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Working over the holidays? Join the crowd
Costco employees have Thanksgiving off
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Even if you don't love spending all that much time with your family over the holidays, chances are you don't want to spend that time working instead.

Yet 45% of employed Americans said there's "at least some chance" they will work on Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's. And one in four said they have to clock in whether they want to or not, according to an Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll.

Chances are good, of course, that many of those required to work on Thanksgiving are employed by retailers.

With stores battling each other to see who can be first to offer those doorbuster deals to Black Friday shoppers -- a growing number of workers are being called in to work on Thanksgiving Day.

Related: Workaholism: Regain balance before you burn out

This year, K-mart takes the dubious honor of earliest store opening, launching its Black Friday sales at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. And it plans to stay open for 42 hours straight, closing at 11:59 pm on Black Friday.

Employees and others have cried foul, with more than 5,500 people signing a petition on coworker.org asking K-mart to "allow flexibility with scheduling to give their employees time to spend with their families," among other things.

In response, K-mart told CNNMoney that "seasonal associates are told upon hire of our holiday store hours and we make every effort to accommodate associate shift requests during this time. Associate schedules are posted, on average, two weeks in advance -- including for holiday schedules."

Even beyond the holidays, many Americans feel they are making personal sacrifices for their jobs, with 47% saying they often work nights and weekends. And a very high percentage of people (81%) said they're required to be in contact with work outside of business hours.

Related: Unlimited vacation? It may not be as cool as it sounds

Even though poll respondents expressed overall satisfaction with their jobs, 76% of them said they "work to live." And if they had their druthers, two in three people said they'd prefer "more flexibility and shorter hours" even if it meant getting paid less.

About that: Only 31% of those with jobs said they're satisfied with their paycheck. As for benefits and perks, 43% said they're very satisfied with their benefits, 45% are happy with the amount of paid vacation and sick leave that they get, and only 38% are very satisfied with their opportunities for promotion.

-- CNNMoney's Katie Lobosco contributed to this report


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New York's multimillion dollar home sales keep soaring
Condo buildings get taller, skinnier
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

When it comes to New York City real estate, the billionaires are on a buying spree.

Sales of multimillion dollar residential properties are up 120% so far this year, according to CityRealty.

While median home prices for the U.S. overall are pretty much back to where they were 10 years ago, Manhattan's luxury home prices have more than doubled, according to Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, a real estate appraisal firm in New York.

"I used to say that $1,500 a square foot was the magic number; now it's $3,000 a square foot," said Miller.

And the prices keep climbing.

This year alone, there were 165 homes that sold for $10 million or more in Manhattan. That's up from 75 last year.

Among the biggest sales of the year: A co-op at 740 Park Avenue sold for $71.3 million to hedge fund billionaire Israel Englander.

Close behind was the penthouse at 960 Fifth Avenue, which brought in $70 million when it was sold to Nassef Sawiris, dubbed Egypt's richest man by Forbes.

manhattan homes 25 columbus 70B
This Columbus Circle condo with great views of Central Park is listed for $31.5 million.

Yet, so far, no deal this year has broken the $88 million record set by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2012 when he bought a Central Park West condo for his daughter who was attending classes at Columbia University.

While many of the highly publicized home sales have been to foreign nationals, 11 out of 18 of this year's biggest deals were to Americans, according to CityRealty. Among international buyers, only China, with two, had more than one purchase.

One of the reasons these mega deals keep coming is that the wealthy bounced back from the recession faster and more intensely than the rest of us, especially when it comes to the rapid stock market run up of the past few years.

manhattan homes 737 park
Park Avenue is one of New York's most fashionable addresses. This place is listed for $39.5 million.

There are also a lot more high-end condos and co-ops to choose from.

Many of this year's sales have taken place at the new, super-luxury buildings that are popping up in neighborhoods just south of Central Park, the Upper East Side and in Chelsea, said Pam Liebman, CEO of Corcoran Group.

Related: What $25 million buys around the world

The cost of acquiring land to build on in Manhattan is so sky-high that builders are aiming for the very high end and charging many millions for the apartments.

"That's the only way the math works," said Liebman.

manhattan homes 25 columbus 71A
This aerie high above Central Park South is priced at $35 million.

For a while demand for these super luxury homes outstripped supply. But with a flood of new buildings coming, there are now plenty of sky-high penthouses to please most of the world's billionaires.

Next year, the sale prices could be even more astronomic. The listing price for the penthouse at 520 Park Avenue, for example, is $130 million, far surpassing any sale ever made in the Big Apple.



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There's still a pay disparity between men and women. But millennials are closing the gap
generational wage gap
Salaries of young women are closing in on the paychecks of their male counterparts.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

The good news is that the gender wage gap is shrinking among America's youngest workers.

But don't start planning the farewell to wage disparity party just yet. The gap still widens as responsibility levels increase, according to a new study from PayScale and Millennial Branding.

"The higher up the career ladder women go to reach manager and executive levels, the more wage gap grows," said Lydia Frank from PayScale.

After accounting for factors like job title, experience, industry and tenure, the difference in overall median pay between men and women millennial workers is 2.2% ($51,000 vs. $49,000). This age group, defined in the study as those born 1982-2002, are more likely to hold entry-level positions, where the gap is smaller.

Among baby boomer workers, the overall gap is 2.7%, and it's the widest among Generation X colleagues at 3.6%.

Behind the 78 cent wage gap

But the smaller disparity is a good sign for young workers, since early starting salaries set the earnings pace for an entire career. "If you don't negotiate in that first job, it compounds over time," said millennial workplace expert Lindsey Pollak. "You won't necessarily be able to make up for it later."

While a narrowing pay gap is good news at any level, it's not necessarily due to women demanding higher pay. "Employers are more aware and are trying to get ahead of any potential gender bias in terms of pay," said Frank.

At the executive level, the wage gap increases to 6.2% among boomers, 7.4% for Gen Xers and 4.9% for millennials.

The employment situation has been tough for millennials, with many of them entering the workforce in the midst of the Great Recession that wiped out nearly nine million jobs. While the economy has since recovered the jobs, competition remains tight and underemployment remains a problem—especially among the highly educated.

"College graduates saw the labor market conditions and decided to stay in school rather than try to enter it," explained Frank.

Related: Did Silverman's 'vagina tax' video miss the mark?

When it comes to corporate loyalty, age also comes into play.

Forty-five percent of millennials think the ideal length to stay with an employer before finding a new job is two to three years, and 26% said a year or less is acceptable.

Meanwhile, 41% of baby boomers said five years or more was an acceptable job tenure, while only 13% of millennials thought they should stay at a job for that long before finding a new gig.

"I've seen a lot of boomerang careers among younger workers," said Pollak. "They think the grass is always greener, but that's not always the case."


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Unlimited vacation? It may not be as cool as it sounds
Branson's jaw-dropping vacation policy
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

It's like the new "It Girl" work perk: Take as much time off as you want, as long as you get your job done.

But it may not be quite as cool as it seems.

Pioneered by tech start-ups and other small, niche businesses, these so-called "unlimited" vacation policies are now being tried out by a few bigger fish. Tribune Publishing, which owns the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, is the latest company to switch from giving employees a set number of days off to "discretionary time off."

The idea: Treat salaried employees as "responsible, trustworthy adults" who know what's expected of them and who deliver results.

"The policy is intended to give [them] greater flexibility in taking paid time off and allow them to make appropriate work-life balance decisions for themselves," said a Tribune spokesman.

Related: What it really takes to be a great boss

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson put it more bluntly in a blog post where he unveiled a similar company policy: "If working nine to five no longer applies, then why should strict annual (vacation) policies?"

Hard to argue with that.

But it's too early to say how beneficial these new "discretionary time off" policies will actually be for employees.

As it is, Americans only take three-quarters of their allotted time off, said Bruce Elliott, manager of compensation and benefits at the Society for Human Resource Management.

One reason we shortchange ourselves: Some people worry they'll lose their job or miss out on a good raise or promotion if they use all their vacation days, especially when they have a bad boss or an employer that uses layoffs as a go-to management tool.

Related: Cure burnout, lose 25 lbs: The perks of taking a sabbatical

So a take-all-you-want vacation policy may not mean you end up taking more time off than you used to. You might even end up taking less.

Is that the goal of these new policies? Tribune says no. "Employees can use the same amount of time going forward as their annual vacation allotment — and even more, if needed," the company spokesman said.

But both Virgin and Tribune make it clear that your performance better be up to snuff before requesting those days off.

"It's your responsibility to have an open discussion with your supervisor about your time off and its impact on your performance. As always, future career opportunities are assessed based on your performance and potential," Tribune's management wrote in a memo to employees published on JimRomenesko.com.

Branson wants employees to take as much time as they want, but said he assumes "they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred percent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business -- or, for that matter, their careers!" [Italics added.]

Arguably, that is a lot of pressure to put on an employee who was just kind of hoping to spend a week at the beach. Especially since many of us already are given way more work than we can finish in a day -- and can't ever seem to catch up, said Cynthia Shapiro, a former HR executive who wrote "Corporate Confidential."

Quiz: Are you a workaholic?

While some companies may do a great job of encouraging employees to take time as they need it, Shapiro said, she worries other employers may use it as a way to cut costs and get more out of their employees.

One way companies could save: You won't accrue vacation days that, if unused, the company would pay you for when you quit or get laid off.

Right now, only about 1% of companies offer unlimited vacation policies, according to SHRM. So it's too soon to say if it's a trend. But if these new vacation policies prove successful - either by improving employers' bottom line or by creating happier workers -- it may not be long before other businesses give them a try.


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