Posted by: Howard Dvorkin, CPA
Date of post: March 21, 2016

Here's what I've learned so far this month, and it's made me both laugh and cry.

You might think the life of a personal finance counselor is even-keeled. Never too up, never too down. Always recommending prudent decision-making to live a debt-free life.

Many days are exactly like that. Some weeks, however, can cause wild mood swings. This is what I learned last week…

1. Shed pounds or debt?

Would you rather lose weight or lose debt? Sadly, many Americans are choosing the former, according to a poll by Capital One Investing…

Nine in 10 working Americans believe they should be investing for retirement, but only three quarters (75 percent) are taking any action, with many prioritizing other goals, like weight loss and travel, over increasing their retirement savings.

Even worse, Capital One Investing says that 75 percent who are “taking any action is actually 5 percentage points less than last year. While this depresses me, I understand it. Retirement is far away, and you’re feeling a tad overweight now. Still, think of it this way: If you don’t save enough for retirement, you’ll lose a lot of weight when you’re older — because you won’t have any money for food.

2.  Ashamed of going away

For those who decry the millennial generation — which I’ve time and again said is wrong — here’s some good news. Millennials feel “shame or guilt” at taking vacations.

That sounds like an awful thing to be pleased about, but it means millennials are not the slackers many label them as. Alamo Rent A Car polled millennials and learned, “59 percent reported feeling a sense of shame for taking or planning a vacation compared to those 35 or older (41 percent).”

Let’s be clear: These millennial employees aren’t calling in sick and skipping work. These are vacation days they’ve earned. While this is causing employees more stress, and I hope they’ll stop feeling this way, it certainly puts a lie to the prediction that millennials would grow up to be lousy workers.

3. No one cares about ID theft

This isn’t funny ha-ha, it’s funny oh-no! First, a cyber-security firm called Venafi polled 500 CIOs — chief information officers — to learn that 90 percent fully expect their companies to be attacked this year.

Even worse, this was the headline on the poll: “CIOs Admit to Wasting Millions on Cybersecurity that Doesn’t Work on Half of Attacks.”

You might think that would cause great concern among Americans. Instead, here’s the headline from another poll conducted around the same time: “U.S. Consumers Remain Carelessly Indifferent to Online Security and Privacy.”

It’s not simply a matter of not being a victim, because “63 percent of respondents have experienced online security issues, and, of those, only 56 percent have made permanent behavior changes afterward.”

5. Dialing for debt

So I saved the funniest for last. I often counsel people about how to save money, and one of their biggest expenses that’s not a loan (mortgage or car) is their smartphone. So it’s no surprise that Verizon recently polled phone owners and learned…

49 percent of American mobile phone owners have broken or lost a mobile phone – in fact, on average, they’ve broken or lost two!

Remember all the nice things I said about millennials earlier? “Millennials in particular drop their phones twice as many times per week – an average of four – than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers.”

The best part of this poll, however, were some of the specific reasons for breaking their phones. I’ll end today with my three favorites…

  • “Threw it at the wall after the New York Giants lost their 6th game in a row.”
  • “Went to get into a taxi, the phone dropped while getting in…we told the cab driver to go back and the phone was run over.”
  • “Dropped in an open atrium…where it bounced several times until hitting three floors down an open staircase.”

Howard Dvorkin is a CPA and chairman of, an educational resource for those who want to conquer all forms of debt in their lives.