Electric Sleep: The Gadgetry Tracking and Hacking The Way We Rest

As activity tracking goes mainstream, an arsenal of consumer technology is rolling out for sleep. But how much do these interventions help?

At 2.16am, I stumble to the bathroom. I catch a glimpse of myself. The light from the red bulb is flattering – I’ve been told to eliminate all blue light on my nocturnal trek – but the sleep-tracker headband, currently emitting the sound of gently lapping waves, kills any woke-up-like-this vibe. I adjust its double straps and feel my way back to bed.

The next time I wake is at 6.30am – after fractured dreams in which the Dreem 2 headband makes many cameos – to birdsong, also from the headband. When I check the app, I see I have slept six-and-a-half hours of my anticipated eight. Anxious to remedy this, I head out for my first coffee. In his new book Blueprint: Build a Bulletproof Body for Extreme Adventure in 365 Days, athlete Ross Edgley warns that this sort of overriding behaviour can bring about “biochemical bankruptcy”. Not now, Ross.

Health influencers like Edgley are all over sleep lately, and no wonder, when so many of us obsess over it. A 2021 report released by the Sleep Health Foundation estimates around one in 10 Australians have a sleep disorder, while a report from 2019 found that more than half are suffering from at least one chronic sleep symptom. Studies have suggested that sleep deficiency can lead to weight gain and a weakened immune system and that poor sleep patterns may contribute to later dementia risk.

In recent years, sleep-fretting has intersected with fitness-tracking, with the latest bio-hacks regularly featured on the podcasts of personal-development heavyweights such as Joe Rogan, whose Whoop Strap – worn around the wrist – told him he was getting four or five hours a night, not the seven or eight he’d thought; and Aubrey Marcus, whose Oura ring measures various biomarkers overnight and gives him a total score in the morning. “If I can get close to 80%, I’m golden for the day,” Marcus told the authors of My Morning Routine.

Wearables, such as watches, rings and headbands, appeal to those of us who enjoy geeking out on our stats, but could they also be cultivating anxiety and feeding into insomnia? Associate Prof Darren Mansfield, a sleep disorders and respiratory physician who is also deputy chair of the Sleep Health Foundation, thinks some balance is needed.

“These devices in general can be a good thing,” he says. “They’re not as accurate as a laboratory-based sleep study, but they are progressing in that direction, and technology enables the person to be engaged in their health. Where it can become problematic is people can become a bit enslaved by the data, which can lead to anxiety or rumination over the results and significance. That might escalate any problems, or even start creating problems.”

As a clinician, Mansfield thinks that the most useful role of these devices is monitoring routine, not obsessing over the hours of good-quality sleep. “There will be some error margin, but nonetheless when we’re looking for diagnostic information, like timing of sleep and duration of sleep, they can capture that,” he says.

Since Mansfield admits his sleep doesn’t need much hacking, I seek out an insomniac-turned-human guinea pig. Mike Toner runs the dance music agency Thick as Thieves, and has been on a mission for five years to fix the sleep issues earned from a decade of late nights in Melbourne clubs and reaching for his phone to answer international emails at 3am.

“I tried everything,” he says. “Magnesium capsules and spray, melatonin and herbal sleep aids. I even signed up for treatment at a sleep centre. You sleep in this room with all these wires connected to you, things coming out of your nose, cameras trained on you. Ironically, I slept better that night than I have any other night.”

He decided to start monitoring his body in earnest, learning about the latest devices from the Huberman Lab Podcast and The Quantified Scientist. Sleep-monitoring wearables have progressed from having an accelerometer to track movements which are fed through an algorithm to predict when a person is asleep, to being able to track sleep latency; sleep efficacy; heart-rate variability; light, deep and REM sleep and sleeping positions.

Toner’s accumulated a few as the technology becomes more sophisticated. He estimates having spent around $1,500 on them, and a further $3,500 for the sleep-centre treatment.

Then there are the cooling devices. Toner beds down on a Chilipad as soon as the weather gets warmer – a hydro-powered cooling mattress.

The idea is that lying down in a cool room – perhaps after taking a warm shower – tricks the body into slumber, since our body temperature drops when we’re asleep.

Non-techy strategies include having hands and feet out from under the covers, or using a fan. Lifestyle guru and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss recommends a short ice bath before bed. Be warned, though: Dave Asprey – founder of Bulletproof, which sells high-performance products – once tried putting ice packs on his body right before bed. As he told MensHealth.com: “I ended up getting ice burns on about 15% of my body.”

Mansfield says that ensuring you’re cooler in the evenings may help with sleep. “Generally, a lower-level temperature is better tolerated at night … 25C can make a beautiful, comfortable day, but can be unbearably hot at night when our own core temperature drops, so 18C or 19C is more tolerable.

“Then in the last two hours before getting up, your temperature rises again – you might have thrown off the blanket in the night and then might wake up at 5am feeling freezing cold.”

And what about the new frontiers of technology? According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, in his influential book Why We Sleep, in the future, we can expect the marriage of tracking devices with in-home networked devices such as thermostats and lighting.

“Using common machine-learning algorithms applied over time, we should be able to intelligently teach the home thermostat what the thermal sweet spot is of each occupant in each bedroom, based on the biophysiology calculated by their sleep-tracking device,” Walker says. “Better still, we could program a natural circadian lull and rise in temperature across the night that is in harmony with each body’s expectations.”

Mansfield thinks this kind of integration is feasible, and that a thermostat linked to a device measuring circadian rhythms offers plausible benefits in preparing people’s sleep, but he predicts that automated control of room lighting will wind up being manually overridden, because technology can’t necessarily gauge when we’re in the middle of reading a book or having a conversation. “It’s liable to just irritate people,” he says. He’s more interested in technology that will track conditions like sleep apnoea.

As Toner has concluded, no device is a silver bullet. Ultimately, it was a $70 online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) course that his GP referred him to that fixed his sleep over three months of strict adherence. Now he just uses technology to make sure he’s not drifting off track.

The key lessons? Only use your bedroom for sleep and sex. Set your alarm for the same time, no matter how late you get to bed. Screens off early. No day-napping. Alcohol is a bad idea. All of these things are easily monitored yourself using a good old notebook, and they don’t cost a cent. They just take persistence.

With those good habits in place, Toner is now mindful of how he will put the CBT pointers he’s learned during lockdowns into practice once his life picks up its pace again.

“I used to put this obligation on myself to be there all the time with my artists, but interestingly, coming out of this pandemic, a lot of the artists are having the same train of thought as I am, wanting to avoid late nights,” Toner says.

He’s even coaching some of them for a charity run – quite the lifestyle change for many. “I’ve spent so long fixing this that one of the things I’ve realized, when we eventually go back to work routines, is I’m going to be fiercely protective of my sleep.

By:

Source: Electric sleep: the gadgetry tracking and hacking the way we rest | Sleep | The Guardian

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Johnson & Johnson Agrees To Pay $230 Million To Resolve N.Y. Opioid Lawsuit

Johnson & Johnson building in Madrid.

Johnson & Johnson will pay as much as $230 million to settle a lawsuit from New York state over its sale and marketing of opioid painkillers, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Saturday, as state and local governments move to extract money from the pharmaceutical companies that developed the drugs to help combat an epidemic of addiction to them.

The settlement will remove Johnson & Johnson from a trial in a lawsuit brought by James against multiple pharmaceutical companies that’s set to start on Long Island next week.

Johnson & Johnson will pay as much as $230 million into a state-operated settlement fund to underwrite addiction recovery services, overdose prevention, training for healthcare providers and other opioid-related purposes.

James said Johnson & Johnson has agreed to stop selling opioids in the United States, but the company says it stopped selling prescription painkillers in the U.S. last year.

The settlement does not require Johnson & Johnson to admit any wrongdoing or liability, and the company called its marketing of painkillers “appropriate and responsible” in a Saturday morning statement.

Crucial Quote

“While no amount of money will ever compensate for the thousands who lost their lives or became addicted to opioids across our state or provide solace to the countless families torn apart by this crisis, these funds will be used to prevent any future devastation, James said in a statement.

Key Background

James sued Johnson & Johnson along with several other drugmakers in 2019, accusing the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company of aggressively marketing its opioid painkillers to doctors and inaccurately downplaying the risk of addiction. The lawsuit tied the company to a nationwide opioid abuse epidemic fueled largely by the overuse of powerful, addictive prescription drugs. Several other state and local officials have weighed action against Johnson & Johnson, and the company said last year it’s open to paying $5 billion in settlements.

Tangent

When James’ court case against drugmakers starts next week, it will not include the suit’s best-known target: Oxycontin manufacturer Purdue Pharma. Saddled with a federal criminal probe and hundreds of lawsuits, Purdue is navigating bankruptcy proceedings, and the company and members of the Sackler family — the company’s billionaire owners — are offering to pay billions of dollars in settlements and restructure Purdue as a public benefit company. This plan is controversial, with some politicians and advocates pushing back on a provision to make the Sackler family personally immune from future lawsuits.

I am a breaking news reporter at Forbes. I previously covered local news for the Boston Guardian, and I graduated from Tufts University in 2019. You can contact me at jwalsh@forbes.com.

Source: Johnson & Johnson Agrees To Pay $230 Million To Resolve N.Y. Opioid Lawsuit

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Critics:

The opioid epidemic, also referred to as the opioid crisis, is the phrase used to describe the overuse, misuse/abuse, and overdose deaths attributed either in part or in whole to the class of drugs opiates/opioids, and the significant medical, social, psychological, and economic consequences of both the medical and the non-medical or recreational use of these medications.

Opioids are a diverse class of moderate to strong painkillers, including oxycodone (commonly sold under the trade names OxyContin and Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco) and a very strong painkiller, fentanyl, which is synthesized to resemble other opiates such as opium-derived morphine and heroin. The potency and availability of these substances, despite the potential risk of addiction and overdose, have made them popular both as medical treatments and as recreational drugs.

Due to their sedative effects on the part of the brain which regulates breathing, the respiratory center of the medulla oblongata, opioids in high doses present the potential for respiratory depression and may cause respiratory failure and death. Opioids are highly effective for treating acute pain, but a debate rages over whether they are effective in treating chronic (long term) or high impact intractable pain, as the risks may outweigh the benefits.

Most deaths worldwide from opioids and prescription drugs are from sexually transmitted infections passed through shared needles – citation needed. This has led to a global initiative of needle exchange programs and research into the varying needle types carrying STIs. In Europe, prescription opioids account for three‐quarter of overdose deaths, which represent 3.5% of total deaths among 15-39-year-olds.

Some worry that the epidemic could become a worldwide pandemic if not curtailed.Prescription drug abuse among teenagers in Canada, Australia, and Europe were comparable to U.S. teenagers. In Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, and in parts of China, surveys found that one in ten students had used prescription painkillers for non-medical purposes. Similar high rates of non-medical use were found among the young throughout Europe, including Spain and the United Kingdom.

5 Time Management Myths That Affect Your Workplace Productivity

Any phenomenon that becomes “fashionable” instantly acquires its own mythology. This mythology forms a system of concepts that are accepted and not questioned. At the same time, the vast majority of people do not think about whether it corresponds to reality.

This paradox has existed as long as humanity. Some such misconceptions are harmless and cute. But misconceptions about any management, especially time management, lead to real mistakes in life and work, reduce motivation, and kill faith in oneself. Time management games and activities increase motivation, engagement, and problem-solving skills. They also improve resource management, speaks creativity, and enhances teamwork abilities.

So, what is the history of time management?

History of Time Management

The history of time management goes back to the distant past. As far back as 2000 years ago in ancient Rome, the famous thinker Seneca proposed to divide all time into time spent with benefit and useless.

Seneca also began to keep a permanent record of time in writing. The thinker said that when living a certain period of time, one should evaluate it in terms of occupancy. In the later history of time management, these ideas formed the basis of such a concept as “personal efficiency.

Leon Battista Alberti, a writer and Italian scholar who lived in the 15 century, said that those who know how to manage time usefully will always be successful. To do this, he suggested using 2 rules:

  1. Make a to-do list every day in the morning.
  2. Arrange things in decreasing order of importance.

For centuries, all of these principles existed only in theoretical form, and only since the 1980s, this topic has begun to move from theory to practice. For teens, it will be useful to read time management tips.

Time management is necessary not only for executives and business owners: each of us must be able to manage our own assets to enjoy the process of life in its entirety. Of course, not everyone needs time management. If a person has nothing to do in his or her life, and his or her main task is “to kill time”, then time management is an irrelevant and unnecessary discipline for such a person.

In other words, you should first decide whether you really lack time and where you would like to spend your free minutes, hours, and days when they appear.

Time management consists of several components:

  • Strict time management.
  • Optimization of time resources.
  • Planning a day (week, month, or another period of time).
  • Organization of motivation.

Time Management Myths That Affect Your Workplace Productivity

Time management is important not only for work: people who have mastered the art of time management are more cheerful, healthy, and successful in professional and personal life. Effective time management allows you to think about all your actions and decisions in terms of their appropriateness for your own development and improvement.

Myth Number 1: You can’t be a Successful Person Without Time Management

The main danger of this myth is that it equates being organized with being successful. This is not the same thing. It is the substitution of the essence with a tool.

At first glance, this myth seems very plausible. How can you be successful if you can’t consciously and systematically manage your time and activities? It seems like you can’t.

However, any success is first of all decision-making. And only in the second place is their execution. If you don’t make decisions or make the wrong ones, then no time management will help you at all. You will do a lot of things that lead you nowhere.

For example, Konstantin is a successful businessman. When I first met him and his style of doing business, I fell into a stupor. He was the epitome of anti-time management. Absolute unpredictability in his thoughts, actions, and decisions. Nevertheless, he has outstanding business accomplishments. Due to what? First of all – due to enormous experience, brilliant intuition, ability to make the most accurate decisions under conditions of lack of information, not to get lost in difficult situations, to be flexible and fearless.

And this is not an isolated example. Neither Konstantin nor others like him did not need the classic system of time management or rules for improving productivity. They succeeded without their help.

Myth Number 2: There are Universal Time Management Systems That Suit all People

Most books on time management inconspicuously carry the idea that time management systems are not personal. After all, this is management! And it is a universal thing. At best, the authors divide people into rationalistic and intuitive (orderly and chaotic).

A greater stupidity is hard to imagine. A time management system is built into a person’s way of life and changes it (and the image, and the person). If it does not do this, it is ineffective. And a person’s lifestyle depends on his or her values, beliefs, cognitive filters and strategies, life situation, type of nervous system, peculiarities of character, activity, etc.

Trying to change your lifestyle by copying techniques developed by someone else is like trying to transplant someone else’s organ. Your body will accept it only under conditions of suppressed immunity, i.e. partial destruction of your identity. The same happens when you copy someone else’s way of life. It disorganizes you. Basically, there are only three possible alternatives:

  1. It will destroy your identity if you follow it fanatically.
  2. You abandon it or modify it beyond recognition (but this is a rare option).
  3. By chance, it will coincide with your personality traits and you will be able to apply it permanently (this is even rarer).

Myth Number 3: Time Management Doesn’t Work

The number of people who have tried living by time management and given up on it is greater than those who have succeeded.

In order for you to manage your time really effectively and without violence to your nature, you must construct a time management system for yourself. This requires a prior analysis of the characteristics of your personality, activities, lifestyle, and situation. If you set up a time management system for yourself – it doesn’t mean that all your time will be spent on work, the development of yourself, and your skills. You should also make time in this system for primitive things like watching movies using VPN for Amazon Prime or playing video games on PS4 or PC as well as other activities that help you relax and reboot.

The same about Konstantin, or rather about his sad experience of implementing time management.

Konstantin liked to attend all kinds of training, seminars, and other developmental events. At one of them, some charismatic person managed to plant in Konstantin’s head the bacillus of time management.

Konstantin decided to give it a try and hired himself a guru of time management. This teacher was the exact opposite of Constantine in temperament and most of his personality traits. However, he possessed great persuasiveness. The experiment of introducing time management into Konstantin’s life lasted about seven months.

Konstantin began to trust his intuition less and began to base his decisions on more formal and rational methods. As a result, for the first time in the last 14 years of his business career, he incurred serious losses (several tens of millions) and found himself on the verge of bankruptcy.

Now, being with Konstantin, it is better not to talk about time management.

Myth Number 4: Time Management Guarantees Personal Development

Many time-management techniques include blocks devoted to goal-setting. This is very correct and appropriate. But here lies a dangerous trap.

It lies in the fact that having reached a certain stage of development, people find themselves in a crisis associated with the need to rethink themselves and their life. He or she must make a kind of quantum leap. Instead, within the framework of time management, he or she is presented with rather primitive technologies of goal-setting.

In the vast majority of cases, these technologies are good in themselves. However, they allow you to choose goals based on meanings and values that are already familiar to you. And they do not work at all when you are experiencing an existential crisis.

If you fall into this trap, then instead of doing inner work on yourself and making a kind of quantum leap, you will move toward goals that are no longer relevant to you. You will lose time and exacerbate your own crisis.

For example, Elena is a talented person who worked for a long time as a top manager of a large company and finally opened her own business.

At the same time, Elena was always aware that the area of her professional development was not really interesting to her either when she was working as a hired employee or when she opened her own business. She was successful and highly professional. But all these years she was plagued by the feeling that she was out of place.

A year and a half after opening her business, this feeling became very strong. And then Elena went to training on goal setting and time management. Being an emotional and enthusiastic person, Elena came out of the training elated and with a list of new goals in her hands.

For eight months, Elena worked on achieving her new goals and got her way. What was the result? Severe disappointment and depression. Loss of meaning and motivation to move forward.

When I asked Elena why she thought this was the case, she said that the goals she had set in the training were totally artificial and superficial. With the shortage of time and group work, she formed pacifier goals: superficially attractive and appealing to the approval of others, but completely unresponsive to her deepest needs.

Myth Number 5: Time Management Immediately Starts Saving Your Time

This myth has probably caused the most casualties among time management recruits. Here is what a typical story of a victim of this myth looks like.

Vasily is a mid-level manager. He is promoted and made head of a division. The volume of tasks and responsibilities increases dramatically. Vasily ceases to have time and cope. But he does not give up and buys a hyper-popular in managerial circles book on time management.

Why does Vasya do this? Stupid question. To have more time. However, with amazement and irritation, Vasya notes that in an attempt to apply the great wisdom in the book, he gets less time, his life becomes more difficult, and the free time does not increase. And, funnily enough, all these phenomena only worsen over time.

After a little floundering in this situation and having exhausted his willpower reserves, Vasya powerfully forgets about any kind of time management. And later, upon hearing this magic word, he reacts aggressively and profanely.

What Happened? A tragic conflict between myth and reality.

Mythological time management is a magic pill that quickly and forever gets rid of your time problems. Real-time management is a painful process of changing your lifestyle and developing completely new and unfamiliar skills.

As soon as you start implementing a little bit of sophisticated time management in your life, your efficiency goes down dramatically instead of going up! And it remains low until new skills and habits are developed. And developing them takes extra time, motivation, and energy.

Because human is a lazy and fairy tale-believing creature, few people make it all the way to the end. Nevertheless, everyone should know how to avoid burnout.

A Practical Task

If you have never tried to implement time management in your life, please write for yourself on the sheet of paper:

  • What goals would you like to achieve with it, what desires to realize?
  • What in your way of life now prevents you from achieving these goals?
  • What in you/your character prevents you from achieving these goals?

If you have tried any of the time management systems but were not successful in it, please answer the following questions:

  • What time management systems have you used?
  • How would you characterize the features of that system/s?
  • What goals did you want to achieve by using them?
  • What prevented you from achieving those goals?
  • What didn’t suit you about the time management system you were using?

If you have tried any of the time management systems, implemented them, and are still using them, please answer the following questions:

  • What are the main features of your time management system?
  • Is there anything in your time management system that you find inconvenient or not fully effective? If yes, describe it.
  • What would you like to improve in your time management?

P.S. When answering the questions, please do not limit yourself to such general and meaningless concepts as “laziness” or “procrastination”. They do not explain anything, but only close the road to possible positive change. These questions will help you to understand what you really want.

The post 5 Time Management Myths That Affect Your Workplace Productivity appeared first on Calendar.

By:

Source: 5 Time Management Myths That Affect Your Workplace Productivity

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Critics:

Time management is the process of planning and exercising conscious control of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity. It involves a juggling act of various demands upon a person relating to work, social life, family, hobbies, personal interests, and commitments with the finiteness of time. Using time effectively gives the person “choice” on spending or managing activities at their own time and expediency.

Time management may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects, and goals complying with a due date. Initially, time management referred to just business or work activities, but eventually, the term broadened to include personal activities as well. A time management system is a designed combination of processes, tools, techniques, and methods.

Time management is usually a necessity in any project management as it determines the project completion time and scope. It is also important to understand that both technical and structural differences in time management exist due to variations in cultural concepts of time. The major themes arising from the literature on time management include the following:

 

Bankruptcy Cases In Singapore At 5-Year Low Amid Covid-19 Relief Measures

SINGAPORE – Even as the Covid-19 pandemic ravages the economy, the number of people who were made bankrupt last year sank to the lowest in five years.

Bankruptcy orders tumbled more than 40 per cent to 965 from 1,645 in 2019. Figures from the Law Ministry’s Insolvency Office website showed more than 1,600 bankruptcy orders were made annually between 2016 and 2018.

Experts said the drop in numbers could be due to the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act and government support schemes which provided temporary relief for financially distressed individuals.

Lawyer Chia Boon Teck of Chia Wong Chambers said: “Pre-Covid-19, the law allows a debtor 21 days to pay up on a statutory demand. However, the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 extends the 21 days to six months. This in effect puts a five-month moratorium on outstanding debts.”

The Covid-19 law also raised the minimal debt from $15,000 to $60,000 so debtors owing less than $60,000 are not exposed to threats of bankruptcy, he added.

Last year, bankruptcy applications fell to 2,833 from 3,473 in 2019, reversing an upward trend since 2014.”The twin measures probably account for the drastic drop in bankruptcy applications,” said Mr Chia.

Maybank Kim Eng senior economist Chua Hak Bin said bankruptcies could have been far worse if not for the fiscal support and relief measures that also saw “the freezing of creditors’ rights to commence legal action for default until late 2020”.

Figures from the Insolvency Office website also showed corporate insolvency numbers fell, with 206 applications filed for winding up between January and November last year, down from 368 in the same period in 2019.

Said Dr Chua: “We expect the number of bankruptcies to increase in 2021 as the fiscal support and temporary relief measures are wound down.”

He added that such measures can help only firms suffering from a temporary liquidity crunch, “but cannot save firms which are no longer viable in this new normal”.

Among the high-profile bankruptcy proceedings last year was a bankruptcy bid filed against local hardware chain Home-Fix’s founder Low Cheong Kee and his younger brother by paint manufacturer Nippon Paint (Singapore) over a debt of $500,000.

Political party Peoples Voice’s leader Lim Tean also faced bankruptcy claims totalling about $1.45 million.

Mr Nelson Loh, who was behind an audacious bid to buy English Premier League football club Newcastle United last year, was adjudged a bankrupt by the Singapore High Court in December. He had failed to pay an outstanding debt of over $14 million to DBS Bank.

His cousin Terence Loh is also facing bankruptcy proceedings filed by Maybank over a $3 million debt.

George (not his real name), a 50-year-old bankrupt, said: “The government relief measures only helped to delay the proceedings. Financially distressed individuals would still be struggling to raise enough money to pay their debts amid the pandemic.”

He said he filed for bankruptcy as he was unable to pay his debts of over $100,000 to various banks.

“Some people may think I had chosen the easy way out, but it’s not. It was a difficult decision to make. Many companies will not hire me because I am a bankrupt. And I also can’t manage a business or act as director of a company.”

As at Dec 31, there were 10,269 undischarged bankrupts.

A bankrupt may try to have his bankruptcy status annulled after paying off all outstanding debts. He can also apply to the High Court to grant him a discharge or the court-assigned administrator may discharge him after at least three years of good conduct, provided his debts do not exceed $500,000 and his creditors do not object.

By: Joyce Lim Senior Correspondent

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Bankruptcies filed in Singapore have skyrocketed to more than 460 in March. Latest official figures show that is the highest in more than 15 years. Lawyers CNA spoke to said they have also seen more enquiries about loan obligations. Subscribe to our channel here: https://cna.asia/youtubesub Subscribe to our news service on Telegram: https://cna.asia/telegram Follow us: CNA: https://cna.asia CNA Lifestyle: http://www.cnalifestyle.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/channelnewsasia Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/channelnews… Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/channelnewsasia

5 Things You Shouldn’t Do During a Recession

In a sluggish economy or an outright recession, it is best to watch your spending and not take undue risks that could put your financial goals in jeopardy. What happens to the economy during a recession can negatively impact your personal finances and wealth. However, by being prepared and taking a few simple steps to reduce your risks, you can improve your chances of weathering the financial decline. Below are some of the financial risks everyone should avoid taking during a recession. 

Key Takeaways

  • When the economy is in a recession, financial risks increase, including the risk of default, business failure, and bankruptcy.
  • Avoid increasing, and if possible reduce, your exposure to these financial risks.
  • For example, you’ll want to avoid becoming a cosigner on a loan, taking out an adjustable-rate mortgage, and taking on new debt—all of which can increase your financial risk during a recession.
  • If you’re an employee, you’ll want to do everything you can to safeguard your job, such as performing top-notch work and improving your productivity.
  • If you’re a business owner, you might need to postpone spending on capital improvements and taking on new debt until the recovery has begun.

Becoming a Cosigner

Cosigning a loan can be a very risky thing to do even in flush economic times. If the individual taking the loan does not make the scheduled payments, the cosigner could be responsible to make them instead. During an economic downturn, the risks associated with cosigning a note are even greater, since the person taking out the loan has a higher chance of losing their job—not to mention the cosigner’s own elevated risk of ending up unemployed.

Cosigning potentially leaves you on the hook for the life of a loan. Consider other ways to help the borrower if you can.

That said, you may find it necessary to cosign for a family member or close friend regardless of what is happening in the economy. In such cases, it pays to have some money set aside as a cushion. Or, instead of cosigning, it may even be preferable to assist with a down payment or other types of assistance rather than leaving yourself on the hook for a cosigned loan on an ongoing basis. 

Taking out an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage

When purchasing a home, you may choose to take out an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). In some cases, this move makes sense (as long as interest rates are low, the monthly payment will stay low as well). Interest rates usually fall early in a recession, then later rise as the economy recovers. This means that the adjustable rate for a loan taken out during a recession is nearly certain to rise. 

While interest rates usually fall early in a recession, credit requirements are often strict, making it challenging for some borrowers to qualify for the best interest rates and loans.

But consider the worst-case scenario: You lose your job and interest rates rise as the recession starts to abate. Your monthly payments could go up, making it extremely difficult to keep up with the payments. Late payments and non-payment can, in turn, have an adverse impact on your credit rating, making it more difficult to obtain a loan in the future.

Instead, assuming you have decent credit, a recession may be a good time to lock in a lower fixed rate on a mortgage refinance, if you qualify. However, be cautious about taking on new debt until you see signs the economy is recovering.

Taking on New Debt

Taking on new debt—such as a car loan, home loan, or student debt—need not be a problem in good times when you can make enough money to cover monthly payments and still save for retirement. But when the economy takes a turn for the worse, risks increase, including the risk that you will be laid off. If that happens, you may have to take a job—or jobs—that pay less than your previous salary, which could eat into your ability to pay your debt.

In short, if you are considering adding debt to your financial equation, understand that this could complicate your financial situation if you are laid off or have your income cut for some reason. Taking on new debt in a recessionary environment is risky and should be approached with caution. In the worst-case scenario, it could even contribute to bankruptcy. Pay cash if you can, or wait on big new purchases.

Taking Your Job for Granted

During an economic slowdown, it is important to understand that even large corporations can come under financial pressure, leading them to reduce expenses any way they can. That could mean scaling back on operating expenses, cutting dividends, or shedding jobs.

Because jobs become so vulnerable during a recession, employees should do all they can to make sure their employer has a favorable opinion of them. Coming to work early, staying late, and doing top-notch work at all times is no guarantee that your job will be safe, but doing those things does increase your chances of staying on the payroll. From an employer’s perspective, it makes more sense to cut marginal workers rather than reduce hours or wages for their more productive employees. Make sure that you are not a marginal worker.

Taking Risks With Investments

This tip applies to business owners. While you should always be thinking about the future and investing in growing your business, an economic slowdown may not be the best time to make risky bets. Early on in a recession is not the time to stick your neck out. Later, as soon as the economy starts to show signs of sustainable recovery, is the time to start thinking big when prices for capital purchases and labor costs for new hiring are low. 

Especially avoid investment projects that would require you to take on new debt to finance.

For example, taking on a new loan to add physical floor space or to increase inventory may sound appealing—particularly since interest rates are likely to be low during a recession. But if business slows down—another side effect of recessions—you may not have enough leftover at the end of the month to pay interest and principal on time. Wait until interest rates just start to tick upward and leading economic indicators for your market or industry turn up

The Bottom Line

There’s no need to live a monk’s existence during an economic slowdown, but you should pay extra attention to spending and be wary of taking any unnecessary risks. Even in the midst of a significant economic downturn, there are many positive steps you can take to improve your situation and recession-proof your life. These include implementing a realistic budget, establishing an emergency fund, and generating additional sources of income.

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Understanding Recessions

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Effect on Businesses

Investing During a Recession

History of Recessions

Recession Terms A-F

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The Shapes of Recession Recovery

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon Could End Up Bankrupt For These Reasons, According To Specialist

Right now, Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world thanks to Amazon , his leading online sales company. However, retail expert Doug Stephens predicts that the giant could fall over the next decade, even going bankrupt.

On his Business of Fashion corporate page, Retail Prophet’s founder and advisor to some of the world’s most respected brands predicts “the end of Amazon.”

“I think that in ten years Amazon is going to decline and these are just some of the reasons,” Stephens wrote.

Amazon follows in Walmart’s footsteps

One of the reasons for the possible bankruptcy of the online trading platform would be that it is following the same patterns as other companies. Stephens gives Walmart an example.

“Between 1962 and the early 2000s, Walmart led the retail business, beating out dozens of competitors large and small. By 2010, Walmart had opened a staggering 4,393 stores, of which more than 3,000 opened after 1990, ” explains the expert.

After suffering a big drop in sales in 2015, Walmart has failed to take off in online retail. “The decline of the once impenetrable giant has shown that even the most titanic companies can fall,” Stephens said.

Amazon offers efficiency, but no shopping experience

The specialist considers it dangerous that Bezos intends to maintain the same long-term operating model. “In our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that is going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want a wide selection, “ said the tycoon in statements taken up by Business of Fashion.

However, Stephens believes that people don’t just buy because they want the products as quickly as possible. They also want the full shopping experience : getting out of the house, touching the products, comparing them with each other, trying new things or getting inspired. In that sense, the disadvantage of Amazon is limited to online purchases.

Focus on customer service will be lost

When a company has a powerful leader like Jeff Bezos at the helm, it would hardly function without him. The expert predicts that, as Amazon continues its expansion, the figure of Bezos could dissipate or disappear. Then it would be possible that you lose your initial mission, which is customer satisfaction, to prioritize the optimization of processes based on figures and data.

He also anticipates that the company will innovate less. “The energy, once directed to improving the business, will be depleted in simply working to maintain the organizational infrastructure ,” Stephens noted.

See also: See why Jeff Bezos will increase his fortune thanks to the arrival of Airbnb to Wall Street

Dough Stephens cites other reasons for Amazon’s potential downfall , such as the rumored toxic work environment and the migration of current partners to other,

friendlier delivery platforms.

The combination of these factors could cause Amazon to suffer losses over the next decade and be replaced by another similar company that offers better conditions for partners, workers and customers.

By: Entrepreneur en Español Entrepreneur Staff

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A Scary Number of Retail Companies are Facing Bankruptcy Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

The sign outside the J.C. Penney store is seen in Westminster, Colorado February 20, 2009. Department store operator J.C. Penney Co Inc posted a 51 percent drop in fourth quarter profit on Friday, and said its loss in the current quarter would be deeper than Wall Street estimates as shoppers hold off on spending. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES) – GM1E52L0AQI01

The retail death march persists. Somewhat under-the-radar, Italian luxury goods retailer Furla filed for Chapter 11 on Friday after being hit hard from the COVID-19 pandemic. The company is looking to close stores and cut debt as part of the reorganization. The retailer, founded in 1927, plans to emerge from bankruptcy with a greater focus on e-commerce.

Furla joins a long list of well-known retailers that have buckled during the health crisis.

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New York City-based department store chain Century 21 filed for bankruptcy in September and said that it will shut 13 locations that for years served up deep discounts on designer wares. The company pinned the blame on the COVID-19 pandemic and uncooperative insurers who were supposed to help provide the company with fiscal support during tough times.

Bankrupt J.C. Penney, meanwhile, received a bailout in September from landlords Simon Property Group and Brookfield. The consortium valued the century old department store — which went bust back in May — at some $1.75 billion. A total of 650 stores will stay open, down from the more than 1,000 pre-pandemic.

“It takes a long time to kill a retailer,” Forrester retail analyst Sucharita Kodali told Yahoo Finance Live “So as long as they are able to pay their bills, which if they have an owner they will — they can absolutely be around. But that doesn’t mean death for J.C. Penney is totally off the table.”

Kodali added that J.C. Penney “may not be a great customer experience, but at least it’s alive and open. They can figure out what the plan B over five to ten years could be for that space.”

‘That’s a scary number’

States have allowed malls and retailers to reopen, but the situation remains precarious as COVID-19 infections are now back on the rise. Consequently, it’s reasonable to expect malls and stores are shutdown — or shopping times restricted —again before year end. That will raise the prospect of a fresh wave of bankruptcies in early 2021 after what could be a lackluster holiday shopping season.

“I think many of these companies will file [for bankruptcy], and it’s not a handful. It’s several dozen. And that’s a scary number,” Stifel managing director Michael Kollender, who leads the consumer and retail investment banking group for the firm, told Yahoo Finance. “It’s far more than we have seen over the last several years combined.”

Kollender and his colleague James Doak at Miller Buckfire — Stifel’s restructuring arm, where Doak is co-head — have worked on dozens of consumer and retail bankruptcies in recent years, including Aeropostale, Gymboree and Things Remembered.

“We will see some major chains go away and not come back,” Kollender added. “These are chains that were struggling before the situation. COVID-19 will put them over the ledge.”

The pandemic has toppled several household names this year. Stein Mart, a 112-year-old discounter, filed for bankruptcy in early August and will look to close most of its nearly 300 stores. The company cited significant financial stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic for its decision.

August also saw Lord & Taylor — the oldest U.S. department store founded in 1826 — file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after being crippled by COVID-19 store closures. The company was purchased for $100 million from Hudson’s Bay by fashion startup Le Tote in 2019. Le Tote also filed for Chapter 11.

Men’s Wearhouse-owned Tailored Brands also filed for Chapter 11 in August, too. The company said it had received $500 million in debtor-in-possession financing from existing lenders.

Meantime, Ascena Retail Group, the owner of Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant, finally filed for bankruptcy protection in late July. The company, which has been circling the bowl for years, will look to the courts to help it shave $1 billion in debt. But it’s likely the retailer will be far slimmer post bankruptcy than its current 2,800 store count.

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Regional retailer Paper Store filed for Chapter 11 in July as well. The operator of 86 stationary and card stores in the Northeast said it’s looking for a buyer.

New York & Co. parent company RTW Retailwinds also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July after years of growing irrelevance in malls. The women’s apparel company — which changed its name to the bizarre RTW Retailwinds as part of a rebranding in 2018 — operates 378 outlet and and mall-based stores across 32 states. It may close all of its stores as part of the filing.

“The combined effects of a challenging retail environment coupled with the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have caused significant financial distress on our business, and we expect it to continue to do so in the future. As a result, we believe that a restructuring of our liabilities and a potential sale of the business or portions of the business is the best path forward to unlock value. I would like to thank all of our associates, customers, and business partners for their dedication and continued support through these unprecedented times,” said RTW Retailwinds CEO Sheamus Toal in a statement.

And the list of now defunct retailers is almost endless.

Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy in July. It has been dealt a twin blow to its finance from closed malls and a shift away from preppy clothing. The company would up being sold to the duo of Authentic Brands Group and Simon Property Group for $325 million.

GNC has walked through death’s door after knocking on it for years. The 85-year-old vitamin seller filed for bankruptcy in late June after years of battling waning sales and a debt load north of $1 billion. GNC plans to shutter up to 1,200 stores across the U.S. The company operates more than 5,800 stores.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  A person wears a protective face mask outside the GNC store as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on August 7, 2020 in New York City. The fourth phase allows outdoor arts and entertainment, sporting events without fans and media production. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
A person wears a protective face mask outside the GNC store as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on August 7, 2020 in New York City. (Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images)

“Some companies are just not going to survive this,” says McGrail, who is the COO of one of the world’s largest asset disposition and valuation firms, Tiger Capital Group. Its McGrail’s team — which often includes store associates of a stricken retailer — that hangs the “Everything must go” signs and works to fetch top dollar on fixtures and other inventory.

Such is the current life for McGrail and others in the retail bankruptcy and restructuring fields. In talking to a host of experts, one thing is abundantly clear: more retail bankruptcies are very likely over the next twelve months.

Even for those retailers emerging from bankruptcy, vendors are likely to be tepid to ship them product while at the same time tightening payment terms as the pandemic rages on.

That one-two punch usually kills a wounded retailer for good.

Then there is the general uncertainty on how people will view going back to the mall in the new normal of social distancing. That fog of war is poised to persist well beyond the coming holiday season.

“We are in a retail tsunami,” Kollender said.

This story was originally published on June 24, 2020, and has been updated.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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Hindsight: Unnecessary Recession? Foresight: “Deep & Permanent Damage” (Bernanke & Yellen)

The number the media, and apparently much of the population, fixates on daily is the new virus case count in the U.S.  While cases have clearly skyrocketed, deaths from the virus continue to fall. Perhaps the case counts are a function of the level of testing. First Trust’s economists recently published some interesting statistics:

  • on Monday, July 6th, deaths were -86% below the Monday, April 20th peak.;
  • hospital capacity, nationwide, still appears manageable – albeit some specific locations may have hospital capacity issues;
  • The skew of deaths toward the elderly is also significant. The total percentage of deaths/confirmed cases (138,782/3,630,587 as of July 18) is 3.8%. Of those that have died, 33.2% were 85 years old or older, and 92.5% of deaths are in people over 55 years old.

Consider that confirmed cases represent just over 1.1% of the total U.S. population, but field tests are now showing that up to 20% of those tested are positive for the virus. While there are issues in assuming that 20% of the population have already had the virus (some think that there are a huge number of asymptomatic carriers), if that is anywhere close to reality, then the overall probability of dying from the virus is 0.04% (.0004), and if one is under 55 years old (most of the working aged population), then that probability falls to .003% (.00003, i.e. 3 per 100,000 who contract it). Even within this younger demographic, only those with compromised immune systems have any real risk. The 20% assumption may be high (there are reasons people get tested), but even at 10%, the younger demographic has little death risk.

The Economy

Market observers are now using high frequency data markers to gauge the state of the economy. Sometimes, even small deviations from expectations in the economic data results in outsized financial market reaction.

  • Retail Sales: While falling -5.5% from the week ending July 4th (holiday week) to the week ending July 11th, retail sales were still +4.7% higher than the same 2019 week, and up +7.5% M/M in June (May was still in the depths of business closures). On the surface, this looks promising. But, let’s not forget that consumer income has not yet been impacted because of government money drops. As discussed below, there are still 32 million people unemployed, and there will likely be a large negative impact when government largesse returns to “normal” (perhaps after the elections);
  • Hotel Occupancy (week ended June 27th): While up from the April lows, there is only 46.2% occupancy vs. 84.9% a year earlier;
  • Open Table (July 13): this indicator shows a -66.2% Y/Y change. The M/M change was -1.2%; looks like the daily media drumbeat on new cases has had an impact;
  • TSA checkpoint data (July 13): This shows the number of air travelers, and it was up 5.2% W/W and 61.7% M/M. But, because the denominator is so small, the percentage changes become almost meaningless. Y/Y traffic is still off -73.2%. No wonder United and American Airlines AAL are throwing in the towel and have pre-announced significant layoffs.

The conclusion here is that, after an initial pop, and especially with renewed business restrictions, the Recovery, at best, has flattened.

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Employment

As I have maintained in this blog, employment is the most important gauge of the health of the economy. The more reliable state data from the traditional unemployment insurance programs is still showing significant Initial Claims each week (1.300 million the week of July 11th). There now is almost no downward slope, as the prior two weeks were 1.310 and 1.413 million. And, while Total Claims, as shown in the table and chart (sum of Initial Claims and Continuing Claims) have declined eight weeks in a row and in nine of the last ten, the chart shows the deceleration in the rate of decline in unemployment.

When the less reliable data on the temporary PUA program (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance – via the CARES Act) (less reliable because not all states are reporting and some states report more detail than others) is added to the state data, as shown in the next table and chart, one gets a flavor of just how deep the unemployment hole has become. Worse, beginning in June, total unemployment (or at least the claims) began to rise again. One of the emerging trends is that large companies, which had been hoping for the promised “V”-shaped recovery, have now given up and will start laying off. United and American Airlines are good examples. In addition, the approaching end of PPP may have a similar effect for mid-size and small businesses that are still alive.

Debt – The Fed Continues to be Nervous

For the banks, defaults haven’t yet become a huge issue due to forbearance. That will soon be ending. In the past week, the major banks reported Q2 results, and all significantly bolstered their loan loss reserves. In May, more than 100 million debt payments were missed. The consumer loan industry says it takes 180 days to deal with and resolve delinquent accounts, so we really won’t know the extent of consumer issues until Q4/Q1. I suspect the same is true of commercial loans.

Meanwhile, the Fed continues to worry. In recent Congressional testimony, former Fed Chairs Bernanke and Yellen warned that “the U.S. economy is facing deep and permanent economic damage” (i.e., certainly no “V,” and perhaps no “W”) without further significant fiscal and monetary stimulus including the expanded unemployment benefit program and providing aid to state and local governments.  In fact, Yellen worried out loud about probable large layoffs at the state and local levels without such aid. Bernanke, echoing those famous words of former ECB President Mario Draghi, said Congress and the Fed should do “whatever it takes.”

The Fed’s Beige Book, a report on local conditions by the 12 Regional Federal Reserve Banks (published eight times per year) emphasized “uncertainty” emanating from businesses in their purview. Here are some excerpts:

“Most Districts reported that manufacturing activity moved up, but from a very low level;”

“Outlooks remained highly uncertain…;”

“Employment increased on net in almost all Districts…However, payrolls in all Districts were well below pre-pandemic levels. Job turnover rates remained high with contacts across Districts reporting new layoffs;”

“Contacts in nearly every District noted difficulty in bringing back workers because of health and safety concerns, childcare needs, and generous unemployment insurance benefits.”

Bankruptcies and Debt Concerns

As I’ve shown over the past few blogs, bankruptcies continue to trend up. It will take years for the damage done to the economy by the lockdowns to be recouped.  The lives and livelihoods of millions of citizens have been transformed (many ruined) overnight.

We are just beginning to see the early symptoms of debt destruction, and we are going to see the impacts of such debt destruction on many of the traditional sectors, including the financial ones. These impacts will have long lasting effects. Meanwhile, the Fed has convinced market participants that there is no risk, and that the Fed has their backs. The result is that yield differentials between safe and highly risky assets have all but disappeared – at least their spreads have come way in. In the table and chart below, bankruptcies (from the Bloomberg database) are trending up.

The implications for interest rates are clear. More and more debt (corporate America including the zombies and the federal government) means that future interest rates can’t rise lest interest payment burdens become unmanageable and turn the economy south.

Conclusions

  • With hindsight, the probability of death from the virus for most of the working aged population appears remote (minuscule);
  • The economy hit zero in April, and the May/June re-openings led to the early up-leg of a “v,” but this nascent recovery now appears to be stalling as governors decide to re-restrict businesses;
  • Employment numbers, too, are stalling. Companies are beginning to give up hope for a rapid recovery and are setting up for a long period of economic softness (i.e., they are starting to think about major layoffs);
  • Debt issues are just beginning to emerge and will come front and center in Q4/Q1. The Fed sees this as do former Chairs Bernanke and Yellen.
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Robert Barone, Ph.D. is a Georgetown educated economist. He is a financial advisor at Four Star Wealth Advisors. http://www.fourstarwealth.com.

Source: https://www.forbes.com

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Inside The $2.5 Trillion Debt Binge That Has Taken S&P 500 Titans Including Boeing And AT&T From Blue Chips To Near Junk

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When chief executive Doug Parker took the pilot’s seat at American Airlines in December 2013, it seemed as though clear skies were ahead. His U.S. Airways had finally bagged a major partner by agreeing to combine with bankrupt American. The new company would emerge with modest debt as the nation’s largest airline, with only three domestic carriers left among its global competitors.

The financial crisis was well in the past, the economy was humming and travel seemed to be entering a new golden age. Carriers like American had mastered the science of dynamic fare pricing, and now nearly every seat on every flight was full, maximizing revenue and efficiency. Hailing the arrival of a “new American” by early 2014, Parker was eager to please Wall Street. “I assure you that everything we’re doing is focused on maximizing value for our shareholders,” he said on a call with investors.

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