TIME

How to Manage a Boomer

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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

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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.

TIME

New College Grads Are About to Get a Major Reality Check

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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.

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

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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]

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