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text 2017-12-02 15:40
7 Investing Moves You Need to Make by December 31

 

Whenever things are going really well — as is the case right now on Wall Street and probably in your retirement portfolio — it's only natural to want to leave things be. Why try to fix what's not broken? But even the most patient buy-and-hold investors understand that you must revisit your strategy from time to time to make sure things are unfolding as you originally envisioned. The end of the year, when your thoughts are naturally focused on family, the coming year, and to-do lists, is a perfect time to do just that. To make this process easier, MONEY has put together a checklist of seven important steps to take now before the year ends to set your investment portfolio up for 2018 and beyond.

 

  1. Remember to give yourself a raise.

 

Chances are, you got a slight bump in pay this year—perhaps a modest cost-of-living adjustment or a merit raise. Average pay for American workers rose a little over 2% over the past 12 months.

 

If you can, boost your 401(k) savings rate by that amount in the New Year.

 

The beauty of an employer-sponsored 401(k)—especially one where you're automatically enrolled—is that inertia works for you. You don't have to keep remembering to sock away money into your retirement account. Your company automatically does that for you with each paycheck.

 

But inertia cuts both ways. If you simply stay the course and fail to raise your contribution rate periodically, you're leaving money on the table. That's because over time, being an aggressive saver and mediocre investor beats being a good investor with just average saving habits.

 

Case in point: A 35-year-old making $75,000 a year, putting 7% of pay in a 401(k) and earning a better-than-average 10% annual return would have nearly $1.2 million after 30 years. That same worker who socks away the recommended 15% of pay while earning more-typical 7% annual gains winds up with $1.4 million. "Your goal should be maxing out your retirement contributions. If you can't do it all at once, adjust your savings rate gradually over time," says Jan Blakeley Holman, director of adviser education at Thornburg Investment Management.

 

And if you're 50 or older, remember to play catch-up. The IRS allows older workers to stuff an added $6,000 into their 401(k) s. The 2018 cap for workers under 50 is $18,500.

 

Case in point: A 35-year-old making $75,000 a year, putting 7% of pay in a 401(k) and earning a better-than-average 10% annual return would have nearly $1.2 million after 30 years. That same worker who socks away the recommended 15% of pay while earning more-typical 7% annual gains winds up with $1.4 million. "Your goal should be maxing out your retirement contributions. If you can't do it all at once, adjust your savings rate gradually over time," says Jan Blakeley Holman, director of adviser education at Thornburg Investment Management.

 

And if you're 50 or older, remember to play catch-up. The IRS allows older workers to stuff an added $6,000 into their 401(k)s. The 2018 cap for workers under 50 is $18,500.

 

  1. Fix your mix of stocks and bonds.

 

"We're entering the ninth year of a bull market, and we've hit more than 45 new highs just this year alone," says Francis Kinniry, a principal in Vanguard's investment strategy group. "Chances are, rebalancing will be an issue."

 

So take care of it now, to set your portfolio up for success in the coming year.

 

If you started out with a moderate 60% stock/40% bond portfolio five years ago—and neglected to routinely reset that mix back to your original strategy—your portfolio would have drifted into a far more aggressive 75% equity/25% fixed-income strategy. That may seem harmless, but in the event of a market downturn, having 75% of your nest egg in stocks will lead to far greater losses than a moderate 60% equity stake.

 

Research shows it actually makes little difference when you rebalance—at year-end, on your birthday, or whenever your allocation drifts slightly. So now is just as good a time any.

 

But if you are resetting your allocation, remember "that the best way to rebalance is the most tax-efficient way," says Kinniry.

 

Before you start selling your winning investments—which will trigger a tax bill—start by redirecting new contributions for the following year into lagging investments. In other words, since your stocks have been outperforming your bonds by a wide margin, use most of your new contributions to pad your fixed-income exposure. Also, rather than reinvesting dividends and gains back into the same funds; use those distributions to add to your weakest-performing asset class.

 

  1. Maximize your other tax shelters.

 

As you "top off" the contributions you're making to your 401(k), don't forget to fund all your other tax-sheltered investment accounts that often get overlooked.

 

Start with your IRAs. While most Americans with income have access to at least one type of individual retirement account—a traditional IRA, a Roth, a spousal IRA, or even a nondeductible account—only 33% of Americans currently contribute to these accounts. You can save up to $5,500 in 2018 or $6,500 if you're 50 or older.

 

Though you have until April 15, 2019, to make your 2018 IRA contribution, don't delay. By immediately contributing when you're eligible on Jan. 1, you'll maximize the impact of that tax-deferral.

 

In addition to IRAs, don't overlook health savings accounts. "HSAs are kind of a stealth retirement savings vehicle," says Rob Williams, director of income planning for the Schwab Center for Financial Research. That's because HSAs are triple tax advantaged: Money goes in tax deferred, grows tax sheltered, and, if withdrawn for qualified medical expenses, comes out tax-free.

 

You're likely to have plenty of those costs in retirement, which, if not addressed, can eat into your nest egg. A recent Fidelity analysis found that a typical 65-year-old couple retiring this year can expect to spend $275,000 in health-related expenses throughout the course of their retirement.

 

To qualify, you have to be covered by a high-deductible health plan. In 2018 the maximum contribution for an eligible individual is $3,450. For families, it's $6,900. As with other tax-deferred accounts, it's important to max out if you can, yet only 15% of HSA users actually do.

 

  1. Make sure your hatches are battened down.

 

Diversification serves many purposes. In addition to ensuring that some of your money is held in assets that outperform when times are good, you're also making sure that you have some exposure at all times to investments that are likely to hold up in a market storm.

 

But how sure are you that you have enough defensive investments heading into the New Year?

 

"Everyone should look at their accounts now and make sure they have some ballast," says financial planner Lewis Altfest.

 

What steps should you take? After a spectacular year for equities in 2017—with the Dow Jones industrial average up more than 20%—now's the time to "trim some of the high-flying stocks with high P/Es," he says, referring to companies sporting lofty price/earnings ratios. That's because in a market downturn, stocks with high P/E ratios tend to fall more.

 

Altfest says you can replace those holdings with exposure to defensive stocks, such as shares of consumer-staples companies that make things people need, not want, like toothpaste and soap. You can also look to economically insensitive companies such as drug makers that aren't reliant on a robust economy to thrive.

 

And if you're worried about market turmoil in the coming year, now is a good time to trim some of your holdings in non-investment-grade "junk" bonds. This is debt issued by companies with less-than-pristine balance sheets and financials.

 

Because of that risk, junk bonds have historically acted more like stocks than bonds. In 2008, for instance, the typical junk-bond fund lost nearly 30% of its value, according to Morningstar, which was on par with the 37% decline for the S&P 500 index of blue-chip stocks.

 

  1. Make your wish list.

 

If the goal of investing is to buy low and sell high, at some point you have to commit to investing in assets that are beaten down or unloved. Alas, after nearly nine years of rallying, stocks are pretty expensive across the board.

 

But just as you put together a Christmas shopping list well before the holidays, investors ought to list the stocks they'd like to own before the next downturn comes around so they'll know what to buy once the price is right. Among highly profitable companies that will trade at single-digit price/earnings ratios if their shares fall by a third (which is typical in a bear market): Apple (ticker: AAPL), Intel (INTC), HP (HPQ), and Applied Materials (AMAT).

 

Meanwhile, as you wait for buying opportunities to open up after a downturn, you can start putting new money to work now in the one place that's relatively cheap: foreign stocks.

 

"We have a significant position—40% if you X-ray our funds—in international securities," says Altfest. "They're all cheaper than the U.S.," he says, adding that not only is Europe growing faster than the U.S. now, many foreign economies, including the emerging markets, aren't as far along in their recoveries as is America.

 

In our MONEY 50 recommended list, you can go with Vanguard Total International Stock Index (VGTSX) for broad exposure or T. Rowe Price Emerging Markets Stock (PRMSX), focusing on the fast-growing emerging markets, which trade at a P/E ratio half that of the U.S.

 

  1. Harvest your tax losses.

 

Admit it: You hate it when the government takes a cut of your profits every time you sell any investment that has gone up in price. But you can get Uncle Sam back by making him share your pain when you sell investments that have lost value. It's called tax-loss harvesting, and "now's the time to be looking at that strategically," says Schwab's Williams.

 

Isn't selling at a loss admitting defeat? It doesn't have to be. When you sell a stock or fund at a loss, you are realizing the loss for tax purposes. And you can use that loss to reduce your taxes—by offsetting gains elsewhere in your portfolio or reducing ordinary income up to $3,000.

 

But you can turn around and reinvest in the same type of asset, as long as it's not "substantially identical." Or wait 30 days and step back into the exact same investment.

 

  1. Check your automated settings.

 

When in doubt, put it on autopilot. In most situations, that's wise financial advice. "There's a huge benefit to having your accounts automated, so that contributions are automatically deducted into your 401(k) and invested for you without requiring you to think about it," says Holman.

 

It goes well beyond putting money into a 401(k), though. Automation now allows for savings rates to be increased over time, or for your portfolio to be rebalanced at periodic intervals, or even for tax losses to be realized.

 

Still, "you need to check on your autopilots annually to see what's being deducted and how it's being invested," says Holman.

 

Start by making sure your 401(k) contribution increases aren't too conservative. Many plans allow for savings rates to rise by one or two percentage points a year. If you can afford more, override the autopilot to put your portfolio on a faster path. Also, make sure the stock-and-bond mix that you are being automatically rebalanced into is still appropriate for you. Chances are, you set up your allocation strategy several years ago and may have forgotten about it. But as the end of the year should remind you, time marches on quickly. And things change.

Source: irwinconsulting.over-blog.com/2017/12/7-investing-moves-you-need-to-make-by-december-31.html
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text 2017-12-02 15:05
Financial Tips 2018: How to get ahead on taxes, savings and insurance

It's 2018 and now’s the time to get your finances in order.

 

To help you and your family make all the right money moves next year, here’s a financial game plan that could help you grow your 401(k), avoid financial ruin and adjust to the new tax rules signed into law by President Trump.

 

Just as a New Year’s resolution to get fit can fail if you don’t hit the gym, getting ahead financially is tough if you don’t set up a plan and stick to it, says Dana Anspach, founder and CEO of Sensible Money, a wealth management firm in Scottsdale, Ariz.

 

Doing an annual financial check-up, she stresses, is only worthwhile if you use it as a jumping off point to “build good habits.”

 

“It’s figuring out the baby steps you can take that moves you and your money in the right direction,” Anspach says. “Every family should put together a playbook for the year.”

 

Here are steps to take to get you on the road to financial success.

 

Start with the Basics

 

Insurance isn’t sexy. In fact, it’s boring. It’s viewed by many Americans as just another bill, not an investment.

 

But insurance is the foundation of any financial plan, as it protects people from catastrophic losses that can wipe them out. Jan. 1 is the time to make sure your family has enough life insurance to pay for the kids’ college, keep current on the mortgage and fund other living costs in the event you or another breadwinner in the family dies, causing a loss of income.

 

“Check all of your insurance coverage,” especially if your life has undergone changes, such as having a child, advises Carla Dearing, CEO and founder of Sum180, an online financial wellness company in Louisville, Kentucky.

 

That means making sure your house, car, health and life is adequately insured against events that could put your family in financial peril.

 

Other basics not to overlook are making sure your will and estate plan are updated and all your financial accounts have the proper beneficiaries, adds Steve Janachowski, CEO of Brouwer & Janachowski, a wealth management firm in Mill Valley, California.

 

Tax Plan Tune-Up

 

The new tax law means most Americans’ tax bills will change. Some will pay more and many will pay less. Many longstanding deductions, such as home mortgage interest and state and local taxes have been cut or eliminated.

 

Uncertainty, as a result, is high.

 

“It’s important to understand what the new tax bill means to you,” says Paul Jacobs, chief investment officer at Palisades Hudson Financial Group in Stamford, Connecticut.

 

Taxpayers should analyze how to best take advantage of any benefits they receive. Perhaps more important, figure out how to minimize financial damage caused by changes to the tax code that reduce take-home pay or make owning a home more expensive.

 

For example, homeowners in coastal states where housing is expensive and taxes are high might need to rethink their real estate holdings after losing key deductions. Under the new tax law, the deduction for mortgage interest has been capped at $750,000, down from $1 million, and deductions for state and local taxes have been capped at $10,000. These changes could mean owning a home in 2018 and beyond will be more expensive.

 

While moving from your current home is a big decision that should not be taken lightly, “it may make sense to revisit where you live,” Jacobs says.

 

People living in high-cost states that are either approaching retirement, in line for a new job in another state or who aren’t happy where they're living now, “might want to consider moving to a low-tax state, such as Florida,” he says.

 

Simpler moves include reducing the money withheld from your paycheck for taxes if you’re getting a cut, or boosting your withholding if you expect to pay more in taxes.

 

It also makes financial sense to direct some or all of your tax windfall to your retirement account, or 529 college savings account, which can now be used to pay for private school from elementary school onward, adds Peter Mallouk, chief investment officer at Creative Planning in Kansas City, Kansas.

 

“Save the extra money before you get used to spending it,” Mallouk says.

 

401(K) Check-up

 

With employer-paid pensions no longer the major source of retirement income, personal savings accounts such as 401(k) s and IRAs need annual tune-ups to ensure they're building wealth efficiently.

 

And given that many Americans have some of their retirement savings invested in the stock market – which has been going up for nearly nine years and posted a 19.4% gain in 2017 – now’s a good time to review these accounts to make sure they are properly diversified and not too risky, says Scott Kubie, chief investment officer at Carson Group, an Omaha-based investment firm.

 

Many investors’ portfolios today may be more risky than they think. A portfolio that once had 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds, for example, may now have a stock weighting of 70% or more.

 

“I encourage people to look at their holdings and make sure they are not overexposed to risk that they are not prepared to handle,” Kubie says.

 

To reduce risk, investors should rebalance their portfolios, or get back to their initial asset mix of, say, 60% stocks and 40% bonds, he says.

 

One way to do that is to sell assets that have performed well and redirect the money into investments that haven't done as well. If investors don’t want to sell what they currently own, they can get their portfolio back in whack by directing future contributions into the part of their portfolio that originally represented a bigger slice of their overall investment pie.

 

Another tactic is to invest some cash in overseas stock markets, rather than focus exclusively on U.S. markets, Kubie adds.  “Make sure you have some international exposure,” he says.

 

And now that the government has reduced the number of deductions available to tax-payers, the 401(k) is emerging as a key vehicle to shelter income from taxes. A dual income family, for example, that earns $100,000 per year and takes advantage of the pre-tax 401(k) contribution limit of $18,500 could slash their taxable income by $37,000.

 

“People should try to max out their 401(k),” says Janachowski. “It’s a no brainer.”

 

What investors should not do is try to time the market, or get out just because some pundits say the market is pricey and is due for a fall, he adds. “Start early and save consistently,” says Janachowski, adding that he believes corporate earnings and stocks will benefit from the cut in the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35%.

 

Home Affordability Check

 

With fewer deductions, housing isn’t as financially friendly to homeowners, especially in New Jersey and California and other pricey, high-tax states along either coast. Now’s a good time to see if the house you're living in or the new house you're eyeing or the second home you've been dreaming about is still affordable, says Janachowski.

 

While the reduction in home-related deductions won’t impact most Americans, it could cause financial pain to those it does affect.

 

“It will be harder to afford housing because the government isn’t subsidizing it as much,” says Janachowski. “Does it mean you shouldn’t own a home or buy a home? No. A house isn’t only an investment; it is a place to live. But it could hit the second-home market and keep people from moving up to bigger homes.”

Source: lexusgroupblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/financial-tips-2018-how-to-get-ahead-on-taxes-savings-and-insurance
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text 2017-12-02 14:25
Five financial tips to get your year off to the right start

Writing down financial goals may not mean you’ll actually achieve them, but it increases your chances of doing so.

 

New Year’s resolutions don’t all have to be about giving up chocolate and alcohol

 

It’s only the second day of the New Year and you’re probably fed up with reading about resolutions. However, they don’t all have to be about giving up chocolate or alcohol, or rising before the sun to exercise.

 

These tips for 2018 don’t have to be done with any great urgency; rather, think about the following advice as something you can check in on over the year as your appetite for financial management ebbs and flows.

 

1: Decide on your goals

 

An obvious one, but how many of us have ever taken out life insurance, or embarked on a renovation without thinking of the wider impact of such a move?

 

Writing down your financial goals may not mean you’ll actually achieve them (sorry fans of The Secret) but it will probably increase your chances of doing so.

 

2: Get your mortgage into shape

 

If you already have a mortgage, there are three things you should be thinking about this year. The first is checking you’re on the right rate; after all, one thing we’ve learned from the tracker scandal is we can’t rely on the banks to get it right for us.

 

The second is to consider a switch to another product or competitor. With house prices continuing to rise, your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio will have fallen which should make you liable for a cheaper mortgage.

 

Thirdly, pay more than the minimum. While you could be doing something else with your money, for most of us, the peace of mind that comes with inching away at your mortgage is hard to beat. A little effort can, over time, produce substantial returns.

 

By overpaying each month you’ll reduce what you owe the bank and cut the term of your mortgage. It also means you’ll cut your interest bill. As you’ll be enhancing your LTV ratio, the bank may offer you a keener interest rate which will have another cost-reducing impact.

 

Consider someone on a €250,000 mortgage with 17 years left to go paying interest at a rate of 3.7 per cent. They are currently making repayments of €1,653 a month. If they increased their repayments by €100 each month it would knock 16 months off the mortgage term, saving them €7,302 (based on interest rates staying where they are).

 

If they bumped up payments to €200 a month, they would cut the term by 30 months and save themselves €13,454 in interest.

 

Bank of Ireland has a calculator which can help you work out your savings.

 

3: Review your pension

 

You may not do it this week or next week, but at some point this year take the time to read your annual pension benefit statement and figure out how your retirement is shaping up. You owe it to yourself.

 

And if you don’t have a pension, is it time to think about getting one?

 

If you have spare cash you can simply bump up your contributions. But if your pension is going nowhere, why reward your non-performing fund manager even more?

 

So how do you go about that?

 

You’ll need to figure out a couple of things. How much will you need in retirement? Will you have a mortgage? Will you get a full state pension of €12,300 or so a year? What if you don’t?

 

Armed with this information, you can see where you’re headed by examining the “statement of reasonable projections” in the pension documents that should be sent to you annually. This will show what income your current pot, plus future contributions, will generate.

 

If you’re falling short of your goal outlined in the first step, you may have time to rectify this. Typically, to get a pension worth half your salary, you’ll need to be saving at least 15 per cent (ideally 20 per cent) of your salary. Any employer contributions will count towards this, and making additional voluntary contributions (AVCs) will boost it.

 

Don’t ignore your pension fund’s performance. Is your manager returning as much as you’d expect given market conditions? If not, think about switching. If you’re in a group scheme and can’t, bring your concerns to the funds’ trustees.

 

Fees and charges are also a factor. Are they too high? If you’re losing too big a chunk on fees, it may be time to switch or renegotiate. After all, as figures from the Pensions Authority show, an annual management charge of 1 per cent depletes a fund worth €136,700 by 10 per cent, or €14,500, over 20 years.

 

4: Bump up your savings

 

Deposit rates may be on the floor (the best 1-year fixed rate is currently just 0.75 per cent from KBC Bank), but so too is inflation. This means it may make as much sense to save today as it did when these indicators were much higher.

 

You won’t regret upping the amount that goes into your savings each month, even if it’s a small bit such as the amount you’ll save this year thanks to Budget 2018 changes.

 

You could also consider investing in a stock market fund. Doing so on a monthly basis lowers the risks and could offer better returns; saving €200 in an account paying 2 per cent will give you €4,893 in a regular savings account, while a stock market fund returning 8 per cent a year will give you €5,186 after two years (assuming markets continue to rise).

 

Of course while headline inflation is stagnant, rental and house price inflation is rampant. This undoubtedly makes it more challenging to try and save. But, if you’re seriously considering trying to buy your first home, look at other factors which might help you seal the deal. Help to buy (5 per cent tax rebate on purchase price up to €20,000) can help you get your deposit on a new home purchase.

 

The rent a room scheme, which allows you earn €14,000 a year tax free by renting out rooms in your home, may convince a lender to take a chance on you. It could make you a more attractive candidate for a mortgage and will also make repaying it much cheaper.

 

Consider a three-bed home with a mortgage of €350,000. Monthly repayments at 3 per cent will be €1,500, or €18,000 a year. If you earn the maximum €14,000 allowable under the scheme, you will be left with a shortfall of just €333 (plus bills) each month. Certainly cheaper than renting in the current market.

 

5: Take control of your debt

 

As a nation, our outstanding consumer debt may be falling but figures from the Central Bank show we are the fourth most indebted in Europe. Average debt per household is €83,941.

 

While mortgages may account for most of this, expensive, short-term debt is also a factor. In August 2017, for example, more than one-third (36 per cent) of credit cards had balances of between 75 and 100 per cent of their limits.

 

If you have too much debt weighing on your credit card, try and make some inroads this year.

 

For example, if you have €2,000 sitting on your credit card at a rate of 20 per cent and you are repaying just 2 per cent a month (€40), it will take you nine years to clear your debt. And it will cost you an extra €2,336 in interest!

 

If you repay an extra €5 a month, you’ll cut the time to 6.6 years and your interest bill to €1,635. If you bring the monthly repayment up to €60, your cost of funds will drop to less than €1,000 and you’ll repay it in about four years.

Source: matzwils07.edublogs.org/2017/12/02/five-financial-tips-to-get-your-year-off-to-the-right-start
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text 2017-11-16 01:35
ASHINAGA GROUP ASIA: STUDENT ACTIVISM

 

Ashinaga began 50 years ago with orphaned students advocating on their own behalf. This rich tradition of activism continues today. Student-led activism is a powerful means for conveying the situation of orphaned students to the general public and is central in fostering the qualities of leadership and teamwork in Ashinaga students.

 

Fundraising

 

Bokin, or Japanese-style street fundraising, has been a core component of Ashinaga since its inception. For two weekends every fall and summer, more than 10,000 Ashinaga students congregate at 200 central points across Japan. The students raise awareness through sharing their personal histories with passersby, as well as relating statistics regarding orphans. People then graciously place any amount of money—be it ¥1, ¥1,000, or more—in the boxes students are holding.

 

The funds raised at bokin go directly to a cause of the students’ choice. One year, for example, in response to the earthquake in the Kumamoto region of Japan, students directed all of the money they collected to the region’s recovery.

 

Since 2016, the students have made the monumental commitment to donate half of all funds raised to help support the education of orphaned students across Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Causes supported in previous fundraising drives:

 

-HIV/AIDS orphans in Uganda

 

-1999 Armenia, Colombia earthquakes

 

-1999 Izmit Earthquake in Turkey

 

-1999 Jiji Earthquake in Taiwan

 

-2001 El Salvador earthquakes

 

-2003 Bam earthquake, Iran

 

-2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and Earthquake: India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Myanmar

 

-2015 Nepal Earthquake

 

Get Involved

 

We are always looking for eager volunteers who want to get involved with Ashinaga’s fundraising activities. As long as you have the motivation and a positive attitude, you are more than welcome to join us!

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text 2017-11-15 01:43
Ashinaga Group Asia: Research and Advocacy

 

Matching action with data

 

A key part of Ashinaga’s work is understanding the academic and financial challenges orphaned students face. Our research then becomes the basis for the support we provide as well as what we campaign for.

 

Ashinaga’s research and activism was key in the formation of Japan’s 2014 Childhood Poverty Act, which looks to increase government support for children and guardians in one-parent households.

 

Although our research has primarily focused on Japan, we hope to expand to Sub-Saharan Africa as our activities develop in the region. We also aim to widen the remit of our research to include data about the difficulties faced by elementary and middle school children.

 

The primary findings of our research thus far are summarized below.

 

Our findings

 

Ashinaga high school students find it difficult to pursue their desired careers after graduating. This is mainly due to financial constraints that have left them no choice but to give up going on to higher education.

 

For example, the percentage of those going on to university or junior college is lower than the national average.

 

Although public high schools are free, and there is a reduced school fee system at private high schools, educational expenses are still high—especially because of low incomes.

 

No matter how hard I work, my hourly wage remains ¥730. If I continue to work like this, I wonder whether I will end up homeless.

 

(44-year-old from Hokkaido)

 

I’m not entitled to receive the survivor pension with my current wage. I feel sad about the fact that my income is lower than families on welfare, no matter how hard I work. I changed to a night-shift job because the income is better, but I still have almost no money left when my next payday comes. I am not a full-time employee, so I don’t receive bonuses. I feel very anxious about my situation, but there is nothing I can do about it.

 

(49-year-old from Kagoshima)

 

An opinion survey of guardians of high school students, conducted in November 2013, found that children who have lost parents are troubled economically and mentally.

 

Detours

 

Of those responding to the survey, 33% indicated that their circumstances had led to “changes in career path,” and 19% “gave up higher education” to subsidize their household.

 

Two-thirds fall into the category of having a “shortage of education,” and this increases to more than 70% for families with two or more children. To cover the cost of education, 48% are “reducing all expenses other than educational expenses” and 41% are “cutting into deposits and savings.” 25% are “depending on their children’s part-time jobs.” This increases to 35% in the greater Tokyo area.

 

39% of high school students wish to pursue higher education, 27% are job seekers, and 55% percent nationwide go on to higher education. However, the number of those going on to higher education is 16% lower for Ashinaga high school students.

 

40% of job-seeking students “wish to pursue higher education, but cannot due to financial reasons,” and 13% “have to subsidize their households.” The total number of job-seeking students who wish to pursue higher education is 53%, which sharply increased by 13 points compared with the last survey, two years ago.

 

Due to a shortage in education, 42% “cannot attend tutoring school,” 33% “changed career path,” and 19% “gave up higher education” to support their household or siblings.

 

Working poor

 

The number of “non-regular employees” reaches 60%, and 15% work in two or more places.

 

Of In addition, 70% of guardians seek to “extend the payment period of the survivor pension and child support allowance from high school graduation to a longer term.”

 

Depression

 

Mental health problems are serious for both parents and children. Children are affected mentally after a parent’s death and/or disability. The results show that 29% of children “refused to or were unwilling to go to school,” 28% showed “an increase in depressed facial expression,” 24% “met with a counselor or psychiatrist,” 23% “became mad asily,” 20% “became lethargic,” and 12% “were bullied.”

 

Similarly, 42% of guardians are “depressed, and not feeling better,” followed by 41% “always having a feeling of crushing uncertainty,” 25% showing “nervousness,” 19% found they were “taking great pains to do anything,” 17% had “feelings of unworthiness,” 16% of “hopelessness,” 15% exhibited “fidgeting and restlessness,” and 10% were “considering suicide or double suicide.”’

 

It is evident that the number of guardians who are depressed is increasing.

 

Orphans

 

Children experience terrible loss when a parent dies. They lose not only their economic foundation, but their mental and cultural support as well. Sudden deaths from disaster or suicide are an even bigger shock. These children are faced with the fact that the presence of their loved ones is “fragile,” and normal life completely changes.

 

Children whose parents are fighting long-term illnesses, such as cancer, may experience the fear of death. On the other hand, some adults try to protect their children by not telling them they are ill. This results in death being sudden and more of a shock.

 

The number of suicides in Japan exceeds 30,000, and this has been the case since 1998. For children whose parents have committed suicide, the mental trauma is serious. In cases of suicide, along with the shock of sudden death, children suffer doubt. If the cause of death is unknown, children feel remorse. Thoughts such as, “they died because of me” or “I couldn’t help them” are common. Feeling disappointed and angry, and thinking “I was deserted” or “I wasn’t loved,” are also common.

 

In addition, they feel others watch to see how they respond to their parent’s death. Those who are told by their family and relatives to remain silent regarding their parent’s suicide are often pushed into isolation.

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