State(s) of Happiness

Who are the happiest Americans? And how would be know? Well, you interview a BUNCH of people all across the United States – DAILY, for a WHOLE YEAR – and you draw some conclusions!

Gallup rated each state on the following: life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, work environment, healthy behaviors and basic access to services and amenities.  Drum roll please…

Happiest States:

10 Montana…09 New Hampshire…08 Nebraska…07 Kansas…

06 Colorado…05 Alaska…04 Utah…03 Minnesota…02 North Dakota…

01 Hawaii

Unhappiest States:

40 Nevada…41 Tennessee…42 Florida…43 Missouri…44 Arkansas…

45 Alabama…46 Ohio…47 Delaware…48 Mississippi…49 Kentucky…

50 West Virginia

 So that’s the rundown. What do you think? Are you in a “happy” state? An “unhappy” state? Do you agree or disagree with this assessment? Let us know! Check out the whole report, and have a great weekend!

Consumer Confidence?

I have a Google alert set for “consumer” to send me potential blog ideas. Today’s alert had a bunch of stories about Consumer Confidence. In a word, it’s down. In the US, the confidence measurement is at 63. I don’t know what that means, but it was 64.9 a month ago. So, in other words, DOWN.

Basically, consumer confidence measures whether you feel safe in making a big purchase or taking that nice vacation, or NOT.

So, let’s hear from the MindField family. What is your confidence level? Are you making purchases? Taking trips? Holding off?

I will go first. We have made a couple of bigger purchases this year, but only the kind that count as investments, such as new floors. Next week, our big vacation consists of driving back home to see family and friends. You could say my confidence level is “meh.”

How about you?

PS: For our Canadian friends: your confidence is UP. What’s that aboot? Send some of that confidence down south, eh?

PPS: New confidence numbers are coming in a day or so. Cross your fingers!

UPDATE: The new number came out….62. Whoops!

UPDATE 2, August 29: New number 60.6! More whoops!

Home Ownership or Rental?

When it comes to renting your home vs. owning, many people have long said that it’s always cheaper in the long run to own. Even if your mortgage payment is a couple hundred bucks more than rent, you get tax breaks. Plus, when you’re done paying, it’s YOURS. So it’s smarter in the long term.

But times are tight, and many folks don’t have the luxury of thinking “long-term.” And home ownership numbers have taken a hit. Despite historically low 3.7% interest rates…

The home ownership rate in the U.S. fell slightly from 66% to 65% during the first quarter of 2012 — the lowest in 15 years, according to the latest data by the U.S. Census. (It peaked at just over 69% in 2004.)

Basically, people with stable jobs and equity in their existing homes are buying new ones, but nobody is buying their old house. So there are a bunch of single-family homes being rented now…about 1/3 of all rentals.

So, while nationwide it IS still cheaper to buy rather than rent, there are a few places in the country where that formula is upside down, including:

  • Northern New Jersey: Mortgage is $529 higher than rent, with some of the highest property taxes in the US.
  • Long Island, NY: Same story.
  • California: Like, all of it. Has the greatest number of counties where it is cheaper to rent.
  • Seattle, WA: One place rents for $2000/mo, while a comparable place costs $4000/mo to buy – and that’s WITH a 20% down payment!
  • Honolulu, HI: I guess you could always live on the beach, right?

So, are you renting or owning? By choice? How about your friends and family? Let us know…and have a great weekend!

MindField in the News!

100,000 rolls of toilet paper, anyone?

A fun article in the Charleston (WV) Gazette profiles McMillion Research/ MindField Online from its roots as a kitchen-table operation in the late 60’s, through the “standing in the Mall with a clipboard” years, to the telephone banks, and to the internet force it is today.

“We’ve done children’s drinks, soups, adult diapers, every cosmetic known to man, soft drinks, every food, cookies, crackers… you name it, we’ve asked them about it,” says Gary McMillion.

But it’s much more than dish soap and toilet paper. Over the years, McMillion/MindField has polled people about their reactions to world events like the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the OJ Simpson trial.

Basically, when interested parties need answers from a bunch of people – about darn near anything – they come to MindField! According to Gary, a big reason for MindField’s success is a great group of panelists who – of course – like the compensation, but who also really care about helping companies provide better products and services to consumers.

It’s a nice article, so check it out!

Store-brand Stigma? Not Anymore

One of the great lines about the savings – and the stigma – of buying store-brand products comes from the old Rosanne sitcom.

Rosie is leading a home-ec field trip to the grocery store.  She tells the girls about saving with store brands as she reaches for some Brand-X corn flakes.  Her daughter is mortified. “But we don’t buy that…we use the good stuff!” Says Rosanne: “We use the BOX of good stuff. I fill it with this. It’s only SECOND best for MY family!”

Rosie and Dan scraped to get by during the good times. Well, times have changed. Now, it seems like many of us are scraping. Many of us will buy brand X, as long as it actually does save us some dough.

It’s generally accepted that store brands cost less than national brands, but how much less? A survey conducted for an association of store brand labels says switching to store brands could save the average consumer as much as 36 percent off their grocery bill. Consumer Affairs

The article describes a 4-week study where they bought 30 summertime items: hot dogs, condiments, charcoal, freezer pops, sunscreen, etc. One side bought brand names, one side bought brand X. They did all the careful science-y statistical stuff to make it fair. And they saw that a month’s worth of the good stuff cost $110.00, while the off brands cost $70.00.  The big winner? Buns!

So, yeah, there are savings to be had, as long as the quality is there. That will definitely vary by product and by brand.

What about you? Do you have brand X fever? Across the board? Some things yes, some things no? Never ever ever? Let us know! Read the rest of the article here, and have a great weekend!


Fill the Money Pit Wisely

Um, yeah…you’ll need more than that.

They say the average US household has lost 40% of its wealth in the last 5 years, largely due to plummeting home values.  Often, when people can’t sell, they renovate. Either they are trying to make the house they are stuck in more livable, or make it more attractive to a potential buyer. And no matter what they spend, they tell themselves it’s not an expense, but an investment.

It’s the magic phrase uttered by almost anyone who’s ever considered the cost of home remodeling: “We’ll get it back when we sell.”  Unless you keep those projects practical, though, you might just be kidding yourself.

Then they list the types of remodels you might want to avoid:

  • Home Office: Will cost you up to $29,000 but you’ll only get 46% back upon sale.
  • Backup Power Generator: Hey, they had that windstorm in Ohio a couple of years ago, and my mom was without power for 2 weeks! But this once-in-a-blue-moon convenience costs about $15K, and you will get back 45.8% upon sale.
    Adding a Sunroom: Costs $75K, and you will get back about half of that.
  • Upscale Master Suite Addition: Succumbing to HGTV envy will cost you upwards of $220K and, again, you could make half of that back.
  • Adding a Bathroom: $20K to $40K, depending on your tastes, and a 53% return.
  • Garage Addition: Dad’s dream is expensive, up to $90K, and you will get a 54% return.

There’s more at the original article, so check it out!


A Few of our 25K Fans Speak…

On the occasion of reaching 25,00 Facebook fans, MindField Online took a moment to revisit some of the nice Facebook comments we get from friends like you…like this gem from Wendy:

Wendy says: Just finished my first successful survey with MindField Online internet panels…. WOW! What a GREAT survey experience! I can honestly say, as a person who takes surveys with several survey sites on a regular basis, that “THIS” is the best single survey experience I have had yet! I look forward to hopefully receiving MANY MANY MORE Surveys with this awesome survey site!

Thanks Wendy! You can check out the rest of the updated list at our Panelist Reviews Page.  And have a great weekend!

Facebook Fade?

“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” would be really cheesy here. So I won’t write it.

Will Facebook disappear in 5 to 8 years? That seems to be the thrust in an article, entitled “Facebook Will Disappear in 5 to 8 Years.”  But first, let’s define ‘disappear.’ The author means faded in significance, not dead and gone.

“In five to eight years (Facebook is) going to disappear in the way that Yahoo has disappeared. Yahoo is still making money, it’s still profitable, still has 13,000 employees working for it, but it’s 10 percent of the value that it was at the height of 2000. For all intents and purposes, it’s disappeared.”

So, still around, but far from the big gun it is today. But why? He says it’s evolution, and a new age is beginning. The web started with big portals like Yahoo. Remember Yahoo was your home page, you had mail, you had news sources from everywhere posted on  the page? That’s a portal. Then came the social media age, first with Myspace, and then dominated by Facebook. Now, everyone is moving to mobile devices and leaving the desktop behind. Facebook has admitted its troubles in mobile, primarily the inability to make any money from the platform.

So, if all of this is true, what’s next? Do you have any ideas? Do you know of any cool apps or services that could possibly inherit Facebook’s mantle? Let us know!

Wait…Tattoos are PERMANENT?

Call it a sign of the times. Doctors are reporting a rise in patients seeking tattoo removal… in order to improve their chances of employment!

Tattoo removal is up 32% over the last year, according to The Patient Guide, a website comprised of 25 skincare publications.  The site reports that many of the patients say they’re undergoing the treatment for employment-related reasons.  NY Daily News

Either it’s college grads regretting their youthful ink, or it’s older people who have been laid off and looking for new jobs. The offending ink is often at the wrist or neck.

One doc is seeing 20 (!) patients a day. And it ain’t cheap! Tattoo removal can take up to 10 sessions, at $200 a pop.

I have to say, of all the things we can tell kids right now, in this horrible job environment, avoiding the ink is near the top! What do YOU think? Reasonable? Or dumb, old-fashioned prejudice?