You can't watch the news today without some mention of the economic crisis. You may be experiencing financial troubles of your own. Here are five smart ways to manage your money, instead of letting it manage you.
- Know where you are. The easiest way to assess where you are is to use technology to help you track your money. We recently switched to the free online service www.mint.com and can't recommend it enough. How do they make their money? By recommending financial products that you would benefit from, based on your current situation (such as offering a credit card with a lower interest rate than what you're paying).
- Think about the future. Now that you know where you are, contemplate where you want to be… What are your long-term goals and how much money will it take to get there? CNN has a number of online calculators to help you figure out what it will take to achieve your long-term goals.
- Plan for the unexpected. It sounds like an oxymoron. How do you plan for things you aren't expecting? While we don't know whether our emergency will be a car accident, or a leaky toilet, there are always bound to be things that come up that we haven't budgeted for. Experts recommend six to nine months of liquid assets designated for emergencies. If you don't have any emergency funds, start today by putting a little aside at a time and you'll be surprised how quickly it will add up.
- Give [up] a little. If you add up how much your daily Starbucks costs, or your lunches out, you'll see that the little things quickly wind up as big expenses. Prioritize your spending and give up a few little things and reap the rewards of savings. Your coffee habit may be costing upwards of $2,000 a year that you could be putting toward meeting your long-term goals.
- Re-think what is important. When birthdays and special occassions come along, consider writing a heartfelt letter instead of purchasing a gift. Your words will be much more meaningful than whatever the gift you would buy might symbolize and you can start having deeper relationships that are based on more than traditional exchanges. I've started writing a list of things I'm thankful for about a particular person when it is his or her birthday. My list is as long as the number of years they've been on the earth.
If you only have time for one of the five, get started with www.mint.com. After that, you can come back and tackle two through five, based on what is most relevant to you and your current financial condition.
Let us know what other personal finance tips you have in the comments.
It is that time in the semester when most college freshmen forget about their professors' feelings (if they ever remembered them at all) and they begin openly discussing how much pain we are all causing in their lives, even if all we're doing is engaging them in dialog in class. They're overwhelmed… exhausted… sleep deprived… and lacking perspective…
I find it encouraging at this point to remember the professors who taught me in college and the impact they still have on me today. I went to Chapman University from 1989 – 1993 and still vividly remember so many of the faculty from my university years.
Dr. Booth is one of those memorable teachers. He just celebrated his 50 year anniversary at Chapman and has stuck in the minds of my parents, who also attended Chapman for their undergraduate years in the late '60s. I wish I could tell you I was a brilliant economics student, but that was hardly the case. I ended up with a C in his class and that was only after getting some help from a roommate and from Dr. Booth, himself.
What I can tell you is that he had an impact on me that goes well beyond the subject of economics.
I remember being scared to death of being late to Dr. Booth's class. He was one of the professors who would lock the door prior to starting class – and if you ended up catching him on a day when he neglected to lock the door and thought you would slip in un-noticed, you were in for an unfortunate surprise.
Despite my lack of economics knowledge, I knew how to get myself places on time, thanks to my Mom's influence. However, there have been many times when I have thought back to the discipline Dr. Booth commanded and that he most likely gave all who encountered him during their college life a gift that went well beyond knowing who Adam Smith is or how supply and demand work together to set prices in perfect competition.
He gave us the gift of self-discipline.
Dr. Booth was not without encouragement, however. I went to see him during his office hours once and remember being really intimidated. He asked me my last name at one point and looked off in the distance for a few minutes. Suddenly, he rose from his chair, walked across the room, and opened a dusty file cabinet that appeared to have been decades old.
His eyes squinted at the old grade book he removed from the cabinet. Then, they lit up and he said, “Ah ha. I thought so… Follow me!”
He took me to a wall full of plaques and awards. Hanging on the wall was a plaque for business students of the year from the 1960s. There in 1967 was my Dad's name: Jim Frazee, hanging on a gold-colored name plate. My Dad never had told me about being awarded such an honor. I'll always be so grateful to Dr. Booth for giving me this glimpse into my Dad's college experience and for showing me how much care was behind his tough exterior. That he remembered my Dad from more than twenty years prior to my coming to Chapman meant so much to me.
He gave us the gift of encouragement
I've only been teaching in a university setting for five years now, so I'm not sure the kind of impact I'll have on my students decades after they graduate. However, Dr. Booth gives me the hope that it is possible to have a life-long influence over our students' lives, even if they are quick to remind us at this point in the semester of how much grief we're inflicting on them now.
Thank you Dr. Booth.
I have had quite a month for slips of the tongue…
In front of 50 business professionals a couple of weeks ago, I was talking about a means for measuring an organization's culture, in terms of where it falls on a continuum. I intended to use the word spectrum to discuss the method of assessment, but instead uttered the word ‘speculum.'
During a short devotional in my introduction to business class, I was quoting Albert Einstein and said, “Significant problems that we face, cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” “You must learn to think in a new way – you need a “paradigm shit” (what a difference an F would have made in that word).
After each incident, there were quite a few chuckles. My statements were not intentional, of course, but resulted in more of a sense of my humanness.
The Chronicle had an excellent article called “What Not to Say in Class During an Election Season” about a more serious type of classroom foible. I felt better about my mouthful of marbles after reading about some awful examples of hateful statements made by faculty at other institutions. After the September 11 attacks, an academic from New Mexico said, “Anyone who attacks the pentagon gets my vote.” An English professor at another university accused Muslim students of being terrorists.
Our role as faculty comes with an immense responsibility. Many argue that the most important skill we can teach students during their college years is critical thinking. Being too overt about our political beliefs one way or another endangers this type of intellectual development on the part of our students.
At a recent dinner with a group of students I have known for years, one of the individuals and I did get into quite a political debate. Anyone who was present might be surprised to read this blog posting, wondering if there wasn't some element of hypocrisy in my giving advice about refraining from spouting off about our political opinions to our students.
My intent with this student was to sharpen his arguments and to get him to go beyond the opinions of the news commentators he watches and to include facts in his analysis of who will make an effective president for us these next four years. The Chronicle warned about students who drop out of classes of professors with opposing views and this particular student is still quite engaged in my classes and as a leader in the student organization I advise. My respect for this student is extremely high and the additional challenge for him to have considered multiple angles of his views will be an asset to his ability to lead teams both now and in what I have no doubt will be a successful career in business.
It is a delicate balancing act. We must grow our students' critical thinking skills, being mindful of the need to argue both sides of an issue, so our nation's future leaders and voting public have the ability to do so, as well.
Tomorrow is the first day of school. Each semester, I am reminded of the importance of creating a good first impression and setting the stage for learning to occur.
I desire for the students to:
Have a sense of gratitude: My hope is that they will be reminded of the sacrifices that were made for them to be where they are. Family members, donors, teachers, tax payers, and politicians likely made some contribution to their having access to all that higher education has to offer.
Excited about what's ahead: while it isn't easy to accomplish, having a sense of adventure about what will occur in a class is something I aspire to give students
Be challenged, yet to possess self-efficacy: Vroom's theory of motivation states that the degree to which we will be motivated is the amount of valence (how much we value potential rewards) times the level of expectancy (how much we believe we can achieve the goal).
I want students to value the learning they'll experience in the class, yet I realize that sometimes this may not come until much later in their lives when they're able to apply it in a less theoretical way (like when they begin their career, for example). The better I can do at describing why what they're learning will be important, the more likely I can increase the valence. I also want them to perceive that they will need to work hard in this class, but that the goals will be clear and so will what it will take to achieve the class learning objectives.
Below are a few techniques I use to begin to create a culture of learning:
Give a five-minute explanation of why this class matters. To create a sense of excitement about the learning, I strive to let them know why their investment of time and effort will be rewarded and not just when it comes to calculating their GPA.
Start on time and end slightly early. While the first day always presents all sorts of reasons why not to start on time (at our school, a varied schedule for the first day of class and the never-ending opportunities for students to get lost, confused, or otherwise not make it on time to your class), it is worth the effort to start out with a culture that says things will get started with or without them… and they'll miss out if they're late. Ending early gives the students a chance to catch me a few minutes informally after the formal class time and makes sure that I don't try to cram too much into the first class session.
Avoid reading the syllabus, but give a three-minute description of why it will be so important for them to digest. My syllabi follow the ‘course packet' format, with detailed course learning objectives, grading rubrics, and a thorough course schedule. Other colleagues follow the less-is-more approach when crafting their syllabi, but I have found it more efficient to have all the information in one place and to get it in their hands as early as possible.
Begin learning names early. Even before I arrive to the class, I print the roster and practice reading aloud the students first and last names. I circle the names of any students I have met before and write down a few things I remember about them to help reinforce opportunities to connect with them. Our school has small photos on the rosters that can be printed, though I never cease to be amazed at how quickly the students will change their looks, even over the course of a semester. I find it helps if I focus on their eyes, nose, and smile, because those things don't tend to change, despite their ever-altering hair, tattoos, piercings, hat choices, and so forth.
Please include your suggestions for ‘first impressions' in the comments section below.