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BITN: Debt Rits Roof; Homey Gap Years; Retirees Reeling

Posted on: Monday, February 26th, 2024
Posted in: Spendology, Work/Life Hacking, BITN | Leave a comment

Are ‘kids these days’ lazy, entitled, and floating? Or are they truly having a hard time finding financial independence? To find out, jump in and read on…

BreakAways in the News has been on, well, on a BreakAway for a while. As usual, we partially blame the interns—who are still discovering their inner work ethic, fascinated by their phones, and often taking advantage of our generous mental-health leave bennies. (And some still live at home!)

Speaking of mental health…though it’s true that travel is BACK—just check out airfare prices—it’s also true that behind that bright & shiny first-class section, the overall financial health for Americans is rather dark. Here are 3 quick stories designed to keep us aware and inspire that commitment you toasted to on 12-31-23 for better fiscal fitness…

Covid brought much grief and angst, but also some pennies from heaven (AKA Washington, DC). Well, those days are gone. Inflation has raised the cost of everything, student loans are again (over)due, and credit card balances have hit a record $1.13 trillion. All together now: OUCH!

What’s more, savings has also declined dramatically. Duh. Ironically, lots of lucky Americans are simultaneously enjoying a booming stock market and impressive increases in their home value.

But both payoffs are often out of way out of reach, including for the kids of comfortable parental units. For more about that (adult) kid in the basement, read on.

  • 1/3 of offspring 18-34 living at home

For those of us of a certain age (OK, Boomer), the notion of crashing for months (years?) with the parents was unthinkable. Oh sure, it happened to some people, but not for long. My parents gave me deep roots and giant wings; I flew the coop and, though I visit often, I never moved in again. Yes, I’m proud of that. And a bit agog at the current kiddo hospitality boom.

But I get it: It’s the stupid economy, yet again. In a recent column, Michelle Singeletary (the wonderful personal finance writer/author for the Washington Post) laid bare the realities of the current live-with-the-‘rents trend. And frankly, with some mature boundaries and conversation, it’s not such a bad thing. Ponder these factoids, mostly courtesy of PEW…

• 64% of the young adults say the arrangement has helped their financial situation

• 69% state the level of involvement with their parents in their lives is about right

• 68% look to their parents for advice on their money management

Ms. Singeltary (who is of course an expert in these matters, and admits to having 3 adult progeny at home) asserts that success for all can be found in this acronym:

“Make sure they have a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based) plan.”

In other words, there are RULES! Like…Everyone cooks. Rent is free so long as debt is disappearing and saving is happening. Parents get to ask questions—and scream real loud if the kid fails to save yet takes exotic vacations and club-hops like Warhol in the 70s. That’s just enabling, although Andy did NOT live at home and could support himself nicely. (He was also infamous for his frugality; his diaries detail every penny he spent, every day.)

The irony here is that if the adult offspring messes up, you gotta kick ‘em out. What then, dear columnist? I dunno. And as the dad of 2 kids—who are welcome here as long as we co-exist SMARTly—I hope not to find out.

MPR economist and author Chris Farrell recently outlined the rather dire future many Americans face as retirement draws nearer. For starters, 1 in 4 don’t even know how much they have saved. Topping that: A huge percentage are in jobs that provide inadequate retirement benefit opportunities.

Farrell and cronies offer these few ideas for hope…

Increase the benefits of Social Security (which most people rely on)

Have the US government offer low- and middle-income citizens a government-run 401K program

Encourage employers to turn bad jobs into better jobs with improved pay, advancement opportunities, and retirement plans

  • $ makes the world go ‘round (or not!)

Debt crises. Kids unable to launch. Wannabe retirees running on empty. We all hope to avoid such crushing woes, right? And use a part of our well-earned savings to reward ourselves with travel, free time (it’s FREE!), and self-care.

When in doubt, consult BreakAway’s 11 Commandments for Fiscal Fitness.

Quiz Tuesday. Please save yourself. And thanks for listening.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Camera, not gun

Posted on: Friday, February 23rd, 2024
Posted in: FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

I met this fellow photographer on 12-26-17, and jokingly asked him not to shoot me.

Every time this picture shows up, I think that guy is carrying a gun. Perhaps we are all getting gun-fried from the ongoing assault images from Gaza, Ukraine, mass shootings, and more. But in this case, rest in peace. That young man was simply using an old-school movie cam to capture the amazing imagery of Salvation Mountain, a mammoth religious installation near the equally bizarre Salton Sea, near Palm Springs, CA.

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Got PTO? Use It or Lose It (Literally!)

Posted on: Tuesday, February 6th, 2024
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle, Spendology, Work/Life Hacking | Leave a comment

Why is that bucolic scene sitting empty? Because Americans are refusing to take their time—vacation time, sick time, family leave time, PTO, etc!

Our lovely local newspaper has been publishing articles pushing people to take their time off, dang it. And why not? We’re rich! While one story today announced that Americans now over over $1T in credit card debt, the flip side of that coin is this stunning factoid: We also have hundreds of millions of unused paid time off (AKA PTO).

  • Making time for what matters

Those 5 words may best summarize what BreakAway is all about. And really, if your employer gives you the gift of time, you’re not even really making it. You’re just not taking it. Which brings us to a longer variation of our $1m tagline:

  • Making and TAKING time for what matters MOST

Free time matters MOST! Mr. Johnson outlines some common-sense savvy on how to BreakAway from the vocation and find that vacation…we’ll honor those. But first, here are some convincing details about the profundity of the need…

We mentioned: 100s of millions of FREE days go unspent and often, lost.

Nearly ½ of employees don’t take all their days. (Pew)

As burnout rates keep rising, 2/3 of workers say time off is the cure. (Aflac)

Numerous studies prove that more R&R leads to less heart attacks, depression, etc.

Worried about keeping up? WRONG! Performance rates actually rise with time off. (E&Y)

Dream therapy: Even the planning and anticipation of time off lowers stress. (AAA)

R&R also clearly lowers stress. Which improves job attendance, performance, longevity. I mean…Sure, bosses want hard workers, but not sick (or dead!) ones.

  • Some ways to maximize your getaway potential

Over-achievers are always welcome, right? Well then, let’s look at ways to also achieve our potential as well-rounded, we’ll-rested relaxation renegades…

Extend holidays. 3-day weekend? Make it 4, 5, 6, or 7!

Seek staycations. Simplify the logistics and hunker down in your bed or hammock.

Maximize mental health days. Maybe you need it; or perhaps your parents or kids need your help. Don’t be shy. In fact, why not sneak in a narcissism day!?!

Avoid saving up your sickness days. Oh sure, you may need them worse later. But if you stay well rested and recreation-ed, you’re less likely to get sick!

Shop for another way to be away. As employers gradually broaden their offerings, ask about family leave, volunteer days, and bereavement. (Use that bereavement day to lament the lost days off you may have missed in your lifetime.)

  • SUB: It’s never too late to dream on

However you motivate yourself, put it to work! On BreakAways, not…work! Keep a fantasy file? Watch travel shows? Challenge yourself to (at least) one getaway per month? Say YES to invites that come your way? Visit those long-lost (and maybe aging) friends and relatives. Take off with that camera, guitar or other once-vital hobby.

I know, I know…it’s easy for me to say. While I HAVE worked hard (and sometimes still do), I’ve excelled at…Making and taking time for what matters most.

Please join me. Wherever we’re going. Hope to see you there…

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FOTOFRIDAY: One Day 2 Years Ago…

Posted on: Friday, February 2nd, 2024
Posted in: SoulTrain, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

Embrace the spirals of nature. Fresh snow inspires fresh snow art.

I’ve made so many works of snow art that I have lost count, and can barely find them all in my enormous photo files. So when this one popped up when scrolling today, a distant cold day warmed my heart. Note the globe on top!

This year, we have no snow. The record-breaking warmth is pleasant and easy. But I do miss the bright white, the childish magic of playing in fresh white stuff, and making spontaneous snow creations. Climate change keeps getting freakier. So jump in the snow when you can. And of course…

Keep the faith.

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Have Yourself a Lonely Little New Year

Posted on: Thursday, January 18th, 2024
Posted in: Unplugging | Leave a comment

Kayaking alone can be cool. Living and aging alone can feel more like slow drowning.

As a season, winter brings on more staring, sitting, pondering. So perhaps the squall of loneliness articles appearing all over is just cold coincidence. But maybe not. Without question, a storm of cultural shifts is causing folks to go it alone: Social media; screen dependence; political division; busy-ness; growing single statuses, more. It’s rather sad.

As a successfully sometimes-single person who previously spent decades giving my children wide wings (once we were done nurturing deep roots), I know the feeling of isolation. I also see it in my parents, people their age, and aging communities. These things REALLY become relevant when people are, like, disabled, dying, getting dementia, or unable to leave their residence.

Check out these headlines and subheads that recently fell in front of me:

  • Home alone: America’s crisis of isolation…Modern life downplays the importance of neighbors. (by Seth D. Kaplan, LA Times)
  • Where has community gone?…We need to interact with people different from ourselves. (by Kris Potter, of South Haven, MN)
  • Aging ‘Solos’ Need Support (by Katy Read, Star Tribune)
  • What a big difference small talk can make…Don’t be a stranger. Say something. (By Deborah Malmo, of Plymouth, MN)

I could summarize the articles. But the headlines rather speak for themselves and, frankly, it’s kinda distressing. Suffice it to say that this quiet, lurking issue will only worsen. People are living longer. The percentage of elderly living alone keeps growing. And the social hubs of the past (church, local cafes, family gatherings) keep decreasing in popularity and availability.

  • We, Robot?

Naturally, technology provides the problem yet sometimes a potential solution. An AP article by Terry Spencer details a “chatty” companion robot in testing mode that converses, “jokes, plays music, and provides occasionally inspirational quotes.” And…“leads exercises…gives reminders to take medications and drink water.” Host video calls and contact rellies and doctors? CHECK!

The thing sizes up like a small table lamp, yet remembers discussions, interests, and previous chats, whether about weather or … the meaning of life.

This professional unplugger recoils at such prophetic possibilities. And yet, if a cyborg can lessen loneliness, that’s a cautious sign of hope.

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FOTOFRIDAY: A View from Vegas

Posted on: Thursday, January 11th, 2024
Posted in: Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

Just another front-row selfie from an NFL game.

That’s yours truly—hanging (almost literally) out in Allegiant Stadium watching a LV Raiders game, just like last year. I am afforded such suite luxuries because my son plays on the team. The absurdity of Vegas (more soon) never sleeps. The mania of the NFL slams like a Maxx Crosby tackle. And the people watching everywhere tops gambling as a star attraction.

The stadium really is—REALLY is—futuristic and brilliantly entertaining. (Who needs a game!?!) Watching from up-close really is different (and way better) than watching on TV. And much to the raucous delight of the proudly outlandish fans, the home team won the last game of the season.

RAH!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Happy (?) Solstice!

Posted on: Friday, December 22nd, 2023
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

This installment of the Snow Art Series is titled Solstice Rosy Sunshine.

Why the (?) in Happy Solstice headline? Well, lotsa reasons, including that the day is DARK, the weather can be frightful, and it portends the start of winter. Still, the day is full of hope and reasons to festivate. (Or just unplug and meditate.) Stonehenge was built 5,000 years ago by Solstice fans, and people throughout the N side of the globe have commemorated in countless creative (and sometimes shocking) ways since the Pagan days.

My 2023 commemoration stayed simple. Some sun-colored roses offer reminders of brighter days ahead, while taunting a frozen (and slippery!) lake for a backdrop. Fortunately, the day was unseasonably warm enough to assure that the roses survived the photo shoot unscathed—though I was prepared for them to become sacrificial blooms.

They’re inside now. The earth has tilted. And we’re only 6 months til the longest day…and a full year until we can commemorate the dark daze yet again. I may not be ready, but I won’t miss out. Happy Solstice!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Liberty is Not a B/W Issue

Posted on: Friday, December 8th, 2023
Posted in: SoulTrain, Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

I stumbled on this pic from a fun week in NYNY in 2015 with my daughter, who was only 12 at the time. The statue looks stark, perhaps because Lady Liberty knows the world is ringing with divisiveness, war, extremism, and worse. It’s no fun for wide-eyed children and millions (billions?) of people all over the world.

Yet it’s the holiday season. So we continue to hope and pray for peace, love, and understanding. Nothing so funny about that, right? So as possible, please turn down the noise and enjoy your holiday rituals and festivities.

And of course, keep the faith.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Reflections on a Balmy Fall

Posted on: Friday, November 17th, 2023
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

Punny or not…No season brings deeper or more colorful reflections than fall.

Fall is a great time to travel—a ‘shoulder season’ when the tourists are usually back home yet the tourism bizzes are still humming but without irksome crowds and lines. The weather can be lovely if you choose the right place and have some luck. And autumn in most climes brings a free show of color and natural transformation.

And yet…fall is a good time to be home too. ESPECIALLY this year, here in MN, where we were gifted with drought-busting rains but also more sunny, warm days than I can count. Record-breaking stuff! The lake is full; the neighborhood pontoon party is still afloat. Chores got done without the panic of stinging snow or frozen fingers. We’ve been blissfully blessed.

Oh yeah, the other shoe WILL drop. Hard and cold. And soon, like, next week. Still, as I watched with envy while friends flew off to autumnal BreakAways in Italy, Nashville, and beyond, I also rejoiced in the epiphany that, often, the best place to travel is your own lovely yard.

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FOTOFRIDAY: So Far Away, Yet So Halloween

Posted on: Friday, October 27th, 2023
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

It’s the spooky season…Beware of wayward pirates!

St. Vincent gets flown over by most tourists, but maybe that’s one reason this mountainous Caribbean island has been on my mind lately. As winter begins to slam MN, seems like the myriad snowbirds flock (slam?) to…Florida. Or Mexico. Who even thinks about St. Vinny? Well, I do. Fun fact: There are steel drum jams, but no traffic jams there!

Maybe folks are afraid. Imagine how many people had to die—and then get dug up—to find all these coffins! In truth, they’re leftovers from the filming of “The Curse of the Black Pearl.” And probably long since rotted away, as pic comes from January 2009. But you could see a LOT of sets, scenes, and (of course) coffins, if you had the right…guidebook!

Hey if it’s good enough for Captain Jack Sparrow (and Johnny Depp), it’s good enough for me. Aaaaarrrgghh…

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