

Perhaps this is why Accenture finds that although only a third of this year’s graduating class says they’ll compromise their salary expectations, in reality, 43% of them will wind up doing so.

Wondering where these kids are getting such inflated ideas about their desirability to employers? Blame their parents. “This is a generation that often relies on their parents as career counselors. Those parents are sometimes out of touch with today’s job market, and have a skewed view of the value of a bachelor’s degree’s income potential in today’s market,” says Tara Wyborny, a recruiting expert who focuses on new college grads at HR consulting company Genesis10.

Relying on mom and dad means today’s college students are ignoring resources that could provide them with a more useful, realistic picture of their job prospects, Wyborny says. They don’t use their school’s career offices or look at job and salary data collected by organizations like NACE.

“What we see is a sense of disbelief that they could have college loans worth more than they can ever hope to make in their first year of work, sometimes even after four years,” Wyborny says.

This disconnect adds to the growing conversation about the feasibility of a debt-laden college education for everyone. New data from the Pew Research Center finds that 37% of households headed by someone under the age of 40 carry student loan debt. The median amount is $13,000, and it has far-ranging effects on these young adults’ overall indebtedness and net worth.

“Many millennials are deferring their adult lives, and it’s totally about their debt situation,” Wyborny says.

TIME Smart Spending

Most People Say They Could Get Rid of Tons of Stuff and Still Be Happy

Deep in your heart of hearts, you probably know you could unload the majority of your possessions without getting too upset.

Could you get rid of most of your stuff and still be happy? The majority of consumers polled in a new study say they absolutely could. The study, titled “The New Consumer and the Sharing Economy” and conducted by Havas Worldwide, surveyed more than 10,000 people around the globe. The results offer some interesting takeaways about consumption—and overconsumption. Among them:

*Half of all consumers say they could live happily without most of the items they own.

*Two-thirds say they get rid of unneeded possessions once a year, if not more often.

*70% believe that overconsumption is putting the planet and society at risk.

The factoids mesh with plenty of previous research that indicates, for example, the average American home is cluttered with possessions (and our incessant yearning for stuff is stressful and unhealthy), and that the average American child receives some 70 new toys per year. Other research points out that happiness comes largely as a result of fun experiences and relationships with other people rather than the gathering or more and more “stuff.” Money has been correlated with happiness, though how we spend it has a lot to do with whether wealth helps make one content or miserable.

It probably isn’t necessary for researchers to delve into reams of data in order to deliver many of these official “revelations.” Down deep, most of us generally know that we don’t really need much of what we own, and that getting rid of some, if not most, of our clutter certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen. (“Hoarders” anyone?) On the one hand, the new study data demonstrates that most people are fully conscious of the idea that overconsumption is bad, and that one’s happiness isn’t dependent on “stuff.” On the other hand, while it would seem to be good that the majority of people sell, recycle, or otherwise get rid of unneeded possessions at least once annually, the fact that people are swimming in unneeded possessions in the first place is a pretty clear indication that the average person regularly acquires more than he needs.

The title of the new study features the term “Sharing Economy,” which applies to businesses such as Airbnb, Lyft, and SideCar, among many others. What they all have in common is that they’re based on the idea that, for many consumers, it makes more sense to “share” (usually for a fee, of course) rather than buy a car, ride, vacation rental, dress, gadget, or almost anything else under the sun. Another of the study’s factoids shows that most people are in favor of sharing:

*65% agreed with the line “Our society would be better off if people shared more and owned less.”

Because sharing economy operations are new and often viewed as disruptors—if not likely destroyers—of traditional businesses like taxi companies and hotels, they routinely find themselves in the government’s crosshairs and may very well be subjected to increased restrictions and regulations in the future. Nonetheless, it seems like the sharing economy’s future is bright, if for no other reason than consumers largely embrace the concept.

“For a number of years, we’ve tracked the shift away from wasteful spending and toward a more mindful approach to consumption, but what we’re seeing now is much more proactive and hands-on,” Andrew Benett, global CEO of Havas Worldwide, which conducted the new study, said in a press release. “They’re getting involved in the consumption cycle by contributing to the funding or even the creation of products they want and by reselling or renting out their unneeded possessions. They’re creating new formats for the exchange of goods. And every step of the way, they are practicing ‘less is more,’ and savoring their ‘less.’”

Consumers who own stuff like the sharing economy because it gives them a way to get some use—and ideally, some money—out of the possessions that otherwise might be rarely unused, gathering dust and taking up space. And consumers who choose to own less like the sharing economy model because it gives them a way to get their hands on more stuff without having to actually take the plunge and buy. They also don’t have to worry about finding space to store this stuff because, remember, it’s not their stuff. They get to give it back.

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