Peak-oil alarmists have been predicting for several years that rising fuel costs will eventually make large houses and long commutes unaffordable. According to this scenario, American suburbs are destined to become slums.As the price of gasoline surpassed $4 a gallon last summer, the alarmist scenario became increasingly plausible. Then, in a surprising twist, fuel prices dropped precipitously. But cheaper energy has not prevented many suburbs from falling into crisis. Many suburban homeowners, especially those who owe more to the bank than their homes are worth, have a growing sense of anxiety. Unemployment and foreclosure rates are rising in tandem, with devastating effects in suburban communities from California to Florida.The “boomburg” is bornIn the latest issue of The New Yorker, George Packer describes the recent construction boom in the Fort Myers, Florida, metropolitan area: “Over the past few years, these inland subdivisions, which are sometimes called ‘boomburgs,’ appeared as if overnight. . . . Across flat and empty fields of wire grass, the developers paved suburban streets and called them Old Waverly Court and Rolling Greene Drive. They parceled out lots smaller than a quarter acre and built, with concrete blocks and stucco, look-alike two-story beige and yellow houses; columned archways over the front doors lent an illusion of elegance. The houses sold for two or three hundred thousand dollars to some of the thousand or so people who moved to Florida every day.”The boomburg collapsesSince the end of 2005, however, the value of these homes has plummeted. According to the February 8 issue of The New York Times, the median home price in the Fort Myers metropolitan area fell from $322,300 in December 2005 to $106,900 in December 2008.During a recent visit to Fort Myers, President Obama said, “I know Fort Myers had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation last year. I know… Sign up for a free trial and get instant access to this article as well as GBA’s complete library of premium articles and construction details. Start Free Trial Already a member? Log in This article is only available to GBA Prime Members
On Oct. 23, the MFLN Personal Finance team will host Employment Resources for Military Families, a 90-minute professional development webinar. To broaden our perspective of the employment situation for many military families, we reached out to military spouses working as FINRA Fellows with AFCPE to earn their accreditation as Accredited Financial Counselors. In this post, Christine Maxwell shares her story as a military spouse and the challenges and joys she has encountered in her personal and professional journey. By Christine Maxwell, FINRA FellowPhoto courtesy of Christine MaxwellMy background is in corporate and government finance. I’ve worked for some great companies and I’m very proud of my work experience. I even have a Master of Aerospace Engineering Management from a career I had before I “married into the military”. Even with all this experience and education, it’s still difficult to find a new job when you’re constantly moving.Photo courtesy of Christine MaxwellLike clockwork, every one to two years, I was re-inventing my career due to frequent Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves required by my husband’s Army career. Even though I knew what I signed up for when I married into military life (as more seasoned spouses often reminded me), it didn’t make leaving my career behind any easier each time we moved. My typical PCS related job-hunting routine went like this: Job-hunt, find a great job, work hard, get a promotion, receive PCS orders, pitch remote-work, and be turned down. Rinse, repeat.ChangesAside from the difficulties of constant job searching, it’s soul-crushing to feel like you are continuously starting over with your career with each move. On our fifth PCS, we moved to Fort Hood for a one year assignment when I was seven months pregnant with our son. Although I knew I was fortunate to have the choice to decide to stay at home during the rest of my pregnancy, I wasn’t happy about it.Seven months pregnant and jobless, I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t working. In retrospect, it sounds silly, but I realized that I had tied my self-worth and value to my career. I looked up my cohort of former co-workers from my first job out of college on LinkedIn. They were all senior managers and directors now. When I renewed my passport, I cried as I typed in “homemaker” for occupation.Photo courtesy of Christine MaxwellI met a new friend at that duty station who brought me out of my fog. We had our babies within two weeks of each other. She taught me to sew, we worked out, and learned how to make kombucha. We learned how to be new moms together. Unknowingly, she helped me to realize that I wasn’t just “Christine and I work at….” I realized that I was actually, Christine, a wife, mother, friend, a creative, and world traveler. My time off from work helped me to realize that I’m much more than just my job.RefreshedA year after I had my son, I felt ready to return to the workforce. Luckily, I didn’t have to return to work because we needed the money or because I felt lost anymore without working. I returned willingly, knowing I was refreshed and ready to try something new.At our new duty station, I found a great new job as a budget manager for a local university. It was new and challenging, and I loved it! Like clockwork, we received our PCS orders a few months later and I was devastated to be leaving. Surprisingly, my manager asked me to stay on and work remotely after I told her I would be leaving at the end of the year.Photo courtesy of Christine MaxwellRethinking the NormalDuring our move to our sixth duty station, my husband deployed in route, and I moved there on my own with our toddler and my remote job. This time I was happy and challenged, but not stressed. Ten years after my first job out of college, I wasn’t a director like my corporate friends, but I was happy. I had time to meet new friends at this duty station. I volunteered and I was even social! I met other military spouses who were entrepreneurs. They inspired me to think about what I was passionate about and what skills and experiences I had to offer. Talking with other military spouses, I realized so many of us were struggling with personal finances and career issues.I started a blog about personal finances and careers for military spouses. I started freelance writing about finance. I decided I want to know more about personal finance and help more people. I applied for the FINRA Military Spouse Scholarship and was accepted into the Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) program.HindsightAlmost ten years of living the Army life, I wish I could go back and talk to my 22-year-old self. I would tell her she’s more than just her job. I would remind her that all her friends who climbed past her in her career never had the chance to experience all that she has. They haven’t lived all across the U.S., South Korea, or the Italian Riviera. They haven’t felt the lows of a military deployment but they also haven’t felt the highs of a redeployment ceremony. The military life has afforded me the opportunity to travel and meet new people. My friends are diverse, not just from around the country but around the world. Whether they are working outside the home or not, they are holding down the Homefront while their spouses are away.Photo courtesy of Christine MaxwellLooking back, I wouldn’t trade my experiences with military life for any job. I may not be in the military, but as part of the military community, I’m a part of something bigger than myself. I have a passion for educating others about personal finance and I know that as a FINRA Fellow, I will be able to take my professional knowledge of personal finance to the next level. Working in the field of finance I also know that I have a portable career that will move more easily with each PCS.Final ThoughtsWe have choices in life. I could have decided to stay unhappy about the career I thought I was supposed to have. Instead, I’m happy that I was able to pivot. I finally realized that even though I’m not where I thought I would be ten years ago, I’m actually in a better place now. I’m doing what I love and helping others at the same time.There is still much work to be done for the military spouse employment issue. Not everyone can or wants to work remotely or own their own business. There must be more solutions to this dilemma. However, I’m happy and satisfied with my portable and developing career in personal finance.
Years ago when Muhammad Ali proclaimed that he was the greatest, he was the greatest. As heavy weight boxing champion of the world he had defeated every possible challenger and his claim was merely a statement of that fact. Muhammad Ali has never been known for modesty, but sports figures like Federer and Woods, though arguably the greatest of all time in their chosen sport, rarely bring up the subject on their own. Their greatness is claimed by others around them. Indian public life by contrast is a daily barrage of hyperbole, arrogance, false claims and often outright lies. With virtually nothing to back them, the Indian Commonwealth Organising Committee makes public and international statements so outlandish and arrogant, to be laughable. The Commonwealth Games will be the best ever. The stadia are better than Beijing. The facilities are 5-star…As if to remind the claimant of his conceit, a ceiling buckled at a stadium. Just when the Chief Minister was calling a waterlogged city of broken roads, world class, as if on cue, a bridge collapsed.InflationWhen the daily sights and sounds are of failure, hyperbole and superlatives become essential even for the most mediocre of accomplishments. Hailed as the pride of India, Delhi’s international airport has been designed and built by a consortium of foreign companies. Yet the insistence by the Prime Minister that the structure was a symbol of Indian ingenuity was a desperate call to all those within hearing distance that India had arrived. Even if we were not better than others, we were at least almost like them. In every utterance there is an urgent need to repair the shaky confidence of a nation riddled with daily signs of ineptness and greed.advertisementSo desperate is the urge to falsify reality, that its replacement is not a modest parting of relevant information, but hopeless exaggeration. Public remarks are coated in either misinformation or vagueness. Or are just clever rebuttals. The Naxals are not anti-national, but are a problem to the nation-state. We can’t distribute the rotting wheat; it has to be done through the Public Distribution System. The judiciary is not above the law, the judiciary is the law.Part of the problem lies with a society that despite its claim to modernity, still refuses to think outside of the family. Nothing of national, regional or local interest can be of any value to people whose allegiance is firmly stuck in the private progress of the household. Indian business models seem quaint but outmoded to foreigners when the management of sizeable industrial resources are shared amongst relatives: brothers and sons as MDs, wives and daughters as sleeping partners. Ministers’ sons are natural contenders for succession, even if more qualified candidates are available. Every year the railways most successful expansion program is linked to setting up stations at the minister’s ancestral village, however remote. With easy availability of national resources, progress of the Indian family is always possible?Moreover, the incapacity to do, is intrinsically linked to the capacity to pass responsibility. Even a cursory glance will reveal that India has an extensive institutional and public framework for governance that consistently fails to deliver. In forestry alone there are several national institutes and departments doing research, experimentation, afforestation, surveys, management, species development, preservation, conservation, land control etc.. Yet India ranks amongst countries with one of the highest levels of depleting forest cover in the world. There may be a surplus of wheat in India, but without its distribution, India also has the highest deaths from malnutrition. Government departments continue to research and publish papers on new improved fire retardant thatch for village homes, but fund only the construction of pucca cement roofs. The disconnect between the resolve and the reality is so complete it is hard to know when to laugh, when to cry.KnowledgeA recent article described the inauguration of a speed breaker on a national highway. While the speed breaker was decorated with Rangoli, the road was closed for the day. In the evening, a Hindu priest recited shlokas, and the minister of Surface Transport got on all fours and broke a coconut against the speed breaker. Though the inauguration caused a 12 km truck traffic jam, the event was perceived by all to be essential, a successful integration of new infrastructure with traditional ritual. I reread the piece to figure out whether this was a serious report or satire. But even after several readings could not tell. In most situations, it is hard to tell the two apart.advertisementTry stopping someone on the road for directions. He points vaguely in the direction that your car faces, and asks you to continue to go straight, then gesturing towards the right with his arm he will ask you to turn left; and suggest you ask someone there. By ensuring that you are now doubly confused, he will have at least conveyed that he is in the know of things, a man about town; his vanity must be salvaged at all costs.Rarely will someone say “My knowledge of this neighbourhood lacks the urban coordinates, landmarks and magnetic pole positions that would allow me to do justice to your enquiry. Could I direct you to someone better informed, more trustworthy and infinitely more courteous than myself.”UnrealPart of the Indian failure to complete the preparations for the Commonwealth Games on time was the inability to realistically assess situations, and to say, No, Give it to Fiji. They’ll do a better job. At every press conference pointed questions about tardiness and sloppy work were addressed with phrases like, “We are doing our best. We are giving everything we have. The whole nation is praying for success. We must put our best foot forward. It’s in God’s hands.” Public briefings and press releases speak to a nation as if addressing a child’s birthday party.Everyday, every paper, every report becomes a mix of the serious and frivolous, part truth, part moral indignation, part hope. A cover for the darker stains of India. Thieving forest officials, military attacks on Naxals and Kashmiris, food godowns brimming with rotting wheat, rural malnutrition and farmer suicides, incomplete international games, falling bridges, waterlogged cities, the daily upheavals are tinged with comedy. In a place with an increasing quantum of daily human suffering, heightened public expectation, and the cartoon characters that pose as potential providers, comic relief becomes the only way to assuage collective guilt. Laugh and forget.Some years ago, in a supposedly successful television campaign to sell the country to foreigners under the title of Incredible India, a television ad showed a variety of images: a Kuchipudi dancer, a remote Rajasthani palace, a set of sand dunes, a snow covered mountain, an empty beach, a Buddhist monk in a hill side monastery. Every image distilled into a picture book pastoral stillness. So removed was it from the real experience of India, that the campaign was bound to succeed. An outright lie, it reinforced every picturesque stereotype of traditional India. Wherever possible, words, images and other forms of sensory stimulation are an essential buffer from the real India. The unreal, the imagined, the hoped for, the preferred, the recalled, eventually become a messy amalgam in the daily life of the country. It is hard to tell one from the other.When my son was just a kid I’d take him to Appu Ghar to ride in Bump’Em cars. He would maneuvre his car very carefully, giving signals and ensuring he didn’t hit any one, and I would need to goad him into active hostility: Drive like you are on a Delhi road. The real world was an outright lie. It has taken him a few years to learn, but he has.advertisementThe writer is an architect
South African captain Graeme Smith on Tuesday said since a few World Cup berths are still on offer, the players would be under pressure to perform in the one-day series against India.South Africa captain Graeme Smith.Smith said the five-match series, beginning on Wednesday, will be a tough but exciting assignment for both the sides. “I think it is going to be another exciting series, as the Test series was. Both teams have some quality players. A number of players are still playing for spots in the World Cup squad, so it adds an extra incentive to the series.”Any player would love to go to the World Cup and have the opportunity to perform well. I guess there’s always that added pressure on the players to perform,” Smith said on the eve of the opening match at Kingsmead.Smith said the series is being played in different conditions from that of sub-continent but they want to go into the World Cup with on a winning note. “We have to realise that World Cup’s played in totally different conditions to what we are going to be playing here.We would love to have the confidence of performing well here and being successful, it’s not necessarily going to define how well we are going to be in the World Cup. “Our mindset is very crucial here in terms of playing really good cricket and getting the confidence up and players getting good performances under their belt. It’s a very different style of playing in the sub-continent and the selection will revolve around that,” he said.advertisementOn Jacques Kallis unavailability due to an injury, Smith said, “Obviously Jacques injury does hamper (but) how we control things. He is the main front line all-rounder for us.We are really working hard on developing someone like Wayne Parnell into that sort of all-rounder mould.”We got Robin Peterson and Johan Botha in that all-rounders’ mode also and someone like Faf de Plessis who is a very good all-round cricketer. There are options but in South Africa, someone like Parnell heads the pack in terms of developing his batting and his bowling and trying to get him to a point where he could play that number eight role with both bat and ball,” he said adding that Kallis “won’t play any role in this series”.Smith feels players’ mental toughness would be crucial to success in the series.”I think mindset is always crucial. A lot of our guys have been playing longer formats of the game. Both teams are feeling out things and we certainly want to start being well prepared. We have done some really good preparation behind the scenes.”It’s just about the players backing their abilities and skills and going out and executing what they want to do tomorrow. If you start slowly in the shorter formats of the game, you can get found out.”Smith predicted that a score of more than 220 would be competitive on the Kingsmead track.”There is a lot of stories around Kingsmead going around at night. It depends on the surface. Lately. There has not been a lot of grass on the surface. It can swing a little bit at night. I expect it to be a very good surface tomorrow. It’s ranged from 220 to 300 being competitive here,” he said.Talking about the wickets here, that are different from India, he said, “It’s going to be very difficult to produce that. Generally, one-day wickets in South Africa have always been very good round the country there have always been decent surfaces. The ball can swing around a little bit generally the surfaces are great. It’s going to be very difficult to produce Nagpur out at the Wanderers.”Smith is happy to have an attacking spinner in Imran Tahir in his side but said, they don’t, want out the new comer under pressure.”Where we play him and how we play him is also a crucial aspect in his management. For us to have an attacking option, especially through the middle overs, is an asset to have. It’s something we haven’t really had.”I don’t want to put too much pressure on him and expectation. I just want to let him find his feet and grow in the environment. He has proven to be very successful in domestic cricket and we would like him to find his feet at the international level.”- With PTI inputs
It’s one of those high energy days. You decide to prolong your workout, jog five km instead of the three you normally do before calling it a day. You are bathed in sweat and need a cool yet nutritional drink to supplement your effort on the rubber. But the moment you start considering your choices, you are stuck.While good old banana shake beckons, you remember reading a scientific study about low fat chocolate milk being the ideal post workout drink. Then you recall your personal trainer’s lecture on the benefits of whey milk. But wait a minute.Click here to EnlargeShouldn’t you replenish the minerals lost with sweat through an electrolyte-based drink? We help you sift though these options and make the right choice.When you exercise, your muscles break down to take a bigger and stronger form and sweat makes you lose body fluid.Workout drinks help replenish the energy levels and keep you going. While proteinrich drinks focus on building better muscles, electrolyte-based drinks provide the essential minerals lost in sweat. Deciding what you need is essential.Check your hydration levelsTypically, you are required to drink two cups of water before, during, and after a workout to maintain level of body fluid.This may vary depending upon various factors including the length and intensity of your workout. A good way to check your hydration levels can be monitoring the urine output. Light coloured, diluted urine indicates good hydration levels while dark coloured, concentrated urine points towards dehydration. Also, keep a check on the weight lost before and post workout.advertisementStudies have found that athletes who lose as little as two per cent of their body weight through sweating experience a drop in blood volume which causes the heart to work harder to circulate blood, leading to muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue and heat stroke. However, be cautious not to overdo hydration as this can lead to hypernatremia, a condition which occurs due to excessive water intake and low sodium levels in the blood. Drink around two cups of water for every 450 gm lost.Sweating causes a loss of electrolyte such as calcium, chloride, magnesium, sodium and potassium which are essential for normal body functioning. Though intense training in the heat will cause a depletion of minerals, training in a cool room won’t cause much electrolyte loss.Chocolate milk is idealChocolate milk is an ideal post-exercise drink, say two recent studies done at the University of Texas. Researchers found that athletes who drank this put on more muscle and less fat, recorded better timing while working out and were in better physical shape than peers who consumed sports drinks that just contained carbohydrates and calorie-free health drinks. Cyclists exhibited more power and reduced their ride time by an average of six minutes when they consumed low-fat chocolate milk. They were also found to have twice the improvement in endurance, built more muscle and reduced fat compared to others.”You can’t depend upon just carbs or just proteins to replenish the body which is why having zero carbs protein supplement or having only high carb drink is not a good idea. Better go for ideal mix of the two,” says Snehswaran Reddy, HOD, physical education, Gems International. However, chocolate milk only provides calcium and sodium – just two of the four major electrolyte lost in sweat. But, as explained earlier, you are not going to miss them much because your body is not depleted of these minerals during regular workout routines. Only if you find yourself exercising in extreme conditions over long hours, sports drink with a good electrolyte balance can be an ideal option.Whey-based drinkMilk contains two primary proteins: casein and whey. Whey has about about 20 per cent of milk proteins and is a natural by-product of the cheesemaking process. Earlier, this liquid was discarded but today it’s a major ingredient of protein supplements used by iron-pumping body builders across the world. Besides whey protein powders, whey-based beverages are also being marketed as workout drinks. These offer a combination of electrolyte, making them a cross between protein drinks and waterbased sports drinks.However, whey is high on lactose so anyone with lactose intolerance can’t consume it. The carb to protein ratio in whey greatly skewed at 16: 1, so it can be termed more as an energy booster with electrolyte than a muscle-building drink.Chocolate milk: Regular vs low fatScientists believe there is something in naturally occurring combination of carbs and protein that makes chocolate milk a mighty potion. However, low fat chocolate milk does not contain the ideal carb to protein ratio of 4: 1 which is needed to replenish glycogen stores and to stimulate muscle growth.advertisementOn the other hand, regular chocolate milk fulfils this criterion – one cup contains 226 calories, 31.7 g carbs and 8.6 g protein. It also contains 154 mg sodium, 1.1 g dietary fibre and helps meet 25 per cent of your daily calcium need.Pick a sports drink with low carbsIf you are exercising at a high intensity for 60 minutes or more, grab a sports drink with electrolyte. However, make sure that the drink doesn’t contain more than 8 per cent of carbs as high amounts of carbs can cause slow absorption, nausea, cramps or diarrhoea. But a drink with 5 per cent or less sugar solution may not provide enough energy to help you go on for longer period of time. “Electral contains much wider range of minerals lost in sweat than any other sports drink available in the market,” says Sanjay Arora, a seasoned marathon runner.