Thursday, September 29, 2011

Millennial Blues

I recently mentioned the phenomenon of adult children moving back home - so called "ricochet kids."

The PNC Financial Independence Survey (enter "financial independence survey" in the search box to get a link to the full results) shows why the kids are ricocheting. Millennials, also known as 20-somethings, are struggling to get their careers on track. Only 23 percent say they are financially independent and only one-third have an established position in their chosen career.

In fact, 40 percent rely on two or more sources of income, including multiple part-time jobs or help from their parents.

Nearly half rate themselves as "behind expectations" when it comes to personal finances.

Perhaps most upsetting, just 14 percent of late-20-somethings say they are optimistic about their financial futures.

Not happy news, especially for those of us whose kids fall into this age group.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Here's a kind of cool idea, based on the Wiki model of crowdsourcing: WikiOrgCharts.

The web platform allows users "to pool their business contacts and collaboratively map the relationships that exist within a company," according to the company's founder and CEO Farhan Memon.

How do small businesses benefit? They can register their companies on the site for free, but more importantly,  "WikiOrgs could become something of a Wikipedia for small businesses looking to find the right C-level executives, VPs of Biz Dev, and other decision-makers at appropriate levels for pitching B2B services, new products, new retail items for in-store distribution and much more," says spokesman Mark Lindsey.

One unique offering at the site is the 1.2 million list of U.S Civil Service employees, claimed to be the first of its kind. For small companies looking to find procurement contacts, that could be invaluable.

Check it out!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Importance of Things

As Alzheimer's disease increasingly claimed my mother's memory and cognition, her things grew ever more important.

As her life shrank itself down into smaller and smaller proportions, the little trinkets she kept with her transformed themselves from tchotchkes to treasures. Whenever I visited one of her last apartments, she would pick up the items she had displayed and tell me the stories that went with them: Where she bought this one, what that one meant, how long she'd had it.

These were tiny trinkets, most of them, and I'm not sure whether she was inventing their histories or not. But as she went from a home to a condo to an apartment and then to assisted living and finally a nursing home, what struck me was how poignant it was to winnow her life down from truckloads to suitcases and finally an overnight bag - for a trip from which she would not return.

One of my favorite journalists, Dan Barry, wrote about the mundane relics of 9/11 on the anniversary a couple of weeks ago. His column echoed the sentiments of many who were interviewed about surviving that awful day: They couldn't bring themselves to throw out the tattered shoes, crumpled train ticket or ash-covered jacket they had worn on that September morning.

We're often told that it is the big ideas, like love and loyalty and courage, that matter in this life. So why do we attach ourselves so thoroughly to our objects: Could it be an antidote to lives that are oh-so-transient and temporary?

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye writes often about this concept of objects. Here's her take on it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Update Your Resume

So September is "International Update Your Resume Month." Who knew?

Not surprisingly, this observance originated from a resume company, Career Directors International in Melbourne, Fla.

But okay, let's go with it. Everyone should have a valid resume on file in case disaster strikes or opportunity presents itself, right?

After the jump, I'll list some tips from author and career coach Ford R. Myers for making your resume stand out from the crowd:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Get 'Em While They're Young?

Research from the University of Arizona shows that high school and college students who are exposed to cumulative financial education show an increase in financial knowledge, which in turn drives increasingly responsible financial behavior as they become young adults.

As part of a study called Arizona Pathways for Life Success in University Students, or APLUS, researchers surveyed more than 1,500 students and drop-outs four years after they entered the University of Arizona in the fall of 2007.

Results show that parents, more than any other factor, exert the most influence over their children when it comes to developing positive financial attitudes and behaviors – 1.5 times more than continuing financial education and more than twice as much as what young people hear from their friends.

I'm more and more coming down on the "nature" side of the nature/nurture debate, and the importance of parents (read "genes") here is interesting to me.

My mother and her whole side of the family were terrible with money, a failing that seems to go back generations, according to my genealogy research.

My father, on the other hand, came from a long line of thrifty (I won't say cheap) Eastern European Jews. "Money goes through my fingers like cement," he used to say, only half-joking.

I was raised primarily by my mother and didn't get a particularly responsible example of personal finances from her, to say the least. However, since I started working at age 15, I've been a natural saver and cautious about spending. 

My siblings split, with one similar to Dad and one following in Mom's footsteps (he does have great taste and gorgeous things, I'll give him that!).

So yes, I'm a big proponent of financial education. In fact, my Smart Answers column this week is on a nonprofit that teaches kids about finances and entrepreneurship. But I think at least some - if not most - of the way we handle money is hard-wired and pretty tough to change, no matter how much teaching we do.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

500 Entrepreneurs

My long-time source, attorney Jeff Unger, has started a new program for first-time entrepreneurs.

Jeff's firm, Ungerlaw, wants to help 500 entrepreneurs launch their businesses for free - and they'll even pick up the filing fees if the business meets their criteria (for one thing they have to be located in California or New York, where Jeff practices law).

Ungerlaw is looking for first-time entrepreneurs who have:

1. Passion: "We’re looking for enthusiastic first-time entrepreneurs."

2. A Serious Plan: "We’ll need an organized business plan and a bio from the founder."

3. Skin In The Game: "Our entrepreneurs should have sufficient resources to make the business successful; and we need a commitment that the entrepreneur will pay his or her taxes, engage a CPA, and maintain the company properly."

In return, Ungerlaw asks the entrepreneurs that participate to keep them posted on their progress, their challenges and their successes.

I have no skin in this game, but I figured I'd point it out to my readers in case they want to check it out. Let me know if you participate and what you think of Jeff's program.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Government Contracting

The federal government is by far the biggest purchaser of goods and services in the United States. That means that government contracting can be unbelievably lucrative for small businesses - if they know about it and can navigate around the red tape involved in government contracting.

I spoke to the Office of Naval Research for my column last week. They are one of the rare government agencies that actually fund R&D, mostly for new military weapons systems and battlefield applications.

But every kind of small business that's willing to try can probably sell something to the government. In 2010, small businesses received $98 billion in government contracts - and yet the government's "set-asides" for small business are never completely fulfilled.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Shop Local

It's back to school season: Some students are well into their fall semesters, others (like my UCI junior) have another week or so of freedom.

I always waited a week or two to do the back-to-school shopping trip because teachers inevitably had long lists of supply needs that we parents didn't know about until the handouts went home.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ricochet Kids

Accordung to the National Endowment for Financial Education, 40 percent of non-student U.S. adults ages 18 to 39 live at home with their parents or have in the recent past. In this down economy, "ricochet kids" have become commonplace.

And while we all want to do whatever we can for our children, especially in these tough financial times, there are conseqences:

A recent NEFE poll found that among parents with adult children living at home:
  • 30 percent have given up privacy
  • 26 percent have taken on debt
  • 13 percent have delayed plans for a major life event, such as getting married, taking a vacation or buying a home
  • 7 percent have delayed retirement

    The NEFE lists these tips for responding to a request from an adult child who wants to move back home: