In the wake of surprisingly robust job growth numbers, a corresponding drop in unemployment and a steadily improving stock market, more midlifers are starting to feel better about their future prospects.
A just-released Pew Research Center survey (pdf) shows that nearly half (roughly 47 percent) of people between 30 and 64 think the economy will be in better shape a year from now. That's significantly higher than the degree of economic optimism expressed by twentysomethings (41 percent) or people over 65 (40 percent).
Overall, 44 percent of Americans say they expect economic conditions to be better a year from now. That's an improvement of 10 percent from the 34 percent who expressed a similar degree of confidence last month, and a boost of 16 points from December.
Additionally, 4 percent of Americans think the economy either is recovering (25 percent) or that it will recover soon (29 percent). That's a 10-point jump in optimism since last April, according to Pew.
Homes At Most Affordable Level in Decades: This CNN report suggests that if you've been waiting to buy a house until the time is just right, you might want to consider pulling the trigger. Between dropping prices and rock-bottom mortgage rates, housing prices are the most affordable they've been since 1992, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index. The typical family with a median income of $64,200 can probably afford nearly three quarters of all the homes on the market.
Now, You Can Really Inhale Coffee: TODAYOnline reports on AeroShot, a product recently introduced in the U.S., which basically allows the caffeine addicts among us -- and who isn't one, really? -- to inhale their stimulant of choice though a lipstick-sized tube. AeroShot's inventor, Harvard University biomechanical engineering professor David Edwards, says the coffee-in-a-tube contains about the same amount of caffeine as a typical cup of joe, plus B vitamins.
Fortysomething Mom's Secret Life as a Hipster Advice Columnist: Not every fortysomething mom, after putting her two young kids to bed and pouring a glass of red wine, would have the energy to stay up late playing Ann Landers to troubled Gen Y youth -- let alone to write searingly raw responses that make her readers' confessions and woes sometimes seem tame by comparison. But not everybody is Cheryl Strayed, who recently outed herself as the long-anonymous author of "Dear Sugar," the advice column for the literary website The Rumpus. The Bay Citizen has this intriguing tale of how Strayed, who hardly ever read an advice column prior to signing on to write one, not only got the hang of the unfamiliar art form, but upgraded it into a shockingly intimate, at times deeply disturbing, memoir of the Augusten Burroughs genre, but on the installment plan.
Teacher-Turned-Fitness-Makeover Inspiration: This St. Louis Post-Dispatch article introduces Lesley Sugg, a 43-year-old working mom who had a life-changing year. It started when Sugg, the 2011 teacher of the year at a St. Louis-area elementary school, was rushed to the hospital with a collapsed lung. Doctors warned Sugg, who had struggled with obesity for most of her life, that she was in dangerously bad health. She weighed 333 pounds and suffered from type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Sugg decided to radically change her lifestyle. She went cold turkey on starchy carbohydrate-rich comfort foods, replacing them with fruits and vegetables, and began doing cardio and strength training six days a week at a local fitness center. A year later, she has shed 130 pounds. "When people ask for advice, "I tell them there's no magic," Sugg explains. "I just made a commitment to the changes. I've become a fan of the human spirit and what it can accomplish."
Reinvention Templates? The Christian Science Monitor has this intriguing article on "job-shifters" -- that is, midlife professionals who've launched second careers while still continuing with their first one. Pamela Mitchell, founder of the Reinvention Institute, a training and coaching firm in Miami and author of The 10 Laws of Career Reinvention, says workers need to realize that there's no longer a "safe" industry where they can serve out a career. "The only true safety is for me to build my own personal job diversity," she says.
The Secret of Youth: Writing Fiction? Forget about Botox and human growth hormone treatments. Novelist Hilma Wolitzer, 82, whose novel An Available Man is rising on the Amazon.com charts, tells the Huffington Post that concocting a novel is the secret to feeling youthful, which is what really counts. "I don't feel any age when I'm writing. That's another thing that happens. While I'm sitting there, I'm so into the story and into my characters' lives that when I get up to go to the kitchen and I pass a mirror, I'm shocked by who I am and how old I've become -- as if I were much younger when I started out that morning."
Are Smartphone Apps Stealing Your Personal Info? The New York Times' Bits blog offers this alarming expose of how easy it is for phone app developers to hack into your address book, peek at all your contacts and then download the info into their own servers -- all without your knowledge. This is happening, despite the Apple iTunes app store's explicit ban on such surreptitious data mining. Even scarier: At least one smartphone app reportedly has the ability to activate the microphone on your phone, which could turn it into a listening bug. That's an old trick that the CIA, KGB and other spy agencies used on landlines back in the Cold War days, but it's creepy to realize that it's possible for a company to do it with a smartphone. One mobile phone research firm also has been accused of tracking phone users' keystrokes, another old-time spy trick.
Punk-Rocker-Turned-Broadway-Impresario Hits Middle Age: Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong turned 40 on Thursday. Twincities.com reports that the former angry young man with the buzzsaw-like whine, whose band sold millions of records in the 1990s, is a far cry from his old persona. Armstrong & Co.'s 2004 punk-rock opera American Idiot not only won two Grammys, but morphed in 2010 into a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical that had a two-year, 421-performance run and grossed $40 million. There's now talk of a movie version, in which Armstrong might play the lead role, a character named St. Jimmy. Meanwhile, Green Day is working on its ninth album.
Last Word: "This life is certainly not for everyone, and driving a big RV would not be for the weak of heart, but I hear a resounding choir singing 'I would love to do what you're doing!'" -- nomad photographer Fran Reisner, profiled in this SecondAct.com post