Every year, professional-services giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) conducts its Employee Financial Wellness survey to gauge how U.S. workers are doing with money. And in this episode of Motley Fool Answers, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp talk to guest Kent Allison, national leader of PwC’s Employee Financial Wellness Practice, about what the latest survey revealed.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on June 6, 2017.
Alison Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers. I’m Alison Southwick and I’m joined, as always, by Robert Brokamp, personal-finance expert here at The Motley Fool.
Robert Brokamp: Hi, Alison!
Southwick: Hi! How are you?
Brokamp: Oh, just fine. How are you?
Southwick: We are lucky to have a special guest in the studio today. Kent Allison is here to talk about the latest results of PwC’s annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey. So you’ll get to figure out how financially stable you are compared to your co-workers sitting next to you, so that will be fun. Judge away. We’ll also answer your question about Bro’s favorite topic, required minimum distributions. Seriously. All that and more on this week’s episode of Motley Fool Answers.
It’s time for “Answers Answers,” and today’s question comes from Rob. “My father-in-law has a question in regard to making his grandkids beneficiaries to his Roth IRA. His question is, ‘If both grandparents pass away, do the kids have to take out required minimum distributions?'” For our newer listeners out there, you might not know that I’m legally obligated to sing “required minimum distributions” just to make it slightly more interesting for you guys.
Brokamp: Yes. Well.
Southwick: Nailed it! All right, required minimum distributions. What do the kids have to do?
Brokamp: All right, better known as RMDs. So thanks for the question, Rob, and kudos to your grandfather for thinking of the financial well-being of your kids, especially with a Roth IRA, because it’s an excellent estate-planning tool.
So let’s start with those RMDs. If you own a traditional IRA — not the Roth, the traditional — you have to start taking money out at age 70 1/2. One of the benefits of owning the Roth IRA — if you own it yourself or you inherited it from a spouse — you do not have to take out those required minimum distributions. If you don’t need the money, or you want to leave it to your beneficiaries, you can just let it grow in its tax-free way and leave it alone for them.
However, if the account is inherited from a non-spouse beneficiary, you have two choices, and this is what we’re talking about with the grandkids. You either have to take all the money out within five years, or you have to do the required minimum distributions and just take a little bit each year.
Those are based on life expectancy, so for younger kids it’s probably not going to be that much money. So if you’re 10, for example, your required minimum distribution is a little over 1% of the account, so it’s not a bad deal at all.
But a couple of things that you mentioned in the question I do want to highlight. So you had said that if both grandparents pass away, do the kids have to take out the RMDs? It’s important that, if your grandfather wants his wife to inherit the account first, that she is named as the primary beneficiary and then the kids as the contingent beneficiaries, because if you name the grandkids as the beneficiaries, even if the will says I want the money first to go to my wife, it will go to the grandkids.
Now what if the grandfather passes away, Grandma says, “I don’t need the money and the kids could use money now”? Within nine months of your grandfather passing away, she can disclaim the inheritance. It bypasses her and it goes straight to the kids, so it gives her the option of inheriting it or passing it along at that point.
The great thing, also, about inheriting a Roth IRA is as long as the account has been open for five years, you don’t pay the taxes, and even though the kids are young, before age 59 1/2, there is no 10% penalty on required minimum distributions from inherited accounts.
Final tip. It’s better, when the kids, to inherit the account, to separate the accounts. If they keep it as one account, the required minimum distributions will be based on the oldest kid’s life expectancy. If you have multiple people inheriting the IRA, whether it’s a Roth or a traditional, it’s better to separate those accounts.
This is obviously all complicated stuff, which is why we often recommend that for estate planning you go see a qualified attorney, but it also highlights that if you inherit some assets, it’s probably good to see an attorney and an accountant as well.
Southwick: All right, we’re really excited today to welcome Kent Allison into the studio from — I want to say PricewaterhouseCoopers, but you say PwC now.
Kent Allison: It’s easier.
Southwick: Thank you. Yes, it is. Kent is the national leader of PwC’s Employee Financial Wellness Practice, and every year his team produces the Employee Financial Wellness Survey, which tracks the financial well-being of full-time employees, adults, across the country. Kent joins us today to talk about the latest survey results. Hi! Thank you for coming in!
Allison: Thank you for having me!
Southwick: It’s so great to have people come in to the studio.
Brokamp: Well, especially someone, so, if I understand this correctly, so the whole idea of workplace financial wellness is becoming sort of more well known these days, but when you started it really wasn’t. You’re kind of a pioneer, aren’t you?
Allison: Well, we’ve been doing financial literacy for a long time — 35 years — and about 10 years ago I decided we weren’t effectuating enough change and we needed to do something differently. So I came up with this concept of financial wellness from the standpoint of looking and saying, “What are they doing on the physical well-being side? Can we parallel it on the financial wellness side?” The problem was it was just a concept.
So I went to the marketplace to test it and see if everybody agreed with me with regard to the need for change and whether this concept was going to be validated by the marketplace. Little did I know it would catch on like wildfire. So we were a little ahead of the game, because I never really had it fully baked. So now we’re trying to catch up and kind of help define it for the marketplace.
Brokamp: So when you talk about financial wellness, what do you mean by that?
Allison: Well, it’s interesting. There’s all these different definitions around financial well-being and financial wellness. We actually left it up to the employees to tell us, so in this year’s survey we actually asked them what they thought financial wellness was. And it was interesting to find out, because retirement really wasn’t even mentioned. It was more about a state of being. It was more like relief from financial stress. Debt-free. Financial freedom. So the terms they were using were not kind of coinciding with what 30 or 40 years of history of financial education were tied to, which was kind of retirement funding and investments.
So we look at it as kind of getting somebody to a peaceful state around their finances, where they are comfortable that they’re living within their means, they’re meeting their goals, and they’re thinking about the future comfortably.
Brokamp: One of the things that you found in the survey is that the people who aren’t particularly financially well, if we can express it that way, are actually experiencing a good deal of stress.
Allison: Oh, yes.
Brokamp: And it affects how they perform in the workplace.
Allison: Absolutely. One of the things we looked at in this year’s survey was really the impact of financial stress on some of the key factors that employers would be concerned about. So we looked at those who said they were under financial stress against those that weren’t, and the differences were dramatic in terms of distractions at work. I think it was 5-to-1 in terms of the ratio of people who were distracted at work that were financially stressed to those that weren’t. Productivity. Absenteeism. Loyalty. All significantly impacted by financial stress.
So there was a real kind of call-to-arms there with regard to employers recognizing the value in terms of really helping employees relieve financial stress.
Brokamp: I read an article, maybe a year ago, that talked about the impact of financial stress on your health. It was the first time I came across a term called presenteeism, as opposed to absenteeism. So presenteeism is you’re actually at work, but mentally you’re not really at work.
Allison: Correct. And we looked at that as well, and it impacts that as well. So it’s interesting, because the health side, one of the reasons that drove us to this whole financial well-being, was the correlation of financial stress to the health side, because of financial stress being the No. 1 cause of stress and obviously stress having a direct impact on health and well-being on the physical well-being side, and having a direct impact on costs.
So when you talk about, kind of, the benefits to an organization, they like to deal with the numbers, and those productivity and healthcare costs are clear benefits to the organization if they can solve the problem.
Brokamp: So what are people stressing about? Is there a group of people that is more stressed than others? Because in your report you looked at the generations of millennials, Gen X, and the baby boomers.
Allison: It’s interesting. Across all generations, the No. 1 cause of stress consistently over — I think we’ve been doing this survey seven years — is the lack of, kind of, an emergency fund. The inability to deal with a small financial shock to their finances. So whether it’s medical, or even a car breaking down, it disrupts their entire finances. So that’s the No. 1 cause of stress.
Generationally, that’s a toss-up. We’ve been seeing kind of a fluctuation between millennials and Gen X, and two different reasons: Millennials are dealing, really, with the cash flow and debt issues, especially student debt, and the struggle of living paycheck to paycheck.
Gen X, I like to kind of compare them to tweeners. They’re in between the boomers and the millennials, and they’re suffering from both ends of that, in the sense that they’re trying to take care of their kids and they’re also finding themselves taking care of aging parents, while also trying to deal with their own personal finances. So they’ve got kind of unique stresses going on, because they’re getting hit from both sides.
Brokamp: What can employers do about it?
Allison: Well, it’s interesting. We’re seeing a change going on just because of the recognition that even though employers tried to fix the retirement-savings deficiency issue through planned design — auto-enrollment, auto-escalation, looking at target-paid funds to help with the investment side, looking at kind of how to make it last through potential annuities — the reality is it’s all starting to look like a defined benefit plan, but they’re just not funding it.
So they’ve all tried to do it through plan design, but I always say you’re forcing people into the plan, you’re escalating their contributions, and then you’re watching it come out through loans and withdrawals. And the reason for that is that you really never solved for what was causing the problem in the first place, which was essentially cash flow, debt issues, and other competing priorities.
So by forcing them into the plan, you may have exacerbated a situation at home where they’re living paycheck to paycheck, and now you’re forcing the plan, and now they’re going back into those funds to help resolve those needs through the loans and withdrawals.
Brokamp: Yeah, that was one of the eye-opening findings of the survey. How many people have taken early withdrawals from their retirement plan? Something like 44% expect that they’re going to have to because of unexpected expenses and healthcare expenses.
Allison: Yep, and it was funny, because last year we saw the numbers and we compared this year to last year, and Gen X kind of jumped up in terms of the numbers that actually took withdrawals out. And we looked at last year’s number and Gen X told us that they were planning on doing it, so it was kind of, hey, look. They actually did it.
Brokamp: They’re self-aware — very self-aware. Actually, one of the things I was surprised about is that it does seem like things are getting worse. When you look at some of the numbers compared to last year in your report — it’s a very extensive report, by the way; it’s 50 pages long — you have a lot of the numbers from last year. It does seem like there is more stress and more indicators that more people are struggling. More people are carrying credit card debt. More people have mortgages that are bigger than the value of their home. Which I found a little surprising, because on the whole, the economy is doing OK.
Allison: Yeah, and I think you’re still seeing kind of a hangover effect. One, you’ve got millennials maturing, but for the most part, millennials are cash flow sensitive. So if you still have stagnant wages — and they’re starting to creep up, but you’ve had a long history of stagnant wages, then with expenses going up, it exacerbates the problem with regard to their cash flow.
Because they don’t have a lot invested — if you look at the numbers, not many people have a lot invested — but in particular they don’t have a lot of financial assets. They delayed homeownership. Some are still living at home, all trying to deal with this cash flow issue. Well, when the market rises, they don’t necessarily see the benefit, and with millennials being the biggest portion of the workforce now, it doesn’t necessarily drive the numbers up when the financial markets and the housing market go up, because they may not be heavily invested in it. What would solve their problems would be something that would be more relief on the cash flow side.
Brokamp: So in your position, you are trying to encourage employers to offer something to their employees. A few years ago, someone who worked at one of the local D.C. professional teams — a big fan of The Motley Fool — he came in and said, “I see these athletes come in. They come out of college. All of a sudden they’re making a bunch of money and they’re blowing it. Is there something The Motley Fool can do to teach these players how to handle their money better?”
We had a few meetings about it but, in the end, the folks running the team, the management, said, “We don’t want that legal liability of anyone coming in and giving financial advice to our players.” Is that a problem in the workforce? Where employers are reluctant to give any sort of financial guidance to their employees?
Allison: We’re seeing it lessen. I think there was always a concern around how far they would go and how deep into someone’s personal life they would go, but because their purpose is to try to make somebody more retirement ready, and they’re finding that these other issues are actually preventing them from being effective in that, they’re having to go deeper into the cash flow, and the debt, and the education issues to essentially solve the problem they’re trying to solve for.
They’re also the ultimate fiduciary. They’re ultimately responsible for the well-being of their employees, and I think the more progressive companies are recognizing that we do have to go deeper in retirement, and investment focus isn’t enough.
It’s interesting, because it’s not only us pushing employers to do it. It’s really the government pushing employers to do it. I’ve been on enough panels down in D.C. where essentially the government’s trying to look for a solution because they don’t want the burden of essentially supporting people in retirement. So they’re looking to the employer and saying, “What can we do to help you help your employees become more retirement prepared?”
Brokamp: One of the outcomes of the report was the effect of student loans. And I don’t remember the percentages off the top of my head, but I was surprised at how many people, like the Gen Xers, who you define as age 36 to 56, something like a third of them have student loans and almost 10% of the boomers have student loans. Which I found kind of surprising that all these folks still have student loans, but also — and I guess a lot of them have it for their kids — but how that correlates to financial stress and how people with student loans are more likely to have trouble meeting day-to-day expenses. Carrying credit card debt. It’s pretty shocking.
Allison: It is, and what was interesting is we looked at that statistic last year, because I was a little surprised by it as well. And it ended up that it wasn’t all just their kids’ debt. A lot of it was their own debt, going back to school, retooling, and trying to get back into the workforce. So through the recession, when people found themselves out of work, some went back to school to essentially find skills where they could be employed.
So this hangover effect of student loans is moving up into the generations, and I would presume as people change jobs more often and the industry changes a lot more quickly, that you’re going to see this continuous education process go on and people having to retool and reeducate.
So it is a growing issue, and when you look at people who are retired, it’s the fastest-growing segment of bankruptcy.
Southwick: That’s terrifying.
Allison: Yeah, so you’ve got to solve some of these issues because it’s starting to creep into the retirement world as well. So education is a hard nut to crack. You have to start at kind of at the beginning, and the decision-making of where you go to school, how much are you financing, what are you majoring in, what type of job you are going to get on the way out. And we talked about this. How many 18-year-olds are actually prepared for making that type of analytical decision versus going and seeing a nice campus, and their friends are going there, and that’s what’s going to drive them.
Southwick: English major!
Brokamp: So, nuts and bolts, what does a financial wellness program look like? So when you have a client, or you go and help an employee, what types of things are you doing?
Allison: The word “financial wellness,” right now, there’s a lot of confusion around it. It hasn’t been fully defined. So a lot of organizations just change the name of their financial literacy program or their retirement education program and called it financial wellness and called it a day.
Brokamp: And by financial literacy, you mean basically information.
Allison: Information and an education session. And you hope that people get the information they need and then do something with it. When we talk about financial wellness, financial wellness is really about understanding what their behaviors are and changing those behaviors for the better. So it’s much more tactical, much more prescriptive, much more targeted.
Southwick: More incentive-based?
Allison: Yes and no. You’re measuring and monitoring, and then you’re recognizing and rewarding the positive behavior, so in that way, yes. But it’s also about kind of getting into the psychological reasons as to why they make decisions and removing the obstacles that are preventing them from moving on to make even better decisions.
So, examples. We always talk about somebody — a parent who wants to take care of their kids first. A natural inclination. So I’m going to pay for their education at the expense of funding my retirement.
So the reason they’re doing it is they care about their kid. They put their kid first and they want to make sure they’re OK. So you have to deal with that psychological aspect of their decision-making, but try to get them to the right decision.
Brokamp: Which, by the way, is save for your retirement first, everybody.
Allison: Exactly. That’s exactly where I’m going, because at the end of the day, if you haven’t saved for retirement, you then become a burden for your kids.
Allison: So you get to the point where they’re starting to realize, well, there is value in it. And by the way, when you get to retirement and you’re all well and good, you can take care of your kids, and if they went the student loan route, or whatever, take care of them that way. But at least you’re not becoming a burden to them. So it gets people through that psychological barrier that basically says, “I’ve got to put my kids first and me second.”
Brokamp: Gotcha. So part of what you do provide, I know, are workshops. Phone access to professionals. Things like that. Not everyone, probably, can afford all of those things. You work with, generally, bigger employers. So let’s say you are an employee somewhere, or you are an employer, but you own a smaller company. Where should you start, first? What has the biggest payoff in terms of a financial wellness program?
Allison: It’s interesting, because if you ask the employee, every single employee will tell you their No. 1 thing is to have somebody to talk to. So whether that’s over the phone — whether it’s through the internet, on their phone, through a mobile app, or face-to-face — they want to connect.
And the reason being is even the self-help people, at some point in time, want to validate what they think. They may do a lot of the up-front work themselves and ultimately look to somebody to say, “Does this sound right?” Others will pick up the phone first and want to talk to somebody right away because they’re just stuck. So to me that connection to an advisor is ultimately, probably, what everybody wants and probably what is most interactive.
Now to the extent that technology can give them that type of interaction, I think that’s where a lot of technology is trying to head, but I have yet to see, in my 30-some-odd years in this business, technology replace an advisor, and it’s been going on a long time. Every time a new technology comes out, they say it’s going to. Just a few weeks ago they came out with all these robo-advisors that are now going to a hybrid model where it’s the robo-advisor connected to a real advisor.
Brokamp: Now I will say from my own personal experience that sometimes in a workplace there is someone to talk to, and it’s basically the person connected to the 401(k) or the 403(b). They might be a good person to ask questions to. They might really just be a salesperson and they don’t really know what they’re talking about. Am I wrong in basically not thinking that those people are like, that doesn’t scratch that itch?
Allison: The reality is the role of that person is to get you into the retirement fund, that you’re properly diversified, and then ultimately when it’s time to leave the company, probably roll it over with us and we’ll try to make it last. It’s all focused on the retirement aspect. That’s their bailiwick and that’s what they know. They’re not necessarily going to help you with the other things, and they won’t have deep subject-matter expertise in the areas of cash flow, debt, insurance, and so on and so forth.
So really who you’re talking to and where their starting point is, and what their bailiwick is, is as important in terms of what you’re trying to get out of it. They’re certainly fine to talk about the retirement plans and the type of investments in the retirement plan and the benefits of contributing to the retirement plan. But when you start to talk about these other issues, it really starts to stray away from really where their expertise is.
Brokamp: I will say one thing I noticed going through the report. It emphasizes the interrelatedness of all the financial issues, right? So if you’re having money problems, it can lead to health problems. If you have health problems, it could lead to money problems. And all that could be exacerbated if you have too much debt or if your mortgage is underwater. It’s all very interconnected, so if you’re just trying to handle one aspect of a person’s finances, it’s probably not going to do the job.
Allison: Yeah. The one thing we find is you want to really hit the nerve in terms of what’s going to change things. You’d better start to, kind of, it’s the age-old adage that you have to have a rainy day fund. If you don’t have a rainy day fund, things fall apart very quickly. So if we were encouraging where people should focus and where companies should focus — rather than just everything about the retirement planning, getting them into the retirement plan, and doing everything to try to resolve their financial issues through the retirement plan — is to take a step back and say, “How do we solve some of these other issues?”
And you’re seeing companies do this. Some are kind of having variable pay to kind of help people meet their expenses in the middle of the month. They have short-term loan capabilities that aren’t necessarily through these payday-loan providers, but something the company may advance on their pay at the end of the month to kind of deal with an unexpected expense.
But the reality is they have to save more, and you have to get them where they have that as a focus and perhaps a vehicle outside of the retirement plan to kind of carve away some funds that are there only in the case of an emergency. Otherwise they’ll continue to raid the retirement plans and continue to have the stress that we’re seeing, because they’re living paycheck-to-paycheck and are worried about that unexpected expense. So solve that problem, and you solve a lot of issues on the employer side, and you have people that are a little more comfortable heading toward that kind of financial wellness state.
Brokamp: So let’s say someone listens to all this, loves everything they’re hearing. What’s the next step? Where do you recommend people should go? Is there a website they should visit? A book they should read? Someplace they can learn about increasing their own financial wellness in the workplace?
Allison: I would first see what you have available to you from your employer. See if it addresses the needs that you have. If not, maybe have a discussion with your employer about whether they have all the resources to address your particular needs. Companies offer a lot of benefits. The problem often is that the employee is disconnected from those benefits. They don’t know what they are. They don’t know what tools they have, what resources they have available.
If you look in the silos of the vendors that they have providing it, they have a retirement plan administrator who has tools and resources and education. They have a healthcare provider. They have an insurance provider, life insurance provider, and various voluntary benefits.
And I always use the example that since we don’t sell anything, we’re in between benefits communication and all the vendors they’ve chosen to transact. We try to connect the individual based on their particular needs to the solution that the company provides. So if somebody doesn’t have a will, most of them don’t know that the company may be offering low-cost legal that will help them get a will in place right away.
So the first step is to kind of see what you have and then how does it match up to your needs? If there’s a void there, then talk to the employer. We had an employer where all the employees said they wanted pet insurance. So sure enough, they introduced pet insurance, and it became one of their No. 1 benefits in terms of —
Allison: Everybody was kind of waiting for it and they delivered on it, and ultimately they got what they wanted. So it’s not always just status quo. If enough employees want something and that’s more important than some of the other benefits they’re providing, they may switch out a benefit to something that’s more resourceful for you.
Brokamp: Got it. Well, this is great. Thanks, Kent, for coming.
Allison: Thank you.
Southwick: Thank you so much for coming in and sharing your research with us. It’s been wonderful. Thank you so much.
Oh boy, have times changed in the workforce in the last 100 years. And thanks to a report by the Census Bureau — “The Life of American Workers in 1915,” by Carol Leon — we can really see in stark terms just how things have changed.
Brokamp: Right. So if you think your job isn’t so great, wait until you hear what it was like in 1915.
Southwick: So here we go. Who was working, by the way, back then? So the 1920 census shows that among people aged 14 and older, because yes, if you were 14, get a job.
Brokamp: That’s right.
Southwick: The proportion of the population that was in the labor force was 85% of men and 23% of women. So in contrast, let’s head to 2015, where now, people aged 16 and older — not 14 — 69% of men and 57% of women are in the workforce. So obviously the big difference here is that more women are working across the board, whereas men, particularly under the age of 24 and over the age of 65, aren’t as likely to work. So, for example, half of 14- to 19-year-old males worked in 1915, compared to one-third now.
Southwick: Get a job!
Brokamp: So lazy.
Southwick: I had a job.
Brokamp: I did, too. What was your first job?
Southwick: Outside of babysitting and all that kind of stuff, I was a secretary for the principal at my school.
Brokamp: Oh, I totally see that.
Southwick: Yeah. I started at 15, and I did a lot of like transcribing letters, and typing, and stuff like that.
Brokamp: Did I ever tell you how I forged my birth certificate so I could work at McDonald’s?
Southwick: No! Story time. Gather around, kids. Here we go.
Brokamp: Well, I wasn’t old enough. I had to be a year older. I must have been 14 and you had to be 15 or 16. So I photocopied my birth certificate, whited out the date, typed a new date because I had a typewriter back then, photocopied it again, and brought it to McDonald’s.
Southwick: And it worked?
Brokamp: And it worked.
Southwick: No way!
Brokamp: They let me work there, yeah. That’s the work ethic I had.
Southwick: No kidding!
Brokamp: Kids today. Committing fraud to get a job. That was me.
Southwick: That’s how badly we wanted to work when we were young.
Brokamp: That’s right.
Southwick: So let’s head back to 1915. And also, most of this data is 1915, 1920, 19-around that time, so it’s not exactly 1917.
Brokamp: Got it.
Southwick: Whatever. Where were people working? Really dangerous places. So you can imagine people working in the mines. Yes, that’s notoriously dangerous, but millwork was also really hazardous. BLS [the Bureau of Labor Statistics] reported 23,000 industrial deaths in 1913 among a workforce of about 38 million. That’s equivalent to a rate of 61 deaths per 100,000 workers. In contrast, the most recent data, it’s 3.3 deaths per 100,000 workers.
Brokamp: Wow. That’s good.
Southwick: We have brought that down considerably. That’s good. In 1920, if you weren’t working on the farm, you were working in manufacturing. So roughly a third of people worked on the farm compared to 1% of employed people now. One in every three non-farm jobs in 1910 was manufacturing, compared to one in 10 now. Where do people work now? Or do you want to guess?
Brokamp: At their desk at a computer.
Southwick: Yeah. Roughly one-third fall into the bucket of professional and technical — hello, computer programmers — whereas it was less than 5% of the workforce in 1910. So when you ask Hanna what do I do at work, she’ll just say “Computer.” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s what I do.”
Brokamp: How old is Hanna? She’s 3 now?
Southwick: 4. All right, how much were people making? In 1915, you were doing about average if you were making $687 a year.
Southwick: If you were a woman, cut that number in half. So in terms of 2015 dollars, the average pay of $687 is the equivalent of about $16,000. So yes, if you’re making $687 a year, that’s the equivalent of $16,000 roughly now. Which is well below today’s income, so median annual earnings for men ages 15 and over in 2014 were about $40,000 — or $50,000 if you worked overtime. For women in 2014 it was $28,000 or about $40,000 for women who worked overtime.
Brokamp: Got it.
Southwick: How much were people working? All the hours God sends. Vacations, holidays, and sick leave? Forget it!
Southwick: You were lucky if you got — do you want to guess what three days off you were lucky if you got as far as holidays go?
Brokamp: Let’s see. Easter, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Southwick: Technically you’re going to get Easter off, because that’s on Sunday.
Brokamp: Well, someone has to milk the cows.
Southwick: But I’m not going to give that to you. So you were lucky if you got Christmas, July 4, and Labor Day off. That was it. It wasn’t even until the ’30s that people started getting Thanksgiving Day off. So as far as your week went, though, you would maybe, if you were lucky, get Saturday afternoon off, and Sunday, of course. Always Sunday. And if you were a mother, you never got a day off.
Brokamp: You never got a day off.
Southwick: Ever. Ever.
Brokamp: Nobody helped.
Southwick: These days, 50% of workers in service industries receive paid vacation, while 90% of workers in production, management, finance, etc., receive paid vacations. So if you’re at a desk job, chances are you’re receiving paid vacation.
Brokamp: I think the whole idea of the weekend really didn’t come until after the Depression, I think. It’s a relatively recent idea.
Southwick: Yeah. Vacation days, of course, tend to increase with tenure, so compared to the pretty much no days that you used to get off in 1915, now employers with five years of experience receive an average of 14 days’ vacation, and it goes upwards from there. So yeah, the bottom line is that…
Brokamp: What about the flexible spending accounts back then?
Southwick: Oh, yeah. What about Puppy Day? And the free-food fridge?
Brokamp: The 401(k) matches and their healthcare?
Southwick: One time our people team was talking to Google’s people team, and they were saying how the thing that really got in their craw — do people say that? — was when people complained about the line for sushi. So they have a cafeteria. All of the food’s free. All of the food is free, but people will gripe about how the line for sushi is too long. So it’s kind of like a standing joke, now, where they’re like, “Oh, really. Is the line for free sushi too long? Sorry.”
Brokamp: I have to say I went up to someone on our people team — and this is a completely spoiled-brat complaint — but we run out of half-and-half too quickly. And I felt so guilty that by Friday we don’t have half-and-half and I’m bringing this up as an issue. Coffee is important to an office, but I felt so bad I even made this comment.
Southwick: You know what, though? Today there were two quarts of half-and-half in the fridge, where normally there’s only one.
Brokamp: They took care of it very quickly.
Southwick: That’s why we’ve got the best in the biz, here at The Motley Fool.
Brokamp: We do. We do.
Southwick: And Puppy Days! All right, that’s the show. It is edited labor-of-lovingly by Rick Engdahl. Don’t make that face. These don’t get any better. You should be used to this. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send in your questions. Bro, do you have any specific requests for the kind of questions you would like to receive?
Brokamp: Just any question we haven’t already answered. If you’ve been a longtime listener and you’re like, “Oh, there’s one question I’ve always wanted to ask,” and we’ve never discussed it on this show, send it to us.
Southwick: No question too dumb. Or if there’s maybe just a general subject you want us to dig into and explain, we can do that, too. It doesn’t always have to be about how much you should allocate, specifically, into your 401(k) versus your Roth versus your whatever.
Brokamp: Right. Not to mention your…
Southwick: Required minimum distributions.
Brokamp: Love it. Love it. My favorite song.
Southwick: Go out on a literal high note. All right. So yes, please send us your questions, email@example.com. For Robert Brokamp, I’m Alison Southwick. Stay Foolish, everybody!