Saturday, November 27, 2021

Young People Prefer a Mortgage Over Marriage


The pandemic has put a number of things on pause over the past couple of years----and one of those things seems to be marriage. According to a recent survey, on behalf of Coldwell Banker, more young people say they are committed "to have and to hold" a mortgage rather than to take a trip down the aisle "for better or for worse." As a matter of fact, 82 percent of unmarried Americans would rather invest in a home than pay for a big expensive wedding.

85 percent of unmarried females say they would rather invest in a home than spend money on a big, fancy, expensive engagement ring.

77 percent of the respondents say they prefer to pay a mortgage than spend money on a luxurious vacation.

 45 percent of Millennials and Generation Z say owning a home is an important financial goal for them compared to 30 percent of people 55 years and older. 

47 percent of the respondents say they choose homeownership over renting.

 44 percent of college graduates say owing a home is a more important financial goal than paying off student debt. 

  In 2021, there were an estimated 1.9 million weddings. The average wedding cost $25, 764. Meanwhile, the number of new homeowners increased by more than two million. So for better or for worse, to have and to looks like mortgages are winning out over engagement rings. 

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Coldwell Banker from October 21 - 25, 2021 among 2,027 adults ages 18 and older. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

What to Do and NOT DO in a Foreign Country Part III

First and foremost, if you're going to be traveling out of the country you need to know what the weather is going to be like.  Just because it's Fall in the United States with cooler temperatures (normally), that may not be the case in other places.  We expected it to be warm in the Dominican Republic in September but it was "muy caliente!!!" and the humidity was totally unbearable for me as someone who has difficulty breathing in extreme heat because of congestive heart failure. It was impossible for me to prepare for that kind of heat so it was imperative that the air conditioning worked WELL in our room!

Other things to know: 

What is the primary language?  You can't assume everyone speaks English everywhere in the world.  As a matter of fact, out of 195 countries in the world, 67 list English as their primary language.  If you don't know the language, find an app to assist you.  There are quite a few to choose from like Google Translate,  TripLingo and make the effort to say a few words in the primary language.  I can't tell you the number of times I said, "Hola!" "Como Estas?" Muy bien, y tu?" and "Gracias." Thankfully, taking Spanish in high school and college helped out. 

Check your room thoroughly:  Don't just assume that when you walk in and it looks nice, that means everything is OK.  We had to change rooms twice.  The first time was because the TV didn't work.  The second time was because there was no jacuzzi in the room that was part of the package deal.  Because we arrived on a Tuesday, it was easier for the hotel to make the changes rather quickly but if you check in on a Thursday or later, you may have some frustrations.

If there's a concierge service, take advantage of it: It may cost extra, but it is well worth it in my opinion.  At the Resort we stayed at, the concierge is known as the Butler and it took us a couple of days to find that out but once we did it was smooth sailing from there.  Anything we needed or requested was handled by the Butler service.  

 Know where everything is:  If you are staying at a resort or all-inclusive hotel, take some time, after check-in, to know where things are.  It may require you to walk around but if you do it early on you won't end up wasting a lot of time trying to figure out where to go when you should just be relaxing and enjoying the trip.  

Know what the main currency is:  We spent time trying to figure out if we should exchange our American dollars into the currency of the Dominican Republic, which is the peso.  We learned that our dollars would be accepted.  As a matter of fact, one peso is the equivalent of $0.018 on the dollar.  

Please Understand the Tipping policy and tip generously:  Even if you stay at an all-inclusive, you may want to consider tipping for various services (unless it specifically says ALL-INCLUSIVE INCLUDING TIPS).  Prior to leaving for the Dominican Republic, I asked a couple of people I knew in the U.S. what was the customary tipping amount.  I was surprised to learn that the average was $2.00 (because ya'll know in this country, servers would feel totally insulted if you left them a $2.00 tip on a $20-$30 meal).  Because the currency is different in the Dominican Republic, a $5.00 goes a long way.

See and Do as much as you can:  The purpose of a vacation is to get away and enjoy yourself.  If you're traveling to a foreign country, that's all the more reason to take advantage of all the country (area) has to offer.  You may never get the opportunity to visit again.

Know what you can and cannot eat or drink:  There may be items on a menu that sound appetizing but you need to think about your digestive system and the impact eating such items will have. Even when the food sounds similar to what you may have eaten in the past, it may be prepared differently.  In the Dominican Republic, it is NOT SAFE to drink the water unless it's bottled water and you need to see them bring it to you in the bottle!  They also warn against eating raw fish or cerviche.  At one of the finer restaurants we went to, there was goat on the menu, which is a delicacy there, but we weren't willing to experiment.

Be Friendly:  When you're in a foreign country, you are going to meet people from other parts of the world.  That's a grand opportunity to learn more about their who, what, where, when, why and how story.  Perhaps that's just the journalist in me (lol!)  I met a couple who was honeymooning from Canada, a man from Ukraine, people from other parts of the Caribbean and it was fascinating to talk to them.   For those of you who know me, you know I'm a very outgoing person.  I never meet a stranger.  I believe we as human beings share more in common than we have in differences.  Communicating with others helps create the memories of a lifetime that you can share---just like I'm sharing with you.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Airport and Flight Experience When You Travel Abroad Part II

Before you arrive at the airport for your international trip, it's a smart idea to do a couple of things:

1)  Check with your travel agent (if you used one) to make sure everything is in order.  If you have to make any changes (like a name change) try to do it well enough in advance because your airline ticket must be an identical match to what's on your passport.

2)  Check on travel restrictions.  Depending on where you're going will determine what restrictions are in place due to COVID.  This website has information to help you know what the restrictions are:  INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL  Although we didn't need to show proof of vaccination prior to leaving, it was mandatory that we be tested prior to arriving back into the United States.  It's also important to know what type of test is required for you to return.  And be sure to set up that test with the hotel once you get there because you probably won't be the only one trying to get tested on the same day.

3)  Check in with your airline.  When you go online, you can choose your seat or get an upgrade and get additional information regarding the flight's status.  You should also check to see how much you'll be charged for your baggage.  American charges $30 for EVERY bag.  

4)  Know what to pack in your carry-on.  If you pack toothpaste, lotion, or face cream, it will be confiscated.  The smart thing to do is to put those items in the checked luggage so you won't end up without them. 

5)  Once you arrive at the airport and check in with your passport, you may find out you have to complete paperwork in order to get into the foreign country.  (We learned that if you don't fill it out PRIOR to arrival at your destination, you will not be admitted until it's completed---no matter how LONG it takes).    

6)  Be prepared for some discomfort on the plane.  Depending on where you sit and how long your legs are, you could in for some discomfort.  The longer the flight, the more discomforting it could become.  If you can afford it, you should do business or first class. Our flight took approximately three and a half hours so it wasn't too bad.  And thankfully, there were no Karen's, Becky's or Billy Bob's on any of our flights!

7)  You may be subject to a random customs check in the foreign country.  There is no rhyme or reason for it.  Some people just get singled out.  

8)  Look  out for the hustlers! Prior to traveling to the Dominican Republic, we were warned about people who would be trying to talk us into buying timeshares:

TIMESHARE ADVISORY - When you arrive at your destination, even before you leave the customs area, you may be approached by many aggressive timeshare sales agents. Timeshare sales agents are very persistent and may entice you with offers of complimentary breakfasts, free transfers, discounted tours, etc., in exchange for your attendance at a presentation designed to sell their property. Timeshare selling can and does take place in many locations, including the airport, hotel lobbies, and even on the beaches and streets. These sales agents are in no way associated with your ground transportation operator or with Costco Travel.

In my next post, I will share some do's and don't while vacationing in a foreign country.  

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Things to Know When Traveling Abroad Part I


The last time I traveled out of the country was in 2006.  Needless to say, quite a bit has changed since then.  First, I didn't need to have a passport to travel to St. Lucia and there was no world-wide pandemic.

In mid-September, my husband and I traveled to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic to celebrate his birthday.  It was intended to be a surprise for him but it was full of surprises for OTHER reasons!  Here are some things you need to know before traveling out of the country:

1)  Everyone is trying to leave the U.S.!  When countries started to open back up again and the United States eased some of its travel restrictions abroad, everybody was trying to get away after being cooped up in their own little bubbles for so long.  Passport offices were swamped with appointments causing longer than usual delays in receiving service.

2) You need a passport.  This goes without saying---but it's important to know that if you don't have one, it could take weeks just to get an appointment at your local post office or passport center.  We started the process in early June and was unable to get an appointment until mid July.  Then we were told it could take up to 16 weeks to receive our passports, provided everything was in order.  Getting them in 16 weeks would've meant we would have to cancel our trip.

New passport application fee:  $110

Execution fee:  $35

Picture fee:       $25 (Walmart can do it for a cheaper price)

3) Sign up for an Expedited Passport: This is only necessary if you need the passport in a hurry but then there's no 100 percent guarantee that if will arrive in time if your trip is less than six weeks away.  You will pay an extra $60/person.  We were told paying extra would shave off about 2-4 weeks for expected arrival time.  That was cutting it EXTREMELY CLOSE for us but we paid the extra fees.  

4)  Make sure all of your documentation matches:   Documentation you will need to present are your driver's license, your birth certificate, and social security card.  Your passport is supposed to reflect what's on your driver's license.  I had a problem because my DL still shows my maiden name but I was initially told that wouldn't be a problem because I had my marriage license to show I was legally married.  THAT TURNED OUT NOT TO BE TRUE!!! 

5)  What to do when there's a DELAY:  My squeaky clean husband received his passport in about two weeks (the first week of August), while I was still trying to understand why we didn't receive them at the same time.  If you are married, I've learned it's not unusual to receive them separately but I was still in a panic.  Then two weeks before we were scheduled to leave I received an email from the Passport Office in New Hampshire telling me my passport application wasn't approved because the documentation didn't match. I was also told I would receive an email with follow up instructions on how to resolve the problem.  Long story short, the email never came less than 10 days before we were scheduled to leave so I went to another passport office to figure out what to do.  They advised me to get my Congressmen involved which I certainly did.  While I will admit I do not care for the politics of Senator Thom Tillis, I will publicly say he came through for me and made it happen.  The Friday before we were supposed to leave, I received my passport.  (I also believe God's divine intervention had more to do with it).

"Be vigilant in hope.  Be patient in trouble but keep on praying." (Romans 12:12) 

6)  Know important dates:  On the passport application, you will be asked about your parents birthdates and where they were born.  You will also be asked about your divorce date (if applicable).  My husband and I both had some challenges in getting this information.  

7)  Don't try to hide information from the State Department:  What I mean by that is don't omit any other names you may have used over the years.  Even though I hyphenate my name, I am tied to a social security number so the government can easily find out information if I omit it.  Omitting information could put you a a no fly zone list.

8)  Stay in touch with your travel agent or the airline for updated information:  Because of COVID and the Delta Variant, the rules for traveling may change.  Just like with "fake news" there is a lot of conflicting information out there.  For example, we initially thought we would have to be tested just to get on the American Airlines flight but that was not the case.  I did learn, however, that Delta was requiring their passengers to be tested before they travel to Italy.

In my next post, I'll share information on what happens once you get to the airport and arrive in a new country.   

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Employee Mental Health and The Pandemic

In case you didn't know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  This year, probably more so than in years past, mental health is even more important because of the pandemic.  No doubt about it, the pandemic has taken its toll on all us in one way or another.  

  • As a matter of fact, a recent survey, conducted by The Conference Board, indicates 60 percent of U.S. workers are concerned about their mental and psychological wellbeing in the wake of the pandemic's aftermath. 
  • More than one-third of respondents also expressed concerns about their physical wellbeing, including fear of getting sick. 
  • Another one-third worried about social wellness and belonging, such as opportunities to connect with others. 
  • Spiritual wellbeing was of least concern, with only 10 percent reporting they were worried about feeling a sense of purpose in what they do.

When it comes to the generations, Millennials appear to be the group who are most concerned with their mental and psychological wellbeing. The survey also indicates they are also more concerned than other generations about professional and financial wellbeing. 

  • GenXers were more concerned about social wellness and belonging than other respondents. 
  • Baby Boomers are more concerned about physical wellbeing than their generational counterparts.
  • Women were more concerned about spiritual wellbeing and slightly more concerned about physical, professional, and financial wellbeing than men. 
  • Men were slightly more concerned about social wellbeing than women.

What was surprising to me about the survey is that an overwhelming number of employees said they felt their supervisors genuinely cared for their wellbeing.

Let's see how much that changes in the next year.  How has the pandemic affected you personally?

Friday, April 23, 2021

Stop Jumping on Every Bandwagon


Dear Fellow Black Folks and Well Meaning White Folks,

I think we can all agree that the Derek Chauvin GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS was a VICTORY for the majority of us, not only in this country---but around the world.  No one will ever forget seeing Chauvin's knee on the neck of George Floyd for more than 9 minutes as he cried out for his mama and yelling "I can't breathe!"  The image of Chauvin kneeling nonchalantly on Floyd's neck will be edged into our minds forever.  

Meanwhile, just hours before the Chauvin verdict, police in nearby Brooklyn Center, MN shot and killed a 20-year-old black man named Duante Wright, whose crime at the time was having an expired registration tag.  The police officer, Kim Potter, claimed she was going for her taser but pulled out her Glock 9mm handgun and fatally shot him.  There have been stories circulating about whether or not there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest on aggravated robbery charges, which USA Today clearly determined was FALSE. There has been a lot of disinformation about the young man.  My point here is if he didn't have an expired registration tag, perhaps he wouldn't have been a target that day.  We should not be giving the "trigger-happy" police a reason to stop us because we know they will and if they believe they are justified, they will surely do it and then all hell is likely to break loose.

Next, we have 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was gunned down while running away from the police in Chicago. The video in that case seems to show him dropping something on the ground right before he turned around to put his hands up. Police and the media claim it was a gun.  My question is: If it was,  what was a 13-year-old doing with a gun?  Who gave it to him and why was he out during the wee hours of the morning on March 29th? 

Then we have 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant of Columbus. OH who was gunned down by Officer Nicholas Reardon, who was responding to a call about someone with a knife threatening bodily harm to another.  Now this case doesn't sit well with me.  There are too many unanswered questions that I haven't heard responses to.  For example:  Who made the 9-1-1 call to report the incident?  Family members say it was the deceased, however, that has not yet been determined.  You may say it doesn't matter who made the call.  The fact of the matter is a young girl is dead at the hands of the police.  While I agree with you, I'm looking at it differently.  The video I saw clearly shows she had a knife and was lunging at someone.  If the person she had been trying to stab was my daughter or grandson, I would be grateful that their lives had been spared.  Once again, we don't know all of the facts but many of us are up in arms over the fact that a cop killed an "innocent child" who had her whole life ahead of her.

My question is:  why was this child in a foster home when her mother was living in the same area?  Why did she feel the need to defend herself with a knife?  What led up to the confrontation?  Various media outlets are putting their spin on the situation and family members only want you to know she was "smart" "loving" and an "honor roll student" but no one knows for sure except Ma'Khia (who can't tell us) and the other parties involved (who may be reluctant to talk or may try to sway public opinion their way).

Unfortunately, we are now living in a world where so much unreliable information is being spread and because of the state of the country, we are sucked into the drama.  We are demanding police departments be defunded and every cop who shoots a black victim go to jail for life (or receive a death sentence).  The truth of the matter is, not every person who gets shot by the police is innocent.  Just like there are bad cops, there are bad people who commit violent crimes without regard to the lives of others.

And then we have some gold-digging family members who grieve for the sake of a GoFundMe page.  Dear White people:  Don't let your bleeding heart liberalism make you foolishly open up your wallets to support a not so worthy cause.  Perhaps those family members should've thought about the value and importance of life insurance.

Now I know this is not going to be a popular post among many and I will be criticized for not being down for the Black Lives Matter Movement, but I just want to state for the record, I'm not prepared to jump on EVERY bandwagon until I have all the facts.  Perhaps, that's the true journalist in me.  

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Havoc of the Pandemic on Your Finances


A new survey indicates many Americans believe the pandemic has seriously altered their financial situation, which may force them to delay their retirement or not be able to retire at all.    

When news of the COVID-19 wildfire started spreading out of control across the country, many businesses were forced to shut down. As a result, millions of us lost our jobs. (I was one of them). Even though unemployment benefits were made available it didn't prove to be enough to make ALL ends meet for some families.  When you're trying to live off of $600/week with more than $3000/month in household expenses, it can be more than challenging.  Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers were busy complaining about how some people were making more money by collecting an unemployment check than they did on their jobs. (Perhaps if they raised the minimum wage to something people can actually live off of, no one would give a damn about unemployment!)  

According to the survey, 1 in 5 people say the pandemic has forced them to delay their retirement or no longer retire at all.  The study also found that nearly 30 percent of Americans have saved less or stopped saving for retirement all together because they lost their job or another reason.  Nearly 40 percent say they have or will likely withdraw money from their retirement plan.  

The survey also reveals the fact that younger adults have struggled with navigating their finances the most:  62 percent of millennials and 51 percent of Gen Xers say the pandemic has made their finances more complicated and is forcing them to re-think the priorities in their lives.  On the other hand, just 27 percent of baby boomers say they are facing financial challenges.

In another survey conducted by Pew Research, the picture was even more bleak:

1 in 4 adults say they have trouble paying their monthly bills. 35 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 and 30 percent of those ages 30 to 49 say they have had trouble paying their bills. This compares with 22 percent of those ages 50 to 64 and 10 percent of those 65 and older. 

1 in 6 adults say they have borrowed money from family or friends or gotten food from a food bank. 

Blacks make up 40 percent of those who say they used money from their savings or retirement to pay monthly household expenses, compared to just 29 percent of whites.

28 percent of Blacks said they had problems paying their rent or mortgage, compared to 11 percent of whites.   

Some economists are saying it could take up to four years to fully recover from the pandemic.  What do you think?  Do you think we'll ever fully recover?

Young People Prefer a Mortgage Over Marriage

  The pandemic has put a number of things on pause over the past couple of years----and one of those things seems to be marriage. According...