U.S. Teens Aren’t Optimistic About Their Future Finances

America’s teenagers have a lot on their minds. They worry about school, about fitting in, about guns, about the environment, about just figuring out who they really are. But given that for the most part, mom and dad are still paying the bills, you might be surprised at how many of them are already worrying about money and their financial futures. 

According to a new survey from Junior Achievement and Citizen’s Bank, fully 45% of teens say they’re worried they won’t be able to afford to live on their own when they reach adulthood, while 47% are worried about paying for college. The study also showed that 40% worry about finding a fulfilling, well-paying job, and 33% are concerned that they don’t know enough about how to manage money.

“These survey findings show a disconcerting lack of confidence among teens when it comes to achieving financial goals,” said Jack Kosakowski, CEO of Junior Achievement USA, in a press release. “With a strong economy, you would think teens would be more optimistic. It just demonstrates the importance of working with young people to help them better understand financial concepts and gain confidence in their ability to manage their financial futures.”

It’s important for adults to talk with teens about money. Image source: Getty Images.

Here’s what teens want

Considering the historically low unemployment rate in the U.S. today, there’s a fair amount of pessimism baked into the fact that 62% of those surveyed listed just getting a full-time job as one of their top financial goals for the future — making it the most common response. A similar percentage of teenagers (59%) said that graduating from a four-year school was a top goal. And 53% want to reach a level of financial independence such that they’re no longer relying on monetary help from their parents. But 37% said they don’t expect to hit that last milestone before they are 30.

In the slightly longer term, 74% of teenagers believe they’ll own a car by the time they are 30, but only 60% expect to own a home at that age. In addition, 44% of those surveyed expect to be saving for retirement by the time they hit 30, while 43% expect to have their student loans paid off.

“It’s clear that more has to be done to help prepare students for the future — whether it is through helping them navigate paying for college or educating them on how to manage their money by establishing savings and checking accounts,” said Citizen’s Bank President of Consumer Deposits and Lending Brendan Coughlin in the press release.

What can you do?

As a parent, it’s important to start talking to your offspring about money early. They need to understand the value of a dollar, and where their family stands. Is paying for college something you can afford, or will your child need to find other options? And how much will that depend on which school they choose? (Your in-state university? We can swing it. Columbia University? Sorry, kid, but no.) Are you in good shape financially, or are your household finances a mess?

Teenagers need to understand how money is earned, and the consequences of making various financial choices. It’s possible for anyone — even someone of modest means — to go to college, land a good job, and achieve financial independence, but doing so is far easier if you really understand the impact of the choices you make along the way.

Parents should actively involve their children in financial discussions, and set a good example. A kid who watches mom or dad constantly buy things they can’t afford or make other careless money decisions will be more likely to mimic those behaviors later.

It’s important to teach our kids that reaching long-term financial goals requires sacrifices on the instant-gratification front. You may not take that exotic vacation, or drive the car of your dreams, but your children need to see that if those decisions are part of a plan that leads to financial security, the sacrifices will be well worth it.

3 Smart Money Habits College Grads Are Upholding

Though college graduates are statistically likely to outearn their nongraduate counterparts, many diploma holders inevitably come to regret the decision to pursue a degree, namely because of the level of debt they accrue in the process. But new data from Sallie Mae and Ipsos reveals that going to college could have a positive impact on graduates’ finances in adulthood. Here are a few smart financial habits college graduates have been maintaining.

1. Knowing their credit scores

Your credit score will dictate whether you get approved for a mortgage, car loan, personal loan, or credit card and whether you’re approved at a favorable rate. Knowing your score will help you determine whether you’re in a good spot credit-wise or whether you need to take steps to improve. Those could include paying off existing debt, making all future payments on time, and not opening too many new credit accounts at once. An estimated 82% of college graduates are aware of what their credit scores are, compared to 56% of students and 67% of those who never completed college.


Unfortunately, getting at your credit score isn’t as easy as it might seem. Though you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report every year from each of the three major bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion), you may need to buy your credit score from myfico.com. That said, some banks and lenders will provide that information to you for free, so if you have a savings account or loan, it pays to see if that number is available there.

2. Having emergency funds

You never know when your car might break down, your roof might spring a leak, or you might get hurt and rack up extensive medical bills as a result. That’s why you need emergency savings at all times — specifically, three to six months’ worth of living expenses to cover such unplanned expenses.

The good news is that 41% of college grads have an emergency fund, which means they’re protected from accruing needless debt the next time life throws a costly curveball at them. By contrast, only 22% of students have emergency savings. And only 31% of those who didn’t complete college have money in the bank set aside for emergencies.

3. Saving in high-interest bank accounts

The best place for emergency savings is none other than the bank, where your principal is protected up to $250,000 per depositor. The downside, however, is that savings accounts generally don’t offer close to the same return you might snag by investing your money, especially in the stock market. That’s why it’s encouraging to see that 24% of college grads are wise enough to put their money into high-interest savings accounts. By contrast, only 17% of students and 10% of noncompleters do the same.

While Money Management 101 isn’t necessarily a course offered at college, it’s clear that grads on a whole have managed to pick up some reasonably savvy habits that allow them to better manage their money. Whether you go to college or not, it pays to get on board with the idea of checking your credit score once or twice a year, having emergency savings, and housing your cash in a bank account that will pay you a competitive amount of interest.

At the same time, it never hurts to work on improving your financial literacy on the whole. In the aforementioned survey, college grads, students, and noncompleters alike all said they want to keep learning about money management, and that’s certainly smart.

Meet the ‘Game of Thrones’ Prosthetics Wizard Who Makes the Night King Come Alive

As the Night King grew his army, so did Barrie Gower.

For the past five years, Gower has been a prosthetics designer and supervisor on Game of Thrones, where he has outfitted the Army of the Dead, designed the mysterious Night King, and made the affecting Children of the Forest a reality. It’s a job that grew increasingly essential to the show’s storylines — particularly for the final season of the HBO series, which is expected to display the long-awaited battle between the living and the dead.

Back when he first joined the HBO series in 2014, Gower’s work focused on just six White Walkers. But in the show’s last few seasons, he managed a team of about 70 to 80 people on set, spending weeks crafting prosthetics for characters and working more than 15 hours a day to apply prosthetics, remove them, and stand by for any necessary fixes on set.

Game of Thrones is undoubtedly the toughest project I’ve ever worked on,” Gower tells MONEY. “Each season has grown and grown, but on average, we had hundreds of makeups and gags to do each year.”

“The workload has had us in tears at times,” Gower says, “but also has been the best experience of my career.”

It’s a daunting and time-consuming profession, to say the least. Simply making the prosthetics for characters like the Night King takes between three to four weeks, he says, and requires creating molds of the actors, designing the prosthetics themselves, and creating duplicates. On set, designers can show up as early as 1 a.m. to apply the prosthetics and make-up to actors, and end up working until the evening.

“Our team would work in shifts and try to grab naps whenever possible,” Gower says.

Gower declined to give specifics on the Game of Thrones production budget for prosthetics and salaries of the designers on set. But, as the designer suggests, the series has grown in size and production scale each year. The total cost for its final season was reportedly $15 million per episode — a significant jump from the reported $6 million per episode the show spent in its first season.

Outside of his time spent in Westeros, Gower and his wife Sarah manage their own prosthetic make-up design company, BGFX. With more than 20 years of experience in the field, Gower’s work goes well beyond the Game of Thrones universe. His prosthetics have been featured in everything from the Harry Potter franchise to Meryl Streep’s transformation in The Iron Lady.

Inspired as a high schooler by the designs for Ridley Scott’s Alien, Gower’s main focus is on monsters and creepy creatures. He worked as a freelance artist for years before starting his own company and found himself in more of a managerial role on Game of Thrones as the show’s storylines developed.

As his role expanded on the show, he learned a valuable leadership lesson.

“If you treat people properly — speak to them how you would expect to be spoken to yourself — you really get the best out of people,” Gower says. “Your crew thrives when they know they’ve done a good job, so it’s always important to give credit where it’s due.”

“Heading your own team and being the decision maker brings a lot of responsibility,” Gower adds. “It is incredibly rewarding, but I also long to get back to the bench and get stuck into a sculpture.”

Gower and his team have won three Emmys for their prosthetic work on Game of Thrones. Those awards specifically honored episodes that featured the mystical Children of the Forest, Hodor’s devastating death, and season seven’s finale in which (spoiler alert!) the Night King, his army, and un-dead dragon destroy the Wall.

Gower says his team’s work really “exploded” in the show during its fifth season’s memorable “Hardhome” episode, the first close look at the White Walkers and their army. The scene itself took a full month to shoot and, due to its slew of grotesque zombie-like characters, upped the ante on what was needed in terms of prosthetics and make-up. “An average make-up day would start around 3 a.m. We would film from approximately 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., de-rig the actors out of their make-ups, and leave around 7 p.m.,” Gower says.

Another stand-out moment for Gower: Samwell Tarly’s gruesome removal of Jorah Mormont’s grayscale in season seven. That “was a personal favorite,” Gower says.

But his most notable work for the series as a whole? “Maybe ask me again in about six weeks after the finale has aired,” he says.

ON THE MONEY: Managing your debt | Features

Debt is one topic that continues to be the hot topic of many conversations. That is not surprising, since our national debt is now more than $21 trillion and going up every month. When was the last time you heard anyone in Washington mention this fact? Mitt Romney had it right in 2012 when he intimated that as much as 45% of the population has no clue about what does or doesn’t go on Washington.

The fact that our legislators are unwilling to address the national debt does not mean that we can follow suit with our personal debts. If we are to have any chance of managing our finances – forgetting about planning for retirement – all of us must understand debt and take decisive steps to manage and, hopefully, reduce it.

One of the catalysts of increasing household debt is that purchasing goods and services with debt has never been easier. It wasn’t so long ago that credit card companies were unwilling to issue their cards to those who had poor credit. Fast forward to today and card companies are more than willing to hook those Americans who run up staggering amounts of debt and pay 18 to 20% interest as they live beyond their means. Card companies are perfectly willing to write off 10% of their outstanding loans when they can charge usurious rates of interest on outstanding balances.

But the notion of debt is not all that straightforward, since not all debt is de facto bad. When intelligently employed, debt is a key component in wealth building. As an example, if you decide to purchase rental property and pay $100,000 cash for your first property; cover your expenses with the rent, and sell the property for $120,000 two years later, you will be able to enjoy at $20,000 capital gain and will have increased your wealth by 20%.

On the other hand, if you had purchased the property with a down payment of $25,000 and everything else remained constant, you would have increased your wealth by 80% when you sold the property. Using debt in this fashion is an example of financial leverage.

“When you buy something that goes down in value immediately, that’s bad debt,” says David Bach, CEO of Finish Rich Inc. and author of “The Finish Rich Workbook.” “If it has no potential to increase in value, that’s bad debt.”

Good debt is investment debt that creates value; for example, student loans, real estate loans, home mortgages and business loans,” says Eric Gelb, CEO of Gateway Financial Advisors and author of “Getting Started in Asset Allocation.”

Robert D. Manning, a professor of finance at the Rochester Institute of Technology, is a proponent of incurring debts that are tax-deductible and debt that produces more wealth in the long run. “If you are talking about reducing current debt, that’s where it starts to get nuanced,” says Manning. “If you take a home equity loan because you have 17 percent credit card, and you go with a 6 percent loan that’s tax-deductible, that’s good debt.”

I had a professor at Wharton whose financial mantra was “Never go into debt to purchase any asset that will depreciate over time.” I disagreed with him in class one day regarding having to buy a car with a car loan to have transportation to work. I was pleasantly surprised that he agreed with me.

Certainly, one prime example of bad debt occurs when a person purchases disposable items or durable goods using high-interest credit cards and subsequently does not repay the card balance in full. Bach stated that “When you buy clothes, they’re probably worth less than 50 percent what you pay for them when you walk out the door. Thus, if you borrowed to pay for them, that’s bad debt.”

“The trouble is most people are not organized enough to retire their entire credit card balances before the due date,” says Gelb.

Think of it this way, you make a partial payment each month on the credit card debt you incurred to purchase that “had to have” item of clothing. The item that you bought continues to lose value, while the amount that you must repay goes up.

If your goal then is to manage your finances successfully, you must be able to comprehend the difference between good and bad debt. Embrace the former and avoid the latter.

Improving investor behavior: Managing your time like money

As a financial adviser, I am typically hired by clients to help them manage their resources. Most often, these are financial resources including cash, investments, etc. Sometimes I help people to manage their business resources such as connecting professionals, encouraging action, and providing advice to help them make sound decisions. But there is one resource that I help investors to consider, one that we all have, but tend to be terrible at managing.

That resource is time.

Because time is finite (we all have precisely the same number of minutes in the day — 1,440 to be exact), it is our single greatest asset. We can’t create more of it, and it will continue to disappear if we choose not to use it. As a result, time is even more valuable than money. Ask anyone on their deathbed if they’d rather have $100k or another year to enjoy their friends and family and I’m sure you’ll hear the same answer time and again.

Steve Booren

Historically, “traditional” companies sell products and services in exchange for cash, the most common currency. We trade money for a full pantry, warm clothes, and reliable transportation.

We’ve come to expect this type of transaction, and we use software, services, and even financial advisers to help us manage money for products or services type purchases. But what about the businesses built to capture our most important currency?

Today many companies sell their products in exchange for time and attention. These companies tend to be web-based. Think services like Facebook, Instagram, Google, Netflix, etc. They exchange their product for your time. As a result, attention has become the most valuable currency in Silicon Valley and the war to collect more of it is fierce.

This results in the exploitation of some of our worst characteristics as humans. Consider the “pull-to-refresh” action in some of these apps. Sometimes we are rewarded with a new post, match, or picture. Sometimes we are not. But this intermittent reward is exactly what hooks people. Feels a lot like a slot machine, doesn’t it? There are studies on the chemical reaction
that people experience, and yes, it is very much an addiction.

Because attention has become so valuable, apps and services are designed to gather as much of it as possible, regardless of the psychological toll it may be taking on the user. This has a profound effect on people who may not be keeping track of their time budget. Just how much time did you spend on Facebook last week?

Recently I was introduced to the book, “Making Time,” written by two early Google programmers who were instrumental in the creation of Gmail. The authors of the book laid out many examples of how technology rules our lives, and our time. They point out all the defaults that come with the devices we have in our pockets, purses, briefcases, at home, on our desks, and even on our wrists. If you think about time as a currency, you begin to change your mindset on how you
spend your time, who takes (steals) your time, and how you might invest your time.

So many freely “pay up” with their time wallet, not thinking about time as a currency. How you invest the time in your time wallet is critical. Managing money can, and should, be applied similarly to how we manage time. Wealth can be created and saved, but once the time is spent, it’s gone forever. So, I encourage you to apply some of the same methods we use to manage money and apply them to your time currency.

First, take stock of what you have. Without making an effort to change anything, merely monitor your time. Where are you spending it? How much of it is productive? How much of it is leisure? Where do you spend it and with whom? Track this and gain insight into where you currently stand.

Second, build out a budget. Ideally, how much sleep would you like to get? Do you want to budget an hour of your time for exercise? What about self-development via reading or taking a class? The habits we follow and the small things we do every day ultimately define us. Take the time to build out a budget and set an agenda for yourself. This will limit the feeling of being pushed and pulled in different directions all day.

Third, monitor and alter the budget as life changes. Nothing is set in stone and life is continually evolving. Your time budget should evolve as well. As you move toward making work a choice, your priorities are likely to change. Without working all day, you’ll find an ample amount of new time to budget. But I’ll bet the time spent at work resulted in feelings of productivity,
accomplishment, and pride. Remember to find ways to keep these emotional “banks” topped off with revisions to your time budget.

Fourth, find ways to create more time. Now I’m not encouraging you to buy a second-hand DeLorean, but there are ways to stretch the time you have available. For instance, hiring a fitness coach may result in a better workout, ultimately resulting in fewer visits to the gym or a better result in the same amount of time. A housekeeper may return time spent cleaning and dusting. Meal prepping on a Sunday means less time cooking throughout the week. Building a team of helpers and creating processes means you can accomplish more in the same amount of time.

Time is a resource, just like cash and investments. And while we are all blessed with it, it is still more valuable than gold. Take stock of how you spend your time and invest it well. It will pay a dividend greater than any available in the market.

Steve Booren is the founder of Prosperion Financial Advisors in Greenwood Village. He is the author of “Intelligent Investing: Your Guide to a Growing Retirement Income,” published in March 2019.

5 things you didn’t realize you could ask for that can save you lots of money

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Save and Invest

10:30 AM ET Fri, 19 April 2019

A woman smiles at a job interview.

Sometimes, a simple question can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Whether it’s earning more money at work, getting a pesky bank fee waived or lowering your bills, often the only thing standing between you and saving money is asking for what you want.

Here are five things you might not even be aware you can ask for.

1. Ask for a raise

Just 37% of workers have asked for a raise, according to a 2018 survey of over 160,000 people by career site PayScale. But 70% of those who did ask for more money got it, while just one in three people reported receiving a raise without asking for one. That means that most people could be leaving money on the table.

Those who have worked at a company for at least five years are most likely to receive a raise, Payscale found, though that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for one otherwise. Just be sure to come prepared to demonstrate the value you add to the business.

“They need you to show what impact your work has had on the business,” Lydia Frank, vice president of PayScale, told CNBC Make It.

Your preparation should also include knowing comparable salary ranges in your company and the broader field, bestselling author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch told CNBC Make It. And if you need a raise because of external pressures — say, to save for your kid’s school — leave that out of the conversation.

“People often bring up their mortgage, their new car payment,” she says. “Focus on why you deserve a raise — not why you need it.”

This is just how desperate most Americans are for a raise

2. Ask for banking fees to be waived

If you’re hit with a late fee on a credit card payment or an overdraft fee on your checking account, ask for it to be waived. Chances are, your bank or card issuer will let you off the hook.

Nearly 90% of people who asked for a late fee to be waived were successful, according to a report from CompareCards, a credit comparison site. But the same survey found that only 48% of people who have been hit with a late fee have asked for leniency.

This year, credit card companies can charge you up to $27 for your first late fee, and up to $38 for additional late payments within a six month period, according to the guidelines set by the 2009 Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act.

“You have far more power with your credit card company than you realize,” writes Matt Schulz, CompareCards’ chief industry analyst. “You just have to be willing to wield it, and far too few people do.”

This works best if you’ve been a longtime customer or if it’s a first-time occurrence.

3. Ask the seller to pay the closing costs on a home

Buying a new home? One tactic that might save you money is asking the seller to cover some of the expenses for you.

“What buyers don’t realize is that there are a lot of things you can put in your offer letter that are non-standard,” Skylar Olsen, director of economic research at Zillow, tells CNBC Make It. “Everything is on the table.”

That includes closing costs, which total around $3,700 on average, Zillow reports. You can also ask for more unexpected things like furniture or appliances, Olsen says. She uses bar stools as an example: If you see that they go perfectly with the kitchen, your offer to buy can be contingent on keeping them.

Suze Orman: Here's the No. 1 thing to do now if you want to buy a house in the next 6 months

To do that, you’d include the stools in your offer letter, and the seller will either agree or send a counter-offer. While the exact savings will depend on where you’re buying, the type of house, the deal you strike and a host of other factors, there’s no harm in asking as long as you’re flexible, she says.

And definitely ask the seller to cover any obvious repairs that need to be done to make the house more livable. The only thing stopping you is “whether or not you feel bold and ask for what you want,” Olsen says.

4. Ask for a lower credit card APR

More than eight in 10 people who called their issuer and asked for a lower interest rate on their credit card were approved, a CompareCards survey revealed. But just over 20% of people said they’ve asked.

If you carry credit card debt, that lower APR can save you big. Here’s an example from CompareCards:

If you have a balance of $5,000 on a card with a 24% APR and pay $250 per month, it’ll take 26 months to pay it off and you’ll pay about $1,450 in interest. Lower that APR to 18% — a 6-point reduction, equal to the average drop shown in our survey — and you’ll save more than $450 in interest and two months in payoff time.

The key to attaining a lower rate, Schulz says, is the same as the key to getting a raise: You need to come prepared. Mention other credit card offers you’ve been pre-approved for that advertise a lesser rate.

“Come to the call with ammunition,” he says.

Odds are you may be paying off your credit card debt wrong—here’s the best way

5. Ask if you really have to pay that medical bill

With medical costs continuing to rise for most Americans, it’s more important than ever to double- and triple-check every bill you receive. It’s fairly common to receive a medical bill in error, according to DirectPath, which helps employees manage their benefits. At least half of the medical claims it reviewed for clients contained an error, the company recently reported.

“Mistakes are rampant,” Bridget Lipezker, senior vice president of advocacy and transparency at DirectPath, told CNBC. “In the complicated world of health-care billing, don’t make the assumption that a medical bill is right.”

Some common errors include incorrect medical bill coding, or charging a patient for a name-brand prescription instead of the generic they received.

If you think you’ve been billed incorrectly, first check with your company to see if it offers an advocacy service like DirectPath. From there, you should call your insurance company and ask them to review your bill.

Don’t miss:

70% of Americans with credit card debt admit they can’t pay it off this year

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Ramit Sethi: Here's how to avoid mistakes while negotiating your salary

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Money, like life, is viewed differently in different cultures: How to avoid disaster when abroad

Before you open your wallet, jump into that negotiation, or just strike up a casual conversation abroad, it’s important to understand that money, how we use it and talk about it, can be viewed very differently in different cultures.  Here are some examples, from my own experiences having worked in over 100 countries, of how we think, act and worry about money differently around the world, along with some tips on how to overcome those differences, before they cost you that deal, relationship or that vase you can’t resist in the shop window!

Lars, a Swedish businessman was distressed in a negotiation over price with his Saudi associate because Ahmed was bargaining: beginning with an opening price that was patently too high, and expecting to be coerced by Lars into offering a lower price.  Lars found the whole process insulting and a waste of time, while Ahmed felt Lars wasn’t serious about the negotiation. Before it even began, the negotiation was doomed due to different cultural expectations of what a negotiation actually was: Swedes (and most Scandinavians) tend to focus on making “reasonable” offers that provide a “win-win” for all parties, while Saudis (and most Gulf Arab cultures) expect to bargain, applying a “win-lose” attitude with people they don’t know, and a “win-win” attitude only with trusted associates.  If you are negotiating a business deal in Gulf Arabia, focus on the long-term relationship, not the immediate terms on the table; if this is a one-time opportunity, expect a win-lose approach, and very hard bargaining. If you are negotiating a business deal in Sweden, establish your needs up-front, listen and probe for their hidden needs, and offer reasonable solutions for them, while expecting them to provide reasonable solutions for you. Avoid bargaining, as it looks insincere: after all, why would you state one price, and then later be willing to offer a lower price?  That implies untrustworthiness, that you were willing, if you had gotten your first price, to allow the other party to suffer a higher price than necessary. Not nice, not fair, not good business . . . in Stockholm.

Meeting over tea in an elegant tea shop in Shanghai, Wu was eager to get to know John, his new friend from the US, and John was delighted to be able to make a new friend on this, his first holiday in China.  Despite language differences, Wu’s English was good enough for a casual conversation, and John was eager to get to know him. How surprised John was, then, when Wu, in an effort to get to know him, asked, “So John, how much money do you make in your job?”  John really felt this inquiry was far too personal, and resisted providing a substantive answer. Wu, in turn, felt hurt that John was avoiding an honest answer. Complicating the matter was the fact that John, in an effort to establish a relationship based on equality between them, felt it only fair to ask Wu the same question back, and when he did, Wu stiffened and became embarrassed.  Despite the best of intentions, instead of building a friendship, this meeting was falling apart fast, and neither party knew how to rescue it. However, had John understood Chinese culture (and had Wu understood western culture), John would have known that discussing income and money is a way of opening yourself up to the other person, and not something personal to be hidden. Everyone talks about money all the time in China: how much you make, how much you lost, what things cost, how to save it, how to make it.

Additionally, in China, relationships have traditionally been built around the inequality of the roles we have with each other, and the subsequent obligations that result from those role differences, while in the west, relationships are more often built based on the similarity — or equality — of our roles and situations.  If you’re the one who makes more money, you could be expected to at some point help the other, precisely because you can afford to and because, having established a relationship, you have, therefore, an obligation — and the means — to help.

It was reasonable to presume that Wu’s income was less than John’s (the western traveler on holiday in China); therefore, it was reasonable for Wu to ask about John’s income, but embarrassing for Wu to share his own lesser salary information with John.  John should not have asked about Wu’s income, though in John’s world, he was applying a standard of equality: if uncomfortable questions about income were going to be “on the table”; after all, “fair is fair,” and he’ll ask the same back. But in China, this only caused Wu to “lose face”, a terrible situation difficult to recover from, and one that can seriously damage a developing relationship.

What could John have done?  Being uncomfortable as he was discussing his own income, but in the Chinese context being expected to, he might have simply explained the broader situation, without having to divulge personal facts.  For example, he could have said something like: “Well, in my country, people who do my kind of work typically make between XXX and YYY dollars per year, but you know, in the U.S , healthcare costs about xxx, and college tuition can cost about xxx, and houses can cost about xxx, so, at the end of the year, I don’t have any money left!” Facts provided, relationship maintained, no obligations implied.

“CEO salaries over here in Belgium,” Lucy explained over drinks at a café near the Grande Place in Brussels, “is viewed more as compensation for the work they do, like any other employee in the organization, and not a reward based on company shareholder value.”  She went on, “in fact, paying a CEO a salary of 100 times what the average employee makes here in Belgium would be looked at as immoral, quite disgusting. I understand, however, that in the U.S., income disparity, at any level, and between any people, is explained by some as the result of some kind of ‘natural’ law based on markets and individual skills, and that even efforts to provide basic human needs to all employees, and by extension, to all citizens, like healthcare, maternal and paternal rights, free education, etc., is seen as some kind of biblical evil that goes against natural law, as if markets were a natural phenomenon that should not be controlled.  

‘In our country, not providing these basic human services, by a company would be seen, on the contrary, as an abrogation of the company or the government’s responsibilities to provide for its employees or its people; in your country, it’s seen as government over-reach and creating a ‘nanny-state’ for people who won’t do for themselves. I find this attitude in your country very strange, for everyone knows that not everybody has equal opportunity in this world, and that there are basic human rights which companies and governments are obligated to guard and provide. Even if it is costly. Yes, our taxes are high, but people get the services they need . . . and expect.”

There is, in fact, a fundamental cultural difference between how money, taxes, and essentially the role of government, is seen, that is very different on the other side of the pond.  In Europe, at least more or less since the Enlightenment, government is seen as responsible for protecting the needs and rights of the citizen, and in the U.S., having had a revolution in 1776 against all things European, government is often seen as some kind of necessary evil to best be gotten around.

Of course, these are two poles on a spectrum, and in both cultures, there are groups that advocate differently (i.e., typically, Democrats vs Republicans in the U.S.; socialists and democrats in Europe), but in the main, the center of gravity on either side of the Atlantic is different based precisely on this historical and cultural difference.  Money and work, therefore, from the traditional continental perspective, is a means to something greater (work to live), while it’s often been said that in the U.S., it is an end in itself (live to work). It’s important to recognize that in many cultures, the goal of work itself is not the accumulation of wealth, but rather, the means to providing for a healthy, nurturing environment, in which all people — not just me — can live successful, meaningful lives. In these cultures (The Netherlands, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, much of Latin America, and many others), at least for employees and staff, salary and wealth may not be the primary motivator for work; what might be more important is the degree to which I can have a comfortable work environment and relationship with my associates on a daily basis. In Thailand, for example, there is the concept, “Senuke”, which, freely translated, means “fun”: work, like everything in life, needs to be senuke, or at least enjoyable, and creating a working environment for staff that is senuke should be a primary concern for any manager in Thailand.

Smooth daily working relationships can be more important than the few extra bhats that might be earned elsewhere. In these cultures, stressful daily work environments are often, in the long run, simply not worth whatever monetary goals they might achieve, for the company or the employee.

Whether negotiating, building personal relationships, managing teams and workers across cultures, making government monetary policy, or just shopping for that special treasure abroad, managing the cultural differences inherent in how we deal with money, wealth, and even the very nature of work, is an essential requirement in today’s global world.  We may not like them, we may not understand them, we may not approve of them, but these cultural differences are real, we cannot make them go away, and we need to manage and respect them.

How College Graduates Are Managing Their Finances

Majoring in Money: How college graduates and other young adults manage their finances.

college graduates
geralt / Pixabay

This study examines the money management skills, payment behaviors, and financial literacy of college students, completers, and non-completers.


Q1 hedge fund letters, conference, scoops etc

College graduates – Key messages:

  • Young adults feel confident in their money management skills and demonstrate responsibility by paying bills on time, tracking their spending, and not spending more than they have.
  • They are also eager to establish credit and expand their financial literacy; when put to the test, results show more education on managing finances might be necessary. We are all lifelong learners, especially true when it comes to financial literacy.
  • There is a tangible difference in behavior and perception of financial skills between college students, college graduates, and those who started college, but didn’t complete it.
  • Further, those who have a credit card, whether they’re college students, non-completers, or college graduates, tend to have greater awareness of the benefits of credit and be more knowledgeable about money and credit than those without credit cards.

Young adults are optimistic about money management, and college graduates are the most confident in the way they’re doing it.

  • College graduates are the most confident, with seven in 10 (71%) rating their money management skills as good or excellent while six in 10 college students are (59%) rating themselves the same way. Forty-two percent of those who did non-complete college, however, rate their skills as good or excellent.
  • Nine in 10 (91%) of college graduates, eight in 10 (84%) of non-completers, and seven in 10 (72%) of college students pay their bills on time and more than half of each group say they track their spending and never spend more than they have. More than half of graduates report never overdrafting to avoid fees (52%), compared to 43% of non-completers.
  • Three in five (62%) of college graduates and half of college students and non-completers are saving money every month.
  • Four in 10 (41%) college graduates say they have an emergency fund compared to 22% of college students and 31% of non-completers.
  • 8 in 10 graduates know their credit scores (82%), while two-thirds of non-completers (67%), and about half of students (56%) do.
  • They are significantly more likely to say they pay off their high interest debts first (43%) compared to non-completers (30%).

College Graduates And Financial Literacy

Financial education begins at home, with parents acting as a major source of influence, but young adults are exposed to a variety of resources to help continue their learning.

  • Parents are the most influential resource when learning how to manage finances, though fewer non-completers report learning from their parents (56%) compared to students (68%) or graduates (70%). Of those who didn’t complete college, nearly two-thirds (63%) report having a parent who also began, but did not complete, their studies.
  • Nearly 7 in 10 students (68%) report their parents as the most influential resource when learning how to manage finances.
  • One in four students (23%) learned from a high school class, while grads and non-completers are the most likely to use online research as a learning channel (34% and 31%, respectively).
  • Non-completers also the most likely to report not having anyone to teach them about money management (6% compared to 3% students and 4% completers).

College students are confident in their skills, and they’re eager to learn more.

  • Nearly 60 percent of students typically rate their financial management skills as excellent (20%) or good (39%), but only one in ten (11%) answered 4 of 4 questions on basic financial topics correctly.
  • Nearly nine in ten students (87%) recognize that paying bills on time is positive behavior, and two in three students (66%) agree that opening multiple credit cards or loan accounts at the same time can have a negative effect on credit scores.
  • Students are the most likely to want more information about various financial management topics (84% compared to 77% of grads and 69% of non-completers), and they’re most interested in strategies to help them save, student loan repayment options, or options to pay for college or graduate school.

Across the board, young adults express a desire for more financial literacy, though the topics they’re most interested in vary from group-to-group.

  • Graduates are thinking long-term, looking for investment strategies (34%) and retirement and future financial planning (33%).
  • Non-completers express a need for more information on day-to-day money management, wanting information on topics like budgeting (40%), debt reduction strategies (33%), and credit reports and scores (29%).

Credit Cards

Young adults aren’t shying away from credit cards, and the majority have obtained one to establish credit.

  • More than half (57%) of college students have at least one credit card, and 83% of graduates carry credit cards, while 61% of non-completers do.
  • Students reported an average balance in 2019 of $1,183, a 31% increase over the average balance in 2016 of $906.
  • Graduates’ average balance is $2,351 and non-completers report an average balance of $3,281. Non-completers are the most likely to carry a balance over to the next month, possibly resulting in higher average balances.
  • The biggest reason given by all three groups for getting their first credit card is to build credit. (74% of grads, 77% of non-completers, 58% of students).

College graduates are the most likely to see credit cards as a tool for continued financial success, and they’re using them responsibly.

  • Eighty-three percent of completers carry credit cards, a much higher proportion than non-completers (61%) and students (57%), and they’re most likely to pay their bill in full each month (64% of grads do vs. 60% of students and 32% of non-completers).
  • Although more of them have cards and seem to use them more often, graduates appear to be more conservative about spending money they don’t have. Fewer grads say they frequently or sometimes charge items knowing they don’t have the money to pay the bill (27% vs 37% non-completers and 38% students), and more of them say they never charge items when they don’t have the money to pay for it (48% vs 29% non-completers and 38% students).
  • Graduates expect to qualify for much higher amounts than either students or non-completers should they apply for a new card, with only 3 percent saying they wouldn’t qualify for a credit card. Nearly two-thirds expect to qualify for amounts great than $2,500. Non-completers are significantly more likely to say they would not qualify for a credit card today (13%). Six in ten non-completers say they wouldn’t qualify, or don’t know if they’d qualify, for more than $999 in credit.

Those who have a credit card, whether they’re college students, non-completers, or college graduates, tend to have greater awareness of the benefits of credit and be more knowledgeable about money and credit than those without credit cards.

  • Those who do not have a credit card are more likely to rate their skills as ‘not very good’ or ‘poor’ (12% students, 9% completers, and 19% non-completers) than credit card users (6% students, 4% completers, and 11% non-completers).
  • Across the three groups, those who do not have a credit card are more likely to say they do not know their FICO score (27% students, 26% completers, 29% non-completers) than those who have a credit card (22% students, 10% completers, 10% non-completers). Similarly, those without a card are more likely than those with one to say they don’t have a FICO score (36% vs 6% students, 13% vs 1% completers, and 19% vs 2%, non-completers).
  • In each of the three groups, those who have a credit card scored better than those who do not on the financial literacy quiz.

Earning credit card rewards is a motivator for young adults, and rewards that could be redeemed through automatic repayment on loans is a desirable feature.

  • After building credit, graduates second most cited reason for wanting a credit card was interest in earning rewards (34%).
  • More than half of completers (55%) and 4 in 10 (39%) non-completers opened an additional credit card because they were interested in earning rewards.
  • Nearly 6 in 10 college students (59 percent) would be interested in a credit card that offers loan repayment rewards.

Other payment methods

Young adults rely most heavily on mobile payments and debit cards for their day-to-day spending.

  • While eight in 10 (81%) young adults still carry cash, most rely on debit cards and mobile payments.
  • Nine in 10 college graduates and non-completers, (89%, 91%) and eight in 10 (85%) of college students, use debit cards.
  • When young adults choose to use cash, they are more likely to use it to pay for in-store purchases less than $20 or for dining out.
  • Nearly nine in 10 college graduates and students, (88%, 86%) and nearly eight in 10 non-completers (78%) use mobile payments, most often citing PayPal and Venmo. More college students are reporting the use of mobile payments than ever before. Nearly nine in ten students (86%) use mobile payments, followed by 85% who use debit cards. Only one in ten students write checks.
  • In contrast, non-completers are less likely to use mobile payments (78%) than completers and students (88% and 86%, respectively). They are more likely to use debit than other payment methods, and are more likely than the other two groups to use debit for all purchase types.
  • Completers are slightly more likely to say they use personal checks (15%) than non-completers and students (9% and 12%, respectively).
  • Generally, both students and non-completers choose debit cards above other payment types to pay for any purchase and completers choose credit cards.

Here’s How Real Couples Manage Their Money

Age: 29

Location: Seattle, WA

Income: $82,500

Partner’s income: $32,000

Length of relationship: 2 years

How open are you and your partner about money?

“We recently opened a joint bank account, so I know how much he makes, and his student loans are a fraction of what mine are, but I don’t know the total. I’m embarrassed about my loans, so he doesn’t know the total, he just knows it’s a lot. I have around $45,000 left on my student loans, and it makes me ill to think about it.”

How do you feel about your financial situation?

“I suppose I feel fine. I know he was struggling financially when we met, but with our joined finances he’s more at peace. He’s about to start grad school, so that worries me because he won’t be working as much, but his tribe is paying for the school, so I feel great about that! My job pays well, but when I see my friends going on vacations overseas is when I start to feel poor. We have a joint airline credit card that I manage and pay off every month, so we can hopefully one day afford a vacation.”

How do you and your partner handle your finances?

“A Google spreadsheet. Every two weeks I manually log our joint expenses. He can see it but never looks.”

Do you and your partner track expenses?

“We use math! And a Google spreadsheet. I divide his income by the sum of each of our incomes to get the percentage he contributes to our bank account. So instead of 50/50, he pays 34.79% and I cover the rest. Then I made a spreadsheet totaling up all of our bills, general grocery cost, a little fun money, and got a total amount that we need in our joint bank account each month. Then I used that percent to determine the dollar amount he should contribute. Then we both set up our paychecks to deposit only those amounts into the joint account, and then we each keep whatever is left in our own separate accounts.”

What are some financial challenges you face in your relationship?

“In a past relationship that was very unhealthy, my ex would pay for things like dinners, eating out, and trips, and at the time I thought it was fair because of the gender pay gap (and really, he was emotionally abusive and that was my way of getting justice for myself — a lot to unpack there). But ever since, I’ve demanded things be split equally in relationships because I never want money and emotions to cross paths again.”

What would an ideal financial setup look like in a romantic relationship?

“I think we’ve reached a comfortable setup as far as sharing expenses, but ideally he would have a higher salary, because like I said, I want things to be equal.”

In a Return to Mobile Financial Services, T-Mobile Launches Its Money App Nationally

In a sign that at least some U.S. wireless carriers haven’t given up on their ambitions in mobile payments, T-Mobile US Inc. on Thursday launched its T-Mobile Money service nationwide. But the service, which began as a pilot in November, goes beyond payments offerings to include some traditional banking services as well.

Working with technology from the BankMobile unit of Phoenixville, Pa.-based Customers Bancorp, T-Mobile’s app includes no-fee access to an interest-bearing checking account as well as bill payment, peer-to-peer transfers, check writing, and all three major third-party wallets—Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. It also features a Mastercard debit card.

Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile, a unit of Germany’s Deutsche Telekom that likes to bill itself as the “Uncarrier,” has clearly aimed the new mobile service squarely at traditional fee-bearing bank accounts. The checking account, for example offers a 4% average percentage yield on balances  up to $3,000. Citing research from banking-data service Bankrate, the carrier claims this yield is 50 times more than the rate on the average U.S. account. Any money exceeding $3,000 earns 1%.

With the debit card, users can also access more than 55,000 ATMs globally in the Allpoint network, T-Mobile says. Allpoint is a unit of ATM deployer Cardtronics plc.

The company says it launched T-Mobile Money because it sensed some major weaknesses in traditional bank offerings that go beyond fees and interest rates. It argues that smart phones constitute the fastest-growing digital platform, citing a consumer survey from consulting service PwC. But less than half of banks say they have formed a digital strategy, T-Mobile says in its announcement, while just 13% say their core systems “can keep up with digital innovation.” Sources for these figures are researchers the Boston Consulting Group and The Financial Brand, respectively, according to T-Mobile.

“Traditional banks aren’t mobile-first, and they’re definitely not customer-first,” said John Legere, chief executive of T-Mobile, in a statement. “As more and more people use their smart phones to manage money, we saw an opportunity to address another customer pain point.”

The app works on the Android 5.1 operating system or later and, for Apple devices, on iOS 10.3 or later. It’s also open to any customer, including those who don’t use T-Mobile as their carrier.

This isn’t T-Mobile’s first foray into mobile payments and financial services. Along with rival carriers ATT Inc. and Verizon Wireless, the company in 2010 launched a mobile wallet called Softcard that later competed briefly with Apple Pay and similar offerings. Early in 2015, the telecom companies shut down the service and transferred the technology behind it to Alphabet Inc., owner of Google Pay.

In March, T-Mobile announced it would offer merchant services with its GoPoint program, which includes payment-card processing services and mobile card readers. T-Mobile and rival Sprint Corp. announced plans a year ago to merge, but the controversial deal still hasn’t been consummated.