MONEY Economy

Americans Still Worried About Their Financial Future

Six out of 10 people surveyed by Money magazine own up to being worried about their family's long-term economic security.

Most Americans believe that the Great Recession is over, according to MONEY magazine's new national survey. But a Great Insecurity seems to have emerged in its wake.

Many of us are sticking to the good financial habits we adopted after the crash — a trend explored in Part 1 of this story. One reason for that: Once you look beyond the immediate future, optimism fades and it becomes clear that Americans remain deeply worried about their long-term economic prospects.

Consider: In the MONEY survey, nearly two-thirds of those earning less than $100,000 and roughly half of those making six figures said they were worried about their family’s economic security; roughly six in 10 Americans were anxious about how they would pay their health care costs.

The majority fell behind on their savings, given their stage of life, and almost three out of four were concerned that their money wouldn’t last through retirement. Other recent studies have found similar concerns: New research from the Consumer Federation of America, for instance, found that only a third of Americans feel prepared for their long-term financial future.

Why does the outlook seem so scary? Some experts think the events of the past six years have shaken the belief in our ability to accumulate wealth over the long haul.

“When the housing market fell, that really scared people,” says Michael Hurd, a senior researcher at Rand, who studied the effect of the recession on household finances. Hurd found that a decline in home values caused people to cut back on their spending more than a similar drop in the stock market.

In addition, the erosion of trust in our financial system will have a lasting effect, says Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University.

“If you don’t believe that your environment will persist, you’re not willing to stake out plans,” Cowen notes. “For example, you won’t buy a home based on the premise that in five years you’ll be earning more money. The volatility of the stock market and the government shutdown have only made it harder.”

Speech pathologist Janel Butera, 47, is one who isn’t counting on anything. A divorced mom of two sons, ages 12 and 13, from Corona, Calif., Butera has made reducing spending and boosting savings a priority over the past five years. Out went the gym membership and vacations; packed lunches and day trips to the beach are the new norm.

“The economy as a whole — I don’t put a lot of faith in it,” she says. “I’m not counting on getting any retirement help, not even Social Security.”

Butera is proud that she’s managed to rebuild her finances after suffering the twin hits of divorce and the recession but is still anxious that she might one day become a burden to her boys. “I worry about them having to provide for me when I’m older,” she says.

Her concern is shared by many: In the MONEY poll, one in five Americans with children said they would probably need their kids’ financial support someday.

We’re living close to the edge

One reason we’re not feeling so hot: While our 401(k)s may be flush again, our emergency savings are not. Half of the respondents in the MONEY poll confessed to living paycheck to paycheck; roughly six in 10 felt they didn’t have enough money set aside for emergencies and didn’t think the family’s breadwinner would find it easy to get another job if laid off.

And almost all people, it seemed, felt like they’d need a higher income than they now earn to really be financially secure — even those who currently bring home a six-figure income. No wonder that anxiety about how we’d cope with a real financial emergency tied with concerns about outliving retirement savings as the most prevalent money worry.

In fact, money has gotten tighter for many lately. Household income, adjusted for inflation, has dipped 4.7% since the recession, economist Cowen points out.

One thing’s for sure: All this stress isn’t helping our love life. The MONEY poll found that finances are both the most frequent source of spats between couples and the cause of the most serious arguments — far ahead of the second-place finisher, household chores, and snoring, which came in third.

Edward Martinez of Tyler, Texas, is one of the many who are worried about not having an adequate cushion. Though Martinez, 44, made $140,000 working for a military contractor in Iraq after the recession, he now earns less than six figures as a technical specialist with the Smith County appraisal district.

He and his wife, Jennifer, 38, a professor at the University of Texas, have an 18-year-old daughter living at home and also help support Martinez’s 22-year-old daughter from his first marriage.

Right now the family has only about a month’s worth of savings, which could easily be wiped out by a run-of-the-mill financial emergency, Martinez acknowledges. He’s in the process of getting a pharmaceutical degree, which he hopes will boost his earning power a few years from now.

Like Martinez, many parents these days are helping grown kids, making it even harder to save. More than a third of the parents of children 22 and older in the MONEY survey are helping out at least one of their brood; of those, three in 10 are shelling out $5,000 or more a year. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon: In the survey, parents providing such support believed their adult child wouldn’t gain full independence until age 30; adult kids supported by a parent put that age at (gulp) 32.

The kids may be all right in the end after all

Such findings are in keeping with alarms many experts have sounded predicting that young adults would bear the most lasting scars from the Great Recession, just as the Depression had a lifelong impact on the way people who came of age at that time managed their money.

Certainly millennials have had a tough slog so far: The job market for this youngest generation of workers is grim (nearly half of those unemployed are under 34, a Demos study has found), and the average student-loan debt for recent college grads is $30,000.

Atlanta resident Courtney Clemons, 25, has a typical millennial story. The Georgia State University grad interned at a travel agency while in school and was hired there full-time after she got her degree. But her earnings, ranging from $25,000 to $35,000, depending on bonuses, aren’t enough for her to get by on her own. So her parents provide about $500 a month to cover her car and health insurance, cellphone bill, and some spending money. Contributing to the problem: She has $90,000 in student loans.

“The jobs you get after graduation aren’t conducive to living on your own,” she says. Morley Winograd, co-author of Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation Is Remaking America, agrees. “Millennials are a very economically stressed generation, and that stress will last for their lifetime,” he says.

Yet MONEY’s survey, among others, shows a more mixed picture. Today’s younger folks do seem at least as value-conscious as their elders, and maybe even more so: A greater percentage of millennials say they are eating at home these days than they were in 2011, for example, while the numbers had dropped slightly for the general population. And for now at least, younger investors also seem more nervous about the stock market, keeping a greater percentage of their portfolios in cash than older people do.

When it comes to other attitudes about spending and saving, however, millennials seem to be pretty much like everyone else. They are just as likely to covet new, innovative products. And they aren’t cutting back on luxury spending or postponing vacations with any greater frequency than their elders either. Nor do they place more importance on saving; almost everyone, young and old, affluent or not, says that saving money is more important to them now than it was a few years ago. And for all the lamentation about how dim the prospects are for this generation, younger folks are surprisingly upbeat about their future: The vast majority (86%) expect to live as well as or better than their parents.

For now, though, while millennials may be having difficulty leaving the nest, no one seems particularly unhappy about it.

“Boomers created a helicopter parenting style and went out of their way to be friends with their kids,” says Winograd. “Many are delighted to have their adult children home.” The kids apparently don’t mind either. A recent Pew study found that 78% of adults ages 25 to 34 who were staying with their parents said they were satisfied with their living arrangements.

Some experts believe this turn toward family may be one recession-induced change that truly lasts. Reality is causing more people to let go of the postwar expectation that living standards will naturally just keep getting better, says Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.

Many may end up caring less about keeping up with the Joneses and more about being with the people who matter the most to them as a result. And indeed, almost 80% of the respondents to the MONEY survey say spending time with family is more important than ever to them, an increase of 10 percentage points over the past five years.

Janel Butera is one of them. The speech pathologist and mom felt her financial situation was secure enough last year to cut back her workweek from five days to four, so she went for it. “Sure, I could use the money,” she says, “but spending time with my kids is more important.”

Additional reporting by Kerri Anne Renzulli.

 

MONEY Kids and Money

4 Ways to Lighten Your Kid’s Debt Load

Converse sneaker ball and chain
The typical 25- to 29-year-old has more than $35,000 in debts. Michael Crichton + Leigh MacMill&

Many young adults are struggling to keep up with student loans, credit-card balances, and car payments. Here's how you can help.

No Mom or Dad wants their adult children to view them as a walking ATM. Still, when they’re struggling financially, what are you going to do?

One thing’s for sure: A lot of them do need help. The typical 25- to 29-year-old owes more than $35,000, according to a recent study from PNC Financial Services—and only about 40% of them say their debts include student loans. No wonder that between credit card balances, car payments, and other bills, 78% of the millennials with debt reported in a new Ameriprise survey that they feel woefully overextended.

If your child is one of them, of course you want to help. These steps will let you do that—without undermining his autonomy or risking your own financial security.

Offer Advice, Not Cash

Resist the impulse to provide a handout, at least initially. After all, you probably need the money for retirement. Plus, you’ll lose a teachable moment. “Bailing your kids out doesn’t help them learn fiscal responsibility,” says financial adviser Deena Katz, an associate professor of personal financial planning at Texas Tech University.

Instead, she suggests, offer to review your child’s expenses and identify ways to free up cash to help with debt payments. Junior isn’t eager to share details about his money with Mom and Dad? Encourage him to use sites such as youneedabudget.com to create a workable plan. Or offer to pay for a year of budgeting help from a professional adviser at a financial planning site such as LearnVest.com ($89 setup, $19.99 a month).

Tackle the Plastic

Twentysomethings often pay lofty credit card rates of 22% or higher owing to their meager credit history and low credit scores (average for millennials: 628). Suggest your child call her issuer and ask for a lower rate, pointing out—if true—her history of on-time payments. “If the provider doesn’t budge, use Bankrate.com or CreditCards.com to shop for a lower-rate card to transfer the balance,” says Beth Kobliner, author of Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties.

Another option, says Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education for credit.com: Take out a lower-rate loan to pay off the balance. At peer-to-peer lending sites Prosper.com or Lendingclub.com, a millennial might nab a 12.5% rate from investors.

Wrestle Down School Loans

Also help your child explore ways to lower the monthly bill for college debt, such as income-based repayment plans for federal loans. Instead of the standard 10-year payback term, monthly payments under this program are capped at 10% or 15% of the borrower’s discretionary income, depending on when they took out the loans.

The downside is that your kid may rack up more interest over a longer payback period. Any balance remaining will be forgiven after 20 or 25 years of consecutive payments, though taxes will be due on the amount. Have a kid who’s a teacher, works for Uncle Sam, or has another public-service job? He may qualify for loan forgiveness after 10 years with no taxes due. (Get details from the Department of Education here.)

For private student debt, your child may be able to get a lower-rate refi or consolidation loan through another lender or credit union, says Detweiler. Check out student loan comparison shopping sites such as Simpletuition.com and Overturecorp.com for sample offers.

Provide Temporary Refuge

If your child is in too deep for these strategies to work, go bigger. Maybe you suggest your child move home for a bit and direct “rent” toward loan repayment. Or, if you can really afford it, you might pay off her credit card debt—but be clear this is a one-time-only gesture.

Just remember: “Financial help between parents and adult kids is fraught with emotion for both of you,” says Olivia Mellan, a Washington, D.C., therapist who specializes in money issues. Helping your adult children doesn’t give you permission to meddle in their lives, says Mellan, and don’t be surprised if they don’t act grateful. In other words, nothing’s really changed from when they actually were kids.

 

More on Financial Independence

7 Ways to Get Your Kid Out of Your Basement

Is Living with Mom and Dad Starting to Cramp Your Style? Take These Steps to Independence

Taking Five Years to Earn a B.A. is Common—And Costly. Here’s How To Get Out in Four

TIME housing

Grab That Apartment Before the Rent Spikes

In strong-growth markets like Charlotte, landlords are adopting dynamic pricing strategies similar to the airlines and Amazon.com—meaning the asking rent price for apartments can change by hundreds of dollars in the blink of an eye.

The Charlotte Observer recently took note of how commonplace it’s become for rent rates at large apartment complexes in the city to be dictated by software algorithms that track supply and demand — and then tweak asking prices accordingly. The result is that if a handful of units are scooped up by renters over the course of a weekend, the monthly rental rate for similar units in the complex could soar on Monday, if not sooner.

Rent prices can and do change all the time, occasionally with quick, dramatic swings. During one particularly volatile ten-day period, the Observer tracked the monthly rate for a one-bedroom apartment at one complex as it rose from $982 to $1,307 per month.

Such dynamic pricing strategies have been used by airlines for decades, and online sellers like Amazon are utilizing quick-changing prices to a staggering degree. According to one recent study, Amazon had up to three million daily price tweaks last November, and during the busiest shopping period for the 2014 holiday season, the world’s largest online retailer is expected to change prices on its site six to ten million per day.

Even as several software programs focused on producing algorithms for apartment rent yield management have increasingly been embraced by landlords and apartment complex owners, the fact that a unit’s rental rate can jump by a couple hundred bucks overnight often comes as an unwelcome surprise to renters, especially young people seeking their first place. Even worse, apartment managers are using dynamic pricing as a tool to pressure would-be renters into acting fast, at the risk of losing out or seeing rents soar.

“I obviously did not like it,” one 24-year-old said to the Charlotte Observer, with regards to the potential for unit rent prices to change from moment to moment. “All complexes, they say it can change really fast. It just makes me feel pressured to make a decision really fast without maybe considering other options or even how safe it is or if it’s really practical.”

Even so, the increased usage of dynamic pricing in nearly all realms of consumer life isn’t all bad for the average Joe. Yes, it can make car hire rates surge during periods of peak demand, and can cause rental rates to soar seemingly out of nowhere. But dynamic pricing can also drive prices lower when demand eases. That can mean cheaper ride-share rates during “happy hours,” and also that by learning about the local rent market and timing it right, one renter can get a way better deal than his neighbor on essentially the same apartment unit. At one complex in Charlotte, rent for one-bedrooms hit $588 per month last May, down from a peak of $806 in February.

This is the way pricing has been done for decades in the airline business, in which there’s always the possibility that you paid hundreds more (or hundreds less) than the person sitting next to you on the plane. The problem is that it’s impossible to really know the precise best time to buy. The other problem for consumers is that, by and large, people think it’s unfair to charge different prices for the same product. They absolutely hate the scenario in which two different people pay dramatically different prices for essentially the same airline seat, or ticket to a baseball game, or apartment unit.

Well, they hate it if they’re the one who was charged more. If they’re the one who worked the system and figured out a way to pay less, then it’s not so bad.

TIME Retirement

3 Generations, 3 Paths to the Retirement Poorhouse

Every working generation has a unique plan for retirement. Will any of them get there?

Banks and mutual fund companies pump out surveys and data points every day to illustrate the retirement income crisis in America. They want to make sure you don’t forget to save and invest—with them. But they have little to fear. It’s not like this crisis is going away anytime soon.

Every working generation is getting some part of the retirement security equation wrong. Boomers plan to work longer—but they aren’t keeping current on skills. Gen X is socking away cash in 401(k) and similar plans—but they are borrowing too much from those very accounts. Millennials have become dedicated savers and asset gatherers—but they spend too much and aren’t doing enough about their crushing student debts.

These are broad conclusions drawn from recent surveys. The most pointed conclusions come from the newly released 15th Annual Transamerica Retirement survey, which found that the effects of the Great Recession continue to weigh on all generations and are leading them down distinct savings paths.

Boomers Born between 1946 and 1964, the youngest are now turning 50. Boomers are first-generation Guinea pigs as it relates to the new retirement model. Many were mid-career when traditional pensions gave way to 401(k) plans. They haven’t had 40 or 50 years to stuff the new plans with cash and let compound growth do the heavy lifting. The lucky ones still qualify for traditional pensions. But this is a famously under-saved demographic with a median nest egg of just $127,000.

More than a third of boomers say Social Security will be their primary source of retirement income, up from a quarter before the recession, Transamerica found. Just one in five plan to not work at all in retirement. Yet staying at work isn’t always possible. Less than half are keeping job skills up to date and only one in seven are scoping out job opportunities or networking for employment. Meanwhile, just 21% of employers have programs to help older workers scale back at work. Health issues also prevent older people from staying at work as long as they may like.

Gen X Born between 1965 and 1978, this was the first generation to enjoy access to 401(k) savings and growth for nearly all their working years. Nearly all of them—91%—highly value these plans and 84% of those who are eligible participate in their company plan. Unfortunately, this group treats the 401(k) like a piggy bank: 27% have taken a loan or early withdrawal from the plan. In doing so they often incurred taxes and penalties, which on top of lost growth set their savings goals back further.

Gen Xers estimate they will need $1 million to retire, Transamerica found. Their median savings to date: $70,000. The oldest are just turning 50. So they have time if they begin to power save 20% or so of income. But nothing will help if they keep robbing the kitty. “Simply put, 401(k) loans are a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” say Catherine Collinson, president of Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. “Everyone should know that it’s best to say no to 401(k) loans.”

Millennials Born after 1978, this huge generation about 80 million strong is a budding group of super savers that have heard the message about saving early and often. Seven in 10 are saving for retirement and began at the median age of 22. Millennials participating in a company-sponsored plan that features a match are socking away an impressive 10% of their salary.

Yet while the asset side of their ledger is encouraging, the liabilities side is frightening. More than half of college-educated Millennials owe student loans; 41% have a mortgage (many for greater than their home’s value) and another 41% have auto debt, according to a report from TIAA-CREF Institute. They are also neck-deep in credit card debt. So they’re saving, but their net worth isn’t necessarily rising. To an extent, this generation knows what it doesn’t know; 73% crave more financial information from their employer. Let’s hope they get it, because this a generation without financial safety nets—but ready to do what it takes to build retirement security over the long haul.

 

 

TIME Family

6 Insulting Terms for Adults Who Live With Their Parents

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yubomojao—Getty Images/Flickr Select

More often than not, the phrases coined to describe the rising ranks of grown adults living with their parents are subtle backhanded insults. And sometimes the insults aren’t subtle at all. Here are a handful of phrases that have popped up in recent years to categorize the millions of adults who live with their parents—typically moving back home for financial reasons after living on their own for a few years, or perhaps a few decades.

“Boomerang Generation”
This is probably the most common (and also probably the least offensive) phrase for describing the legions of young Americans in their mid-20s to mid-30s who have moved back in with their parents after a stint of independent living. A 2012 Pew Research Center study focused on this increasingly large group—report title: “The Boomerang Generation”—indicated that while a majority were frustrated they didn’t have enough money to live the life they wanted, most were also happy with their living arrangements bunking with mom and dad once again.

“Boomerangers”
Members of this special breed of boomerang offspring are not only old enough to live independently, but also old enough to have adult children of their own. Essentially, they’re middle-aged Baby Boomers who have fallen on times so tough that they’ve been forced to move back in with their elderly parents, who are likely to be retired and perhaps not in the best financial condition themselves. The rise of “boomerangers” was understandably noticeable during the heyday of the Great Recession in 2009, and the unfortunate trend hasn’t gone away. Just this week the Los Angeles Times ran a story on the increase in adults in California ages 50 to 64 who have moved back home with mom and/or dad—a 68% rise from 2007 to 2012.

Earlier this year, Le Monde attempted to chronicle the rise of this trend in France, a task that proved difficult because “middle-aged people who live with their parents are often ashamed,” and few were willing to speak about their first-hand experiences.

(MORE: Being 30 and Living With Your Parents Isn’t Lame — It’s Awesome!)

It’s no coincidence that many “Boomerangers” also have another (insulting) label slapped on them: “Unemployables.” As CNN Money noted, because workers in their 50s who lost their jobs in recent years were less likely than younger people to subsequently become re-employed, a Boston College study dubbed them the “new unemployables.”

“Go-Nowhere Generation”
This phrase is largely credited to a New York Times op-ed that encouraged young Americans to move to hop on a Greyhound bus and move to a state with low unemployment, such as North Dakota. The column’s authors wrote that they expected few to follow that advice, because “young people are too happy at home checking Facebook,” among other reasons. “Generation Y has become Generation Why Bother,” the op-ed sums up.

“Growing-Ups”
A Clark University professor’s research into young adults who have no good job prospects and no clear career path—and who of course still live with their parents—refers to them as “growing-ups,” as well as the more positive “emerging adults.”

“Failed Fledglings”
Leave it to the United Kingdom to come up with this humdinger. According to a survey published last summer, some three million parents over age 50 had grown children living at home—a category the poll called “failed fledglings.” A corresponding 16-page “Parent Motivators” booklet was published in order to help parents cope with adult kids back in the nest, and the contents reportedly included “tips about how to get rid of children who you would prefer to have moved out.”

(MORE: This Is AT&T’s Plan to Smother Google Fiber)

“Parasite Single”
Masahiro Yamada, a sociology professor at Tokyo Gakugei University, came up with this lovely phrase to describe Japanese women (men too, but it’s mostly women) in their 20s and 30s who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s and had decent jobs—but were considered parasitic because they never got married, hadn’t yet had children, and lived a carefree consumerist lifestyle under their parents’ roofs. Interestingly, news outlets noted a widespread effort to marry parasite singles off in Japan via dating services and old-fashioned family matchmaking in the late ’00s—about the same time that the Great Recession was wreaking havoc across the globe, sending tens of millions of adult children boomeranging back into their parents’ homes.

TIME Internet

The Facebook Baby Invasion Is Probably Just a Figment of Your Imagination

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Children and tablet computer Getty Images

It seems like baby pics are everywhere, but your mind might be playing tricks on you

Last year, I experienced a Facebook trauma that made me question if I could ever trust my News Feed again. There I was, scrolling away and minding my own business, when the photo of a sonogram popped up: “The arrow is pointing at baby’s scrotum/peepee!!” the caption exalted. “That’s our boy!!! Mommy and Daddy love you soooo much!!!!” For some reason, I hadn’t registered that this would be my News Feed’s natural progression after all of those engagement ring, “OMG I SAID YES, NOW CHECK OUT THIS ROCK!,” photo shoots. And like that, I started seeing baby Facebook photos everywhere.

Or maybe, like many other Internety 20-somethings, I was just being melodramatic. Because according to a piece on Wired, which enlisted the help of Microsoft Research computer scientist Meredith Ringel Morris, there really aren’t that many baby photos out there.

After a child is born, Morris discovered, new mothers post less than half as often. When they do post, fewer than 30 percent of the updates mention the baby by name early on, plummeting to not quite 10 percent by the end of the first year. Photos grow as a chunk of all postings, sure—but since new moms are so much less active on Facebook, it hardly matters.

New moms undershare. I’m probably more likely to see someone taking a selfie with Crab Cakes Eggs Benedict than their progeny. But I am probably less prone to be shocked by bacon and eggs than I am by a peer entering the parenthood stage of life.

Morris said that another reason why baby photos might seem to show up more frequently could be because they get a disproportionate amount of likes and, thus, get promoted on feeds. I’ll admit, I panicked and liked the “Peepee” shot… I’m part of the problem!

So what it all comes down to is, we all need to chill out and stop whining about the baby pictures. Even though some people definitely do overshare—a Twitter employee recently live tweeted her own labor—it’s not that big of a deal.

[Wired]

TIME Religion

Millennials Losing Faith in the Bible

Percentage of Americans who say they're skeptical about the Good Book has nearly doubled from 10% to 19%, with young people driving the trend

+ READ ARTICLE

A study commissioned by the American Bible Society shows that the percentage of people who are skeptical of the Good Book has nearly doubled from 10% to 19% since 2011, with millennials driving the increase.

Two thirds of skeptics, or people who think the Bible is “just another book of teachings written by men that contains stories and advice,” are between the ages of 18 and 29. The same share of Americans call themselves skeptical—19 percent—as call themselves “engaged” with the Bible.

MONEY Millennials

Young Investors Are Hoarding Cash

Young investors are keeping nearly 50% of their portfolio in cash, which might make sense for some millennials. But if you want to expand your stock portfolio, here's how to get started.

According to investment adviser UBS, people in their early to mid-thirties with at least $100,000 to invest keep 42% of their money in cash. UBS concludes young savers are unusually conservative.

Or they’re realistic: When your career has been dominated by the Great Recession, you know the value of a cash buffer.

So what’s the right cash stake? How to decide — and what to do once you have enough:

Be cash savvy

Have expenses covered. Financial planner Mary Beth Storjohann, who specializes in working with younger investors, says that to get through an unexpected job loss, you should set aside three to six months of living expenses in cash.

Focus on the big picture. Of course, some savers may be holding cash not because they want an emergency reserve, but because they are anxious about volatile markets.

For young investors, though, these numbers put that risk in perspective: Over periods of 30 years, stocks have never lost money and outperformed cash-like short-term Treasuries by an annualized average of 7 percentage points.

Related: Why should you invest?

Keep it simple. If you’ve been out of the market, the number of investment choices for getting back in may be overwhelming. One broadly diversified index fund, such as Schwab Total Stock Market Index SCHWAB CAPITAL TST MK INDEX SELCT SWTSX -0.249% , gets you a solid portfolio with little fuss and low costs.

TIME relationships

Man Who Really Cannot Handle Rejection Steals His OkCupid Date’s Phone

Online dating
Getty Images

And then he hacks her OkCupid account like a true gentleman

Anyone who’s ever used online dating site OkCupid knows it can be a convenient way to connect with somebody really interesting and worthwhile. Or, it can be a festering cesspool of awkwardness, crawling with weirdos and people who just can’t find it in them to stop talking about how study abroad changed their life.

But usually, the worst thing those weirdos ever do is talk way too much about Game of Thrones, and the worst thing the study abroad enthusiasts do is assure you that in Spain, they never would be eating dinner this early.

So really, they are all pretty harmless compared to the Brooklyn man who stole his date’s iPhone — and hacked her OkCupid account — after she rejected him. It all began when, after a few drinks, the 24-year-old suitor invited his 22-year-old companion back to his apartment, the New York Post reports. She declined, and he then followed her to the subway station and threw a water bottle at her. She got away from him, but he did manage to steal her phone.

The man, who police are still seeking, used the phone to text the woman’s friend and then log into her dating profile. He uploaded photos and then changed her profile to say “I’m available for threesomes,” she told the Post.

So, next time your OkCupid date tries to speak to you in Dothraki or talks too much about how much Kenya changed him, consider yourself lucky. Things could be way, way worse.

TIME Personal Finance

Why Millennials Would Choose a Root Canal Over Listening to a Banker

Bank Investor Returns Seen Rising to Most Since 2007 on Test
Pedestrians walk past a Citigroup Inc. Citibank branch in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, March 5, 2013. The six largest U.S. banks may return almost $41 billion to investors in the next 12 months, the most since 2007, as regulators conclude firms have amassed enough capital to withstand another economic shock. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Fed up with indifference, Millennials envision a bank-free existence.

It’s symbolically important that a dozen or so former bank buildings around the country—some road kill from the recession—have been turned into thriving nightclubs. The young adults who frequent these dens would tell you it’s a far better use of the space; they have little interest in banks, period.

You don’t have to look hard to find out why. Millennials have a whole new set of money issues that banks do not address in a relevant way: this generation is loaded with student debt that’s difficult to refinance; grossly underemployed without access to capital to start a business, or three; and hungry for financial guidance that isn’t self serving. Millennials also want to conduct their affairs on a smartphone, not go to a bank branch—ever.

This generation does things differently. Couples are quicker to mingle their financial accounts. They are more likely to piece together a career through four or five jobs. They share cars and apartments. They are ultra connected and enjoy teamwork and collaboration, and value experiences and meaningful employment above high pay. All this has huge and largely ignored implications for banks that just want to issue a mortgage, auto loan, or credit card. From the Millennials’ point of view, they don’t get it.

A third of Millennials say they will lead a bank-free lifestyle in the near future, according to new research from Scratch, an in-house unit of Viacom that consults with brands. Half of Millennials say they are counting on startup firms to overhaul how banks work, and 75% say they would prefer financial services from the likes of Google, Amazon, and PayPal. They expect technology companies to change the industry—not banks.

This is a thunderous warning shot for banks, which Millennials—our largest generation at around 80 million—see as a cookie cutter industry with little interest in innovation or differentiation. A third of young adults are ready to switch banks in the next 90 days; 53% say all banks are the same. Visiting a branch is like getting a root canal: 71% of Millennials would rather go to the dentist than listen to a bank’s message.

With numbers like that you might expect they’d also stay away from former bank buildings—just because. Then again, Millennials may find a level of catharsis partying in places like The Vault in Sacramento, Calif., (formerly Bank of Italy), Capitale in New York (formerly Bowery Savings bank), and Bond in Boston (formerly a Federal Reserve building). It feels a little like grave dancing.

“None of the big banks have made a public shift from selling credit to empowering human endeavor,” says Scratch executive vice president Ross Martin. He believes there is an opportunity for banks that can flip the switch. Millennials grew up believing they were special and could not be stopped. They’ve been pummeled by reality but yet retain a high level of confidence and optimism. According to Scratch research:

  • 73% of Millennials say when they decide to do something no one can stop them.
  • 80% say they are sure they will get what they want in life.
  • 82% own their future; saying when they fail at something it’s their fault—not someone else’s.

“This generation needs someone to bet on them,” says Martin. It’s not enough for a bank to be reliable, trustworthy, green, and community oriented. Bankers need innovative products and services that will help Millennials carve out their unique path to success. They need micro loans and a new way to assess creditworthiness that does not revolve around a single full-time employer. They need impartial counseling on how to save and invest. They’d flock to a bank that felt more like Starbucks or Apple than a hospital operating room.

Rethinking lending and other financial services presents an imposing challenge. Millennials rank the four largest banks among the 10 least loved brands in America, Scratch found. Says Martin: “We’ve never seen numbers like that.” So banks can either figure it out and capture this generation’s heart, or watch the kids dance on their grave.

 

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