According to a 2014 Pew Research report, Millennialsthose born after 1980are the best-educated generation in the history of the United States. More than one-third have bachelor’s degrees, compared to one in four of their parents and grandparents.
This statistic may surprise many readers, considering the exponential increase in the cost of education during that period. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a graduate in 1979 incurred less than $10,000 in education costs (in 2012 dollars), including room and board. By contrast, according to CollegeData, a 2013 graduate spent almost $120,000 for the same degree and owed more than $33,000 in school debt as of graduation.
In an effort to stem the rising costs of higher education, colleges, universities, and for-profit institutions have turned to technology. Many now offer online classes, bachelor’s degrees, and even master’s degrees in which some or all work is done over the Internet. According to a Pew Research Report, 90% of public four-year colleges and universities and 60% of private universities offer courses online. And in 2011, one-third of all students were enrolled in an online course.
Perception of an Online Degree
The question of whether an online degree has less value than a traditional degree has smoldered for years. While online courses certainly have advantages and disadvantages as compared to their traditional counterparts, employer “gatekeepers” – receptionists, HR recruiters, and resume screeners – tend to be most concerned about the reputation and quality of the educational institution.
During the last five years of my father’s life, he began a series of letters and memos to my younger brother and me about his life. Dad was not a famous man, nor a particularly accomplished man – at least, not by standard measures of success. Nevertheless, his letters chronicling a childhood during the Depression in the midst of the Dust Bowl, his experiences as a infantryman on the battlefields of Europe, and life in the 1950s were an incredible record of an extraordinary life and time in the history of America.
After his death, his writing was collected, organized chronologically for easier reading, and bound together for each member of the family, an incomparable legacy to his grandchildren and their descendants. As his son, I take great comfort in knowing that Dad will be remembered as a good husband, father, and friend for generations to come.
As my father used to say, “We come into and go out of this world alone, but the quality of our lives depends upon the people we touch along the way.” Blood and bones, and stones and steel eventually fade into nothingness, but the love between parents and children, siblings, and spouses endures forever. It is the stories of love that remind us who we are and why we are here.
Everyone has a story and an audience eager to read, enjoy, and remember the details of each narrative. Writing your autobiography is an opportunity to reach across the boundaries of time and space, set the record straight, honor the ones you love, and celebrate the journey you have taken. It is the chance to create your own time capsule; an opportunity to leave your handprints on the walls of human existence, and to shout to the world, “I was here and I mattered!”
Gene Perret, the comedy writer for such popular television shows as “All in the Family,” “Three’s Company,” and “The Carol Burnett Show,” once said of retirement, “It’s nice to get out of the rat race, but you have to get along with less cheese.” Almost everyone looks forward to that time when they can sleep as late as they want, spend their days traveling or playing golf, and opining about the state of the civilization.
But the responsibility for a comfortable retirement rests almost completely on the shoulders of the individual worker. Government programs like Social Security and Medicare provide a minimum level of income and healthcare costs to recipients – but those benefits are intended to be supplemented with employer benefits and private savings.
Having failed to save enough during their earning years or being victims of poor investment decisions, many seniors are discovering that the retirement they expected is beyond their reach. As a consequence, they are working longer, scaling back expenses, and forgoing some of their dreams. But fortunately, all is not lost, even for those whose retirement dreams may seem dashed.
The Keys to the Retirement You’ve Always Wanted
Despite the travel industry’s advertisements showing seniors walking through the sand on exotic, foreign beaches or dancing the night away on a Caribbean cruise, fewer than one in five workers are “very” confident that they can retire comfortably, according to the 2014 Retirement Confidence Survey. Only one in four current retirees are “very” confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement years.
While the outlook for your retirement may be cloudy, there are steps you can take to improve your financial situation and the happiness of your retirement years.
1. Maximize Income Flow
Few people who retire continue to have the same level of income as when working. Nevertheless, there are options available to increase your income:
“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” This quote, often attributed to the late children’s book author Robert McCloskey, perfectly sums up the problem of communication. The possibility of misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and mis-identification exists any time two or more people attempt to transmit and receive information, often leading to humorous – and sometimes, tragic – consequences.
The picture on the right – usually referred to as the young/old woman illusion – is an example of how miscommunication can happen. The speaker can refer to the “young woman” while the listener can only see the “old woman.”
A few classic examples of how people often say one thing, but mean something else:
Trip to the Grocery Store: A young wife asks her husband to run to the grocery store to pick up ingredients to bake a cake. Her husband, happily engaged in watching his favorite football team play, reluctantly agrees when she assures him it will be a quick trip, as he will be purchasing a minimal number of items. To ensure that nothing is omitted, she lists the six items she needs and hands the list to her husband before starting to preheat the oven. An hour later – the third quarter of the game almost over – the angry husband finally returns from the store, staggers into the kitchen with multiple full sacks, and returns to the car for a second unloading. As she opens the sacks, his chagrined wife discovers the following:
1 bottle of vegetable oil
2 bottles of vanilla extract
3 two-pound sacks of sugar
4 dozen eggs
5 pounds of butter
6 five-pound sacks of flour
In making her list, the wife failed to put periods after the numbers on her list, so the dutiful husband viewed the item number as the amount of units to be purchased. Fortunately, the honeymoon had not ended.