Online Dating Can Lead To Marriage

I am writing this post as someone firmly entrenched in my generation. I am a member of Generation Y, Generation Next, the Internet Generation, Millennials or whatever other term people choose to apply to people who are roughly twentysomething (full disclosure: I was born in 1982).

I remember my dad bringing home our first household personal computer when I was seven years old. I remember Prodigy. And my generation has been around computers long enough to fondly remember the computer games we played in elementary school--most notably, The Oregon Trail. Chances are good that if you approached a random twentysomething on the street, they could regale you at great length with stories of oxen dying when fording rivers, hunting for food by pressing the space bar, trying to navigate The Dalles and perhaps dying from cholera.

A 2007 study by the Pew Research Center found that people of my generation "use technology and the internet to connect with people in new and distinctive ways."

I have several friends and family members who have dated--and even married--people they met online. "17 percent of online daters--or nearly 3 million American adults--have turned online dates into a long-term relationship or marriage. That's exactly the same number of couples in America who say they met in church," according to Mark Penn's book Microtrends.

What may shock some grandmothers (though certainly not my own) is widely viewed as socially acceptable behavior these days.

What in the world does this have to do with investing? Opportunity. Millions of people want to find their soul mate, or at least their next Mr. or Ms. Right Now.

"Nearly 1 in 4 single Americans who are looking for a romantic partner--or about 16 million people--use the 1,000 or more dating Web sites out there. That includes almost 1 in 5 Americans in their 20s, and 1 in 10 Americans in their 30s or 40s," Penn wrote.

These sites, according to a recent New York Times article, generated nearly $650 million in 2006.

While there are big dating websites already, such as, individual investors could start their own niche dating websites. Starting an online dating service was on NuWire's list of the top 5 romantic investments.

And why not? Surely there are left-handed people or baseball fans or Toyota Prius drivers out there looking to find a date. Why not give them a platform to do so--and maybe make a buck while you're at it?


China May Eliminate One-Child Policy

China has undergone countless changes to prove its prosperity and modernity leading up to this year's Beijing Olympic Games, which begin in August.

"China, worried about an ageing population, is studying scrapping its controversial one-child policy but will not do away with family-planning policies altogether, a senior official said on Thursday," according to Reuters.

China's current one-child policy, which was put in place in 1979, was intended to alleviate overpopulation as well as the resulting environmental problems. The one-child rule is typically relaxed for rural families, especially if their first child is a daughter. Many large Chinese cities allow two individuals who are only children to have more than one child together. And some families opt to ignore the policy and simply pay the fines put in place for those who have more than one child.

"China says its policies have prevented several hundred million births and boosted prosperity, but experts have warned of a looming social time-bomb from an ageing population and widening gender disparity stemming from a traditional preference for boys," according to the article. "Normally, between 103 and 107 boys are born for every 100 girl infants, but in China, 118 boys are born for every 100 girls." This disparity is likely because of China's traditional preference for sons rather than daughters.

This could lead to myriad social problems in the future. Women will likely bear the brunt of these problems. But if China's already large population were to start increasing at an uncontrolled pace, the entire population could suffer.

"Teams studying the issue would have to consider the strain of China's huge population on its scarce resources, popular attitudes, and how much of a social net China can afford to provide without the traditional reliance on large families to care for the aged," according to the article. "Surveys show that 60 percent of Chinese younger than 30 want a maximum of two children."

China is already in the midst of transforming everything from its culture to its economy as it aims for superpower status. A shift this big is something to keep an eye on--it won't just be felt in China, it will be felt all over the world.


Foreclosures And Minorities

"The housing boom of the last decade helped push minority home ownership rates above 50 percent for the first time in 2004," according to a New York Times article.

Subprime lending allowed those who perhaps couldn't truly afford homes to buy them anyway. Now that interest rates are readjusting and mortgage payments are skyrocketing, many people are being forced out of their homes.

"The increase in foreclosures could be the first of a wave of financial distress for many minority homeowners, experts say, because they are twice as likely as whites to have taken out expensive subprime mortgages," according to the article.

"Neighborhoods where the population is more than 80 percent non-white account for 65 percent of all cases" of foreclosure activity, according to the article, which cites data from the National Training and Information Center. "The same trends have been documented in Atlanta and Philadelphia, according to researchers from Harvard and the Reinvestment Fund."

"For all the talk of expanding opportunities to the less well-off [by providing mortgages to borrowers with low income and little to no down payment or credit history], experts note that the gap between minority and white home ownership remains unchanged from a decade ago at about 25 percentage points," according to the article.

"Minorities are far more likely to receive subprime loans than whites. About 30 percent of home purchase loans made to blacks from 1999 to 2004 and 20 percent of home loans made to Hispanics were subprime," according to the article. These are the homeowners whose mortgages are readjusting, who can no longer afford their monthly mortgage payments, who are facing foreclosure.

What really needs to be expanded--to minority communities especially--is personal finance education. People need to understand how to save, borrow and invest responsibly. Many people who are now facing foreclosure didn't understand the situation they were getting themselves into when they signed those mortgage documents.

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Foreclosures And Crime Rates

Foreclosures are on many people's minds these days, and it's not hard to see why. Foreclosures increased 57 percent in the past year, according to numbers recently released by RealtyTrac. Most of the attention paid to foreclosures focuses on their effect on the economy. But the impact of the foreclosure crisis is more broadly felt than that and extends even to crime rates in areas hit hard by foreclosures.

"Using data on foreclosures, neighborhood characteristics, and crime, we find that higher foreclosure levels do contribute to higher levels of violent crime," according to a 2005 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. "A standard deviation increase in the foreclosure rate (about 2.8 foreclosures for every 100 owner-occupied properties in one year) corresponds to an increase in neighborhood violent crime of approximately 6.7 percent."

Charlotte, N.C., is one area that has experienced an increase in crime as foreclosures have climbed.

"While the crime rate citywide held steady, the rate in the heart of Charlotte's 10 highest-foreclosure areas rose 33 percent between 2003 and 2006, an Observer analysis found. All of them are suburban areas filled with starter-home subdivisions," according to a story published in the Charlotte Observer in December 2007.

"[The subdivision] Windy Ridge is 5 years old, but already 81 of its 132 homes have lapsed into foreclosure. Dozens stand boarded up or vacant, with windows smashed and doors kicked in. Vandals have ripped copper wire from walls. Vagrants and drug users frequent the empty houses--next door to families who thought they'd invested wisely in their northwest Charlotte suburb," according to the article.

"Violent crime at rental homes in single-family neighborhoods happens at three times the rate of crime at owner-occupied homes, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. The property crime rate is 1.6 times higher."

Some who have purchased homes in these subdivisions want to sell, but they can't afford to because of the state of the market.

And the problem extends to all Charlotte residents, even those not in foreclosure and those who do not live in the areas with increased crime. "Taxpayers must cover the increased cost for police, housing inspectors and other government services in these neighborhoods," according to the article. "Sinking home values mean less tax revenue."

"Foreclosures can have implications for surrounding neighborhoods and even for their larger communities. Cities, counties, and school districts may lose tax revenue from abandoned homes," according to the study.

These abandoned homes can become havens for garbage, animals, squatters and drug dealers, according to the study. "Indirectly, the presence of boarded-up and abandoned buildings may lead to a lack of collective concern by neighborhood residents with neighborhood crime," according to the study.

This line of thinking is similar to the broken window theory, originally proposed by James K. Wilson and George L. Kelling in The Atlantic Monthly in 1982 and made more famous by Malcolm Gladwell's 2000 book The Tipping Point. The theory goes that the little things, such as a building with a few broken windows, can escalate into big problems, such as that same building being neglected further and becoming a site of criminal activity.

And maybe foreclosures once seemed like a little problem, but now they have escalated into a nationwide crisis. And not only are some people being forced out of their homes, but widespread foreclosures are leading to higher crime in some areas, so that their neighbors are not always safe in theirs.

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Few Young Workers Contribute To Retirement Plans

Americans love instant gratification. That's why so many are in credit card debt (more on that in a future post) and that's why so many save so little (see our previous article on Americans' Negative Savings Rate).

This preference for devoting resources to the present rather than the future apparently starts young.

According to a study released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in December 2007, 36.8 percent of workers who are 17 years old now will have absolutely no money in a 401(k) or similar retirement plan when the time comes for them to retire.

According to a CNN article on the study, "Only 36 percent of workers in 2004 participated in 401(k)s and similar accounts when offered."

With Social Security up in the air and pensions becoming increasingly rare, workers are basically left to plan their retirement on their own by contributing to a 401(k), IRA or both. There are even self-directed IRAs and self-directed 401(k)s for those who want to really take the reins of planning for their retirement.

Unfortunately, it seems that many workers are paralyzed by the idea of planning for their retirement. So, rather than face the stress of the decision-making process, so they do nothing about it. And hope for the best, I guess.

"GAO found that automatically enrolling workers in 401(k)s and similar plans would cut the number of those without money in those plans to 17.7 percent," according to CNN. "Automatic enrollment would halve the number of low income workers with zero retirement dollars from 63 percent to 30 percent."

The GAO is not the only one reporting on the trend. The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) released a report last November that found that participation in employment-based retirement plans decreased from 40.9 percent of all workers in 2005 to 39.7 percent of all workers in 2006.

"The EBRI report found certain characteristics were associated with a lower level of participation in a retirement plan, such as being non-white, younger, female, never married, having a lower educational attainment, lower earnings, poorer health status, no health insurance through an employer, not working full time, not working full year, and working in service occupations or in farming, fisheries and forestry occupations," according to The Wenatchee World.

The bottom line, though, is that everyone needs to plan ahead and save for retirement. Not only do they need to save, they need to invest in such a way as to outpace inflation. Otherwise, they won't have any money when they want to retire. Hoping to win the lottery at age 64, for example, is just bad "strategery."

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Job Markets: The 15 Best States

In my previous post, I noted the 10 states with the worst job markets in the U.S. Despite the increasing unemployment across the country, there are definitely some states where jobs are more plentiful.

According to CareerBuilder, these 15 states are:

South Dakota
North Dakota
New Hampshire
New Mexico


Iowa and Vermont have the highest rates of unemployment among these states at 4 percent, according to CareerBuilder. That's a full 1 percent lower than the national unemployment rate of 5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. South Dakota and Idaho, meanwhile, have unemployment rates of only 3 percent, according to CareerBuilder.

Real estate investors who get their foot in the door in these markets early may find themselves with plenty of options when people begin moving to these states, brimming with job opportunities, from states that are hemorrhaging jobs.

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Job Markets: The 10 Worst States

With the economy teetering on the brink of recession, economists and armchair economists are closely analyzing the number of jobless claims. While the number has been rising pretty consistently across the country, and the national unemployment rate is at 5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are some states with worse job markets than others.

According to CareerBuilder, the worst job markets are found in the following 10 states:

South Carolina
District of Columbia

Metropolitan areas within Michigan, California and Ohio were all featured on NuWire's 2007 list of the Top 5 Declining U.S. Markets. The metropolitan statistical areas (Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn in Michigan, San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City in California and Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor in Ohio) all suffered losses in terms of both jobs and population.

Real estate investors could likely find deals in these markets because of all the so-called motivated sellers who have to move elsewhere to find jobs. But, as my dad always told my brother and me, our baseball and basketball card collections weren't actually worth the prices listed in the Becketts we pored over unless we sold them to someone. So investors should keep in mind that, while a property may have a fantastic price, they still need an exit strategy, and with people and jobs leaving town, exit strategies may be harder to come by than deals.

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Industries Friendly To Workers Over 40

"With the baby-boomer generation approaching retirement, resulting in a shortage of approximately 10 million employees over the next decade, candidates with relevant work experience are becoming more in demand," according to ClassesUSA, an online higher education portal.

Many workers of a certain age fear being forced out of their jobs and forced into retirement so that their company can then hire younger replacements. Younger workers are cheaper, in theory, than their older counterparts. They generally cannot command wages as high as those with more experience and education than they have themselves.

Companies can also save by employing younger workers because they will have to shell out fewer dollars for health care, because younger workers are often healthier. Assuming a company participates in a matching program for retirement plans, they will also save money on that front, because the rate of young workers participating in retirement plans is smaller than the rate of older workers doing so.

"With the baby-boomer generation approaching retirement, resulting in a shortage of approximately 10 million employees over the next decade, candidates with relevant work experience are becoming more in demand. That gives older employees more leverage to request bigger paychecks and to change jobs later in life," according to ClassesUSA. "Fields such as health care, business-to-business services, education and services for the elderly are practically custom made for the older worker considering a job change."

The health care industry is ideal because many of the required academic programs can be completed in two years or less, and many health care jobs offer flexible schedules; consulting is a common opportunity in business-to-business settings, and consulting clearly favors those with experience in an industry; education is facing shortages and high turnover across the board and would benefit from older workers, who often bring a sense of loyalty to their workplace; and finally, older workers are especially cut out for the industry of services for the elderly because they are the ones most likely to understand what that population wants and needs.

For more details on why each of these industries are particularly well suited to workers 40 years old and older, see the entire article here.

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Australian Expatriates In New York City: Down Under In The Big Apple

If America is known as the world's "melting pot," then New York can be viewed as a cross-section of that. It is one of the most diverse cities in the world with the sights, sounds and smells of cultures the world over."

One of the most unique smells is probably the 60 pounds of grilled kangaroo served up weekly by Public, a restaurant in Little Australia.

By some estimates, 13,000 Aussies live in New York City, leaving a distinctive mark on blocks just north of Little Italy (Nolita) and south of the East Village," according to the New York Times.

In addition to merely being of interest to Americans who may not want to fly all the way to Australia, the growth of Little Australia proves that niche businesses can be successful if they can find the right audience. For native Australians living in New York, now might be the time to open a shop or restaurant offering goods or services that recall their homeland.


Immigrant Population In U.S. To Reach New Heights

According to a recent article in the New York Times, "If present trends continue, within two decades the proportion of immigrants in the United States will surpass the peak reached more than a century ago, a new analysis concludes."

The article cites estimates from the Pew Research Center that say that sometime between 2020 and 2025, immigrants will account for 15 percent of the American population, which works out to one in seven people.

The article also cites the Pew Research Center also estimates as evidence that this increase could affect the size and makeup of the American workforce. "Because the vast wave of baby boomers will be joining the ranks of the elderly, the number of young and elderly compared to the number of working people—the so-called dependency ratio—would rise to 72 per 100 in 2050, compared with 59 per 100 in 2005."

What does this mean for investors? For one thing, it means that the job market is likely to change. Both the types of jobs in demand and the types of workers available might shift as the population of immigrants increases. It also means that real estate prices could increase in areas traditionally heavily populated by immigrants, because the balance between supply and demand could be disrupted.

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Singles Awareness Day: The Growing Number Of Single Women Buying Homes

Single women trail only married couples as the biggest demographic group buying homes, according to Mark J. Penn's book Microtrends. In 2005, single women bought 1.5 million homes--more than twice the number that single men bought, Penn wrote.

As a result, "Home maintenance, home repair, and home security companies have an enormous new market to attend to in single women," Penn wrote.

What is the reason for this? There are many, of course, but Penn focuses his analysis on one in particular: there are simply more straight women than there are straight men. Part of the reason for that is that "gay men outnumber lesbians in America by approximately 2 to 1," Penn wrote. Further, more males die before adulthood than do females. Penn wrote that researchers attribute this to a phenomenon called the "'testosterone storm,' which causes more deaths among boys from car accidents, homicides, suicides, and drownings."

What all of that that means, as in musical chairs, is that some women are simply going to be left out.

In addition to the fact that there are just more single women than there are single men, there are a couple other reasons that could be influencing the vast number of single women who are buying homes. One is that single women stay single longer than they used to. "In the last decade the median age for marriage has increased by one year to 26.7 years for men and 25.1 for women," according to a study released by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2005.

Women are also gaining ranks in both college and the workforce. "From 1970 to 2000 the number of women completing college has nearly doubled and the number in the labor force has gone up by almost 40 percent," according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Thus, with more women receiving college educations and then entering the workforce, there are more women than ever with enough money to purchase and maintain their own homes--and even more women who are becoming real estate investors. For more on that, see our article Women Investing in Real Estate.

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Florida And Its Retiree Population

"3 million of Florida's 18.7 million residents are seniors, the densest concentration of elderly folk in the country," according to a recent Slate article.

Why is that the case? Well, according to the same article, Florida has "good weather, effective marketing, low taxes, and a herd mentality."

Once senior citizens began collecting Social Security, they had enough money to live independently during their retirement; this trend, practically unheard of in the beginning of the 20th century, became increasingly common during the rosy economy the U.S. had after World War II.

Around that time, according to the article, Florida was one of the least populous states in the nation, so real estatea developers bought up land and promoted the state as a great place to live, in part thanks to its warm climate.

But the growth had to level off at some point, and now many parts of Florida seem to have been built up to meet more demand than there actually is. And, of course, the law of supply and demand should always be on investors' minds.

Orlando, Miami and West Palm Beach came in third, fourth and fifth, respectively, on NuWire's list of the Top 5 Overbuilt U.S. Markets in 2007. And one Florida market is overloaded in another way: Jacksonville was third on NuWire's Top 10 Foreclosure Markets for 2007. These factors could contribute to investors being able to purchase properties below market value, but investors need to crunch the numbers before jumping into a deal just because the price is low.

In addition, investors interested in Florida should remember to pay some attention to the other age groups in the state. Florida is home to a lot of colleges and universities and thus has a large young adult population. Two cities in Florida--Tallahassee and Gainesville--were first and third, respectively, on NuWire's 2007 list of the Top 10 Small College Towns for Investment.


Did the Housing Boom Cause a Baby Boom?

The nation's recent housing bubble--which is now collapsing as a recession looms--may have had consequences beyond strictly financial ones. The 4,265,996 babies born in 2006--the most babies born in a year since 1961--may have been part of a baby boom brought on by the housing boom, according to an article in the New York Times.

"Social scientists have long traced a connection between housing and fertility," according to the New York Times, and some of these social scientists are theorizing that the housing bubble led to a mini baby boom.

"For the first time in 35 years, America’s total fertility rate—the estimated number of children a woman will have in her lifetime—reached 2.1, the theoretical level required to maintain the country’s population, according to recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics," the article said.

"In the wide-open mortgage climate early this decade, creative loan products allowed more people than ever to buy homes, often a precursor to having children," the article said. Once they owned homes, then, many probably felt they were stable and responsible financially. Owning a home also probably gave a lot of people the feeling that they had enough space to raise kids. And in 2006, the housing boom baby boom was born.

This mini baby boom could mean a lot of things. For one, the class of college students starting in the fall of 2024 is sure to be quite competitive.

In addition, this mini baby boom could be a boon to the original baby boomers who, in addition to having more grandchildren to spoil, now have a lot more people who could help pay for their retirement.

While the oldest of the original baby boomers can now collect Social Security and retire, the youngest baby boomers still have 21 years until they hit age 65--the traditional retirement age--and many people plan to work past age 65 in order to be able to sock away enough money to retire comfortably. Thus, these housing boom baby boomers will be in the work force early enough to contribute to Social Security in time for the original baby boomers to benefit.

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