In 1931, historian James Truslow Adams defined the American Dream as the “dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” The growth of America’s middle class, especially after World War II, seemed to validate the premise that wealth and security were within the grasp of anyone who worked hard. Between 1945 and 1979, gross domestic product growth averaged 10.69% a year, and the number of families in the middle class exploded. According to figures from the Economic Policy Institute, productivity and worker compensation grew together until 1979 when the link between productivity and wages and salaries was severed. For decades, the formula worked.
Americans who pay Social Security taxes for at least 40 quarters of employment are entitled to retirement benefits. The amount you receive depends on the taxes you paid and your number of years of enrollment. In addition, spouses are entitled to Social Security payments, which are equal to one-half the benefit earned by a working spouse.
Many people are entitled to a benefit based upon their own earnings, as well as a spousal benefit based upon their partner’s earnings. However, only one benefit at a time can be claimed.
A Pew poll from March 2015 reports that more than 80% of Americans are concerned about their savings, and seven out of ten worry whether they have enough money to cover their expenses. Yet since 1960, the personal saving rate in the United States has been inconsistent and generally trending downward, ranging from a high of 17.0% in May 1975 to a low of 1.9% in July 2005, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis as reported by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. In April 2015, the rate clawed its way up to 5.6%.
In 1916, John D. Rockefeller, the father of the petroleum industry, became the world’s first billionaire. Nearly a century later in 2015, there were 536 American billionaires of a total 1,826 billionaires worldwide, according to Forbes. That number may in fact be low – the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census estimates there were 2,325 billionaires globally in 2014, including 609 Americans.
Country wisdom is the collection of practical experiences gained by generations of pioneers, farmers, and ranchers as America transformed from a vast frontier to the world’s greatest economy. That experience – the result of constant trial and error – was passed from parent to child in plain language that left no room for misinterpretation. Living on a farm or ranch miles from the nearest neighbor meant solving problems on your own, making do with the materials around you, and accepting whatever happened and moving on.
The tension between science and religion has existed for centuries, the former dealing with the natural world and the latter with the supernatural or spiritual world. Many people may be familiar with the story of Galileo and his trial by the Inquisition in 1633. He was forced to recant his belief that the Sun, not Earth, was the center of the universe – that Earth moved around the Sun, and not vice versa, as the Church taught. More people may be familiar with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which has been attacked by religious fundamentalists for more than 150 years.
Owning a piece of the past has universal appeal. According to philosopher and antique dealer Leon Rosenstein, it’s the value, uniqueness, and beauty of older items that attracts us, along with their historical and cultural associations. For some, buying and selling tangible pieces of history is a business – for others, it is a calling. Mike Wolfe, one of the stars of the television show “American Pickers,” says that discovering and restoring old relics from the past to their former glory is akin to saving America’s history, one piece at a time.
As the Internet becomes more and more ubiquitous in the workplace, webinars – or what some refer to as “online seminars” – have become increasingly popular. Educators and marketers have embraced webinars as a forum for spreading their message; sponsors find their effectiveness and long shelf-life appealing; and attendees are learning to take advantage of their low cost and convenience.
If you haven’t introduced webinars into your marketing, customer service, or employee training efforts – whether you’re running a Fortune 500 company or a one-person operation – you may be missing out on a significant opportunity.
Modern humans are the greatest problem solvers the world has ever seen. While our predecessors developed primitive tools to better live in their environments, humans are the first to develop the mental acuity necessary to transform their living space. As a consequence, we thrive around the world, altering hostile, barren desert lands and freezing climates into hospitable habitats with growing populations.
Of course, problem-solving abilities vary considerably from one individual to another – some of us excel in resolving overarching dilemmas, while others are more adept at making basic day-to-day decisions. Researchers at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan believe that difficulty solving problems tends to stem from the following two issues:
In the past five years, a new type of financial advisor has emerged to compete with traditional investment advisory firms. Funded by venture capitalists, these new advisors exploit the latest technology to offer competent investment advice in exchange for drastically reduced fees.
Just as technology changed the full-service brokerage industry by lowering transaction costs and enabling online trading, it will also ultimately change the practice of investment advisors by automating portfolio management and investment advice. According to Grant Easterbrook, analyst at Corporate Insight, “These newcomers offer average Americans access to low-cost advice and investment solutions with fewer potential conflicts of interest and greater performance transparency.”