FINANCIAL FOCUS – Help Protect Vulnerable Family Members from Scam Artists

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If you have older family members whose cognitive functions or decision-making abilities have declined, or who are lonely or recently widowed, you might need to help protect them against financial scams. What steps should you take?

First of all, try to gain a good sense of their overall financial activity. Look for red flags, such as a reluctance to discuss money matters, consistently unpaid bills, unexplained withdrawals, mysterious wire transfers or a sudden need to purchase large quantities of gift cards. And watch out for new “best friends” or caretakers who show an unusual interest in your loved one’s finances.

Whether or not you’ve observed any of these activities, you can help your elderly family members by making these moves:

  • Have checks (such as Social Security payments) directly deposited. You can help your family members avoid a lot of potential trouble by having their checks deposited directly into their bank accounts.
  • Seek permission to become a joint account owner. By becoming a joint account owner on your elderly family members’ checking and savings accounts, you can review statements for suspicious activity. Of course, your loved ones may be initially reluctant to add your name, but if you have a good relationship with them, you should be able to explain the benefits.
  • Shred bank statements, credit card offers and notices of lottery or sweepstakes winnings. One of the most useful gifts you can give to your elderly family members may be a shredder. Encourage them to use it to shred old bank statements, credit card offers and other financial documents.
  • Get on a “do not call” list. Telephone scammers are persistent and devious. By registering your family members’ house and cell phones at www.donotcall.gov, you may be able to reduce their exposure to unwanted calls.
  • Obtain power of attorney. By creating a power of attorney, your loved ones can designate you or another trusted relative or friend to assist with their finances now – for day-to-day assistance and protection from scammers – and later, should they become incapacitated. Again, you will need to employ some sensitivity when discussing this issue.
  • Check references of caretakers. As mentioned above, some caretakers are, unfortunately, dishonest. Before you hire one, check out this person’s references. And even when you do, be careful – scam artists have been known to use accomplices as references, so you will need to be thorough in your research and questions.
  • Get to know your family members’ financial advisors. If possible, become acquainted with your older family members’ financial advisors. Any reputable advisor will welcome a connection with their clients’ loved ones. And if you are involved in any estate plans, this multi-generational relationship will prove beneficial for everyone.
  • Ask to meet any new “friends” they have met online. When someone is lonely, they become vulnerable to online friendships. Sometimes, these new friends make promises of meeting, but never show – and then they suddenly need money for one reason or another.

It can be challenging to guard against all threats posed by the scammers of the world. But by staying alert and taking the appropriate preventive actions, you may be able to help safeguard your loved ones’ financial security.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Marques Young
Edward Jones Investments
8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 112
Cordova, TN 38018
Office: (901) 751-0634
Email: marques.young@edwardjones.com
Member SIPC

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FINANCIAL FOCUS – Work Toward Your Own Financial Independence Day

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We’re getting close to the Fourth of July, our national Independence Day. This celebration may get you thinking of the many freedoms you enjoy. But have you thought of what you might need to do to attain financial freedom?

Your first step is to define what financial independence signifies to you. For many people, it means being able to retire when they want to, and to enjoy a comfortable retirement lifestyle. So, if this is your vision as well, consider taking these steps:

  • Pay yourself first. If you wait until you have some extra money “lying around” before you invest for retirement, you may never get around to doing it. Instead, pay yourself first. This actually is not that hard to do, especially if you have a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan, because your contributions are taken directly from your paycheck, before you even have the chance to spend the money. You can set up a similar arrangement with an IRA by having automatic contributions taken directly from your checking or savings account.
  • Invest appropriately. Your investment decisions should be guided by your time horizon, risk tolerance and retirement goals. If you deviate from these guideposts – for instance, by taking on either too much or too little risk – you may end up making decisions that aren’t right for you and that may set you back as you pursue your financial independence.
  • Avoid financial “potholes.” The road to financial liberty will always be marked with potholes you should avoid. One such pothole is debt – the higher your debt burden, the less you can invest for your retirement. It’s not always easy to lower your debt load, but do the best you can to live within your means. A second pothole comes in the form of large, unexpected short-term costs, such as a major home or auto repair or a medical bill not fully covered by insurance. To avoid dipping into your long-term investments to pay for these short-term costs, try to build an emergency fund containing six months’ to a year’s worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid, low-risk account.
  • Give yourself some wiggle room. If you decide that to achieve financial independence, you must retire at 62 or you must buy a vacation home by the beach, you may feel disappointed if you fall short of these goals. But if you’re prepared to accept some flexibility in your plans – perhaps you can work until 65 or just rent a vacation home for the summer – you may be able to earn a different, but still acceptable, financial freedom. And by working a couple of extra years or paying less for your vacation home expenses, you may also improve your overall financial picture.

Putting these and other moves to work can help you keep moving toward your important goals. When you eventually reach your own “Financial Independence Day,” it may not warrant a fireworks display – but it should certainly add some sparkle to your life.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Marques Young
Edward Jones Investments
8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 112
Cordova, TN 38018
Office: (901) 751-0634
Email: marques.young@edwardjones.com
Member SIPC

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FINANCIAL FOCUS – How Can You Meet Your Short-term Goals?

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Why do you invest? If you’re like most people, you’d probably say that, among other things, you want to retire comfortably. Obviously, that’s a worthy long-term goal, requiring long-term investing. But as you journey through life, you’ll also have short-term goals, such as buying a second home, remodeling your kitchen or taking a much-needed vacation. Will you need to invest differently for these goals than you would for the long-term ones?

To answer that question, let’s first look at how you might invest to achieve your longer-term goals. For these goals, the key investment ingredient is growth – quite simply, you want your money to grow as much as possible over time. Consequently, you will likely want a good percentage of growth-oriented vehicles, such as stocks and other stock-based investments, to fund your 401(k), IRA or other accounts.

However, the flip side of growth is risk. Stocks and stock-based investments will always fluctuate in value – which means you could lose some, or even all, of your principal. Hopefully, though, by putting time on your side – that is, by holding your growth-oriented investments for decades – you can overcome the inevitable short-term price drops.

In short, when investing for long-term goals, you’re seeking significant growth and, in doing so, you’ll have to accept some degree of investment risk. But when you’re after short-term goals, the formula is somewhat different: You don’t need maximum growth potential as much as you need to be reasonably confident that a certain amount of money will be there for you at a certain time.

You may want to work with a financial professional to select the appropriate investments for your short-term goals. But, in general, you’ll need these investments to provide you with the following attributes:

  • Protection of principal – As mentioned above, when you own stocks, you have no assurance that your principal will be preserved; there’s no agency, no government office, guaranteeing that you won’t lose money. And even some of the investments best suited for short-term goals won’t come with full guarantees, either, but, by and large, they do offer you a reasonable amount of confidence that your principal will remain intact.
  • Liquidity – Some short-term investments have specific terms – i.e., two years, three years, five years, etc. – meaning you do have an incentive to hold these investments until they mature. Otherwise, if you cash out early, you might pay some price, such as loss of value or loss of the income produced by these investments. Nonetheless, these types of investments are usually not difficult to sell, either before they mature or at maturity, and this liquidity will be helpful to you when you need the money to meet your short-term goal.
  • Stability of issuer – Although most investments suitable for short-term goals do provide a high degree of preservation of principal, some of the issuers of these investments are stronger and more stable than others – and these strong and stable issuers are the ones you should stick with.

Ultimately, most of your investment efforts will probably go toward your long-term goals. But your short-term goals are still important – and the right investment strategy can help you work toward them.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Marques Young
Edward Jones Investments
8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 112
Cordova, TN 38018
Office: (901) 751-0634
Email: marques.young@edwardjones.com
Member SIPC

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FINANCIAL FOCUS – Financial Gifts for Your Adult Children

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Mother’s Day is almost here. If you’re a mother with grown children, you might receive flowers, candy, dinner invitations or some other type of pleasant recognition. However, you might find that you can get more enjoyment from the holiday by giving, rather than receiving. The longest-lasting gifts may be financial ones – so here are a few moves to consider:

  • Contribute to your child’s IRA. If your children have earned income, they are eligible to contribute to an IRA, which offers tax benefis and an almost unlimited array of investment options. You can’t contribute directly to another person’s IRA, but you can write your child a check for that purpose. This could be a valuable gift, as many people can’t afford to contribute the maximum yearly amount, which, in 2018, is $5,500, or $6,500 for those 50 or older.
  • Give gifts of stock. You know your children pretty well, so you should be familiar with the products they buy. Why not give them some shares of stock in the companies that make these products? Your children will probably enjoy being “owners” of these companies, and if they weren’t that familiar with how the financial markets work, having these shares in their possession may greatly expand their knowledge and lead to an even greater interest in investing.
  • Donate to a charity in your child’s name. You might want to donate to a charitable organization that your child supports. In years past, such a donation might have earned you a tax deduction, but the new tax laws, which include a much higher standard deduction, may keep many people from itemizing. Still, it’s possible for a charitable gift to provide you with a tax benefit, depending on your age. If you’re 70 ½ or older, you must start taking withdrawals from your traditional IRA and your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored plan, but by moving the withdrawal directly to a qualified charitable group, the money won’t count as part of your adjusted gross income, so, in effect, you can get a tax break from your generosity.
  • Review your estate strategy. Like virtually all parents, you’d probably like to be able to leave some type of legacy to your children, and possibly your grandchildren, too. So, if you haven’t already started working on your estate strategy, consider using Mother’s Day as a launching point. At the very least, you’ll want to write your will, but you may need much more than that, such as a living trust, a durable power of attorney and other documents. And don’t forget to change the beneficiary designations on your life insurance and retirement accounts if you’ve experienced a major life change, such as divorce or remarriage. These designations are powerful and can even supersede whatever instructions you might have left in your will. As you can guess, estate planning can be complex, so you almost certainly will want to work with a legal professional to get your arrangements in order.

Mother’s Day is a good opportunity for your children to show their love for you, and you can do the same for them by helping bolster their long-term security through financial gifts and legacy planning.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Marques Young
Edward Jones Investments
8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 112
Cordova, TN 38018
Office: (901) 751-0634
Email: marques.young@edwardjones.com
Member SIPC

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FINANCIAL FOCUS – Here’s a Checklist for Changing Jobs

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A few generations ago, it was not uncommon for workers to stick with a single job for their whole careers. But for many of us today, frequent job changes are a fact of life: The average employee tenure is just over four years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So, assuming you’re going to switch jobs a few times, you’ll want to be prepared. Here’s a checklist of things you can do to smooth these transitions and help your financial situation:

__Build an emergency fund. Some of your job changes may be involuntary, so you’ll want to have a cash cushion handy – just in case. One smart move would be to build an emergency fund, containing three to six months’ worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid, low-risk account.

__Consider your options for your former employer’s 401(k) plan. If you had a 401(k) plan with your former employer, you have three main options: You could leave your money in the plan, if the employer allows it; you could move the money into your new employer’s plan, if permitted; or you could roll the funds over to an IRA. You’ll want to weigh the “pros” and “cons” of these choices carefully before making a decision.

__Choose investments from your new retirement plan. If your new employer offers a 401(k) or similar plan, you’ll need to choose the investments within the plan that are most appropriate for your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. Contribute as much as you can afford to the plan, and consider increasing your contributions every time your salary goes up.

___Make sure you’ve got health insurance. The health insurance offered by your new employer may not begin the minute you start your job. Given the high costs of medical care, you’ll need to make sure you are protected until your coverage kicks in. So, for that interim period, you may need to consider the federal health insurance marketplace, COBRA continuation coverage or private medical insurance. You might also be eligible to be covered under your spouse’s health insurance. And you may want to learn what your options are for health savings accounts (HSAs), if available.

___Review your new benefits packageand take steps to fill gaps. Your new benefits package may include life and disability insurance, but these group policies may not be enough to fully protect you and your family. A financial professional can help you quantify your protection and insurance needs and offer guidance on how much coverage you may require.

__Understand your income tax considerations. Getting a new job may involve income tax implications, such as changes in your tax bracket, severance pay, unused vacation and unemployment compensation. And if you are thinking of exercising stock options, be aware that this, too, can be a taxable event. Finally, if you have to move to take a new job, you may incur some relocation and job hunting expenses that could be deductible. You will need to discuss all these issues with your tax professional.

Starting a new job can be exciting – and challenging. But you may be able to make your life easier by putting the above suggestions to work.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Marques Young
Edward Jones Investments
8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 112
Cordova, TN 38018
Office: (901) 751-0634
Email: marques.young@edwardjones.com
Member SIPC

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FINANCIAL FOCUS – Keep Your Investment “Ecosystem” Healthy

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April 22 is Earth Day. First observed in 1970, Earth Day has evolved into an international celebration, with nearly 200 countries holding events to support clean air, clean water and other measures to protect our planet. As an investor, what lessons can you learn from this special day?

Consider the following:

  • Avoid “toxic” investment moves. Earth Day events show us how we can help keep toxins out of our land, air and water. And if you want to keep your investment ecosystem healthy, you need to avoid making some toxic moves. For example, don’t chase after hot stocks based on tips you may have heard or read. By the time you learn about these stocks, they may already have cooled off – and they may not even be appropriate for your goals or risk tolerance. Another toxic investment move involves trying to “time” the market – that is, buying investments when they reach low points and selling them at their peaks. It’s a great theory, but almost impossible to turn into reality, because no one can really predict market highs and lows – and your timing efforts, which may involve selling investments that could still help you – may disrupt your long-term strategy.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” is a motto of the environmental movement. Essentially, it’s encouraging people to add less stuff to their lives and use the things they already have. As an investor, you can benefit from the same advice. Rather than constantly buying and selling investments in hopes of boosting your returns, try to build a portfolio that makes sense for your situation, and stick with your holdings until your needs change. If you’re always trading, you’ll probably rack up fees and taxes, and you may well end up not even boosting your performance. It might not seem exciting to purchase investments and hang on to them for decades, but that’s the formula many successful investors follow, and have followed.
  • Plant “seeds” of opportunity. Another Earth Day lesson deals with the value of planting gardens and trees. When you invest, you also need to look for ways to plant seeds of opportunity. Seek out investments that, like trees, can grow and prosper over time. All investments do carry risk, including the potential loss of principal, but you can help reduce your risk by owning a mix of other, relatively less volatile vehicles, such as corporate bonds and U.S. Treasury securities. (Keep in mind, though, that fixed-rate vehicles are subject to interest-rate risk, which means that if interest rates rise, the value of bonds issued at a lower rate may fall.)
  • Match your money with your values. Earth Day also encourages us to be conscientious consumers. So, when you support local food growers, you are helping, in your own way, to reduce the carbon footprint caused in part by trucks delivering fruits and vegetables over long distances. Similarly, you might choose to include socially responsible investing in your overall strategy by avoiding investments in certain industries you find objectionable, or by seeking out companies that behave in a manner you believe benefits society.

Earth Day is here, and then it’s gone – but by applying some of its key teachings to your investment activities, you may improve your own financial environment.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Marques Young
Edward Jones Investments
8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 112
Cordova, TN 38018
Office: (901) 751-0634
Email: marques.young@edwardjones.com
Member SIPC

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Is empathy a key skill of the future?

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I am reading the book Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft. He covers quite a bit in the book, ending with a discussion of artificial intelligence, which is the reason I bought the book. Early on, however, Nadella talks about the discovered importance to him of empathy and it got me thinking about the future of leadership and HR.

Empathy

Dictionary.com defines empathy as “the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” Its root words are the Greek word empátheia meaning affection,  and the word páschein meaning to suffer.

It has long been considered in American business that there was no place for empathy, at least not on the leadership level. In business biographies of J.P. Morgan, Carnegie, and Rockefeller, it is doubtful you will find chapters on their use of empathy. But as business has evolved, along with legislation, we have seen more and more calls for empathetic practices. We see it in legislation. I think the root of the FMLA and the ACA, and the proposed Workflex in the 21st Century Act is empathy.

More leaders expressing empathy

In his book, Nadella talks about his personal approach to leadership. He says:

My personal philosophy and my passion, developed over time and through exposure t many different experiences, is to connect new ideas with a growing sense of empathy for other people. Ideas excite me. Empathy grounds and centers me.

After relating his some of his life experience with disabilities, discrimination, people in developing countries he goes on to say:

My passion is to put empathy at the center of everything I pursue – from the products we launch, to the new markets we enter, to the employees, customers, and partners we work with.

Emotional Intelligence

According to Psychology Today, emotional intelligence is defined as:

…the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.

More and more in HR literature and training, emotional intelligence is being identified as critically important. The SHRM certification material says that “Without EI, the behaviors needed to support a global mindset or diversity in the workplace- EMPATHY, cooperation, willingness to learn about and accept differences – are practically impossible.” (My emphasis in caps.)

Empathy is a critical part of the leadership and HR in today’s world. More needs to be done to make sure that organizations demonstrate empathy as a core value. I know it has not been my strong suit in the past, but as things have changed I have come to recognize the value to business and to my personal life of the value of empathy. We need to work on instilling this in our business life and making sure that leaders are trained in the importance and value of empathy.

Article written by Mike Haberman

Mike Haberman

The Value of a Devil’s Advocate in HR

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In the Roman Catholic Church, from the year 1000 until 1978, fewer than 450 people were canonized as saints. In 1978, Pope John Paul II removed the use of a promotor fidei whose job it was to question why that individual should be made a saint. As a result, in the 38 years since 1978, 450 people have been canonized. I learned this as I was reading a section on confirmation bias in the book The Wisest One in the Room, which I have referred to before.

A human condition

According to Gilovich and Ross, we as human have a tendency to look for evidence that confirms what we believe. They say “The more you want a proposition to be true, the more inclined you are to look for evidence that supports it.” I think we saw good evidence of this in the Presidential election, on both sides. It is called confirmation bias, and it is a mistake often made in the interview process. It can be offset with the knowledge that it exists; in fact, it is one of the major tenets of behavioral interviewing.

Disconfirming

I was taught behavioral interviewing by Paul Green back in the 1980’s. In his training he talked about interviewer errors and the fact that we all have a tendency, if we happen to like something about a candidate, or dislike something about a candidate, to look for evidence that confirms our initial impression. Paul said that to be effective and counteract this tendency you had to look for “disconfirming” evidence. You had to be your own “devil’s advocate.” You had to ask yourself “Why am I liking this person so much?” This gave you the chance to have a more balanced view of the candidate. I found it to be excellent advice.

Why not a Devil’s Advocate in the HR department?

If each HR department had a promotor fidei, or Devil’s advocate, it might help you make consequential decisions with more confidence. Rather than looking for evidence on why a decision should be made you could ask the question on why a decision should NOT be made, or why a product should NOT be purchased, or why a person should NOT be fired. As Gilovich and Ross say:

What you need to do is to slow down and consciously look for information that challenges whatever proposition you are evaluating, especially if the proposition conforms to your current view or preferences.”

So the next time you are faced with a decision where the answer just seems too easy pull that little devil out of your pocket and put it to use.

Article written by Mike Haberman

Mike Haberman

FINANCIAL FOCUS – Time for Financial “Spring Cleaning”

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The days are longer and the temperatures are warmer – so it must be spring. For many of us, that means it’s time for some spring cleaning. But why stop with sprucing up your living space? This year, consider extending the “spring cleaning” concept to your financial environment, too.

How can you tidy your finances? Here are some suggestions:

  • “De-clutter” your portfolio. As you go through your home during your spring cleaning rounds, you may notice that you’ve acquired a lot of duplicate objects – do you really need five mops? – or at least some things you can no longer use, like a computer that hasn’t worked since 2010. You can create some valuable space by getting rid of these items. And the same principle can apply to your investment portfolio, because over the years you may well have acquired duplicate investments that aren’t really helping you move toward your goals. You may also own some investments, which, while initially fitting into your overall strategy, no longer do so. You could be better off by selling your “redundant” investments and using the proceeds to purchase new ones that will provide more value.
  • Get organized. During your spring cleaning, one of your key goals may be to get organized. So you might want to rearrange the tools in your garage or establish a new filing system in your home office. Proper organization is also important to investors – and it goes beyond having your brokerage and 401(k) statements in nice neat piles. For example, you may have established IRAs with different financial services companies. By moving them to one provider, you may save some fees and reduce your paperwork, but, more important, you may find that such a move actually helps you better manage your investments. You’ll know exactly where your money is going, and it could be easier to follow a single investment strategy. Also, with all your IRAs in one place, it will be much easier for you to manage the required minimum distributions you must start taking when you turn 70-1/2. (These distributions are not required for Roth IRAs.)
  • Protect your family’s financial future. When cleaning up this spring, you may notice areas of concern around protecting your home – perhaps there’s a crack in your window, or your fence is damaged or part of your chimney is crumbling. Your financial independence – and that of your family – also needs protection. Is your life insurance sufficient to pay for your mortgage, college for your kids and perhaps some retirement funds for your spouse? Do you have disability insurance that can provide you with some income if you become ill or injured and can’t work for a while? Have you considered the high costs of long-term care, such as an extended nursing home stay? A financial professional can help you determine if your insurance coverage is adequate for all these needs.

Consider putting these spring cleaning suggestions to work. They may help you keep your financial house in good shape for all the seasons yet to arrive.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Marques Young
Edward Jones Investments
8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 112
Cordova, TN 38018
Office: (901) 751-0634
Email: marques.young@edwardjones.com
Member SIPC

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Do flexible work schedules require flexible services?

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I read about a very interesting study done by Prof. Seán Ó Riain from Maynooth University, Ireland, on changes that have occurred in the workplace since 1995. His contention is that while workplaces have become more flexible the world of services around the workplace have not. He says “We’re at a stage where we need to think about, now that we’re living in this world of flexible work, how do we respond to that? What are the kinds of services that will enable people to stay in these jobs for a lifetime?

Flexible work in an inflexible world

As the workplace has evolved work schedules have evolved. We now come in earlier or later than the 8 am or 9 am to 5 workplaces that have evolved. But for that to become more widespread the world outside the workplace needs to evolve too. Most services, beyond retail, have settled into the “9 to 5” schedule. Daycare services have adapted some, but government services have not on a widespread basis. Repair services of many types have not really adapted. Try to find a car repair shop open at 10 pm or a doctor’s office that deals with more than emergency services. As the professor says of our flexible work schedule “It also demands more complex, more high-quality public services. A general set of services that everybody benefits from actually becomes more important when people are working in more different ways than they used to.” We generally have to adapt to their schedules than they have to adapt to the working world.

The future must be a coordinated effort

One of the oddities that Ó Riain found was that the more flexibility there was in a workplace the more planning there needed to be. I think we will find that the more flexible companies want to provide will depend on the flexibility of services being provided. If we truly want a flexible workplace society, the more there needs to be a coordinated effort between government, education, service providers, retail companies and other segments of the business world. Otherwise, we will stick to the “9 to 5” model and the burden of flexibility will be on employers, who will only go so far.

Do you think this can occur? What flexibility issues have you seen in your world?

Article written by Mike Haberman

Mike Haberman