Sent: 24-08-2010 08:04:14
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Life in the US of A: Comments on the current economic climate
Hi to all the ATC readers. I must apologize for not having posted material for a while. I have been working over here in the US to try and establish myself. To any who think that the recession is over and therefore things are back on track, let me disabuse you of that notion. Trust me when I say it is tough. Yes more people are going to restaurants and bars, but off a very low base. I am personally aware of a number of business outlets (some being national chains) who have reduced their business hours.
To put this in context, one of the things that really struck me when I came to Australia was the paternalistic approach that seems inherent in employment. Aussies were not aware of it, but coming from the UK it stuck out like a sore thumb to me. However, it was something I got used to and took for granted.
Here, forget it. Conditions are much tougher. The rate of pay in many instances is lower (and yes higher at the higher end) while the benefits are less. Yes the cost of living is lower, but some of the basic essentials you take for granted there (and in England) you pay for here, like medical coverage. It is also far easier to get rid of people, and do it very quickly, without notice, even if the reason is because a person is pregnant! (don't even begin to think about paid maternity leave) As a result there is a palpable fear of losing your job. Such an environment tends to make people complaint.
Added to that are the hours people work. In the retail sector, many shops open before nine (some as early as 6) and don't close until 9 or 10 at night. They are open 7 days a week, although the hours over the week-end are less (slightly). In terms of vacations (can't say holiday here as they don't know the word) you are lucky to get two weeks (they have no idea what a fortnight is by the way) and that is usually after you have been there for at least a year. In many jobs you do not get any benefits until you have been there for a while, often a year.
In terms of retirement savings, purely voluntary and many struggle to contribute 3% if anything. Obviously in the upper echelons things are different, but even there, the number of jobs is shrinking while the number of applicants is going through the roof.
So, life is tough in the land of opportunity.
I have also discovered a few unique things about Australia. I am English and Australian and proud of it. On that note, people here love my accent even if they sometimes can't understand me. On more than one occasion I have had a woman say to me "I have no idea what you just said, but just keeping talking honey as I love your accent"!!!!
Going back to the unique things about Aus (or Ossseee as the Americans say).
I had a cell phone (read mobile) from one of the major carriers in Australia (hint, it was NOT Telstra). It went back to when I was a senior person at ING and when I left I was able to carry over the plan. This had no commitment and low fees. I was constantly called by people saying swap to our new plan but when I told them what I was on and then asked why should move from this particular plan, the answer was usually stunned silence.
When I left the country I wrote to the company and said I would no longer need the plan. The company responded by ignoring my letter and instead charging me for NOT using the Sim card. This went on for a few months so I sent another letter, which was ignored again. After a few months, the person looking after my affairs in Aus received a call from a woman who DEMANDED payment and was incredibly rude.
My person responded that firstly I had told the company I was no longer in the country and had cancelled the plan, several times, secondly, I was not going to pay for NOT using the device, thirdly, my person informed this lady that she was also using this company for her mobile phone service and the rude approach was making her think of switching to a competitor.
The response was something along the lines of, I don't care about you, we will have to consider taking Dr. Wills to court as he owes us this money. Fortunately, common sense seems to have prevailed as I have not heard anything since.
My second experience was regarding my Driver's License. Things happened in a rush at the end when I left the country so I still had my NSW license. I eventually received a notice telling me I was being fined for not renewing it. This became an order to take me to court, for NOT renewing my license. In the UK (and just about anywhere else), if you don't renew it, it expires.
Several letters later, where I pointed out you have to renew in person and as I was in the US I could not do that, I received notification that the threat of court was temporarily being suspended while they reviewed my case.
When I tell people here these tales they are incredulous. Often they ask," how can you be charged or fined for NOT using something?" Apparently in Aus you can!
Returning to more sanguine issues, I have written a series on Emotional Intelligence (EI) for the ATC Digest. This includes information on, what EI is, how you can improve it, how you can use it in selling and whether it is important in investing. I shall be posting shortened versions here over the coming weeks, before writing about something called Yes Strategies, how to get people to say Yes.
This email is general in nature only and does not constitute or convey specific or professional advice. Legislation changes may occur quickly. Formal advice should be sought before acting in any of the areas discussed. Be aware that the information in these articles may become innaccurate with time. Responsibility is disclaimed for any inaccuracies, errors or omissions. Particular investments are neither invited nor recommended and hence this publication is not "financial product advice" as defined in Section 766B of the above legislation. All expressions of opinion by contributors are published on the basis that they are not to be regarded as expressing the official opinion of any other person or entity unless expressly stated. No responsibility for the accuracy of the opinions or information contained in the contributor's articles is accepted by any other person or entity. Copyright: This publication is copyright. If you wish to reproduce this article you require a license, which can be purchased here, to do so.