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Washington
AP
Poll: Financial security varies by age, income

WASHINGTON — Just how financially secure you feel depends on your age, your race, your education and — perhaps not surprisingly — your income.

A new survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that college graduates feel far more confident than high school graduates that they could afford an emergency $1,000 expense.

People ages 18 to 29 are more optimistic about finding a good job than those in their 60s are.

But Americans in their 60s are more confident than adults under 30 are about affording credit card and other expenses.

Most white Americans say they can manage their housing costs; blacks and Hispanics are far less confident that they can keep up.

The poll’s findings reflect the sharp demographic divides in the U.S. economy. The nation’s prosperity since the Great Recession ended nearly a decade ago has benefited some groups of people far more than others and is obscuring economic soft spots caused by a persistent wealth gap.

Overall, about six in 10 Americans describe their personal finances as good. Most of the rest say they’re in poor shape financially.

The nation’s unemployment rate is a healthy 4 percent, the pace of hiring has accelerated in recent months and average hourly earnings have risen 3.2 percent over the past 12 months. Yet whatever financial confidence people feel depends largely on their individual circumstances and challenges. And compared with last year, fewer Americans overall expect the good economy to last in 2019.

Some of the doubts reflect souring opinions of President Donald Trump, who partially shut down the government for 35 days over his demand for a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico. Though Trump failed to secure his requested $5.7 billion, the resulting temporary standoff deprived many government workers of paychecks and raised doubts about the president’s economic stewardship.

The poll shows that Trump’s rating on handling the economy — a strength throughout his presidency — fell to 44 percent in January from 50 percent in December. His overall approval rating in the poll was 34 percent.

“I can’t say he’s been all bad on the economy,” said Ellen Collins, 70, of Centerville, Ohio. “But he’s a child. He’s egotistical.”

Forty-four percent say they think the economy will worsen over the next year. About a quarter (27 percent) say the economy will improve; just as many think it will stay the same. That’s in contrast to a year ago, when expectations of the year ahead were almost evenly split: 33 percent said then that they thought conditions would deteriorate, and 34 percent expected them to improve.

Collins said the stock market’s sell-off in the closing months of 2018, likely fueled in part by Trump’s trade war with China, hurt her retirement savings. She figures, though, that stocks will ultimately rebound to cover those losses.

Collins, a retired teacher and information technology specialist, stressed how fortunate she felt to have enough savings and insurance to cover the costs of two years of chemotherapy treatments she needed for cancer.

“I don’t know what people who don’t have insurance do,” she said.

Health care costs and other unexpected expenses are a source of concern for many in the AP-NORC survey. Americans who are most likely to feel financially secure are those who earn more than $100,000 — nearly double the median household income.

Likewise, a college education appears to be a significant buffer against financial risks. A majority of college graduates (58 percent) say they’re very confident they could afford an emergency expense of $1,000. By contrast, more than half of Americans with a high school education or less (54 percent) say they have little or no confidence that they could pay a surprise bill that high.

And while younger workers might not have as high a starting income as previous generations did, people 18 to 29 are more hopeful about finding decent jobs than Americans in their 60s are. Thirty-five percent of those under 30 say they’re very confident about hiring possibilities. Just 23 percent of those over 60 feel that way.

Even some workers in their 50s find it difficult to land a job that meets their financial needs.

Sarah Apwisch, 52, said she was recently laid off as a market researcher only to be rehired in a new role at the same company at just 60 percent of her previous pay.

“I’m honestly taking this job because I’m afraid of losing health care,” said Apwisch, who is married and lives in the small city of Three Rivers, Michigan, where she works remotely for a company in Chicago.

She says she’s optimistic about the overall economy but says the growing role of big data and social media has caused the market research industry to fall into decline.

“If I lose the connection with my current employer, it will be harder for me to get a job in my industry because most of the jobs are in the big cities,” she said.

Overall, about six in 10 Americans describe their personal finances as good. Most of the rest say they’re in poor shape financially.

Local
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'We just want them to be their best selves': Girls on the Run program prepares for 2019

A non-profit organization is preparing for another season of positively impacting the lives of young women in the Chippewa Valley.

Girls on the Run is a local youth empowerment nonprofit that aims to positively change the lives of elementary-age girls across the state of Wisconsin. The program pairs girls in grades 3-5 (roughly ages 8-12) with teachers and adult mentors together for 90 minutes twice a week after school for 10 weeks in a unique learning setting. Each team consists of at least eight girls, with 20 being the maximum per team.

The core goals of the program are to bolster emotional well-being, teach intentional decision making, teach friendship skills and overall positively impact the lives of the young girls involved in the program. The unique aspect of this is they pair the lessons with running and physical training to help the girls stay attentive, energized and engaged with the lessons. In addition to the lessons, the running aspect of the program culminates with a 5K on Saturday, May 11, when the girls, their families and the mentors will all run together to celebrate the more than two month-long program.

Council Director for Girls on the Run of the Chippewa Valley Ellie Siedow said studies have shown on average the age girls’ confidence starts to drop is at age 9, so the program aims to impact the girls’ lives at a pivotal point. She said while running may be in the name, the positive emotional aspect is the main priority in the program.

“The kids who come in with the lowest activity and confidence levels usually gain the most out of our program,” Siedow said. “We’re really looking to teach emotional skills and life skills, running is just the method we use to get those skills across and make it fun at the same time.”

Siedow said not all of the girls involved in the program are, or have to be, attending a public elementary school to be involved.

“I had a girl on my team who was home schooled,” Siedow said. “After the 10 weeks she decided to re-enter public school again after dealing with bullying and making new friends. We like to see changes like that in the girls.”

Currently Girls on the Run has 23 sites in five counties surrounding Eau Claire, including Chippewa Falls. The two locations where Chippewa Falls residents can participate in the program are Southview Elementary and Hillcrest Elementary. The program began in 2006 and is looking to expand into more rural areas of Wisconsin where not many after school programs outside of traditional athletics are offered.

Beyond the lessons, running and positive interactions with their peers, Siedow said she hoped the girls in the Girls on the Run program discover their inner worth and establish some new relationships coming out of the 2019 program.

“We hope they come out confident with some new friends,” Siedow said. “We hope that they will have a fun time and develop a lasting healthy skill of being active. We really don’t emphasize being the best runner, or being super-fast, we just want them to be their best selves.”

Registration for the 2019 Girls on the Run season is open now and will run through Monday, Feb. 18., with the season beginning the week of Feb. 24. Those looking to register, or looking for more information on the program, can visit the Girls on the Run of the Chippewa Valley Website at gotrchippewavalley.org.


Local
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Wisconsin Connections Academy opens enrollment for new 4K program

One of Wisconsin’s pioneering online charter schools is expanding for the upcoming school year.

Wisconsin Connections Academy (WCA) is a K-12 online charter school that operates within the Appleton Area School District. Since the school opened in 2002, the online schooling option has expanded from K-8 to now include high school. The school has approximately 500 students enrolled and the program is now expanding.

Starting during the 2019-20 academic school year, WCA will now offer a new 4K program, allowing pre-kindergarten children the opportunity to enroll in the school for the first time. Open enrollment has begun for the upcoming academic year and ends April 30.

Wisconsin Connections Academy Principal Michelle Mueller said the need for including all child age/schooling levels was essential due to the varied needs of the students of Wisconsin.

“Each student has their own unique needs and wants,” Mueller said. “I think of it like a tennis shoe. There is Nike and there is Reebok, and if you think of that as an online and a traditional setting it is just whatever the best fit for the family is.”

The label of an “online charter school,” might be foreign to many, but WCA operates much like a traditional school. Mueller said the school day lasts about the same length as a traditional public school (approximately eight hours), offers the same tuition as the other institutions in the Appleton Area School District, operates during the same period as public schools, but varies in the way lesson plans are offered to their students.

An average day for a WCA student involves logging onto an online platform in which all lessons are presented, but the student has the option to view the lessons in the order they please. Most of these lessons are pre-planned, but on average they have one or two live lessons per week in order to establish a human connection with instructors and other students.

Mueller said a positive aspect of this lesson plan is that the students can finish work at their own pace and won’t be bogged down waiting for their classmates to keep up.

“When they’re done, they’re done,” Mueller said. “A lesson could take 45 minutes, or a lesson could take an hour-and-a-half. It’s not bound by time in the sense that when I was in school the teacher would do the lesson, you’d get work time, maybe I’d be the first one done but I’d have to wait until the period is over. That’s where there is flexibility within the schedule.”

However, a common critique of online schools is they don’t teach social interaction. There is something to be said for learning how to operate in social settings, an aspect of public school which is often overlooked. Mueller said while this is an aspect the online programs won’t be able to offer in as high of a capacity as public schools, she said there is a good amount of socialization offered over the course of the year at WCA.

“We do have socialization,” Mueller said. “We do a lot of field trips around the state, we do live classes on the computer so the kids have the opportunity to interact that way as well. Our students might see each other once a year at state testing, but you would never in a million years imagine that because they’re all there chatting like they’re with each other every day.”

For more information on Wisconsin Connections Academy and their upcoming 4-K program, you can visit their website.


John Andersen


Local
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New Auburn man to serve jail time for sexual assault

A New Auburn man who was accused of a sexual assault in 2014, and pleaded guilty last fall to assaulting another woman in April 2017, was sentenced Friday to serve four months in jail.

Roger C. Robey, 28, 410 W. Dell St., pleaded guilty in November to lewd & lascivious behavior, theft and criminal damage to property in Chippewa County Court. Charges of third-degree sexual assault, disorderly conduct, criminal damage to property, and three counts of bail jumping were read-in and dismissed.

Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell told Judge Steve Cray that given Robey’s past assault, and that this is another case of an unwanted sexual contact, jail time and probation was warranted. Newell requested six months in jail.

Defense attorney Kirby Harless said that Robey is not the same man he was when those incidents occurred. Robey has enrolled himself in treatment programs and has been sober for the past two years. Harless requested two years of probation with an imposed-and-stayed jail sentence.

“He ended up relapsing on alcohol,” Harless told Cray. “Mr. Robey has a drinking problem, and he’s well aware of that.”

Harless noted that the matter was reduced from a sexual assault to a conviction of lewd & lascivious behavior.

“There were issues with the case, which is why we have the plea bargain in this case,” Harless said. “Mr. Robey is here, having pled guilty, and accepting responsibility.”

Robey spoke before the sentencing, where he admitted he was heavily intoxicated at the time of the incident, but he adamantly denied that a sexual assault occurred.

“I’ve done everything I can to change. I am actively in treatment,” Robey told Cray.

However, Cray ordered the jail sentence, along with two years of probation. Cray also ordered up to another two months in jail, at the discretion of the probation agent. Cray also ordered Robey to maintain absolute sobriety.

“These sort of acts have consequences,” Cray told Robey.

According to the criminal complaint, an officer was sent to a home on Wheaton Street in Chippewa Falls on April 21, 2017, after a report of a sexual assault. The officer spoke with a 33-year-old woman who said that Robey had sexually touched her. He left the scene before police arrived.

In 2014, Robey was charged with second-degree sexual assault by force, but that charge was later dismissed. However, as part of that case, Robey was convicted of substantial battery and was ordered to serve 60 days in jail and was placed on probation for two years. In that case, the victim said Robey pushed her down a flight of stairs, causing her to hit her head and lose consciousness. She said he had prevented her from leaving the house. He kicked in a door at one point during a fight, and he also grabbed her in a sexual manner.

When Robey was charged in the 2017 sexual assault, his probation on the 2014 matter was revoked and he was ordered in September 2017 to serve one year in jail. At the 2017 sentencing, Judge Steve Cray admonished Robey, saying he’s concerned that each incident involved extreme alcohol consumption.

Robey’s fiancee spoke prior to sentencing, telling Cray that she fears that if Robey is incarcerated, he will be influenced by people in the jail and could relapse, and it would negatively affect his sobriety.

Robey must report to the jail by March 17.