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Solar grows, with government help

Fri, 2014-04-18 13:55

The White House announced new initiatives to support more solar development this week. But the Department of Energy’s inspector general cast a cloud, with a report slamming a $68 million loan guarantee gone wrong—shades of the Solyndra failure.  

However, solar has actually been growing by leaps and bounds. It provides a little less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity— enough to light more than two million households. Other numbers sound even more impressive.

"More solar has been installed in 18 months than in the previous 30 years combined," says Ken Johnson, vice president of communications for the Solar Energy Industries Association.  "The cost of installed solar systems have dropped 50 percent since 2010."

"Over the last five years, costs have come way down, particularly for large-scale solar installations," says Severin Borenstein of the University of California's Haas School of Business.  "They are almost competitive in some areas now with regular fossil fuel power."

Home installations, he says, are more qualified.

"Some people can save money by putting in solar on their house," he says. "Most people still won't save money."

Solar is competitive only because of government subsidies— many in the form of tax breaks. Borenstein says the calculations are complicated, but federal tax breaks alone can give back almost 45 percent.

That investment is paying off, says Shayle Kann, senior vice president of research at Greentech Media. "It's created a market that has driven costs down year over year," he says. "And why the drop in price accelerates is because there's learning that is done from all these installations. There are economies of scale. 

"There's been a huge storyline about panel prices falling," he says. "Actually, in 2013, the price of panels rose a little bit, and despite that, system prices fell. And that’s where learning from increased deployments makes a huge difference."  

Marketing to men with razors

Fri, 2014-04-18 13:52

When it comes to marketing products to men, it helps to play up how technologically advanced they are, says Jean-Pierre Dubé, a marketing professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

"Men love inscrutable jargon," he says.

And Gillette seems ready to take a page out of Dube’s playbook, with the ProGlide FlexBall, which features “a swiveling ball-hinge that allows the blade to pivot and comes with a high-end price,” The Wall Street Journal reports. The razor, which is expected to debut around Father’s Day, “cuts hairs 23 microns shorter.”

It’s just the latest innovation in high-end men’s shaving:

By Shea Huffman

The shaving arms race really kicked off with Gillette's MACH3 razor, marketed for its three blades that promised a closer shave.

Courtesy of Gillette.

Not to be outdone, competitor Schick decided to one-up Gillette with its quaduple-bladed razor, the Quattro.

Courtesy of Quattro.

It was at this point that people started to question the wisdom of simply adding more and more blades to razors. At least one noteable outlet asked, "What's next, five blades?"

As it turns out, that's precisely what was next. Gillette's Fusion ProGlide boasted a quintuple-bladed head.

Courtesy of Gillette.

Schick quickly came out with its own five-blade razor in response, the Hydro 5.

Courtesy of Schick.

With five blades in the razor already, what more could you do to impress the discerning man looking for a close shave? Of course! You attach a tiny battery-operated motor to the blades to make them vibrate. Thus the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power Razer was born.

Courtesy of Gillette

With the disposable razor companies now venturing into the motorized trimmer business, it was only a matter of time before they just stuck an entire electric razor into mix. For your consideration, the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler 3-in-1 Men's Body Groomer with Beard Trimmer.

Courtesy of Gillette.

With a rotating-on-a-ball-hinge blade forthcoming from Gillette, what more could a man possibly want out of his shaving tools?

Razor companies will surely let them know.

And ladies, don't think you're immune to the razor marketing madness:

Courtesy of Gillette.

It's cheaper to buy than rent, but the gap is closing

Fri, 2014-04-18 13:49

If you live in parts of California, or New York, or Hawaii. You’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you.

But, it is true.

In most parts of the country, it can be a whole lot cheaper to pay a mortgage than to pay rent.

“Home values are still down about 13 percent from where they were at peak values in 2007,” said Stan Humphries, Chief Economist at Zillow, “pair that with historically low mortgage rates, and you have a real situation of affordability in the U.S.”

The situation for renters, on the other hand, is pretty awful.  Rents are way up. “We’re at the worse place we’ve ever been in terms of rental affordability,” said Chris Herbert, Research Director at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Demand for rentals has jumped since the recession. Herbert says today half of renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on accommodation.

Which might have you wondering—if it’s REALLY cheaper ... why don’t people just buy?

“For one thing, if you don’t have savings, you’re going to have a hard time making down payment constraints,” said Herbert, “and if you’re spending a lot of your income now for rent, it's going to be very hard to get that savings together.”

Also, since the housing crisis, it’s a whole lot harder to get a loan.

Right now, the difference between buying and renting is narrowing ever so slightly.

“Over the past year, rents have risen nationally almost four percent year-over-year” said Jed Kolko, Chief Economist at Trulia, “but home prices have risen faster, home prices are up about ten percent nationally year-over-year.

The price gap between buyers and renters is shrinking. But housing is getting less affordable for everyone.

Will Netflix numbers confirm cable cutting?

Fri, 2014-04-18 13:47
Monday, April 21, 2014 - 04:44 Netflix

A screenshot of Netflix's new design.

 Two things Netflix-related happened last week. One, Netflix released a trailer for the new season of Orange is the New Black. Two, we got more evidence that Netflix is the new cable. 

“People who use Netflix or Hulu are actually almost three times more likely to be in that cord cutter segment,” says John Fetto, senior analyst at Experian Marketing Services. Its data in a new report show nearly 1 in 5 homes with a Netflix or Hulu subscription has no cable. 

Until now, he says, those cord cutters were more hype than reality. “We had never actually seen a real uptick in our data. It was always within the margin of error,” Fetto says. 

But now, he says about six and a half percent of households have only internet service—that’s two and a half million more than in 2010. Not everyone is swayed, though. Live TV still has its perks. 

“Consumers want local news. They want live sports,” says Brett Sappington, director of research at Parks Associates. He says some TV viewers are downgrading instead of cutting their cable when they sign up for Netflix.

And, of course, Netflix wins either way.

Marketplace Morning Report for Monday, April 21, 2014Marketplace Tech for Monday, April 21, 2014by Dan BobkoffPodcast Title Will Netflix numbers confirm cable cutting?Story Type News StorySyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No

Yellen's big speech number two

Fri, 2014-04-18 13:28
Friday, April 18, 2014 - 16:27 Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Janet Yellen's first press conference as Fed Chair.

What happened this week?

Fed Chair Janet Yellen soothed some nerves, that's what. Yellen said on Wednesday, in just her second public speech after succeeding Ben Bernanke, that the Federal Reserve will keep its key interest rate near zero for however long it takes to meet the central bank's target on employment and inflation.

"I'm relieved that she's worried about this because there is a lot of slackness in the labor market," said Felix Salmon from Reuters. "There's a huge number of people out there who should be working, and who aren't working, and who aren't necessarily picked up in the unemployment figures. And the fact that she's well aware of this relieves me, because I don't want her to start raising rates just because the unemployment rate goes down if the optimal number of people don't have jobs." 

"If you look at the history of previous financial crisis, usually it can decade before things really heal and before people get back to work and the economy recovers," said Catherine Rampell, from the Washington Post. "In comparison to other recessions in recent memory this feels like a really long drawn out recovery, but compared to previous recoveries following financial crisis, we're about on track." 

In regards to inflation overall, Salmon believes it has its pros and cons.

"Inflation works as a kind of grease to the economy. If you know that prices are gonna go up tomorrow, you spend money today. And you get excited about prices going up and you make more money in the future. It's weird but true that a small level of inflation is a really good thing for both economic growth and for employment."  

Marketplace for Friday April 18, 2014Interview by Kai RyssdalPodcast Title Fed's Yellen soothes nerves on interest ratesStory Type InterviewSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Yellen's big speech number two

Fri, 2014-04-18 13:27

What happened this week?

Fed Chair Janet Yellen soothed some nerves, that's what. Yellen said on Wednesday, in just her second public speech after succeeding Ben Bernanke, that the Federal Reserve will keep its key interest rate near zero for however long it takes to meet the central bank's target on employment and inflation.

"I'm relieved that she's worried about this because there is a lot of slackness in the labor market," said Felix Salmon from Reuters. "There's a huge number of people out there who should be working, and who aren't working, and who aren't necessarily picked up in the unemployment figures. And the fact that she's well aware of this relieves me, because I don't want her to start raising rates just because the unemployment rate goes down if the optimal number of people don't have jobs." 

"If you look at the history of previous financial crisis, usually it can decade before things really heal and before people get back to work and the economy recovers," said Catherine Rampell, from the Washington Post. "In comparison to other recessions in recent memory this feels like a really long drawn out recovery, but compared to previous recoveries following financial crisis, we're about on track." 

In regards to inflation overall, Salmon believes it has its pros and cons.

"Inflation works as a kind of grease to the economy. If you know that prices are gonna go up tomorrow, you spend money today. And you get excited about prices going up and you make more money in the future. It's weird but true that a small level of inflation is a really good thing for both economic growth and for employment."  

The employment problem of prime-age men

Fri, 2014-04-18 13:13
Friday, April 18, 2014 - 15:59 Mitchell Hartman/Marketplace

Mount Hood Community College automotive student Ben Brown rebuilds an automatic transmission.

The U.S. economy might be said to have a ‘man problem.’ Over the past several decades, increasing numbers of men in their prime working years have stopped working, or even looking for work. Fewer men than women are pursuing higher education, which would allow them to find better-paying jobs. And technology is squeezing men with poor education levels and job skills out of blue-collar jobs altogether.

But now, as the job market and the industrial sector in particular, pick up, the problem may be easing—a bit.

The first few decades after World War II could be dubbed ‘the Golden Age of Guys.’ Almost all men in their prime working years—25 to 54 years old—were working. The percentage peaked at 96 percent in March 1953.

But by the mid-1970s, that percentage had fallen below 90 percent. Repeated recessions, the energy crisis, women entering the workforce, and the outsourcing of male-dominated manufacturing and other blue-collar work to developing countries with lower labor costs, all took their toll.

“When you see both job quantity and job quality on the wage side declining—the clear sign that there’s a serious problem here—you know that there’s a real contraction in labor demand facing this group,” says Jared Bernstein, who served as chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden and is now a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,

There was a brief respite to the long decline in the 2000s. Construction boomed during the housing bubble and absorbed many unskilled and semi-skilled men who no longer could find work in manufacturing. But the Great Recession erased those gains, and even more blue-collar jobs vanished. By late 2009, nearly 20 percent of prime-age men weren’t working. They were unemployed, on disability, or had become discouraged and given up even looking for a job.

“Once you’re out of the labor force it can be tough to get back in,” says Bernstein. “We’re talking about people who ought to be right in the heart of their earning capacity in their career. Way too many of these folks have just left the job market.”

But the economic recovery is several years old now, and jobs—including blue-collar jobs in manufacturing and construction—are being created again. The percentage of prime-age men who aren't employed fell below 17 percent in early 2014.

Bruce Chirre is 29, and has enrolled in an associate’s-degree program to study welding at Mount Hood Community College outside Portland, Oregon. He’s a high-school graduate, has three young children and a wife to support, and was unemployed for two years after being laid off from his job at 7-Eleven.

“It’s hard,” says Chirre. “Going to school, getting loans and all that.” Chirre works part-time as a janitor to pay the bills. Still, he says he’s hopeful about his prospects once he finishes the program later this year. “I’ve already talked to employers and they’re ready to hire,” he says.

Chirre’s welding instructor, Rick Walters, says job offers should be plentiful—in construction, bridge-and-road building, and other trades.

“We have folks who are my age getting into retirement age,” says Walters. “And there is going to be an incredible void of skilled workers. We simply can’t take our infrastructure and export it to China to be welded.” He says welders start right out of community college at around $14/hour. On union jobs, he says, experienced welders can make as much as $45/hour to $65/hour.

Down the hall at the community college is the automotive shop, where a group of students are breaking down and reassembling automatic transmissions. It’s bright, clean, and quieter than in the welding class.

Automotive instructor Steve Michner says all his students already have jobs—that’s how much demand there is for skilled workers. “And then when they graduate all they have to do is keep that position by being a good worker,” he says. Pay in jobs at auto dealerships or auto repair shops can ultimately rise to $50,000 a year or more, he says.

Student Ben Brown is 25. He was working construction after graduating high school, but the work dried up in the recession.

“So I was working at Walgreens and kind of sitting around and nothing was going on in my life, and I’d always intended to do this program out of high school but I was kind of scared,” says Brown. “I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it, so I was like ‘I’ve got to get doing something because I’m not going to be able to make any money.'”

But there are still big hurdles facing the demographic of prime-age men who don't have any higher education, or even a high-school diploma, says Carl Van Horn, director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

“Some of these folks were never in that skilled of a job to begin with,” says Van Horn. “They may have low rates of literacy. And for them to get into some of these jobs that require training is difficult.”

Marketplace for Friday April 18, 2014by Mitchell HartmanPodcast Title The employment problem of prime-age menSyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No

The employment problem of prime-age men

Fri, 2014-04-18 12:59

The U.S. economy might be said to have a ‘man problem.’ Over the past several decades, increasing numbers of men in their prime working years have stopped working, or even looking for work. Fewer men than women are pursuing higher education, which would allow them to find better-paying jobs. And technology is squeezing men with poor education levels and job skills out of blue-collar jobs altogether.

But now, as the job market and the industrial sector in particular, pick up, the problem may be easing—a bit.

The first few decades after World War II could be dubbed ‘the Golden Age of Guys.’ Almost all men in their prime working years—25 to 54 years old—were working. The percentage peaked at 96 percent in March 1953.

But by the mid-1970s, that percentage had fallen below 90 percent. Repeated recessions, the energy crisis, women entering the workforce, and the outsourcing of male-dominated manufacturing and other blue-collar work to developing countries with lower labor costs, all took their toll.

“When you see both job quantity and job quality on the wage side declining—the clear sign that there’s a serious problem here—you know that there’s a real contraction in labor demand facing this group,” says Jared Bernstein, who served as chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden and is now a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,

There was a brief respite to the long decline in the 2000s. Construction boomed during the housing bubble and absorbed many unskilled and semi-skilled men who no longer could find work in manufacturing. But the Great Recession erased those gains, and even more blue-collar jobs vanished. By late 2009, nearly 20 percent of prime-age men weren’t working. They were unemployed, on disability, or had become discouraged and given up even looking for a job.

“Once you’re out of the labor force it can be tough to get back in,” says Bernstein. “We’re talking about people who ought to be right in the heart of their earning capacity in their career. Way too many of these folks have just left the job market.”

But the economic recovery is several years old now, and jobs—including blue-collar jobs in manufacturing and construction—are being created again. The percentage of prime-age men who aren't employed fell below 17 percent in early 2014.

Bruce Chirre is 29, and has enrolled in an associate’s-degree program to study welding at Mount Hood Community College outside Portland, Oregon. He’s a high-school graduate, has three young children and a wife to support, and was unemployed for two years after being laid off from his job at 7-Eleven.

“It’s hard,” says Chirre. “Going to school, getting loans and all that.” Chirre works part-time as a janitor to pay the bills. Still, he says he’s hopeful about his prospects once he finishes the program later this year. “I’ve already talked to employers and they’re ready to hire,” he says.

Chirre’s welding instructor, Rick Walters, says job offers should be plentiful—in construction, bridge-and-road building, and other trades.

“We have folks who are my age getting into retirement age,” says Walters. “And there is going to be an incredible void of skilled workers. We simply can’t take our infrastructure and export it to China to be welded.” He says welders start right out of community college at around $14/hour. On union jobs, he says, experienced welders can make as much as $45/hour to $65/hour.

Down the hall at the community college is the automotive shop, where a group of students are breaking down and reassembling automatic transmissions. It’s bright, clean, and quieter than in the welding class.

Automotive instructor Steve Michner says all his students already have jobs—that’s how much demand there is for skilled workers. “And then when they graduate all they have to do is keep that position by being a good worker,” he says. Pay in jobs at auto dealerships or auto repair shops can ultimately rise to $50,000 a year or more, he says.

Student Ben Brown is 25. He was working construction after graduating high school, but the work dried up in the recession.

“So I was working at Walgreens and kind of sitting around and nothing was going on in my life, and I’d always intended to do this program out of high school but I was kind of scared,” says Brown. “I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it, so I was like ‘I’ve got to get doing something because I’m not going to be able to make any money.'”

But there are still big hurdles facing the demographic of prime-age men who don't have any higher education, or even a high-school diploma, says Carl Van Horn, director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

“Some of these folks were never in that skilled of a job to begin with,” says Van Horn. “They may have low rates of literacy. And for them to get into some of these jobs that require training is difficult.”

God quietly rules the box office

Fri, 2014-04-18 12:37
Monday, April 21, 2014 - 05:35 Pure Flix

A movie you may have never heard of has quietly made a fortune at the box office. The budget of the Christian indie film "God's Not Dead" was dirt cheap relative to other films atop the box office charts.

The production budget was less than $3 million, but faith-based movies have a way of making good money using unconventional marketing, all while flying far below the mainstream radar. The film itself is fairly conventional, structured a bit like a boxing movie, except the hero and villain are a Christian student and his skeptical philosophy professor. Rather than a ring, their climactic battle is a classroom debate over whether God exists.

Most critics, including some Christians, have been dismissive of the film. But that’s had little impact on its appeal. In part, that’s because the Christian filmmakers knew their audience and how to craft a story they would respond to. As if for good measure, they also threw in cameos from a popular Christian band and even members of the “Duck Dynasty” family.

The way films like this become hits is more about what happens off screen: the film’s low-key, but highly targeted marketing got pastors around the country to endorse the film. A thumbs up from the clergy meant their congregations bought advance tickets and filled buses to go see it, some traveling long distances.

“A lot of the success has been solely because of churches that have gotten behind this movie,” says David A. R. White, who produced and starred in the film. “In fact, we had almost a million dollars in presales before we even opened.”

That set up an opening weekend shocker. The tiny film grossed $9.2 million, showing up on box office charts just behind the lavishly promoted “Divergent” and “Muppets Most Wanted.”

One number in particular caught Hollywood’s eye. The movie was in a small amount of theaters. But it was raking in nearly $11,000 per screen, well ahead of expensive blockbusters. It also performed well in small markets. Theater owners took notice and the film has expanded to more theaters ever since stunning the movie industry on its opening weekend.

“’God’s Not Dead’ is one of the films that we will point to to say that this is a great genre, faith-based films are here to stay,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at box office tracking firm Rentrak.

Drawing more Christians is one way Hollywood aims to get closer to its object of worship: money. The big-budget “Noah” got a mixed response. But “God’s Not Dead” has movie producers faithful and godless alike, taking notice and taking notes.

Marketplace Morning Report for Monday, April 21, 2014by Mark GarrisonPodcast Title How God quietly rules the box officeStory Type FeatureSyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No

Why great companies aren't so great online

Fri, 2014-04-18 12:34

Lists like, "Best Places To Work," or "Top 10 Coolest Companies," usually focus on salaries, or perks like stock options, wellness programs, or a great cafeteria.

But even those details sometimes don't tell you what the culture is like inside a company and what employees lives are like. 

Jason Seiden, CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing, looked at the LinkedIn profiles of 250 people who worked at celebrated companies, and found that 80 percent of them had nothing to say about the places they worked.

“I’ve been watching this trend on social media, where employees are out there, they’re looking each other up, they’re engaging online the same way we would engage at a bar, you know ‘Hey, what’s real? What’s going on?’ And what I didn’t see is, I didn’t see companies adapting to that. I saw them using the same old broadcast channels to get their message out. So that disconnect is what i wanted to explore,” Seiden says.

“Once upon a time, if a company wanted to speak to the world, they would have to buy advertising," Seiden says.T"hey would have to have a press release get picked up by journalists and carried out through a broadcast medium. Now, because of social media, we all broadcast.”

Read Jason Seiden's thoughts on why employees are silent about their companies on LinkedIn

As beef and pork prices rise, demand tastes like chicken

Fri, 2014-04-18 11:58

With the pork industry saddled with a bad case of pig flu, and the beef industry suffering a drought, right now would be a great time to be a chicken farmer.

In the wake of rising beef and pork prices, chicken is now the cheapest protein on the market. Chicken farmers anticipate earning the most in a year since 1996, even accounting for a drop in farm income due to crop surpluses. Demand for poultry has gone up as a result. So much, in fact, that chicken farmers haven't been able to keep up with the increased demand -- and one farmer is struggling to keep up.

"We haven't run out of chickens, but we are sold out, says Ed Fryar, CEO of Ozark Mountain Poultry in Rogers, Arkansas. "The demand has outstripped the available supply for this year."

Fryar goes through approximately 540,000 birds per week, which he says can take anywhere from four to nine weeks to reach market weight. While that sounds fast, increasing production to keep up with increased demand would take significantly longer--about a year and a half.

And that still doesn't change the fact that, for now,  Fryar can't sell what he doesn't have.

"When you're sold out, if you've got a good customer and they order five percent or ten percent more than they normally take, you don't have the birds," he said. "You don't have the meat to send them, and you'd hate to say no to a customer."

As beef and pork prices rise, demand tastes like chicken

Fri, 2014-04-18 11:58

With the pork industry saddled with a bad case of pig flu, and the beef industry suffering a drought, right now would be a great time to be a chicken farmer.

In the wake of rising beef and pork prices, chicken is now the cheapest protein on the market. Chicken farmers anticipate earning the most in a year since 1996, even accounting for a drop in farm income due to crop surpluses. Demand for poultry has gone up as a result. So much, in fact, that chicken farmers haven't been able to keep up with the increased demand -- and one farmer is struggling to keep up.

"We haven't run out of chickens, but we are sold out, says Ed Fryar, CEO of Ozark Mountain Poultry in Rogers, Arkansas. "The demand has outstripped the available supply for this year."

Fryar goes through approximately 540,000 birds per week, which he says can take anywhere from four to nine weeks to reach market weight. While that sounds fast, increasing production to keep up with increased demand would take significantly longer--about a year and a half.

And that still doesn't change the fact that, for now,  Fryar can't sell what he doesn't have.

"When you're sold out, if you've got a good customer and they order five percent or ten percent more than they normally take, you don't have the birds," he said. "You don't have the meat to send them, and you'd hate to say no to a customer."

Why you should budget, even if you're broke

Fri, 2014-04-18 11:53

We often talk about the importance of creating a budget: Figuring out your monthly income, expenses, and what you want to set aside for retirement, emergencies and fun.

But if you don't have a lot of money coming in, the whole exercise can feel overwhelming. Or worse, pointless. How do you budget, when you're broke?

Kristin Wong, personal finance blogger, wrote a guide for broke budgeting on the website Lifehacker

First: Assess Your Financial Situation

If you have more money going out than coming in, here's what your financial plan boils down to: spend less and/or earn more. To figure out how to do this, first take an assessment of your income and expenses. This will help you develop a reasonable and realistic budget.

Have broke budgeting tips of your own? Leave them in the comments or tweet them to @LiveMoney.

Instagram exposes your real friends

Fri, 2014-04-18 11:49

Instagram angered a number of its most loyal users by revealing the true identity of their friends. It happened on Wednesday, when the photo sharing app announced it would be removing any and all deactivated and spam accounts.

"After receiving feedback from members in the Instagram community, we recently fixed an issue that incorrectly included inactive accounts in follower/following lists," a spokesman said in a statement to the tech news site Recode.

The company made a similar move back in 2012, due to backlash over an increase in instagram spammers. But in a change of events, this time users took to Twitter and social media to express their annoyance with the new removal tactics by revealing just how many spammers were following them. 

Some users started a hashtag campaign called the #SaveMyInstagram2014.

Others questioned what would happen if Twitter were to perform the same clean up.

While many were displeased with their sudden decrease in followers, Instagram says it believes users will benefit from the change.

"We believe this will provide a more authentic experience and genuinely reflect people who are actually engaging with each other’s content."

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The importance of confidence for women

Fri, 2014-04-18 11:25

Women in the workforce get no shortage of messages about how we should behave. Advocate for yourself … but not too much. Ask for a raise … but pick your moment.

Katty Kay, the anchor of BBC World News America, and Claire Shipman, correspondent for ABC and Good Morning America, authors of "The Confidence Code," argue that women will occupy more C-suites and positions of power by taking risks, speaking up, and being more confident.

How confident are you? Take the ‘Confidence Quiz’

On the meaning of confidence:

Shipman: “The stuff that turns thoughts into action … Confidence is about your belief in your ability to have an impact on the world. To get things done , so there’s a real element of action about it."

On the confidence gap between men and women:

Kay: "The last book we wrote made the case for women in business and how companies, organizations, that employ more senior women, do better than their competitors. And yet as we interviewed these senior women we kept hearing phrases like, ‘You know, I’m just lucky to have got where I am,’ or, ‘I was in the right place at the right time,’ or, ‘I’m not sure I’m the right person for that new promotion or that new big contract.’ And we thought that’s so strange, you know, we never hear phrases like that from men. So, we started to dig into the research on this and a lot of psychologists and business schools have now done research showing that there is indeed a confidence gap between men and women."

"For example, there is a business school study from Manchester University in the U.K., that the professor has been asking students, what do you think you deserve to earn five years after you graduate. Men routinely say they deserve to earn $80,000 on average. Women will say it’s $64,000. That a 20% difference. [At] Hewlett Packard, women will apply for promotions when they have 100% of the skill set, men are happy if they have 60% of the skill set because they think they’re going to learn the rest on the job."

"Women, whilst we have all the talent, we have all the competence, we’re perfectly able, we are undervaluing ourselves compared to men."

On the importance of failure:

Shipman: "Carol Dweck said to us something that was pivotal. She said, “If life were one long grade school, women would rule the world.” And that is because although we’re raising girls in large measure these days to think they can do anything, we’re still nurturing them to be perfect and people pleasers and well behaved — in fact, too perfect. And so they internalize this sort of coloring within the lines, pleasing people, being quiet, getting good grades. They do that all the way through college. They excel. They hit the real world, and guess what? They haven’t screwed up. They haven’t failed. They haven’t learned that you lose, you flunk, you do this. It doesn’t matter you just keep going."

Kay: "What you learn when you fail at something, whether it’s something small like asking for a pay raise that you don’t get, big or small, whether it’s in your personal life or private life, in the end you realize you’re still there. You’re still standing."

The importance of confidence

Fri, 2014-04-18 11:25

Women in the workforce get no shortage of messages about how we should behave. Advocate for yourself … but not too much. Ask for a raise … but pick your moment.

Katty Kay, the anchor of BBC World News America, and Claire Shipman, correspondent for ABC and Good Morning America, authors of "The Confidence Code," argue that women will occupy more C-suites and positions of power by taking risks, speaking up, and being more confident.

How confident are you? Take the ‘Confidence Quiz’

On the meaning of confidence:

Shipman: “The stuff that turns thoughts into action … Confidence is about your belief in your ability to have an impact on the world. To get things done , so there’s a real element of action about it.

On the confidence gap between men and women:

Kay: The last book we wrote made the case for women in business and how companies, organizations, that employ more senior women, do better than their competitors. And yet as we interviewed these senior women we kept hearing phrases like, ‘You know, I’m just lucky to have got where I am,’ or, ‘I was in the right place at the right time,’ or, ‘I’m not sure I’m the right person for that new promotion or that new big contract.’ And we thought that’s so strange, you know, we never hear phrases like that from men. So, we started to dig into the research on this and a lot of psychologists and business schools have now done research showing that there is indeed a confidence gap between men and women.

For example, there is a business school study from Manchester University in the U.K., that the professor has been asking students, what do you think you deserve to earn five years after you graduate. Men routinely say they deserve to earn $80,000 on average. Women will say it’s $64,000. That a 20% difference. [At] Hewlett Packard, women will apply for promotions when they have 100% of the skill set, men are happy if they have 60% of the skill set because they think they’re going to learn the rest on the job.

Women, whilst we have all the talent, we have all the competence, we’re perfectly able, we are undervaluing ourselves compared to men.

On the importance of failure:

Shipman: Carol Dweck said to us something that was pivotal. She said, “If life were one long grade school, women would rule the world.” And that is because although we’re raising girls in large measure these days to think they can do anything, we’re still nurturing them to be perfect and people pleasers and well behaved — in fact, too perfect. And so they internalize this sort of coloring within the lines, pleasing people, being quiet, getting good grades. They do that all the way through college. They excel. They hit the real world, and guess what? They haven’t screwed up. They haven’t failed. They haven’t learned that you lose, you flunk, you do this. It doesn’t matter you just keep going.

Kay: What you learn when you fail at something, whether it’s something small like asking for a pay raise that you don’t get, big or small, whether it’s in your personal life or private life, in the end you realize you’re still there. You’re still standing.

Russia's annexation of Crimea comes with a cost

Fri, 2014-04-18 11:13

The Russians are now suffering a double financial whammy from the crisis in Ukraine. Not only have they seen a big slowdown in their economic growth thanks to sanctions -- they’re also counting the specific cost of annexing the Ukrainian province of Crimea.

The annexation the Black Sea peninsula has proved wildly popular in Russia. But after the first flush of acquisition, reality is beginning to dawn and, like many takeovers in the corporate world, this one is turning out to be very costly.

“In many ways Russia may have bitten off more than it expected with Crimea. And I think the overhaul of the economy there is a bigger task than many would expect,” argues Raoul Ruparel of the Open Europe think tank.

The peninsula may be semi-detached physically from the rest of Ukraine, but it is well-integrated economically with the mainland. Prying it away from Ukraine and plugging it into Russia won’t be easy… or cheap.

“It is really dependent on mainland Ukraine for its power supply, and for its food supply, and for its public services. The banking system will be really difficult to disentangle,” claims Lilit Grevorgyan of IHS Global Insight. 

Building new infrastructure and new financial links between Crimea and Russia will cost a fortune. $3 billion for new power stations. $3 billion for a planned bridge between the two countries. And then there’s the pledge to raise pensions and public sector wages in Crimea to Russian levels, which will set the  Kremlin back a further $3 billion a year.

“In the context of an already difficult fiscal environment, those pledges pose a problem,” explains Sam Charap of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “It’s not surprising that the Russian finance minister is complaining about the extra cost.”

There is an economic upside to the annexation. Russia will save an estimated $4 billion a year in rent for its naval base in Crimea. And there is the prospect of exploiting untapped oil and gas reserves off the Crimean coast. Not that annexing Crimea was motivated by money. It’s about national pride . The move has won the overwhelming approval of the Russian public – 79 percent are in favor. 

However - say the critics – that is no guarantee that Russia’s actions will prove successful in the long term. Most Germans applauded Hitler’s annexation of Sudetenland - the German speaking province of Checkoslovakia. And – as we know – that didn’t end well for Germany.

Military commissaries consider going generic

Fri, 2014-04-18 10:26
Monday, April 21, 2014 - 05:20 Wikimedia Commons

The commissary at the Fort Hood base.

Military commissaries, grocery stores that sell name-brand products to military families basically at cost, are facing a billion-dollar budget cut over the next three years. And defense officials are considering a sea change for commissaries: allowing them to stock generic.

That’s something Patt Donaldson would like, and steering two kids and two loaded carts, he and his wife Jessica Donaldson wrap up a big shopping trip.

She’s in the Navy and they live near the Fort Belvoir Commissary in Virginia. But they do these big runs off base – at ALDI, Costco, and Wegmans. They like the produce better, and all the store brands. Generic yogurt, canned fruit and pasta run down the belt to checkout.

“The generics we can get outside of the commissary is certainly far cheaper for us than what we can get buying name brands in the commissary,” says Patt Donaldson.

This is something military spouses often debate – where to get the best deals. Commissaries offer 30 percent savings on a typical basket of brand name goods, though some products see steeper discounts than others.

Currently, commissaries can’t sell generics. But now that the Pentagon has proposed a billion dollar commissary cut over three years, commissary prices are expected to rise. That has some officials wondering if stocking generics is a solution.

It’s an option Sgt. Maj. Of the Army Raymond Chandler described at a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“If I’m a young soldier and I choose to go to the commissary... the only thing I can buy is Green Giant or Hunt’s brands," he said. "But I can go to Walmart and get great value and that’s 30 cents less for a can of corn than it is in the commissary.”

So stock generics and everyone saves, right? Upsetting the commissary ecology has risks, says Tom Gordy, President of the Armed Forces Marketing Council, which represents military brokers who work with the name brands.

Say for example the Defense Commissary Agency went out and contracted for a store brand. Let’s call it Five Star Food. “That means the name brand products that are on the shelves will lose their shelf space, and they will also lose volume of sales,” he says.

Five Star Food would have costs, of course. To make it look as cheap as a generics in civilian groceries, Gordy says commissaries might have to mark up their remaining name brands even more.

“The manufacturers right now, most of them give best pricing to the Defense Commissary Agency,” he says.

They also provide marketing dollars. They even stock shelves. All, Gordy says, to support a military benefit. They might be less inclined to subsidize a military business.

Marketplace Morning Report for Monday, April 21, 2014 Kate Davidson/Marketplace

Military spouse Patt Donaldson after a recent shopping trip.

by Kate DavidsonPodcast Title Military commissaries consider going genericStory Type FeatureSyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No

Solar grows, with government help

Fri, 2014-04-18 09:56
Friday, April 18, 2014 - 16:55 Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy unveiled 891 photovoltaic modules on the roof of the the department's Forrestal building roof in Washington, DC. 

The White House announced new initiatives to support more solar development this week. But the Department of Energy’s inspector general cast a cloud, with a report slamming a $68 million loan guarantee gone wrong—shades of the Solyndra failure.  

However, solar has actually been growing by leaps and bounds. It provides a little less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity— enough to light more than two million households. Other numbers sound even more impressive.

"More solar has been installed in 18 months than in the previous 30 years combined," says Ken Johnson, vice president of communications for the Solar Energy Industries Association.  "The cost of installed solar systems have dropped 50 percent since 2010."

"Over the last five years, costs have come way down, particularly for large-scale solar installations," says Severin Borenstein of the University of California's Haas School of Business.  "They are almost competitive in some areas now with regular fossil fuel power."

Home installations, he says, are more qualified.

"Some people can save money by putting in solar on their house," he says. "Most people still won't save money."

Solar is competitive only because of government subsidies— many in the form of tax breaks. Borenstein says the calculations are complicated, but federal tax breaks alone can give back almost 45 percent.

That investment is paying off, says Shayle Kann, senior vice president of research at Greentech Media. "It's created a market that has driven costs down year over year," he says. "And why the drop in price accelerates is because there's learning that is done from all these installations. There are economies of scale. 

"There's been a huge storyline about panel prices falling," he says. "Actually, in 2013, the price of panels rose a little bit, and despite that, system prices fell. And that’s where learning from increased deployments makes a huge difference."  

Marketplace for Friday April 18, 2014by Dan WeissmannPodcast Title Solar grows, with government helpStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Marketing to men with razors

Fri, 2014-04-18 09:54
Friday, April 18, 2014 - 16:52 Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

Brad Griffith of Woodhaven, Queens, New York shaves with the Gillette M3Power Micro-Powered Razor at Gotham Hall back in 2004 in New York City.

When it comes to marketing products to men, it helps to play up how technologically advanced they are, says Jean-Pierre Dubé, a marketing professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

"Men love inscrutable jargon," he says.

And Gillette seems ready to take a page out of Dube’s playbook, with the ProGlide FlexBall, which features “a swiveling ball-hinge that allows the blade to pivot and comes with a high-end price,” The Wall Street Journal reports. The razor, which is expected to debut around Father’s Day, “cuts hairs 23 microns shorter.”

It’s just the latest innovation in high-end men’s shaving:

By Shea Huffman

The shaving arms race really kicked off with Gillette's MACH3 razor, marketed for its three blades that promised a closer shave.

Courtesy of Gillette.

Not to be outdone, competitor Schick decided to one-up Gillette with its quaduple-bladed razor, the Quattro.

Courtesy of Quattro.

It was at this point that people started to question the wisdom of simply adding more and more blades to razors. At least one noteable outlet asked, "What's next, five blades?"

As it turns out, that's precisely what was next. Gillette's Fusion ProGlide boasted a quintuple-bladed head.

Courtesy of Gillette.

Schick quickly came out with its own five-blade razor in response, the Hydro 5.

Courtesy of Schick.

With five blades in the razor already, what more could you do to impress the discerning man looking for a close shave? Of course! You attach a tiny battery-operated motor to the blades to make them vibrate. Thus the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power Razer was born.

Courtesy of Gillette

With the disposable razor companies now venturing into the motorized trimmer business, it was only a matter of time before they just stuck an entire electric razor into mix. For your consideration, the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler 3-in-1 Men's Body Groomer with Beard Trimmer.

Courtesy of Gillette.

With a rotating-on-a-ball-hinge blade forthcoming from Gillette, what more could a man possibly want out of his shaving tools?

Razor companies will surely let them know.

And ladies, don't think you're immune to the razor marketing madness:

Courtesy of Gillette.

Marketplace for Friday April 18, 2014by David GuraPodcast Title Marketing to men with razorsStory Type News StorySyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No
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