Personal Finance: Millennials At Work

Michelle Singletary
Thursday, April 15, 2010; 8:35 AM

I was intrigued by a recent Pew Research Center study that found millennials, people between the age of 18 and 29, have less of a strong work ethic compared to older generations.

The Post's Ian Shapira writes that the report found that millenials most frequently defined themselves by technology use and music/pop culture. Only 5 percent noted their generation's work ethic-- the same percentage who chose "clothes."

Baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) and Generation Xers (people born between 1965 and 1980) say they have a better work ethic than those in their 20s. And the millennial survey respondents agreed.

"It might be tempting to dismiss these findings as a typical older adult gripe about 'kids today.' But when it comes to each of these traits -- work ethic, moral values, respect for others -- young adults agree that older adults have the better of it," write Pew researchers the report.

Still, I wonder if this generalization is a fair representation of millennials? The Pew report also says "millennials (like older adults) place parenthood and marriage far above career and financial success."

Tell me what you think of the millennials you work with or whom work for you. Or if you are a millenial, do the Pew findings represent your attitude about work? But first read Shapira's article and then the Pew report. Then answer the Color of Money Question of the Week: From your own experience, do millenials work hard? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. In the subject line put "Millennials At Work."

Let's Talk Taxes

I am back online today at my usual time, noon ET. My guest is Jim Dupree, the IRS spokesman for Maryland and Metropolitan Washington. Dupree will take your last-minute tax questions, including what you can do if you can't pay your tax bill.

This is a text-only chat, much like instant messaging. Your web browser will automatically update with the freshest questions and answers.

If you are unable to join me live, send your question early or read the transcript later.

Tax Free

Tax credits and deductions are paying off for a lot of people.

The Tax Policy Center, a Washington research organization, reported that about 47 percent of households will pay no federal income taxes in 2009, reports Stephen Ohlemacher in Nearly half of US household escape fed income tax.

As Ohlemacher writes, credits for low- and middle-income families have grown so much that a family of four making as much as $50,000 will owe no federal income tax for 2009, as long as there are two children younger than 17, according to a separate analysis by the consulting firm Deloitte Tax.

Top earners are also benefiting from tax breaks. Tax cuts enacted in the past decade have been very good for wealthy taxpayers.

Discouraged worker

While the jobless rate is holding steady and perhaps signaling a financial recovery, officials are cautioning people not to read too much into the numbers.

The supply of new jobs -- 162,000 in March, the biggest monthly increase in three years -- will accommodate only a fraction of the unemployed, reports the Post's V. Dion Haynes.

"It's not quite as simple as some people think, because as conditions get better, more people decide to look for work and are counted as in the labor force," said Lawrence H. Summers, a senior White House adviser and director of the National Economic Council. Read more in Jobless rate rise as many drawn back to labor force.

Even though the number of jobs has grown, there are still about 5.4 job seekers per opening, Haynes reports.

Tax Time Tip

The deadline to submit your tax return is today!Here are some last minute tips to make sure you've dotted all your i's and crossed all your t's.

--Double-check your figures: If you are filing a paper return, you should double-check that you have correctly figured the refund or balance due.

--Check the tax tables: If you are filing using the Free File Fillable Forms or a paper return you should double-check that you have used the right figure from the tax table.

--Sign your form: You must sign and date your return. Both spouses must sign a joint return, even if only one had income. Anyone paid to prepare a return must also sign it.

For more information read the IRS's Ten Last Minute Filing Tips.

Dogged By Tax Debt

The Detroit News has a nifty blog, "Tax WatchDog" by Robert Snell.

I like it because it calls out the so-called rich and famous who aren't paying their taxes, at least according to the tax authorities. This week, Snell reports on "the trout-lipped former supermodel Janice Dickinson" (love that description). Filings show she owes $83,000 to the state of California.

Credit CARD Act Impact

Tired of changing due dates for your credit card bill?

Under the new Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, consumers will be given a lot more payment consistency.

--Due dates for monthly payments must be the same day each month.

--If the due date falls on a weekend or holiday, payments must be credited to the account on the next business day without penalties.

--If a card issuer changes its mailing address or payment processing procedures, and the changes causes a delay in crediting cardholders' account, the issuer cannot charge late fees during the 60 days following those changes.

Learn more about the Credit CARD Act here.

Color of Money Question

Last week's question was sparked by a Post Magazine profile of a stay-at-home other trying to get back into the workforce. An online chat that followed the article produced some interesting comments from readers about this decision

Several women were not so kind in suggesting the stay-at-home mother in the Post profile deserved what she got - a long and hard search for employment - after a 17-year absence from the workforce.

Yes, it's a tough job market, but why all the second-guessing about her choice? The mother made no apologies about her decision and had every right to still feel frustrated about her job search. Just because you choose to stay at home with your children doesn't mean you have little to offer an employer. Some of the stay-at-home moms I know (and sometime envy) have the best organization skills I've ever seen.

Anyway, here are some of your responses:

Marie Potter of Reston, Va. said, "I was raised by a single parent who had no education, barely could read and write. I watched her be at the mercy of others. I learned really early that each woman must be empowered to be free. We always need to question, 'how do I take care of my family and myself?' Not working for 17 years outside your home was a luxury."

"I don't think women should expect to jump right back in to their old position after more than a decade off," says Carrie Nelson of Washington, D.C. "It's hard to swallow, but she was right, you can't have it both ways. You sacrifice for your kids, which is wonderful, but they need to be realistic in their expectations for re-learning skills and re-climbing the ladder. It's not fair to the women who didn't stay home, and sacrificed time with their kids."

For Jennifer Cail of Lynnwood, Wash., says it has to be family first. "I think it is really important to stay home with my children, but I don't see it as all or nothing. I also know that me staying home makes my marriage stronger, which is even more important to the healthy development of my children. I also know that it's a blessing to be able to have a choice and I am thankful for that every day."

Cindi Weinberg of St. Louis, Mo. has found a way to stay at home and keep her skills current.

"I have been a stay-at-home mom for ten years," she wrote. "I have my accounting degree and recently started volunteering for a non-profit helping with their office work. My hope is try to update my skills but on my own schedule. Once my kids are on their own, I would like to get back to work. I realize I will be starting at the bottom. I think it comes down to your own definition of what 'having it all' is. I feel like I have it all. I am there for my family and I enjoy my volunteer work. Women just need to support each other and do what works for their home."

Amen, sister!

Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

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