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Betterment Research Shows Gig Economy May Replace Retirement

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Betterment Research Shows Gig Economy May Replace Retirement

Almost 40 percent of respondents feel unprepared to save enough to maintain their lifestyle during retirement

Today, more than one in three U.S. workers are freelancers — and this figure is expected to grow to 40 percent by 2020. Increasingly, workers are eschewing or supplementing the traditional “nine-to-five” career with independent or temporary work, but these gig workers face daunting challenges preparing for retirement.

This shift in the workforce and the implications it has on gig economy workers and their finances, are detailed in “Gig Economy Workers and the Future of Retirement,” a new report from Betterment. The report highlights survey results from 1,000 U.S. respondents who are 25 years and older and working in the gig economy. Several themes emerged regarding two categories of workers: full-time giggers, workers who rely primarily on the gig economy for their income, and side-hustlers, individuals who rely on a traditional full-time job as their main source of income but supplement with a side gig economy job:

Key findings of the report include:

  • Gigging is the New Retirement Plan: For many respondents, the gig economy is replacing how they plan to earn income in retirement:
    • 16 percent plan on having gig economy jobs to supplement their retirement.
    • 12 percent of side-hustlers will keep a side-gig job as their main source of income after retiring from their traditional career.
    • One in five full-time giggers say they’ll continue to pick up incremental work in the gig economy as their main source of income following “retirement.”
  • The Gig Economy is a Debt Economy: Betterment’s survey found that more than half of gig economy workers turn to this new way of working for financial reasons, not just for the freedom and flexibility it provides. While retirement catch-up is part of the equation, debt plays a big role in why 81 percent of gig economy workers say they can’t afford to prioritize saving for retirement.
  • Being Tech-Savvy Doesn’t Translate to Finances: Giggers are often tech-savvy by nature, but there’s a major disconnect when it comes to the way they manage personal finances. 59 percent of respondents use a digital platform for their job, but only 19 percent use a digital platform for saving, and 28 percent use one for online investing.

“The emergence of the gig economy has changed the American workforce, and the way we save for retirement needs to change with it,” said Jon Stein, CEO of Betterment. “At Betterment, we’re helping investors prepare for this shift by providing solutions that go well beyond simply low-cost IRAs, by lowering costs and making investing accessible for everyone. It’s time for lawmakers to do the same by introducing a modern framework that gives non-traditional workers financial stability for the future.”

Read or download the full report, Gig Economy Workers and the Future of Retirement.

METHODOLOGY

An online survey was conducted with a panel of potential respondents from February 1 to February 7, 2018. A total of 1,000 respondents 25 years and older, living in the United States completed the survey. 50% of the respondents had a full-time job as their primary source of income, while also earning income from a job in the gig economy. The other 50% rely solely on gig economy jobs as their primary source of income.

The sample was provided by Market Cube, a research panel company. Panel respondents were invited to take the survey via an email invitation, and they were incentivized to participate due to the panel’s established reward points program.

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Carbon offsets gird for lift-off as big money gets close to nature

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Carbon offsets gird for lift-off as big money gets close to nature 1

By Susanna Twidale and Shadia Nasralla

LONDON (Reuters) – An expected dash by big corporations for offsets to meet their climate targets has prompted financial exchanges to launch carbon futures contracts to capitalise on what could be a multi-billion dollar market.

It’s a step change. Carbon offsets, generated by emissions reduction projects, such as tree planting or shifts to less polluting fuels, have struggled for years to gain credibility, but as climate action has become urgent, their market is expected to grow to as much as $50 billion by 2030.

Among the major corporations that say they expect to use them to compensate for any emissions they cannot cut from their operations and products are Unilever, EasyJet, Royal Dutch Shell and BP, which all have climate targets.

Singapore-based digital exchange AirCarbon told Reuters it planned to launch an offset futures contract by the second quarter.

“The entire concept behind carbon trading and offsets is to employ the profit motive in order to push decisions towards climate change mitigating activities. (We ensure) that you find the most efficiently priced offsets,” William Pazos, co-founder of AirCarbon, said.

The futures market would allow companies to buy a simple credit, effectively a promise to reduce a tonne of emissions but not specifying where that would take place, in contrast to the existing market that offers direct access to particular offset projects.

Advocates, such as AirCarbon, say the resulting liquidity and transparency are positive.

Critics, including some environmental groups and some project developers, say making the market bigger may just make it cheaper for emitters without providing any guarantee it will support the projects most effective in reducing emissions.

“There is a risk in a … switch from something which has a large proportion of over-the-counter buyers at least taking some interest in what they are buying and its quality to large wholesale transactions that aren’t so easily unpacked,” said Owen Hewlett, chief technical officer at Gold Standard, one of the biggest carbon offset registries.

SMALL AND OPAQUE

Carbon offset credits are currently traded in small, bilateral and typically project-specific deals.

An emitter can buy a credit awarded to a forestry or clean cooking stove project for a tonne of carbon dioxide emissions the project has prevented.

The buyer uses these credits to offset past or future emissions and the credit is “retired”, or removed from the system.

The retail price of an offset can vary from 50 cents for a renewable energy project in Asia to $15 for a clean cook stoves project in Africa to $50 for a plastic recycling project in eastern Europe.

These voluntary deals are distinct from compliance cap-and-trade markets, such as the European Union’s Emissions Trading System, based on lawmakers setting a carbon budget and allocating a finite number of allowances, which can be traded by emitters or market players.

The underlying principle echoes the carbon offset market in that those that have emitted too much carbon can buy pollution permits from those with allowances to spare.

As demand to limit carbon emissions grows, carbon prices in the EU ETS have soared to a record high of over 40 euros a tonne this year.

In the off-exchange, bilateral market for carbon offsets, some say they are struggling to navigate the proliferation of standard setters, registries, verifiers and criteria.

“The market today is very small. It’s difficult to be confident that the product you are investing in is credible,” said Bill Winters, CEO of Standard Chartered bank and Chair of a private sector task force seeking to create a multi-billion dollar offset market in the coming months.

DECISIVE YEAR?

This year in theory should mark the coming of age of carbon markets as decades of U.N. talks on tackling climate change reach a decisive stage.

Delegates at the United Nations climate conference in November in Glasgow, Scotland, are expected to work on designing a market to channel money into offset and emissions removal projects to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above the preindustrial average.

Some players, such as AirCarbon, are eager to launch their financial products sooner.

Global exchange CME, home of the main U.S. crude oil benchmark contract, will launch an offset futures contract in March.

“It is a brand new market for many players,” CME Chief Executive Peter Keavey told Reuters. “We can help provide standardised pricing benchmarks and improve price discovery in the voluntary offset market. That’s our goal.”

Ahead of the talks later this year on market design, both CME and AirCarbon plan to use standards set under the aviation CORSIA offset scheme, which many environmental campaigners have said are not rigorous enough as they allow the aviation sector to use most types of project to reach its emissions targets.

They say they fear a repeat of problems that beset the offset market of the Kyoto Protocol, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

The market under Kyoto, a precursor of the Paris climate deal, was flooded with cheap credits from industrial gas projects, mainly from Asia. That led to price crashes and made it harder for other projects to attract funding.

“CORSIA allows a lot of project types and does not have particularly stringent criteria, such as forestry projects with permanence issues and old CDM (Kyoto) credits with little environmental benefit,” Gilles Dufrasne, policy officer at the non-governmental organisation Carbon Market Watch, said.

Asked about criticisms of CORSIA, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which developed the scheme, said in an email CORSIA had been agreed by a consensus of member states and was “under constant review”.

Some project developers, brokers and environmental groups also question the wisdom of decoupling carbon units from their underlying project.

They say combining emissions-focused projects with those that might prioritise other issues, such as community engagement, education or biodiversity, could lead to a race to the bottom in terms of price.

This might make it harder for more capital intensive projects to attract buyers.

More broadly, green groups are concerned companies may place too much emphasis on offsets which, if priced too cheaply, could lead them to focus less on cutting their own emissions.

There are no rules on how many tonnes of carbon a company is allowed to offset a year.

Emitters, such as Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Unilever and project developers, say the first priority must be to reduce emissions.

“We have always acknowledged that offsetting can only be an interim solution while zero-emissions technology is developed,” EasyJet said in an email.

The private sector task force, chaired by Winters and promoted by former central banker Mark Carney, wants to encourage a range of participants, such as bankers and trading houses, as well as emitters to join the market to boost liquidity.

“Markets work best when they are efficient, and that efficiency comes from greater rather than smaller liquidity. So it’s important to have as many participants as possible, from all different types of background,” said Abyd Karmali, Managing Director, Climate Finance at Bank of America, who is also a member of the private sector task force.

Others question the role of speculative trading in a climate context.

“There might be a place for a bunch of traders flipping margins on some futures contracts, but at the end of the day I don’t see how the volume of trading going through (exchanges) has any positive impact on climate change,” said Wayne Sharpe, CEO and founder of ecommerce site Carbon TradeXchange.

(Reporting By Susanna Twidale and Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Katy Daigle, Veronica Brown and Barbara Lewis)

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The school leader getting New Mexico’s tribes online

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The school leader getting New Mexico's tribes online 2

Indigenous language teachers prepare for a remote virtual lesson in Santa Clara Pueblo library in February 2021. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Handout by Santa Fe Indian School.

Indigenous language teachers prepare for a remote virtual lesson in Santa Clara Pueblo library in February 2021. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Handout by Santa Fe Indian School.

Kimball Sekaquaptewa (middle) with the consortium of six pueblo governors and family members, breaking ground on a fiber-optic internet construction project in December 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Handout by Santa Fe Indian School.

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Bleak budget outlook leaves Merkel’s conservatives no choice on debt

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Bleak budget outlook leaves Merkel's conservatives no choice on debt 3

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s bleak budget outlook is pushing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives towards supporting another suspension of national rules on debt next year, with the man in pole position to succeed her advocating another waiver.

The coalition is currently discussing when Berlin should end massive deficit-spending triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and return to the fiscal rules of the constitutionally enshrined debt brake. Parliament suspended those rules for 2020 and 2021 to allow combined new borrowing of up to 310 billion euros in both years.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is expected to present the draft budget for 2022 next month, has already hinted it could be difficult to keep new borrowing below the ceiling of 0.35% of gross domestic product as required by the rules.

“The numbers are just brutal. Everyone who has looked at the budget in detail can’t help but demand another exception from the debt brake again,” a coalition source told Reuters on Thursday on condition of anonymity.

The source said it was simply impossible to cut 60 billion to 80 billion euros in the budget just to get public finances in line with the rules again – especially with Germany heading towards a federal election in September.

Armin Laschet, the new leader of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said in a newspaper interview that there was probably no other way than to suspend the debt brake again.

“Next year, we will surely have to use Article 115 of the Basic Law again for an exception to the debt brake”, Laschet told Stuttgarter Zeitung.

Laschet even suggested that it could be difficult to stick to the fiscal rules beyond next year.

“Nobody today can reliably predict how what the financial needs will look like after 2022. Whether we’ll still have to declare the fiscal emergency then depends on the further development of the pandemic,” Laschet said.

The comments increase the chances for Germany will continue its debt-financed fiscal splurge next year. This would set the tone for the wider debate in the euro zone on how much longer governments should keep spending to fight the crisis.

In January, Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun opened the door for continued deficit spending with a proposal to soften Germany’s debt issuance law, because Berlin would not be able to stick to the strict limits on borrowing for several more years.

But a reform of the rules would need a two-thirds majority in both chambers of parliament – a tricky task given Germany’s increasingly splintered political landscape with seven parties.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber, editing by Larry King)

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