There is plenty of personal finance information out there every week, if you keep your eyes and ears open. Here are just a few of the things that I heard, read or saw this past week. I just wonder if young people, who could really use this kind of information, are receiving it through their social media platforms.
As I have frequently written, I am not qualified to give investment advice, but I think that everyone on occasion should listen to some of those Sunday morning investment radio shows. I am not suggesting that anyone follow any of the possible advice they might hear. However, between the listeners calling in with questions and personal experiences, and the responses of the moderators, those shows can be a good primer on many of the basic principles of investing. You can hear discussions on things like why bond prices can go up when stock prices go down; how so many future events are already “baked” into the stock market; and the difference between selling a stock, and getting the market price at the time of sale, or a mutual fund, and getting the market price at the close of business that day. You can also hear discussions on the principles of diversification, dollar cost averaging, and risk tolerance, and you can learn what Exchange Traded Funds are all about. That knowledge will help you have more informed discussions if and when you meet with a financial advisor to put together a personal financial and investment plan.
CBS News did a piece which definitely caught my attention. It was about the new trends in high school seniors' photos, including that some families are spending between $2,000 and $3,000, or even more, on them. Apparently, it is about a “wow factor,” and capturing the graduates’ personalities, dreams, fantasies and most treasured experiences. I get that, and I don’t know if this is a growing trend in our area, but this statement was somewhat alarming: “Kids bring their personalities; parents bring their credit cards.”
I was reminded on an attorney radio talk show, that you can periodically take a relatively inexpensive New York State-approved defensive driving course (classes or online), and receive a discount on your automobile insurance premiums. That in itself is helpful, but what can be even more important is that it can get you thinking about other possible discounts, so that you can ask about and discuss them with your insurance agent. They can include things like bundling home and auto policies, maintaining good credit, driving fewer miles than the average motorist, being a member of a group that is eligible for a discount, having special safety features like running lights or blind spot indictors on your vehicles, and, of course, having a good driving record.
This important issue can affect the personal finances of millions of Americans in the future. I, for one, am glad to be hearing more and more these days, and this week, about the need for expanding and improving existing apprenticeship programs in this country, as well as looking in more detail at adopting, and socially and culturally accepting, a more comprehensive and well-funded national apprenticeship program, much like those in many European countries.
We have all heard it, and CNN Money recently confirmed it, the United States has a record 6 million job openings, even when 6.8 million Americans are looking for jobs. The most common explanations are that job seekers tend to lack the skills in demand, job seekers may not always be willing to move to where the jobs that match their skills are available, and employers may have unrealistic expectations. The last reason is the “job certification inflation” trend in this country, which we discussed in our series on free college. CNN Money gave this example: 65 percent of job postings for executive secretaries require a college degree, but only 19 percent of current executive secretaries have college degrees.
As expressed recently by the Trump Administration, expanding apprenticeship programs in existing areas is important, but creating programs in new areas is critical to closing some of the “skills gap.” To me, given the costs of a traditional four-year college education, where there are not the opportunities there once were for nearly every college graduate, and the fact that college just is not for everyone, it seems to me that we should be looking at a national system of apprenticeship programs in many more areas than the traditional manual-labor, blue-collar careers that too many of us unfortunately think of today.
A recent theatlantic.com article looked deeper into some of the European models, such as in Germany, where 60 percent of young people train through apprenticeship programs, in more than 340 different occupations, including fields like marketing, pharmacology, sales and accounting. By the way, Sergio Ermotti, the president of UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, started in an apprenticeship program in a small private bank after he left school at 15 years old.
In today’s global economy, with its ever continuing technical and automation advances, isn’t it time for all Americans to learn more about all of the benefits that could result from a comprehensive, expanded and regulated national apprenticeship system, and to come to the realization that a bachelor’s degree is not for everyone, so that alternatives are understood to be socially acceptable? I will no doubt discuss this more in future columns.
These are just some of the things this week that I learned and that had me thinking.
John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo