Want to Work from Home?

“Letting Employees Work from Home Can Be a Win-Win for Employers and Staff Alike.”

For employees, the option to telecommute appeals to a vast majority of full-time workers.  Research by Global Workplace Analytics found that there are benefits for employees and employers when employees telecommute and work at home.  For employees, the chief advantages are

  • Reduced time commuting to work
  • Lower costs of commuting to the office
  • Less stress of juggling the demands of work and family

There are also benefits for employers including

  • Less office space is needed because not every employee works in the office every day
  • Lower expenses for rent or costs associated with ownership of office space
  • A new way to attract talent because employees like the option of working at home
  • Increased employee motivation and engagement because telecommuting is considered a benefit

The top five companies and organizations that encourage telecommuting are:

  1. United-Health Group
  2. Dell
  3. S. Department of Agriculture
  4. Xerox
  5. Humana

For more information about this article and a complete list of the top 20 companies for telecommuting,  click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to point out the benefits of telecommuting.

Discussion Questions

  1. Not everyone is a candidate to work at home. What traits and time management skills are needed if you obtain a job where you can work at home?
  2. Are there disadvantages to telecommuting and working at home?

Active Management. Good or Bad?

“Advisors and investors are increasingly focused more on lower fee products amid expectations that finding consistently strong performing active funds is hard.”

Passive investing (index funds and exchange traded funds) has been a trend on Wall Street for years.  So, what’s different?  The answer:  The trend is increasing at an alarming rate and investors are now retreating from actively managed funds that are beating their benchmark index.  According to data from Morningstar, investors pulled $99 billion from the actively managed funds that beat their benchmarks over a 12-month period ending January 31, 2017.  This is a remarkable trend given that most investors typically chase funds with high performance and high returns.

The reasons are many, and certainly lower fees is part of the reason, but not the only factor for this dramatic trend.  Another very important factor is that the number of managed funds that consistently beat the index over a long period of time is small.  According to data from Charles Schwab, the number of funds that score in the top 25% for at least two years is 1,098.  The number of funds drops to 702 at the end of three years, and to 33 funds at six years.  Only 4 funds score in the top 25% for at least seven years, and none stay in the top 25% for eight years.

The article goes on to say that this trend may encourage more actively managed funds to focus on bringing down the fees for their investment products in order to compete with the expense ratios for index funds and exchange traded funds.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Discuss the difference between index funds, ETFs, and managed funds.
  • Reinforce how important fees and performance are when choosing a mutual fund.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the difference between a managed fund, an index fund, and an exchange traded fund?
  2. Which type of fund do you think could help you obtain your investment goals? Why?

Fraud Victims Vulnerable to Severe Stress, Anxiety and Depression

The FINRA Investor Education Foundation issued a new research report, Non-Traditional Costs of Financial Fraud, which found that nearly two thirds of self-reported financial fraud victims experienced at least one non-financial cost of fraud to a serious degree—including severe stress, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and depression. While the Stanford Financial Fraud Research Center estimates that $50 billion is lost to financial fraud every year, the FINRA Foundation’s innovative research examines the broader psychological and emotional impact of financial fraud.

“Fraud’s effects linger and cause distress well after the scam is over. For the first time, we have data on the deep toll that fraud exerts on its victims, and the results are sobering. This new research underscores the importance of the FINRA Foundation’s work with an array of national, state and local partners to help Americans avoid fraud, and assist consumers who have been defrauded,” said FINRA Foundation President Gerri Walsh.

The research report found that:

  • nearly two thirds (65 percent) reported experiencing at least one type of non-financial cost to a serious degree; and
  • most commonly cited non-financial costs of fraud are severe stress (50 percent), anxiety (44 percent), difficulty sleeping (38 percent) and depression (35 percent).
  •  Beyond the psychological and emotional costs, nearly half of fraud victims reported incurring indirect financial costs associated with the fraud, such as late fees, legal fees and bounced checks. Twenty-nine percent of respondents reported incurring more than $1,000 in indirect costs, and 9 percent declared bankruptcy as a result of the fraud.

Additionally, nearly half of victims blame themselves for the fraud—an indication of the far-reaching effects of financial fraud on the lives of its victims.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to list a few suggestions to protect themselves from financial fraud.
  • Explain how FINRA can assist consumers who have been the victims of financial fraud.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are a few indirect financial costs associated with funds?
  2. Why nearly half of victims blame themselves for being victims of financial fraud?
  3. How and where should you report financial fraud?

Does It Sounds Too Good To Be True?

A current email scam invites people to take advantage of “a little known Social Security contract” which enables you to receive “little known benefits.”  Think that sounds too good to be true? It should—there is no “little known Social Security contract.”

What are some clues that scams might not be legitimate?  Scammers insist that the situation is urgent and issue warnings.  They try to convince you to act now to avoid dire consequences.  They promise a deal or secret that the public doesn’t know about.  They come from organizations unknown to you.  They offer things the government doesn’t want you to know, but they don’t come from a .gov website.

The Federal Trade Commission’s website maintains a list of scams in the news.  You can sign up to be notified by an e-mail when new scams appear.  You can also get free consumer education materials and read the latest from consumer protection experts.  Stay well informed by visiting the FTC scam alert page.  It’s in your best interest to find out about the scams and how they work so you won’t fall a victim to one yourself.  Protect yourself by learning how to avoid scams and fraud.  You can search for “identity Theft” or “phishing scam” on Social Security website, www.socialsecurity.gov to learn more about how to protect yourself.  Then you’ll be the one who knew it sounded too good to be true.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students what they would do if they received such enticing offers.
  • Ask students to make a list of agencies where they can file a complaint against these scammers.

Discussion Questions

  1. How can you determine if the offer is legitimate?
  2. What can you do to protect yourself from such bogus offers?

FINRA’s National Financial Capability Study (NFCS)

According to a recent FINRA study, the financial circumstances of Americans have improved over the last several years—driven in large part by an improving economy and job market.  For example, the percentage of survey respondents reporting no difficulty in covering their monthly expenses increased from 36 percent to 48 percent.  This is very significant and 12 percentage point improvement.

However, some groups are still struggling, particularly blacks and Hispanics, those without a high school education, and women.  Here are some sobering statistic: About half of respondents with only a high school diploma or no diploma could not come up with $2,000 in an emergency compared to 18 percent for those with a college degree.

Debt continues to be a problem for many Americans.  More than one-in-five Americans have unpaid medical debt.  Similarly, more than one-in-five Americans with credit cards have been contacted by a debt collection agency in the last year.

In terms of financial literacy, absolute levels are low; only 37 percent of respondents are considered highly financial literate—meaning they could answer four or five basic questions correctly on a five-question financial literacy quiz.  And, financial literacy is down slightly since 2009.

For more information,click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this article to

  • Help students understand that many minority groups are still struggling even though economy and job markets have improved.
  • Explain how people can improve their financial lives by saving even a tiny portion of their income for emergencies.

Discussion Questions

  1. What can be done to improve the financial circumstances of minorities?
  2. What might be some reasons that debt continues to be a problem for many Americans?
  3. Since financial literacy levels are so low, what can individuals, local, state and Federal governments can to improve financial literacy of all Americans?

Essential Career Questions

Career planning experts offer a wide variety of guidelines for moving forward in your employment situation.  Use of the following questions can help you develop an action plan for greater career success and personal satisfaction.

  1. What do you like to learn?
  2. What do you do in your spare time for fun?
  3. Are you creating a career for your parents, for society, from your own excitement, or for money?
  4. What is your definition of work?
  5. What challenge excites you the most in your life right now?
  6. What impact do you want to have on other people’s lives or in the world?
  7. Do you feel confident that you are exceptional at something?
  8. What do you want: more joy or more power?
  9. Do you want to be like your parents? Why or why not?
  10. What do you do that builds your confidence?
  11. How often are you bored
  12. Are you proactive about sharing your ideas with your team and managers?
  13. Whom do you admire most? Are they passionate and purpose driven by their work?
  14. When you make decisions about your career, do you often consider what other people will think of your decision?
  15. What advice would you give yourself today about where you are in your career based on where you want to go?
  16. What does success mean to you?

For additional information on essential career questions, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students use one or more of these questions to talk to others about their career planning activities.
  • Have students prepare answers to several of these questions to help guide their career planning activities.

 Discussion Questions 

  1. Which of these questions are most valuable to you to guide your career planning activities?
  2. What are some additional questions that you might ask yourself or others to help guide their career planning?

Monthly Actions to Save $1,000

Many people in our society are not able to save.  They are barely able to cover their monthly expenses.  However, there are some actions that can help you get on a path to saving.

In the first month, open an online bank account and deposit a minimum amount, such as $5.  This is a very important first step.  In month two, save $15 (or more) in your online savings account.  One way to do this is with Paribus, an online tool that searches various retailers to determine if you are owed money for past purchases as a result of a price drop.

Your goal for month three is to work toward savings $100.  This could be accomplished by signing up with market research companies to participate in providing opinions. Or, you could try selling old items online. By consistently using various ideas for earning extra money, you should be able to save $100 a month.

For additional information on starting a savings program, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students to talk various people to determine actions they take to reduce spending or earn extra money.
  • Have students create a summary presentation describing actions that might be taken to increase a person’s savings.

Discussion Questions 

  1. Describe attitudes and behaviors that might result in people not being able to save for the future.
  2. What are actions you have taken to reduce spending and to earn extra money for savings?

Top Employee Benefits

Several companies provide benefits that go beyond the usual to serve their employees.  Some examples include:

  • IKEA offers as much as four months paid parental leave to both part-time and full-time employees after working for the company for a year.
  • Bain & Company sponsors an annual soccer tournament for employees in different locations around the world.
  • Facebook provides healthcare coverage and free housing for interns.
  • Starbucks provides full tuition reimbursement for employees for an online bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University.
  • Eventbrite offers a monthly $60 wellness stipend for use on expenses such as gym dues and juice cleanses.
  • Deloitte offers sabbatical programs. One is an unpaid one-month sabbatical, which can be taken for any reason. Another is a three- to six-month sabbatical for personal or professional growth with 40 percent pay.
  • Southwest offers employees and dependents access to Clear Skies, which provides confidential counseling and legal consultation.
  • Timberland employees can take up to 40 hours of paid time off per year to volunteer.

For additional information on unique employee benefits, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to others about the employee benefits they believe to be most valuable for their life situation.
  • Have students suggest employee benefits that would be of value for various household and life situations.

Discussion Questions 

  1. Describe family and life situations that would be helped by various employee benefits.
  2. What are factors people might consider when determining whether to take a job with an organization?

Overdraft Opt-in or Opt-out?

Most financial institutions offer overdraft programs for checking accounts, which for a fee covers a transaction where there is not enough in the account.  However, this service can result in several fees before the next deposit is made.  For debit cards, an overdraft fee cannot be charged unless you have agreed (“opted in”) to these fees.

To reduce or eliminate overdraft fees, these actions are suggested:

  1. carefully track your balance; sign up for low-balance alerts
  2. check your balance when making a debit card purchase; also consider other checks that may not yet cleared
  3. do not opt-in to an overdraft program for your debit card, or opt-out if you are currently opted in; while your debit/ATM may be declined, you will avoid high fees
  4. link your checking account to a savings account to cover overdrafts
  5. contact your financial institution to determine if you are eligible for a line of credit or a linked credit card to cover overdrafts
  6. compare account fees at other financial institutions

Complaints related to overdraft fees or other financial services may be submitted at   http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/ or by calling 855-411-2372.

For additional information on overdraft programs, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students search online or contact the costs associated with overdraft fees at various financial institutions.
  • Have students prepare a creative presentation describing actions to take to avoid overdraft fees.

Discussion Questions 

  1. Describe situations that might result in overdraft fees.
  2. What are methods to take to avoid overdraft fees?

IRS: Protect Yourself from Telephone Scammers

Recently, there have been numerous calls from the “IRS” threatening you with lawsuits or jail sentences unless you pay up immediately.  Don’t be a victim.  The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail, text message or social media channels to request personal or financial information.  This includes requests for PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.

Remember, the IRS will never

  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first sending you a bill.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for a credit or debit card number over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

For more information,click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they have received a call from the “IRS” impersonators. If so, what was their response?
  • Have students visit irs.gov and click on Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts to learn what the agency is doing to stop these annoying calls.

Discussion Questions

  1. What should do if you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you know you don’t owe any taxes?
  2. Who should you contact to report such calls from the imposters?