Good Luck, Holly!

Today was the last day at work for one of my colleagues whose desk is right outside the door to my office.  She’s moving on to a new job, one that she hopes will bring her fresh challenges and a chance to continue to grow and develop in her professional career.

I’ll call her Holly Hockey, because she is one of the most rabid hockey fans you can possibly imagine.  When the NHL had one of its recent strikes and time passed without a resolution, she became increasingly agitated at the thought of a winter without hockey, and you could hear her spluttering about how it was high time to settle this thing and drop the damned puck!  Ask her about how she thought the Columbus Blue Jackets were doing, and you’d get a thoughtful and comprehensive analysis of the rising stars, the disappointments, and some likely personnel changes.  But hockey is just one of the things that HH is passionate about:  other key interests included her family, Dropkick Murphys, Irish heritage, avoiding painful sunburns, and a nice glass of Jameson’s to help reflect on a week of work well done.

She is one of those “glue guys” — people who help to make any workplace work just a bit better, by being willing to pitch in and help even when it wasn’t technically her duty to do so, by being a friendly face when you got off the elevator, and by laughing at your lame attempt at humor or sharing her ditty about the perils of drinking tequila (“One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”)  Over the years we got to know each other and could share a chuckle on a tough work day.  She put up with my guff, and I appreciated it.  You don’t quite fully realize the value and impact of such people until they are gone.

We all touch each other in different ways, without really thinking much about it.  HH was one of those people who touched her lucky co-workers in a good way.  We’ll miss her, but we can’t help but wish her the best as she moves on to tackle a new job.

Now if only the Blue Jackets would start hitting and playing some old-fashioned hockey!

888,246 Poppies

It’s an idea that is cool yet devastating — plant one handcrafted, red, ceramic poppy for each live lost by a British or Colonial soldier during  World War I, the War to End All Wars that gave rise to America’s Veterans Day and Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries.  It’s simple, and yet as the poppies flood out of the Tower of London and cover the green grass of its moat it gives you a shock at the enormity of the losses that were sustained, without even counting the soldiers who returned from the terrible conflict shell-shocked, with lungs burned by poison gas, or missing arms and legs.

The piece is called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, and it shows how powerful public art can be.  It also reminds us of the sacrifices that our veterans have made, and the ultimate sacrifice of those who served willingly and did not return home.

On this Veterans’ Day, thanks to all of our veterans!

The Impoverished Millennials

For years, Americans have always been fervently optimistic about the financial course of their families.  Parents and grandparents were confident that the generations to come would be wealthier and better educated than they were — and for much of American history their optimism was justified by the reality.

Is that true any longer, with the so-called Millennial Generations, which consists of adults under age 35?  A troubling article in the Wall Street Journal indicates that there are disturbing signs that the Millennials are instead on track for lives of financial difficulty.

The article looks at the savings rates of Americans by generation through an analysis of consumer finances and financial accounts.  It finds that, after a brief blip of increased savings during the Great Recession, Millennials now aren’t saving much of anything.  In fact, their generational savings rate is a negative 2% — which means many of them are burning through the savings they accumulated previously, or spending their inheritances.  They are less likely to have any investments or investment accounts, which means they have no cushion to fall back on if they lose their jobs or hit another financial bump in the road.

In short, forget about saving to make a down payment on a house — these young people are hanging on by their fingernails, hoping to make their credit card and student loan payments, and eating into their seed corn savings in order to do so.

Some of this predicament clearly is the product of bad planning and poor personal financial management.  If you’re barely making your credit card payments, maybe you should skip that expensive “destination” bachelorette party with your college pals.  But some of it is larger forces — like a weak job market, student loan debt that is far greater than that carried by prior generations, and flat wage and salary growth.  The fear is that the Millennials will become trapped and never be able to break out of a cycle of debt that leaves them living hand to mouth for most of their adult lives and limits their abilities to buy homes, start families, and ultimately to retire.

It’s not a pretty picture, and we can only begin to perceive what the ripple effects of an impoverished Millennial generation might be for our country and its economy.  Perhaps we should stop worrying so much about senior citizens and start thinking about how to create more opportunities for the younger people who must carry the country forward.