31 October 2008

Boomer Ed: Paying for School

Part 3 in a 6-part series on Boomers going back to school during the economic downturn [second half will be posted next week]

College costs. That's not news. But adult learners are good at spotting bargains and the good news is that there are some out there. Many college web sites post "sample" tuition estimates. If you cannot spot that quickly, call or email the Admissions Office or the Bursar's Office. One of them may have a dedicated web page on the subject.

Look for sales. Yes, I said sales. At least in past years, community colleges have sometimes put mini-mesters or summer school "on sale" for as little as $39 per course. (Books and supplies are not included; don't expect to find a science lab on sale.) In the current economic hard times, you may not find quite that good a bargain, but if you need lower division (first-year and sophomore) courses you will probably find the best prices at community colleges.

Mix and match. Upper division (junior and senior) and graduate courses are going to be more expensive because they are available only at four-year and graduate institutions. But you can explore taking a few classes at lower-costing schools (such as state colleges) and transferring the credits to higher-costing schools (such as private colleges). Mixing and matching can save a lot of dollars but you must protect your degree plan. Make certain that your degree-granting institution will accept the credits from another school. This is easier at the undergraduate level than the graduate level, but many schools restrict how many hours you can transfer in the final one or two years of the degree. (While young college students often resist mixing and matching, older students rarely have the same reluctance.)

Scholarships and grants. Non-traditional students (adults 25 and older) qualify for "free" money just as often as younger students. Scholarships and grants do not have to be repaid—but they may require your attention on IRS forms. (Read carefully.) Securing these supports is not always easy. Review committees may work 6-12 months ahead, so application deadlines may be a year ahead of the intended semester or academic year for support.

Most scholarships require considerable paperwork, including letters of reference. Locate several good souls who are willing to be "on call" for additional letters. (You may have to resort to some generic reference letters that you can use several times; that way, you only bother your contacts once for signature on several letters.) Some of your references will appreciate your writing a draft letter for them to polish.

Adult students sometimes bristle at the amount of paperwork required for a $250 one-time scholarship, but keep in mind that every award helps to establish your "worth" as a recipient, so the small grant may lead to a larger one. (And a handful of small ones just might buy books for the year.)

Obscure scholarships are out there but you have to do some digging. There are scholarships for returning adults, for students with a particular last name, for students of particular religious faith, and, more commonly, for students in certain majors.

Student loans. The single best resource for information about loans is the campus Financial Aid office. Contact them early, as soon as you are admitted to a program even if you are not enrolling immediately. Visit when they are least busy (i.e., not in the weeks right before start of semester). Prepare for your visit by pulling your tax returns and financial records, as well as your admissions letter. Don't be shy about sharing your financial details. Good financial aid officers are a lot like doctors: they've heard every imaginable story and you cannot shock them.

While it is tempting to discuss financial aid with an adviser in the academic department or with the receptionist in a campus office, these are not sound sources of guidance. You'll find a lot of opinion and misinformation that sounds credible. Rely only on a financial aid officer for advice.

Student loans have been in the news for the past couple of years because abuses were discovered. Colleges and universities are on the alert for any inappropriate practices, so you'll find today's financial aid offices to be well informed and scrupulously ethical.

On a personal note: I went back to school in middle age, so for a brief time I was paying graduate tuition while also paying college tuition for our son. My son attended a private school in Pennsylvania that cost, well, a lot. At the time, tuition was still very reasonable at the state institution I attended in Texas. Here's the contrast: my entire doctorate tuition equaled one semester of Ethan's undergraduate degree. I know that sounds unreal. But it is so.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (http://www.marybold.com/, http://www.boldproductions.com/, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

30 October 2008

Boomer Ed: Choosing Online or F2F Classes

Part 2 in a 6-part series on Boomers going back to school during the economic downturn

The lure of online education is great and I am a proponent of the method. But most of this post will give you pause for thought. Online isn't for everyone.

Can adults returning to college compete in online classes? Or should they stick to F2F (face to face) classes? Adults of any age can adjust to the technology of online course work. If you already know how to email, and if you've ever attached a file to an email message, you have the skills to learn the rest of the technology needed. Most online programs rely on a user-friendly "learning management system" or LMS. The most popular brand is Blackboard and the most popular open source version is moodle. An LMS provides a password-protected course space for threaded discussions, assignment uploading, and chat rooms. Increasingly, LMSs include social networking options, too.

So a F2F class wouldn't use such technology? Actually, many on-campus classes use an LMS, too. So, even if you attend classes in person, expect to learn some of the same technology as online students.

Which is better?
I have seen superior learning occur in every online class that I have facilitated. (I also taught the on-ground version of those classes.) Research into this matter finds "no significant difference" between online and F2F when large numbers of classes are compared.

Which is better for me? Yes, that's the crucial question. Regardless of my opinion or any number of research studies, your learning style is the most important consideration in choosing between online and F2F settings. As a general statement, visual (reading) learners adjust more quickly. Online courses involve a lot of reading and writing. And even though online interaction can be very rich and rewarding, some students have difficulty adjusting to working on their own rather than going to a class meeting on a campus.

Isn't convenience the main reason people want online classes? At least at the beginning, that is the lure of an online education. Adults returning to school often can do so only if they can accomplish the work on weekends and late at night. (I am compelled to add that many of these convenience-seekers later become fans of online learning.)

What are the requirements of online education?

1 - Discipline to stay on schedule
2 - Willingness to learn new technology skills
3 - Willingness to participate actively

What is "willingness to participate actively?
" In a nutshell, there are no passive students in an online course. In a F2F class students can play a passive role (not participating, or even sleeping) or a distracted role (reading the newspaper, texting on a phone, or surfing on a laptop). When you are online for a course, you cannot do those things and accomplish the course. You must log in and proceed with the activity of the course. Sure, you can sit there and text a friend instead, but the online class will still be waiting for your attention.

I prefer in-person interaction but I need the convenience of online. Should I proceed with online classes? I offer three pieces of advice.

1 - Try out one online course. Keeping up with the due dates can be a challenge, even for the most organized person. By taking a single course you can learn best techniques to manage your time and technology.

2 - Give online a real chance to impress you. Set aside your negative expectations and enter the course space as an observer. First, look for aspects of the course that are similar to F2F courses. Then, look for aspects that are missing in F2F settings. A major plus is that most online courses are asynchronous, with little or no same-time meeting. Asynchronous discussions have time for reflection and so students' comments are typically more reasoned and more relevant than F2F students' spur-of-the-moment comments.

3 - Don't sabotage the course with fellow students. Consider what you would think if you were in a F2F class and someone said, "I really resent having to sit here and talk with you; this is a crummy way to learn." Now, flip the setting and imagine a student in an online class posting a message of "I really hate online and I learn a lot more in campus classes. This is a crummy way to learn." Well, that's what some people say in online classes. Of course, they feel some anonymity because their comment is in print, not spoken face-to-face. They probably don't have a clue that they have offended fellow students and perhaps the instructor, as well.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

29 October 2008

Boomer Ed: Going to School in the Downturn

Economic downturns almost always send adults to school in large numbers. That is predicted for the current financial crunch, too, except that higher ed is hurting in this crunch right along with everyone else. Some states are making cuts in higher ed, and everyone is concerned that financial aid may be limited. Today begins 6 posts on the subject, half this week and half next week. Part 1 of this series begins with early steps in deciding to go to school; tomorrow, Part 2 will consider on-campus versus online options.

Boomer Ed - Part 1: Going to School in the Downturn

Non-traditional students (that's what older students are called, and "older" means over 25) are very welcomed on college campuses. Despite the country's worries about college drop-outs, educators know that's balanced by the strong efforts by adults who either come late to college or return to finish. Mature students come to campus with determination to learn, to study, and to finish. That doesn't mean the finish comes easily—a return to school is expensive, both in time and money.

If there is one major protection worth considering, it is to make the return slowly. Take just one or two classes. Admittedly, that is the least followed advice by returning students. Below are some other basic pieces of advice about getting started.

Attend only an accredited college. This means the school is vetted by one of the 6 regional accrediting bodies in the U.S. Your college's web site should name one of the accreditors listed on the CHEA web page. You can also go to the accreditor's web site and double-check that your college is listed as having been approved or renewed or reaffirmed.

Use the Internet to compare colleges. To learn more about independent and private schools, check out U-CAN. U.S. public schools can be searched at the VSA web site called College Portrait.

Explore the community colleges in your area if you are seeking an Associate's degree or a career-oriented certificate. The Associate's (sometimes called A.A. and similar abbreviation) is about half of a Bachelor's degree.

Even if it's a Bachelor's degree you seek, check out the community colleges for credits that you can transfer to a 4-year school. The community college almost always costs less. Some schools have articulation agreements, which basically guarantee that a course from one school will count toward the intended degree at the next school. If you cannot get that assurance, limit your community college credits to courses in the Gen Ed or core curriculum approved in your state. The course catalogs should indicate which courses are "safe" for transfer but the question deserves a visit to an academic adviser, too.

Course catalogs are also a good research tool if you seek a graduate degree. That's how I chose my graduate program. I collected 3 catalogs, put them side by side on the kitchen table, and read the course descriptions. Most schools publish their catalogs online, now, making such comparisons must easier.

Start the application process early because a deadline may be too late to get the classes (and financial aid) you want. Most schools offer some level of online application but read closely for any extra paperwork that is required. You may need to order transcripts from other colleges you have attended; you may need to complete additional applications for grants and loans. For undergraduate classes, start your application 1 -2 semesters ahead of time. For graduate programs, you may need to start a full year ahead.

Visit the school(s)
, even if no interview is required. If you plan ahead, you should be able to make appointments for all these offices:

  • Admissions - try to talk with an admissions adviser who can actually discuss degree plans.
  • Academic Program - you may need to visit the Department of your program to speak with an adviser or a professor. If you have attended college before, carry your transcript with you (an unofficial one is fine for this purpose).
  • Financial Aid - do not delay on this office if you intend to seek scholarships, grants, or loans. The word on campuses today is that financing is shrinking, so you will want to be the early bird. Also, this office is swamped near the start of semester, so you should visit months before that time.


© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

28 October 2008

Boomers and their Home Values

This neighbor—the camel—is helping to produce wildly inaccurate home values, at least for the dome I live in and according to one online real estate site. I don't think any of us can avoid thinking at our home values as we read of the housing bust. Most boomers count home equity as a major part of net worth and a crucial element of the retirement nest egg. To that end, I checked out our home's estimated value on four web sites. (I'll track the numbers for a while and report back.)

One of the web sites produced a value of about a million bucks. Wow. But it's not accurate and probably reflects the deadly average of values (and that's the main reason home values are reported with median prices, not averages). The camel lives on a nearby ranch that may be raising the neighborhood numbers, but there's also the Bradshaw place that sold a few years ago. Terry Bradshaw moved his horses to Oklahoma, selling his North Texas home and barns for more than the typical suburban sale. Throw in a couple of golf communities, and you can appreciate the problem of tracking home values in my area.

Most of the sites that I checked were more realistic, noting the important differences among neighborhoods. With the housing market still plummeting, it's important not to assume that a web site can predict prices.

A more reliable online tool (at least for buyers) is the New York Times calculator by which users can find the break-even point between renting and buying. Find the resource at the calculator page titled "Is It Better to Buy or Rent?"

Take your time to explore all parts of the calculator. Enter several different values, but also play with the sliders on the left-hand side of the page. That's where you get a sense of "what happens if..." home prices do not appreciate—a likelihood for the months ahead.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

27 October 2008

Personal Technology: Cozy with Mozy Helps in Disaster

Only six lines of text are needed to communicate how I spent yesterday.

> iTunes update on a Vista-powered PC.

> Recovery DVD.

> 4 hours with Tom Bold as tech.

> 5 hours with HP as tech.

> Newer recovery DVDs being shipped.

> Lucky thing I'm cozy with mozy. (DVDs via FedEx should arrive about the same time as the HP Recovery DVDs.)

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

26 October 2008

Air Travel: Helpful Web Sites

[Wish (2005) by Terry Allen. DFW Airport Terminal D]

My current favorite strategy for air travel is to max my miles as much as possible: use reward miles to book business/first class seats for multiple cities over the span of as many weeks as possible. My daughter taught me this. She used the technique to get across the country (New York, Dallas, San Francisco, New York) over 6 weeks of travel. I'm typically not gone that long, but I'm currently planning a 10-day trip to cover those cities in different order.

When it's time to buy tickets—which I do more often than redeem reward miles—I check out these web sites:

www.airfarewatchdog.com - started by a travel journalist, this site prides itself on the human touch. Analysts preview the fares listed to insure that an adequate number of seats is available on a flight. If the number is limited, that is noted; if the number is severely limited, the fare is removed from the list.

www.seatguru.com - reviewed on this blog before, seatguru continues to be a favorite. Recently I received a call from an airline asking me if I would like an adjustment in my itinerary (to a non-stop flight ). Before I said yes, I asked about the quality of the seat available to me. I said, "if I were online, I'd check this out on seatguru before saying yes. Do you know what I'm talking about?" The rep was quick to assure that the seat had no deficits. (Later, I did go to seatguru to confirm—the airline rep was correct.)

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

25 October 2008

Household Project Reminder

Household projects sometimes go unfinished. Then they deserve a revisiting by all the stakeholders. But that can create disharmony, especially when the unfinished status stretches to years.

Is there a tactful way to move the project originator to the completion point? My new technique is to photograph the project (iPhone click and send to email), print the image, and stick it up on the refrigerator. There is actually one more step, the most difficult: say nothing.

If you are lucky enough to have a chuckler for a partner, this is effective. Tom saw the photo, chuckled, and completed the 3 tasks within 3 days.

Can you spot the 3 tasks?

In the tradition of magazine quizzes, the answer appears below in reverse type.

1 - droc pirts rewop rof eloh llird,
2 - flehs fo segde tnorf ot mirt dda,
3 - tod neerg a htiw tnemecalper a rof erots elppA ot ebuc rewop enohPi dellacer ekat.

You actually read that?

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

24 October 2008

Personal Technology: Not Visiting Every Apple Store

Do you think it might have been boomers who invented traveling around the country for the sake of playing golf in every state? I know several boomers who have completed that task. I know another boomer who is still working on baseball games in every state. And a birder boomer who is down to her last few states. So, here's the disclaimer: I am not seeking to visit an Apple store in every state. But I am reporting on another class, courtesy of Apple.

The photograph above is from the Apple store in the Mall of America in Minneapolis. The seats may not be as plush as the theatre style padded chairs in the San Francisco store, and the session may not be as well attended, but my class in Mac Book Pro basics was wholly satisfying, nonetheless.

The teacher was the nicest I've met at an Apple store. He took a real interest in questions. He patiently demonstrated the most basic of functions. He repeated the demonstrations twice. Sometimes thrice. He was not rushed and allowed the session to run well past the announced ending time. This was because I was his only student and no one showed up for the next class.

That's not quite true. When we wrapped up our private tutoring session, the teacher called out to the teenagers sitting on the back row of seats. "You guys just hanging out?" Yeah.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

23 October 2008

Federal WARN Protection in Layoffs

There's never a good time for a layoff. If business is good, a company doesn't need to reduce its workforce, at least not by that means. In predictable times, the workforce can be adjusted up (through recruiting) or down (through attrition) without putting employees through the trauma of layoffs.

We're in a different mode now.

  • Yahoo is laying off 10% of its workers.
  • Merck will cut 12% (and that's after earlier layoffs).
  • Micron Technology will cut its workforce by 15%.
  • eBay is planning to cut about 10%.
  • The real estate web site Zillow explained their 25% lay-off this way: This was an incredibly painful decision for me and the leadership team, but, in the end, we concluded that we had no choice but to securely batten down the hatches as we sail into a major economic storm. Despite having sizeable cash reserves, we deemed the responsible course was to meaningfully reduce expenses, so that Zillow emerges from the other side of the recession in a very strong position, even if the recession lasts many years.

If your company is big enough that its layoff makes the national news, it's also big enough to be covered by the federal WARN law, which assures that employees will have 60 days' warning of the layoff. WARN covers companies with 100 or more employees, and some states have similar laws that require notice in smaller companies, too.

On a personal note: As a leading boomer, Tom Bold is very lucky to have had only two layoffs in his career but he has witnessed a dozen or more because the semiconductor industry is prone to layoffs. One of Tom Bold's employers had an unusual P.R. gaffe surroundig a layoff a couple of years ago. The affected employees were notified that their last paycheck would reflect a deduction: the value of the video iPod that employees had the opportunity to purchase for $50 a few months earlier. In the company's 2008 layoff (which we experienced first hand) there was no mention of iPods. And its value was not deducted from Tom's severance check. Good!

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

22 October 2008

Housing Boom, Housing Bust, and the Boomers

Dated September 2008, a paper published by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College examines "The Housing Bubble and Retirement Security." The general conclusion for "older households" is that about a third of them will suffer from the housing bubble through less secure retirements.

The authors tracked the decisions by homeowners (across all age groups) during the housing boom years (2001-2006), and found that close to 40% had some kind of "mortgage activity," meaning refinancing or extracting home equity. Among those with activity, about a third spent the money on home improvements, about a third repaid other debts or made new purchases, and about a third made an investment in the stock market or real estate or a business.

Based on age in 2004, the age group 50 - 62 saw the greatest housing gains between 2001 and 2006. This age group also led in extracting home equity and then led in consuming (paying other debts or making new purchases). At least according to the formula in this paper, the near-retirement group who extracted home equity have lower net worth after the housing bubble.

The paper (which opens as a PDF file) includes easy-to-understand charts that illustrate the impact of the housing bust on age groups. It also explains the predictable human response to a housing boom: housing gains promote spending.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

21 October 2008

On/Off the Clock in Retirement

Baby boomers are not the first generation of retirees to notice the change in pace that comes with retirement, but we will be the first generation to blog about it. The clock is one of the great under-reported stories of retirement. Blogging and other Internet options bring new attention to it as retirees can quite literally broadcast their progress through the day, minute by minute. Or at least report on how they spent their time. Or have that reflected in the date stamps* of their blogs and emails.

I'm not referring to the standard joke about all days being equal when you are retired. I am referring to the daily pace of the clock. When my sister and brother-in-law retired, they told me about their new and unexpected schedules. They sometimes stayed up all night watching TV or surfing the net, able to say to themselves, "I don't have to get up tomorrow." There was much compensatory napping in those early days of retirement.

In my house, different sleep patterns have been the norm so Tom and I have never shared a schedule. In our first year of "home together" we are making our individual changes in pace that occasionally put us on the same task at approximately the same time of day. But we haven't managed to pull all-nighters together yet.

One of my goals for this year is to reconcile the seeming contradiction of ignoring the clock and getting to bed by 11pm. I started aiming for a regular bedtime a couple of years ago. As a night owl, I enjoy the hours of midnight and beyond. As an aging adult, I feel the very real change in my sleep hours and I know that if I stay up until 2am or 3am, I will feel miserable all the next day. (Compensatory napping doesn't work for me.)

So, I seek a regular bedtime but I am intrigued by this idea that the clock has little import on my daily life, now. I work on my own schedule whereby appointments are set according to "best day" rather than "best hour." Students are not looking for me in my office. I don't have to unlock a classroom door to let students in. I need to know what time the Post Office closes but I don't have to sandwich it in between timed trips to the cleaners and the bank. And frankly, most of the retail establishments I frequent are open more hours of the day than I need them to be.

So, I wear a watch only on days that I go to client meetings. For virtual meetings, I set my phone alarm for 20 minutes prior (to insure that I am reminded to get to a quiet spot for the needed exchange). I turned my office clock to an angle that I cannot see from my usual sitting positions. And I removed the clock from my bedside. (Slight disadvantage there for my goal of getting to sleep by 11....)

* I did not actually post this blog entry at 3:00 AM, although the date stamp implies that. I set blogs to appear in very early morning because a reader who is an early riser (she is The Chef) once told me that she prefers to start her day with "fresh reading." And she starts her day at 5:00. Or earlier.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

20 October 2008

Hunker Down (with or without shelter)

Headline: Hunkering Down
Excerpt from article:
"Suddenly, it is fashionable to pinch pennies. Washington socialites [Mr. and Mrs. X] are not taking their annual grand tour of Italy this year. Instead they plan to drop in on friends in Montana....Sobered by the sight of beleaguered billionaires and the collapse of corporate empires strung out on debt, U.S. consumers are hunkering down. They are borrowing less, shopping carefully and saving more."

23 July 1990, Time Magazine

Yes, the year was 1990. Today's headlines are remarkably similar and "hunker down" also appears on t-shirts and coffee mugs. Some recent uses:

Washington Post headline:
U.S. firms hunker down to survive credit freeze

Virginia Gazette Editorial entitled:
Hunker down

BNET web site asked:
Are CEOs Hunkering Down?

Column at ReportonBusiness.com advised:
Hunker down, happy hour is over

AP story headline:
Employers 'hunkering down' and cutting jobs

KCBS in San Francisco report:
Retailers Hunker Down for Slow Christmas

Just prior to the news of the financial crisis, "hunker down" became the most uttered advice to anyone in the path of Hurricane Ike. In September, Texas Judge Ed Emmett advised residents to "Please shelter in place, or to use the Texas expression, hunker down."

LBJ used that expression on more than a few occasions, applying it to politics, c. 1960s. I found these quotes attributed to him:

"Sometimes, you just have to hunker down and take it like a jackass in a hailstorm."

"Sometimes, all you can do is just hunker down and take it, like a jackass caught out in a hailstorm."


"Well, boys I tell you what we're going to do. We're going to hunker down like a jackass in a hail storm and wait till the winds stop blowing."


"I'm doing the best I can. It's like the old man in my county that said he felt like a jackass in a hailstorm: he just had to hunker down and take it."

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

19 October 2008

Boomers' Brains and Internet Searches

The news is great: searching the Internet stimulates baby boomers' brains. This seems much easier than working crossword puzzles alone and playing word games in groups (remember the Nun Study*?). A UCLA study said best results were demonstrated by boomers already experienced in web searching. Presumably, beginners would benefit from the activity only after continued use of the Internet.

Study participants (age 55 to 78) read books and searched the Internet while MRI scans displayed brain activity. The Internet task produced twice the brain activity, especially in areas dedicated to decision making and complex reasoning.

Good questions that we'll probably learn more about as the research progresses: does random surfing have the same effect or is intentional searching different? Is novel information a factor? Or is the effect dependent on the process of the search, not the content of the search? Is Internet searching akin to the pinball effect, whereby connections are discerned in knowledge webs?

Here's what I like about Internet searching/surfing: It turns up information I wouldn't have pinpointed on my own. Global economics and recovery from the financial crisis? Who would I search? I appreciate Kondratiev cycles and Gary Becker and family economics, but my personal stock of knowledge doesn't provide the answers I now seek. An Internet search yesterday produced a digestible explanation of the financial crisis by the economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz. (Don't be distressed by the photo at top of that web page. It's not Stiglitz looking tired and worried. It's a Wall Street worker.)

* I'm leaving this search for you. Good for your brain.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

18 October 2008

Ex-Retirement Job Search

As many retirees or soon-to-be retirees consider boosting their incomes for the next 2-3 years, the job search begins! Leading baby boomers (starting with birth year 1946) have now reached the age for early retirement with Social Security, but may be re-thinking their prospects. Retirees depending solely on Social Security face the promise of inflation or stagflation and the likelihood of deep recession/depression (which are typically announced after they are well underway). Retirees with additional resources such as investments may have already seen those resources drop. Those still working are deciding to stay on the job; those already retired wonder if they can secure a job.

AARP's Job Search Resources and Websites for Older Workers is a good collection of web links with the repeating theme of "for 50+ workers."

A brief mention on the AARP page caught my attention: a reference to Workamping or work camping (Wikipedia link), an option for retirees able to travel and commit to working in mainly camping facilities for free camp space and (usually) a part-time job at a low hourly rate of pay.

And the Wikipedia page led me to the Volunteer.gov web site where a myriad of non-paying jobs are listed for parks, national forests, and other government locations. Less emphasis on pay for these positions—but many of the park and forest agencies offer RV pads or similar settings for the retiree willing to commit to days, weeks, or months "on the job."

And for those friends who question whether I could tolerate such a setting for more than 48 hours, I say this: if there's Internet access, I would relish volunteering 24 hours a week to enjoy the free housing for the balance of the week in a beautiful setting. Now, it's just a matter of making sure I can get a signal.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

17 October 2008

Social Security Going Up in January

The Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Social Security in 2009 has been announced: retirees will see an increase of 5.8%. It takes effect in January.

This is the biggest increase in 26 years. The COLA is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) figured by the Department of Labor.

Most SS retirees count on the monthly check for 50% or more of their income. For about 1/3 of SS retirees, the check is 90% or more of their income.

Before 1975, Social Security increases were the business of legislation. Starting in '75, increases were tied to a formula with the CPI being compared from one year to the next (focusing on one quarter's change in CPI). The result has been annual COLAs ranging from 1.3% to 14.3% but as you might guess, most COLAs have been closer to the low end than the high end.

Across the 34 years of COLAs, only twice has the percentage been above 10%: 14.3% in 1980 and 11.2% in 1981.

In 2 years, COLA was above 10%
In 2 years, COLA was above 8% and below 10%
In 3 years, COLA was above 6% and below 8%
In 7 years, COLA was above 4% and below 6%
In 17 years, COLA was above 2% and below 4%
In 3 years, COLA was above 0% and below 2%

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

16 October 2008

A 6 theme in financial news


Of course, there was more in the financial crisis news this week than the number 6 but that's the number that kept popping up in stories I read today. Here are the 6s....

Today's unemployment rate is 6.1% and Bill Gates says that might climb to 9%.

Intel woke up this morning with some recovery to its 6% loss the day before.

Fannie Mae mortgage securities' yields increased to 6.09%.

In a week's time, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages' average rate rose from 6.06% to 6.75%.

Municipal bond yields rose to 6.74%.

Worldwide, bank losses top $600 billion. An IMF analysis predicts more ahead, in the $800 billion range.

In the past year, U.S. household net worth dropped $6 trillion. About 1/6 of that drop occurred in the past month.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

15 October 2008

a COBRA moment

I said I would report on COBRA processes (extending my health insurance post-retirement for 18 months) and that has to include the ones I mess up.

September was my first month of COBRA. I received the paperwork explaining how to submit the first payment and I did that right away. I digested every word in the packet. There was the dire threat of denial of coverage if I missed a payment. And there was the explanation that if a person receives a retirement payment, then the COBRA premium would be deducted from that payment.

Then, on October 1, I saw the automatic deposit of my retirement check. It was the full amount, which I took to mean that it takes a few weeks for the paperwork to catch up. After all, I didn't even receive my first COBRA information until the 18th of the month.

And then today I had that nagging feeling that I should call the retirement office and ask. After 15 minutes on hold (I was checking), a pleasant young woman checked my records and confirmed that I was unpaid for the current month.

"Your COBRA payment was due on the 1st."

OK, but what about the statement in the paperwork about deduction from my retirement check?

"Oh, yeah, that's not right. Now, if you want to set that up, I can tell you how. Or if you'd like a form to get automatic deduction from your checking account, I can send you that."

Well, I think for now I'll just quickly send in a check.

"Yeah, could you put that in the mail today?"

This young woman was very pleasant and helpful. It was the original paperwork that wasn't. Last month I gave the paperwork a Complexity Rating of 3 out of 10. I was very impressed with it. I now wonder if my Complexity Ratings should be Provisional for 60 days until consequences are evident.
(I still take full responsibility: I wasn't paranoid enough.)

About that dire warning of loss of coverage? I figure the rep on the phone was casual (and pleasant and helpful) because I'm still in the 105-day "election period." My reaction? I promptly wrote two checks (for October and November) and got them in the mail.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

14 October 2008

Encore vs Ex-Retired Careers

"Ex-Retired" (or ex-retiree or ex-retirement) at its most neutral just means a person retired and then returned to work. "Encore" carries extra meaning: a person transitioned to a more fulfilling career (sometimes without actually retiring).

As baby boomers plan for the future, more and more of them are expecting to push off retirement or, if they have retired early, to now seek employment. The current financial crisis is a powerful motivator. Perhaps the nest egg has cracked. Or perhaps the housing crunch threatens a planned home sale. Or maybe a recession/depression of unknown length is too great a risk in light of retirement of unknown length.

Comments I've heard from boomers in the past few days reflecting on these issues:

  • If I can back into industry, I could work for a couple of years and sock away the salary to replace what I've lost in the last 3 weeks. (Age 62)
  • I don't have a retirement year in my mind and that's good. (Age 63)
  • If I have to go job-hunting it's going to be for a job, not a career. (Age 62)

Maybe the mood of the country doesn't allow for optimistic planning for encore careers, or maybe the encore concept belongs to people with resources to support that choice. I wonder if we'll gravitate to a division of the vocabulary, where Ex-Retired will take on the connotation of being forced to return to employment in order to make ends meet.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

13 October 2008

Financial Crisis: Looking for the Bullet List

Boomers don't have a memory of a world without the World Bank (WB) or the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Those institutions grew out of post-WW2 United Nations planning. Currently, they are meeting about the global economic crisis, along with the G7, hoping to bring stability primarily through coordinating individual nations' strategies and by encouraging inter-bank lending.

Here's a short-hand profile of each:

WB is known for long-term development projects, often with humanitarian reputation. WB really is a bank, funded by its member nations, and guided by "directors" based on "shares." While the bulk of directors are selected by several countries to serve as their representatives, 5 nations have their own directors: US, UK, France, Germany, and Japan. See the blue graphic at bottom of this entry; these 5 are in the inner circle of the WB, the G7, and the IMF.

IMF is also a bank serving member nations. See graphic at top; all that green reflects nearly every country in the world having joined the IMF. The reputation of the organization is not as warm and fuzzy as the WB. Think of the IMF as the uncles you don't want to have to ask for money when your farm suffers a drought. These are the relatives who will help you out but with strings attached—they'll dictate conditions for the use of the money. Sometimes called a Lender of Last Resort and associated with countries in crisis, the IMF influences the global economy. Votes are cast according to percentage of shares held. My list of 9 countries (see graphic at bottom) just lops off the top percentages, starting at close to 3%. What's pertinent is the US percentage at more than 16%. Next are Japan and Germany at about 6% each.

G7 (AKA Group of 7) is not the G8. We hear more about G8 because it brings together heads of state for an annual summit. The G7 meets more frequently and is formed by the finance ministers of the US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, and Italy.

The G7 is the least official of the groups but it is emerging as the leader in calling for strong and fast action by all nations. It has released a five-point action plan that brings focus to priorities, such as recapitalizing banks. The action plan may not be followed completely by all nations but it appears to be the bullet list for discussion.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

12 October 2008

Boomer Logic: Cheap Gas!

I really like my brother-in-law, especially when he says things like, "Yeah, I'm driving as much as possible so that I can enjoy buying more gas at these prices."

For those of us who work hard at not noticing the cost of gasoline, the falling prices are not fully appreciated. But the people who do appreciate are commuters, delivery and service workers, and law enforcement officers. Yep. Law enforcement.

In a June 2008 NPR interview, a sheriff in Washington state reported that the department's budget was based on $2.70/gallon so he felt more than just a pinch when prices went above $4. A Georgia police chief put his officers on a new schedule: step out of the patrol car for 10 minutes every hour and walk. Fuel is saved and the community enjoys another style of patrol. For the full audio interview, log into NPR.

On a personal note: The Prius is holding its gas mileage at 52.6 mpg. Cooler temps (meaning I'm not using the air conditioner) are helping with that. ~ Lida

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

11 October 2008

Flu Shot at the Minute Clinic

CVS came through for me. The pharmacy's walk-in clinic not only saw me after a 2-minute wait, it also took my Blue Cross insurance. That means my flu shot cost $0 out of pocket.

I cannot report on other clinics appearing in neighborhood pharmacies, but if they are half as good as the CVS Minute Clinic I visited today, I'll be happy to use them.


Walk-in clinics typically invite criticism as costly and potentially harmful to our health. Yet they continue to get our business. (They're open more hours than most doctor's offices. They're faster. And, frankly, they're friendlier.) Having had my share of minor ailments, I feel confident that if I can walk in and state my symptoms, I can probably walk out no worse for wear.

That said, I asked the responsible question of the Nurse Practitioner in the Minute Clinic: "How many people do you refer to a doctor or hospital?" She had an immediate answer, "Two or three a day. The most common reason is age. We don't treat babies."

I was also curious about the work load (not in a negative sense as this is the age of moonlighting in many professions). The N.P. smiled broadly, "This is my only practice. I love it. Weekends are busiest but we open another room. But I like every day." I couldn't resist asking, "No occasional shift at a hospital?" And she got serious, "This is where I belong."

The clinic is small but fully stocked. Patients sign-in on an electronic pad and enter basic information "typing" with a stylus on a touch-screen. The waiting list is published (no last names) and the mood is calm and quiet. Visits appear to be naturally short. Maybe the N.P. is timing everything (a feature at my doctor's office, to be sure), but it's not obvious or off-putting. Record-keeping is computerized and whatever database the Clinic is using, it checked my insurance coverage in about 20 seconds and produced a billing screen. (That's the $0 part of my story.) I declined the offer of an email about online health records because I'm just not ready for an electronic PHR (personal health record). But I suspect that's the direction we're heading across all health facilities.
© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

10 October 2008

Personal Tehcnology: GPS Supports to Memory

I never see young people wandering parking lots looking for their cars. But I see a lot of boomers doing just that. We typically insist that this is our only display of failing memory.

You know where this is going. After all, it's my day to write about personal technology.

Garmin Locate isn't as catchy a title as Where Am I? but both are the features of recent Garmin GPS units that can help boomers with navigation. Locate is the one for parking lots: remove the GPS unit from the car (which you just about have to do anyway to thwart theft) and it remembers from whence it came. After shopping, you consult the unit to lead you back to the car. Where Am I? sounds ridiculous but someday you will care.

3G iPhone users can add an app for free or 99¢ to find their cars. G-Park PosiMotion offers two directive icons carrying text of Park Me! and Where Did I Park? Other choices are the more literal Take Me To My Car and Car Finder, and the slightly vague BackTrack (which requires that you keep walking for the app to work).

iTunes has a wide assortment of navigation apps, including transit maps and schedules for major cities. Here's my wish: an app that I can use on public transportation to confirm that I'm on the right subway, train, or bus. This summer I spent a long afternoon making multiple train connections to work my way through New York and New Jersey. On the last leg, I asked three bystanders on a crowded platform if I were on the right track and none could confirm it for me. I dragged my bags onto the train anyway, SRO that put me literally in the open doorway of the train for however long this ride might be. After we left the station I was able to ask an employee if the train were going to Princeton Junction. His single word response was "Eventually."

(I don't just want the schedule; I want the message that says, "You are standing on the correct side of the track to get on the train to X" and then, "Get on this one.")

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

09 October 2008

Financial Crisis: Time to Generate Income from Existing Customers

I'm not competing with the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) but I am interested in these signals that I've received in the last two weeks:

1 - Call from a medical specialist's office - Last summer, a specialist advised me about how many units of vitamin D he recommends for women my age. He said that he could request a test to establish my current levels but it would not be a good use of tests or money. Good conversation. I made notes. Last week, a receptionist from that office called to ask if I had followed up on that "D" test with my family physician or if I would like to return to the specialist's office for it.

2 - Letter from a diagnostic test clinic - Last summer, a radiologist advised me that my scans were great and that my family physician's concern was unfounded. She pointed out that I should re-adjust my schedule of annual exam and wait a full 12 months for the next one. Last week, a letter from the clinic arrived suggesting that I make an appointment.

3 - Call from an airline company - A rep offered to change an upcoming flight from one-stop to non-stop for a charge of $49. The schedule change works in my favor and I accepted the offer. (Had I selected the non-stop flight back when I made the reservation, the cost would have been more than $49.)

Today I went to my local Wal-Mart to see if, indeed, Christmas is popping up in retail. Yep, the shelves are being stocked. My interpretation is that as we wonder about consumer confidence, business managers are already acting on something they are confident of: that consumers will soon stop spending. The time to generate income is now, hence the personal contacts to existing customers.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

08 October 2008

Examples of Unplanned Encore Employment

Over the past 3 weeks, I have been told (directly) about these jobs that "leading edge" boomers are taking:

1 - A colleague's 58-year-old husband was bored after one month of early retirement. He is now in year 2 of nursing school.
2 - A former business partner and her husband have applied for work as poll workers; they hope for early voting assignments but they will take Election Day posts, at the least.
3 - A cusp boomer (born late 1945) has begun training as an online instructor for a university.

The range of encore careers is great. For some, a whole new career beckons. For others, occasional or part-time work will suffice. For all of them, change is a feature. Serial careers may not be a new concept but it was not predicted for the leading boomers (born between 1946 and 1954). Trailing boomers and Gen Xers were expected to have multiple careers, as many as 5 to 6 across their working years. For those cohorts, education has had a plan: increase offerings for adult learners who will return to school or training every 5 to 10 years.

Cusp and leading boomers will not demand as much specialty training for their encore careers in large part because they are surprised that they are starting or even extending careers. But they may require some services such as employment matching. With the current economic downturn, more near-retirement boomers are likely to need those services.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

07 October 2008

Researching & Comparing Health Insurance

NCQA. The non-profit National Committee for Quality Assurance reviews the quality of health care in the U.S. and publishes a series of NCQA Report Cards. The top two are described below.

Health Plan Report Card. Updated every month, this report describes services and ratings of health plans that are NCQA-Accredited. Don't be put off by the "look" of the opening Search page. The text boxes look like the sort of form that requests YOUR name, but this is not the case here. The text box for "Name" is for the name of an insurance company; you can leave the line blank. The fastest approach is to search by State, selecting your interest in commercial, Medicaid, and/or Medicare plans. When a list appears, you can then checkmark some or all the plans and click on "Compare Selected" for a table of ratings and pertinent facts. On the Ratings page, click on the ? icons for definitions (sometimes via links to the Glossary). These definitions are concise and clear.

America's Best Health Plans. NCQA works with U.S. News & World Report to rank the country's top 50 commercial plans and the top 25 Medicaid/Medicare plans. In about month, the results for 2008 will be released: on the U.S. News Web Site on November 7 and in the print magazine's November 17 issues (available starting on November 10). The data from 2007 are available at the magazine's web site currently.

Cost comparisons: Consumers still must do their own research to compare health plan costs.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

06 October 2008

Employment in Retirement: YourEncore


YourEncore...accelerating innovation through proven experience...is an employment site focused on retired scientists and engineers.

The strength of this "matching service" between retirees (the Experts) and companies (the Clients) is the membership model of the Clients. The founding Client Companies were Proctor & Gamble and Eli Lilly. Since 2003, the group has grown to more than 30. So, when HR folks review the Experts' resumes, they come to the task with interest in finding a match from this defined pool. (The concept is similar to one I described in an earlier blog about IBM's partnership with the U.S. Treasury Department under auspices of the non-profit Partnership for Public Service. Their joint effort is to capture retiring IBM employees for a needed government workforce.)

Experts—the scientists and engineers interested in short-term or part-time employment—enter a profile online and can keep it updated. When a Client taps the Expert for employment, YourEncore facilitates the paperwork. The Client dictates whether the Expert will be an employee or an independent contractor.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

05 October 2008

Boomer Health: Flu Shots

Flu vaccine via nasal spray (Flu-Mist) or traditional needle is widely available now. The CDC's official campaign is still a couple of months away but for many of us October is the well-formed habit. Get the vaccine early while it's easy to find. Too, it may take two weeks to become effective so an October inoculation puts you well ahead of the first outbreak.

I'm shopping around for the first time in years, having lost Tom Bold's corporate gift (free shots for employees and spouses) and my campus connection ($20 in the years that I didn't get to Tom's workplace in a timely manner). What I barely noticed at grocery stores in the past—"flu clinic in our pharmacy today"—now looms quite large. And improved. At many groceries and drugstores, the occasional flu vaccine clinic has turned into more frequent and even daily access.

Nearly all the states permit pharmacists to administer the vaccine, now, and so scheduling becomes a matter of making sure the appropriate pharmacist is on duty the day you want the shot. In addition, some pharmacies now have medical clinics on site, typically staffed by Nurse Practitioners. Flu shots, immunizations, strep throat tests, etc., are available on a walk-in basis. Most will file Medicare for you and some will take other insurance, too.

Here's my quick list of flu shot outlets around my town in Texas:

  • CVS Pharmacy - $30 (Some stores also offer medical services through Minute Clinic, staffed by Nurse Practitioners)
  • Tom Thumb - $28 with a discount for 10% off other purchases, too
  • Walgreens - $25 - $30 (with Take Care Health Clinics in many cities but not in my area)
  • Wal-Mart (Some stores also have walk-in Clinic at Wal-Mart and also RediClinic, staffed by Nurse Practitioners)
  • Denton and Tarrant County Public Health Departments - $20 (waived for seniors)

These online locators may save a little time in researching vaccine availability in your area:

American Lung Association Flu Clinic Locator
Flu Shot Locator by Maxim Health Systems

On a personal note: I'm opting for a Minute Clinic in a CVS. Just because I want to preview the place as a potential source of walk-in health care. ~ Lida

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

04 October 2008

Financial Crisis: Retailers Will Help Us

In their best interest. Retailers will help us in the hard times, knowing full well that special promotions and discounts will help us feel safer in spending in their establishments. Even as most Americans slow their spending, they won't forego shopping altogether and retailers will garner the sales they can.

Recurring specials. A weekly special (such as a grocery chain's $5 family-sized dinner item every Friday) appeals to our desire for a predictable event, especially when other prices are unpredictable. "Affordable" counts, too, of course.

Dollar menus. Watch for more low-cost single items at fast food restaurants. Keeping us accustomed to the drive-though is important for business.

Comfort food. Soup has always been a low-cost staple in the pantry and in rough economic times, it serves as a comfort food, besides.

Stocking for the holidays. Christmas retail displays are already launching. Consumers will act earlier than usual to "protect the holidays" because of fear of not having money a few months from now. If the current financial crisis were not so obviously associated with banks, we might even see a resurgence of Christmas Clubs (savings accounts timed for holiday withdrawals). More likely, consumers will deal directly with retailers either in making early purchases or starting lay-away plans.

On a personal note. I have my own Christmas lay-away memory. Following a lay-off 20 years ago, our family moved from Florida to Texas one very hot summer. While Tom was coming to a job (and we knew enough about the semiconductor industry to be grateful for that), we were definitely wary about spending money. In house-hunting, we looked only at foreclosed properties (and bought one). In selecting a local bank, we intentionally chose the one that had just been taken over by a larger bank six months before. And I went to the new Hypermart (some boomers will recognize that name) and placed all Christmas gifts on lay-away. I made a modest weekly payment from August to December and felt comfort in having provided for the holidays. I probably spent less than usual simply because of my early and deliberate shopping. But the real purpose (and result) was the systematic payment toward a goal—just in case there was another lay-off. An ironic twist: a month into the job, Tom's new employer announced that all managers would take a 25% pay cut for four months (September through December) in order to avoid lay-offs among the workforce. We were already in cautious mode, so we weathered the pay cut but the budgeting was strict that year. The memory makes us appreciate the difficulty young families may face in the coming recession.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.