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Sunday, September 21, 2014

How actual couples manage money secrets using real life communication

Money secrets are not uncommon. According to MSNBC, a survey of 23,000 people found 37 percent of men, and 56 percent of women keep money secrets. In a separate study by Smart Money, 36 percent of men were found to keep money secrets and 40 percent of women did. These money secrets come in many forms. For example, Dr. Regina Barreca of Psychology Today says even seemingly minor non-disclosure of financial information is deceitful and potentially harmful to a relationship.

Finance for couples
Money secrets can lead to bigger lies later on
Numerous reasons account for why people keep money secrets. Keeping money secrets is a way some people deal with differences of opinion and how others hide money problems. However, according to Judith Sills, a psychotherapist on Oprah, money secrets are harmful to relationships because they bury or avoid issues that could get bigger; they also  indicate a lack of trust or mutual understanding. Even though one partner thinks he or she is protecting the other from worry, or that a financial matter is a non-issue, it is still often something that should be dealt with together.

Fear of consequences or not knowing how to solve a money matter is not a valid reason to keep money secrets. Instead, the issues should be discussed maturely and reasonably using a “Money Huddle” according to the Money Couple. Moreover, using this technique helps keep other aspects of a relationship sane by airing out money concerns. If carried out correctly money huddles can also help prevent money issues from becoming overblown in addition to helping overcome the money barrier to a more functional relationship.

Being informed about how to talk about money is beneficial to the outcome of financial discussions.  According to research conducted by the Star Tribune, discussing money matters early in a relationship is a good idea. Aleksandra Todorova of Smart Money concurs and states a balanced approach is a good premise with which to approach financial discussions. For example, in matters of spending it is suggested that a budget be the primary focus, and not so much what each individual purchases with their share of the budget. 

After becoming informed about how to talk about money secrets, a way to deal with them is to develop a financial system. For instance, according to WebMd, a reference couple who developed a money method prior to getting married were still doing well as a couple six years later. They used multiple accounts that individualized and jointly distributed money in addition to discussing large money issues together. This approach also confirms the above recommendations of the Money Couple, Dr. Judith Sills and Dr. Regine Barreca.

Image: PDPics; US-PD

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ideas to help employers adapt to changing attitudes about marijuana

By Rebecca Short

The legality behind firing someone for testing positive for marijuana has been called into question recently because, Colorado and Washington both passed state laws declaring recreational pot legal.

Now that marijuana use is legal in these two states, companies are being faced with a new challenge. If an employee tests positive for marijuana at a zero-tolerance company in one of these two states, is it still lawful to terminate them? The Supreme Court recently ruled that it is, but maybe there could be amendments made by the employers in an attempt to compromise.

Fit the policy to the job

The basic, standard five-panel drug test used by most employers screens for marijuana, cocaine, phencyclidine (PCP), amphetamines and opiates. This panel looks for meth, speed, heroin, crack cocaine, ecstasy and angel dust, to name a few by their street names. One reason companies opt for the zero-tolerance policy is to avoid legal issues. If they adopt an all or nothing policy, legally speaking, it is clear-cut and not open for debate. However, thanks to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington, the one-size-fits-all policy would appear to no longer stand. So, what to do from here?

No one would dispute that a significant reason these drug and alcohol policies exist is to protect the safety of other employees and clients in the workplace. How dangerous is the task at hand? Who and how many people would be affected if any accident occurred? Those operating heavy machinery are cautioned not even to take cold medicine if it makes them drowsy! It is no accident semi-truck drivers and airplane pilots are screened consistently; their jobs put them in positions where if anything goes wrong, it could cost some people their lives.

Zero-tolerance policies exist in these types of jobs for that reason. Come to work under the influence, people could die. So then what? What about all those people who take buses and trains to work and sit passively at desks or computer consoles during the day? Well, the truth is, alternatives to automatic termination are already in place. Many companies employ a warning system, which could lead to an eventual termination if an employee’s behaviors are not modified satisfactorily. Others choose to remove and suspend an employee from duty immediately pending a follow-up drug test and probationary period. Some use a variation of the two methods, depending on the infraction.

Hold out for alternative testing options

Maybe the real question should be “How do we incorporate legal recreational marijuana into our existing policies?” Any behavior that affects job performance usually leads to termination if it happens frequently enough. Drug use is not the only culprit. Alcohol and excessive illness or tardiness are also reasons. Scientists are developing a test similar to a Breathalyzer for detecting marijuana in real time. The main issue with testing for marijuana is it metabolizes significantly more slowly than alcohol, so if a person used the drug at any point in the past 30 days, the test could come back positive. That is even if the individual never came to work under the influence. If and when this test becomes available, it will be easier to separate actual recreational use of the drug from a more abusive use.

Forego random drug testing altogether

Human Resources departments recommend that one way to avoid legal troubles is to forgo random drug testing once an individual is hired by a company. Routine screenings for those working in high-risk environments are usually accepted, and they are also built into company policy. It would be in everyone’s better interest to only order a drug test if there is reason to believe an employee’s sobriety is compromised while at work. 

If recreational marijuana is legal off the clock and it is not affecting performance on the clock, then maybe we should do as the folks from Amsterdam do. Get rid of the marijuana element of the drug test in states where it is legal, but keep a stricter policy for those substances that are still 100 percent illegal.


About the author: Rebecca Short is the human resources director for her company and has to deal with setting policies on drug use and screening applicants. To help her with screening these applicants, she requires a reliable lab, and has found such a lab by going to http://www.workfloworlando.com. You can learn more about Rebecca by going to Google+.

Image: A7nubis; "Marijuana plantation"; GFDL, CC BY-SA 3.0

Friday, September 19, 2014

Britain's big six energy suppliers continuing to lose market share

By Debbie Faulkner

New figures show that Britain’s ‘big six’ energy companies – British Gas, EDF, E.ON, npower, Scottish Power and SSE – are continuing to lose their market share. The large suppliers now have a 92.4% share of the market – a decrease from 99.8% five years ago.
The latest figures, from independent research group Cornwall Energy, show that 3.8m customers have accounts with small, independent suppliers. These energy companies have increased their share from 0.2% to 7.6% at the same time as the big six have taken a tumble.
big six energy suppliers
Independent energy suppliers are differentiating themselves as Earth friendly

Britain’s largest independent energy company, First Utility, has just announced it has reached over a million customer accounts and now has a share in more than 2% of the residential energy market. The utility supplier has seen a remarkable ten-fold increase in customer numbers in just under three years. Utility Warehouse is the second biggest independent supplier, with some 835,000 accounts.

Independents are differentiating themselves from the big six by underscoring their green credentials, technological advances, or market campaigns as well as offering some of the cheapest gas and electricity tariffs.

First Utility is just one of the smaller firms claiming to offer cheaper bills than those of the big six suppliers. The firm has been the cheapest gas and electricity supplier on the market for 23 out of 35 weeks in the third quarter of 2014, promising to save customers up to £213 a year. Co-operative Energy and Extra Energy also offered gas and electricity tariffs under £1,000 in Q3.

“The number of energy suppliers has almost trebled since 2010 thanks to Government action to open up the energy market and break up the stranglehold of the big six” says Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

“Reaching one million customer accounts is a fantastic milestone for First Utility. With over two million customers now signed up to independent suppliers overall it’s clear that households increasingly trust them and are benefiting from competition in the market.”

The latest data reveals that more people switched their gas and electricity supply to independent firms than the Big Six in May for the very first time. The news comes after the big six suppliers announced above-inflation price rises in unison and met an increase in customer complaints.

Representing the energy market, Energy UK said more than 225,000 households are switching suppliers each month. The figures indicate consumers are now more willing to switch and are more aware of the benefits of switching.

 “More and more people are voting with their feet and switching away from the Big Six to newer providers, chasing lower prices and better service. The Big Six need to raise their game if they want to keep customers,” says USwitch chief executive Steve Weller.

The declining market share comes in unison with an enquiry into the big six suppliers by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) after regulator Ofgem said the market did not allow fair competition.

The CMA enquiry, which is to examine the possibility of breaking up the big suppliers, is due at the end of next year.

About the author: Debbie Faulkner is an energy blogger who champions green energy and campaigns against the monopolisation of the ‘big six’ energy companies.

Image: Alan Cleaver, "Electric light", CC BY 2.0

Financial news: September 19, 2014

Reuters: Dollar value ↑ sharply on future FED policy & low ECB loan demand
Bloomberg: Slow settlement periods are a potential hazard for loan investors
NYT: Hospital mergers raise price control & decreases price competition per FTC
MW: Fed Chairwoman states poorer Americans are still in recession
AP: Walmart to hire up to 60,000 seasonal workers
NAHB: August home starts down 2.4%
CNBC: Fully self-driving technology to be available in 6 years per Tesla CEO
Phil. Fed: Mid-Atlantic manufacturing slowed in Sept. per index of 22.5
CNN: Home ownership rates for 18-34 year olds is 13.2%
Fox: Tech spending to rise at 66% of banks this year
Zero Hedge: Large coal reserves in E.Ukraine add to political tensions
BBC: Only $135 billion of $516 billion in available ECB loans taken