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[Rant on…]

Are we becoming a nation of spoiled wimps?

Based on this article I read in Sunday morning’s Houston Chronicle, I would say the evidence is mounting that we are.

Trader Joe’s has been a shopper’s favorite for years now. They have a great reputation of friendly service and great prices, but the article postulates that employees are encouraged to act like they are in a good mood even when they are not.

From the article:

“…in recent years, the patina of good cheer has masked growing strife and demoralization in some stores on the East Coast, far from the company’s base in California. A number of workers, known at Trader Joe’s as ‘crew members,’ complain of harsh and arbitrary treatment at the hands of managers, of chronic safety lapses and of an atmosphere of surveillance.

“…some employees say they are pressured to appear happy with customers and co-workers, even when that appearance is starkly at odds with what is happening at the store.”

And there’s this…

“Other employees in stores across the Northeast and Middle Atlantic regions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs, echoed Nagle’s description of stockroom hazards and managers’ behavior. A worker in Brooklyn said that if two workers spoke to one another for more than a minute or two while on the job, often a manager would appear and ask, ‘What’s going on?'”

It’s amazing that Trader Joe’s can has any employees at all based on those deplorable conditions. How horrible! (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

I have an idea! If you work for a company that is so horrible that you have to fake being nice, then quit. Go work somewhere else. I can’t even believe the New York Times would publish such drivel.

[…rant off]

I know lots of people love social security. I know lots of people consider social security a successful government program. I disagree.

A comment left in my previous post about the 2017 changes coming to social security, inspired me to list out what I don’t like about the program.

So, here they are:

1. I don’t like the underhanded way Roosevelt went about passing the social security act in threatening to pack the Supreme Court.
2. I’m not a fan of the government confiscating our money with the promise of giving it back to us at some later date.
3. I don’t like the government confiscating our money, but still taxing us on it as if it was our money.
4. I don’t like the government taxing social security payments.
5. I don’t like the government deciding how much “other” income is allowed before social security payments become taxable. Those who are diligent in saving for retirement will be penalized.
6. I don’t like that social security is a pay-as-you-go plan, which means current recipients’ payments are funded by current workers. At the very least, the plan should have been set up as separate accounts.
7. I don’t like that the income subject to confiscation keeps going up each year.
8. I don’t like that social security has given many people a false sense of financial security, which leads many people to not save for retirement.

I’m sure there are other things I could find that I don’t like about social security, but this is a good start.

I feel the program could have been much better had it been set up as individual savings accounts rather than the pay-as-you-go plan. FDR knew what he was doing when he set it up the way he did. He knew if he set it up as a pay-as-you-go plan, it would never be done away with.

Meet Glover Quin

October 26, 2016 — 2 Comments

This is a great piece about financial savvy of Detroit Lions safety, Glover Quin. Doesn’t happen often enough.

He saved 70% of his income the first three years of his NFL career and lived on the other 30%. Too many young players get the big money and go on wild spending sprees. Not Mr. Quin. He not only saved 70% of his income, he INVESTED it. Now 30-years old, Mr. Quin might be lucky to have five more good years. If he continues at his current pace, he should be able to retire and live comfortably the rest of his life.

I wish him the best.

I just saw that the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for social security recipients is going up a whopping .3% (yes, that’s point three percent!).

What really stinks is the amount of income subject to confiscation (that’s really what it is, you know) is going up from $118,500 to $127,200, a WHOPPING 7.3% INCREASE! That means those who make enough will see an additional $539 confiscated from their checks.

Longtime AFM readers know how much I loathe social security.

Source: Social Security Administration Press Release

This piece comes to us via a daily email I receive from Wells Fargo.

Employers are struggling to find workers with soft skills, such as critical thinking, empathy, and the ability to get along with colleagues.

The Wall Street Journal cites a recent LinkedIn study that revealed 58% of 291 hiring managers believe the dearth of soft skills in the job market is hindering their firms’ productivity. Meanwhile, 89% of 900 executives polled by the Journal in 2015 said finding candidates with soft skills has proven very or somewhat difficult.

As the labor market tightens, businesses are spending more money and time on methods for screening and discovering candidates who possess skills that range from engaging customers in small talk or taking the initiative to lead a firm-wide project that requires reaching out across the invisible boundaries that sometimes divide teams.

According to the Journal, companies are saying they’re less inclined to provide training that could ramp up employees’ soft skills as they would with training for topics such as technical skills or industry licensure. In turn, this could be a driver behind the country’s high number of unfulfilled job openings, as reported by the Labor Department.

LinkedIn crunched data from its users’ professional profiles to find out which soft skills were most prevalent among users who successfully landed jobs they’d applied for. Here are a few of the leading attributes:

  • Communication
  • Capacity for teamwork
  • Creativity
  • Adaptability

To some, these skills might seem like a given. They’d ask, “How could you not know how to hold a conversation or engage in critical thinking to build an informed judgement?” But it’s not that easy for everyone. Some workers may be well-intentioned and interested in the success of their employer and would sincerely like to feel engaged with their peers—but the attributes required for these things need cultivation or awakening in order to shine through.

This requires critical (and new) thinking by employers. Technical and industry skills are essential; but how can you shift the priority so soft skills are factored into professional development plans and goals? In addition, traditional workplace training methods—such as webinars, workshops, or courses—can be convenient and effective. But if your goal is to bring out the best in your workers’ more nuanced traits and personalities, what’s the best method?

Here’s a good approach: According to Learning & Development, executives at British Gas view volunteering as a positive indicator of a job applicant’s soft skills. In fact, the company encourages its employees to take two days of paid leave to volunteer in their communities. Not only is volunteering a great thing to do, British Gas sees it as a way to develop soft skills, such as the ability to relate to customers.

If you can’t tell already, I’m a big proponent of the development of soft skills in the workplace. A major influence on my career came from my years of training in Boston’s improv comedy scene. While there’s no memorizing lines for an improv comedy show (scenes are 100% created from scratch), there are countless exercises, games, and practice sessions that stimulate the mind and enable new skills. In terms of soft skills, improv training enhances the ability to listen completely, present new ideas fearlessly, and think on your feet in high-pressure situations. And above all, it shows you the importance of creating and maintaining a culture of support within your team.

Much like British Gas’ focus on volunteering, these exercises bring about attributes that are good in the workplace and good in life.

John D. Natale

Longtime readers of AFM know that I’m not a fan of misleading people. I don’t publish paid blog posts without a disclaimer stating that the post is an advertisement. Advertisers don’t care for that, but I think it is the right thing to do.

That said…

I read a short piece by Sapna Maheshwari in yesterday’s Houston Chronicle about how celebrities are advertising to their followers. The problem is that the postings usually don’t specify that they are advertisements. Rather, they come across as testimonials.

The reasons for this are simple: the money is huge!

The article states, “Captiv8, a company that connects brands to influencers, says someone with 3 million to 7 million followers can charge, on average, $187,500 for a post on YouTube, $75,000 for a post on Instagram or Snap-chat and $30,000 for a post on Twitter. For influencers with 50,000 to 500,000 followers, the average is $2,500 for YouTube, $1,000 for Instagram or Snapchat and $400 for Twitter.”

I would hope that people aren’t so naive to believe that celebrities—excuse me, I mean influencers—aren’t getting paid for some of their postings. I have always assumed they were.

From an article I read in today’s Houston Chronicle:

“Parents expect to spend an average of $673.57 on electronics, clothes and notebooks this year, compared with $630.36 last year, according to the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group. In total, parents of kindergarten through 12th-grade students say they will spend $27.3 billion on school supplies this year, up from $18.4 billion in 2007.”

We have one daughter still living at home. We probably spent around that average. One surprise large purchase we had to make this year was a TI NSpire CX calculator, which set us back around $120. As long as she doesn’t lose it, she should be able to use it through college.

How much did you spend on back to school?