Target-date Mutual Funds

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis
c.2007 Newhouse News Service
Graphic by Monica Seaberry

Americans love one-stop shopping. You can buy groceries, pick new prescription glasses, gas up the car and have dinner — all without leaving your favorite big-box retailer.

In retirement planning, target-date mutual funds offer the same convenience. These products, also known as life-cycle funds, blend stocks and bonds and systematically reduce the proportion of stocks as retirement — the target date — draws closer.

And while financial advisers recommend rebalancing your portfolio at least once a year to ensure the mix of assets still fits your goals, if all your savings are in a target-date fund, you can be less disciplined. Not only is your shopping complete, you never have to return to the store.

"It makes things a lot simpler: Paperwork is simpler, managing your money is simpler,'' said Susan Black, director of financial planning at eMoney Advisor Inc., a Conshohocken, Pa.-based software company.

Modern Dads Balancing

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis
c.2007 Newhouse News Service
Photo by Kraig Scattarella

Today's dads are changing diapers, driving the carpool and cooking dinner — shouldering more child and household responsibilities than the previous generation of fathers.

The numbers tell the story: Fathers do 67 percent more housework and 50 percent more child care than 25 years ago, according to surveys by the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit organization based in New York.

Decades ago, men responded to fatherhood by honing their ability to support a family. Now, more are making career sacrifices and adjusting their work days as they try to reconcile the roles of provider and parent.

Yet they don't always find sympathy at their jobs. Bosses and colleagues who nod knowingly when a new mother scales back may react with surprise when a new father wants to do the same. And the biggest career-oriented rewards, many experts say, still go to those with few home duties, who can devote their full energy to work.

"The culture still remains one based on the whole breadwinner-homemaker model,'' said Ann Bookman, executive director of the MIT Workplace Center at the Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Mass.

The model of fatherhood is changing because wives expect a partnership and men want to be actively engaged with their kids.

"We ... have ratcheted up the expectations of what the father would do compared with previous generations,'' said Daniel Isaac, 38, of Yardley, Pa., a research scientist and teacher at Princeton University.

Negotiating Reduced Hours

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis
c.2005 Newhouse News Service
Photo by John Kuntz

Whether to care for children, assist aging parents, or ease into retirement, many American professionals are pushing back at employers' demands for longer workweeks and 24-7 accessibility.

They don't want to quit their jobs. Nor do they want to take scut work at low pay to get a part-time schedule. Instead, they're negotiating reduced hours compatible with their personal lives, often with a promise to live up to excellent track records.

"Working part time has let me feel I don't have to choose between two pieces of myself," said Diane E. Thompson, 38, an attorney with the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation in East St. Louis, Ill., who cut her hours when her first child was born. "I feel like a whole person."

The Society for Human Resource Management
found in August that about 33 percent of employers have formal part-time positions for professional staff and 39 percent allow reduced hours case-by-case. Two-thirds of respondents said part-time options helped retain critical employees. The survey did not break down results by profession.

Job Sharing is Work Marriage

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis
c.2005 Newhouse News Service
Photo by Jane Therese

Mary Kay Ross and Sharon Snyder share a lot.

Together they fill a single full-time position of human resource manager at AT&T Corp. in Bedminster, N.J. They share a phone number, e-mail address, cubicle -- even a resume.

Each works about 25 hours over three days every week, overlapping in the office on Wednesdays. They've kept that schedule for a decade, through four different jobs and a joint promotion.

"We're able to hold challenging jobs together that as individual part-timers we might not be able to secure," Ross said. "I just feel very, very fortunate that we've had this opportunity for so long."

People who job-share say the arrangement lets them care for their children, attend school activities, volunteer in the community or ease into retirement while continuing to enjoy career success and earn a paycheck.

Yet only 19 percent of companies surveyed this year by the Society for Human Resource Management allow job sharing.

When business people started talking about work-life balance two decades ago, they envisioned job sharing as one of a range of new and exciting choices for workers, including flex-time, compressed workweeks and telecommuting. Job sharing has turned out to be the least utilized flexible option.

"Job sharing is the most foreign from the manager's perspective," said Pat Katepoo, founder of in Honolulu. "It's the laggard of the flexible work options. It's a tougher one to pitch and manage, but the benefits are really, really worth it and it should not be ignored."

Indeed, companies are taking a fresh look at job sharing as a way to retain valuable employees, boost productivity and prevent burnout in high-stress, demanding jobs.

Dad Unfriendly Work

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis
c.2005 Newhouse News Service
Photo by Bob Black

Daniel Malinski drove over a curb when his wife told him she was pregnant. After digesting the shock, he started planning for the monumental change of having a baby.

Knowing that a few mothers in his office worked part-time from home, he asked to telecommute an afternoon or two a week. To his surprise, the request was denied.

"It was frustrating," said Malinski, 29, a customer support specialist in Urbana, Ill.

Fathers on average are taking on dramatically more child care and household responsibilities. In 1977, they did about 35 percent as much household work and 58 percent as much child care as mothers, compared to 67 percent and 77 percent in 2002, according to the Families and Work Institute, a non-profit research organization in New York City.

Now, as more men try to tap family-friendly workplace policies, many discover the arrangements aren't as available to dads as to moms.

"In society in general, they feel that moms in the workplace need more and dads are supposed to just work and deal with it and fit in," Malinski said. "I don't think it's fair. I think dads need support too."

Just as women have struggled for equal opportunity at work, men are fighting for workplace accommodation of their bigger roles at home. Resistance ranges from snide comments and negative signals to outright discrimination.

"Fathers are just as susceptible as mothers to a backlash when they prioritize family over work," said Shelley Waters Boots, acting director of the Work and Family Program at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy institute in Washington, D.C. "There can be some very significant consequences, including being fired."

Multilingual Workplaces

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis
c.2005 Newhouse News Service

Bill Conerly, a construction director in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., says his crews are "a well-oiled machine."

Watch them put together a house, and you'd never imagine that some can communicate with each other only through the foreman. But 25 percent of workers in the DiVosta division of Pulte Homes, Conerly's employer, are native Spanish speakers and 10 percent primarily speak Haitian Creole.

Pulte faces labor shortages in some of the trades, said Kathy McGuire, its director of human resources in Palm Beach Gardens. Without Spanish and Creole speakers, she pointed out, "I wouldn't have enough people to build my houses."

With immigrants filling gaps in an aging work force and U.S. firms expanding to serve customers around the world, a babble of tongues is now heard in offices and at job sites across the country. The 2000 Census found that 47 million people, or 18 percent of the population, did not speak English at home -- up from 32 million, or 14 percent, in 1990.

The situation poses challenges for employers, who may need to change time-worn habits of interaction, translate written materials into other languages or pay for classes for managers and employees.

But there are advantages as well. Veterans of multilingual work forces say the range of national origins not only makes companies more effective in serving customers and business partners around the globe, it makes them more interesting places to work.

Making Home Business Good

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis
c.2004 Newhouse News Service
Photo by Jane Therese

Troll the Internet for home-based businesses and it starts to feel like a graveyard tour.

The Web sites follow similar formats, with catchy names and professional appearances. You're urged to buy baby slings and clothes, hire a personal chef, sign up a virtual assistant, or send gift baskets to your best clients. But dig deeper and you find many of the links are broken, testimonials are "under construction," and e-mails bounce back, user unknown.

These are the remnants of many a parent's dream: an at-home business that minimizes your work day and maximizes your hours with young children.

In reality, creating a business takes more time, money and hard work than you might imagine. Even some who turn a profit concede that compensation borders on minimum wage.

"A lot of people who work outside the home perceive it to be very easy and very relaxed, and it's not," said Shelly Howard, 31, of Clinton Township, Mich., who sells kid-friendly recipes at

"I'm not ever done until I go to sleep," explained Howard, who has a 2-year-old son. "Trying to do that and raise a family and be a good wife is difficult."

Managing Multiple Generations

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis
c.2003 Newhouse News Service

American employers face a new challenge: managing a work force with an ever-growing span of ages.

Even as fresh college graduates seek employment, life expectancies are climbing, and older workers are postponing retirement by choice or financial necessity. The resulting age diversity increases the complexity of recruiting, training and motivating workers, since each generation has different needs, expectations, skills and work styles.

"The issue is huge, and it's going to get worse before it gets better," said Karl Ahlrichs, an Indianapolis-based human resources consultant. "For the first time, we've got four generations side by side."

Indeed, a single workplace today may hold "traditionalists," born before 1946; baby boomers, born 1946 through 1964; members of Generation X, born 1965 through 1981; and those known as Generation Y, born since '81.

The age disparities will only grow -- the number of people in the work force older than 55 increases by 10,000 each day, said Bruce Tulgan, a New Haven, Conn., researcher on generational differences.

Career Change, Rewards v. Risks

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis
c.2003 Newhouse News Service

An argument about fresh produce pushed Rosemarie Verderame over the edge on June 28, 2000.

The chef at her Manhattan restaurant insisted, for the umpteenth time, on shopping at the cash-only farmer's market even though the summer lull made business tight. Abruptly, Verderame decided to close "Rosemarie" -- the Italian bistro into which she had poured her soul, 14 years and more than $350,000 in startup costs.

Despite her conviction to leave behind the long hours and never-ending expense, the decision was hard. The 50-seat restaurant, she said, "was like my child."

Three years later, the 44-year-old New York native is finishing a master's degree in social work at Fordham University and confident she made the right call. "I miss the food and I miss the customers," Verderame said, but, "I am happier. I feel more peaceful."

Mid-life professionals longing for a new direction often believe their years of specialization are more liabilities than assets in changing careers. But with discipline, a shift of viewpoint and some leg work, say those who have made the transition, the emotional and logistical difficulties can be overcome.

"If you can find a place that you love going to, a place where you wake up in the morning and it excites you, you owe it to yourself to seek it out and take an opportunity to make that your career," said Rory Smith, an associate dean at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago who quit a corporate law job to become an administrator.

Telecommuting Downside

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis
c.2003 Newhouse News Service
Photo by Monika Graff

Most telecommuters started working from home in hopes of striking a happier balance between job and family. Now some are finding that they labor more hours and endure greater stress, only to see their careers nosedive.

New research suggests employees may add tension to their lives by telecommuting if they don't first make a careful assessment of their personalities and employment situations.

"People have trouble shutting work off," said Ellen Ernst Kossek, professor of human resources at Michigan State University, one of the study's authors. "There's confusion for family members. They see you home and they want to ask you a question, and then you yell at them."

Along with researchers at Harvard University and Canada's Simon Fraser University, Kossek interviewed 300 employees and 95 managers across the country. They learned that workers' home lives suffered if they telecommuted with inadequate space or technological infrastructure.

Even if those problems were absent, telecommuters complained that family and friends didn't understand or respect the fact that they had full-time jobs. Others missed the give-and-take among colleagues and the casual hallway encounters that kept them in the know.