Summer Produce Savings

But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop; some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Matthew 13:8

The food budget is being pinched in all areas but none more than produce. Aside from the normal inflation, floods and draughts have depleted supplies. Here in the middle of summer local crops are coming in. We’d be foolish not to take advantage of fresh produce in our own backyards and the farmer’s market.

Back in April I had a post about saving on the food budget by growing your own produce. Obviously you have a big advantage if you have a garden. But if you don’t, take advantage of those who do, and put up those fresh fruits and vegetables to enjoy all year. Yes, I mean canning and freezing your own.photo 3 (2)

Pick It If You Can

We used to go to the blueberry farm every year and picked at least a bushel or two. I stored them in the bottom bin of my refrigerator and they kept for two months. The rest I froze. Some farmers let people pick their own peas, corn, tomatoes, and beans, peaches and berries. The cost is much less than you’ll find in the frozen food section. But the real benefit is the freshness.

Get out the mason jars and can. It’s time consuming but not hard. Home canned foods don’t have all the preservatives and salt. They don’t have to have a shelf life of ten years, so they’re healthier and taste much better.

Adjust Your Diet

If you’ve been thinking of going on a diet, there’s no better time than when fruits and vegetables are in abundance. Did I mention fresh tastes better? I can’t believe people would eat those pre-packaged meals in some diet plans. So it takes more effort to gather and prepare your own. You’ll learn what good eating really is. And guess what? You’ll consume fewer calories.

Visit your farmer’s market every week in the summer. There’s more than salads there. Get out your recipe books. Add several servings of fruits and vegetables to your family’s meals. They’ll all feel better—and you’ll lose weight. I guarantee it.photo 1 (4)

Savings All Year

Buy more fresh produce than your family needs for the week and put up the rest—freezing or canning. Freezing takes little time, and in my opinion the best way to preserve fruits. The refrigerator freezer won’t provide adequate space, so buy a freezer. They are relatively inexpensive, and will pay for themselves the first year. With the money you save on produce, buy half a cow, a pig, chickens, and freeze them.

There’s not much more satisfying to have a freezer full of food for fall and winter. Let the food prices fluctuate.

Convenience Vs Money

It all comes down to a question of convenience versus money, doesn’t it? Maybe in this modern age we’ve forgotten to appreciate effort. It might help to remember the more important things we could do with our money than spend it on inferior, unhealthy food.

I won’t be posting next week. This is the time to spend our annual vacation money.

Here’s a site for free books, if you need a beach read.

http://www.freebooks.com/

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Freedom to Dream

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. –2 Corinthians 3:17

We’re fortunate to still live in a country in which we can dream. Maybe your dream is to work for yourself or just earn a little income on the side. My husband and I have successfully run two small businesses on the side. It takes financial savvy but isn’t as hard as you might think.photo 1 (3)

After you’ve set up your business and have a revenue and expense flow, you’ll have to set up a budget. You may already have charts for projected Return on Investment. You may even have Projected Profit and Loss for 5 years out. Dream as big as you wish on paper but make sure the numbers add up.

Here are some things to consider before starting the business.

Planning

Start with a business statement in which you state what you intend to do. Be specific as possible, and don’t worry about money at this point. Include your short and long term goals. State your dream. For example: I plan to provide a full range of plumbing services for the residents of Smithville. I project a profit of $10,000 the first year. After taking some tech school courses and hiring a helper, I project a profit of $20K-25K within five years.

That’s simple, but you get the idea.

Research

Research your competitors, your customers, your resources. Figure up the return on investment for equipment, employees, independent contractors, and advertising. You don’t need a business degree, but do study the industry. Many times you can find the answers by asking those in the know. In the example above, you’d talk to other independent plumbers. How did they start out? What problems did they encounter? Don’t give the impression you want to take their customers away. It takes some business sense which often means just doing unto others as you’d have them do unto you.

Funding

You’ll need start-up funds, then double what you think you’ll need. Unless you have a really big project, I don’t recommend borrowing. Save up for this purpose like you’d save up for the down payment on a house. Usually, the amount needed is similar. Depending on your business, you may solicit investors, however, this will complicate and limit the freedom you have to run your business. The government may have grants in the area of science, education, or agriculture. Investigate the options if this applies to your business.

How much you’ll have to invest depends on the business. In the plumber example, a truck will be needed, tools, equipment, and insurance, but the office can be run out of the plumber’s home.

From all this information, you can project your earnings for short term and long term goals.photo 1 (2)

Get Professional Help

Before setting up your books, consult with a professional accountant, preferably one who is experienced in small business. Do this even if you want to start a small, home-based business. You don’t have to keep the accountant on retainer, but getting off to a good start is essential. There are all sorts of laws and regulations–federal, state, and local–you probably don’t even know about. You’ll not only have to set up books, you’ll also have to file periodic forms and reports. Discuss these requirements with the accountant. Make sure you understand the forms required and the filing requirements for taxes as well as regulatory requirements.

Yes, this advice will be expensive, but well worth it. Once you have your books set up, you can maintain them yourself. If the books are set up right, you can prepare your own taxes, so you’ll save money in the long run. As you collect checks and receipts, make it a habit to RECORD THEM DAILY, as well as cash transactions.

Don’t Comingle Funds

Set up a separate bank account. Depending on your state requirements, you may need a business number as well. But those are things the accountant will help you accomplish. Even if you work a cash and carry method, keep your business funds separate from your personal funds. Pay yourself a salary if you need to. Just be aware, most new businesses don’t earn much in the beginning. In fact, you may run a loss the first few years. What you do earn in those early years will probably have to be plowed back into the business.photo 2 (6)

In business as in all things, your patience will be rewarded.

After the first month, you’ll have enough data to set up a budget. And guess what, it’s done exactly like the household budget. You’ll have different expenses, and income may fluctuate wildly, but the process is the same. Go into my archives to review budgeting tips. The object is the same—keep the expenses as low as possible while maximizing income.

Since tomorrow is Independence Day, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those Americans who dream and have the determination and patience to build their vision, thereby providing the income for us all to pursue happiness. Thanks also to those who defend our freedom to carry out our dreams. And thanks to God, the author of our liberty.

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The Can-Do Spirit

 

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. –Philippians 4:13

No matter how hard some try to take away America’s brand, it can’t be done—not easily anyway. It’s too ingrained, and everyone in the world knows it, friend and enemy alike.

Belief is What Counts

America’s brand is the belief that all have opportunity to better their lives. In many ways, that isn’t true, never has been. It doesn’t matter. Everyone believes it. That’s why people keep streaming over the borders, legally and illegally. That’s why the French gave America the Statue of Liberty.

When I was doing research for my historical novel set on the plains, I read a book giving firsthand accounts of settlers. This was after the Land Grant Act where a man (and sometimes a woman) could claim 160 acres and if he farmed it for five years, it was his. In the agricultural society of that day, it was a dream come true to be a land owner. This dream kept them coming. They all thought they’d get rich. Not many actually got rich, but most did make a living. As did workers who trudged to factories everyday. The work ethic took over America

Have we lost it?

In the late 1800s, John Pemberton experimented with a medicinal drink. He didn’t imagine it would turn into the drink of choice for people all over the world so he sold it to Asa Griggs Candler. Anyone who has the entrepreneurial spirit can change the world. photo 2 (5)

Do we still have it?

Yes, yes, yes. If the income side of your budget isn’t as much as you’d like it to be, take a tip from the settlers and look for opportunities, work at it, hold on. Even when the jobs are scarce, don’t give up. If you can’t find someone else to work for, be your own boss. Fill a need. Even if you don’t change the world, you can make enough to live richly.

It takes work and time to succeed in anything. I’m working on my second career as a novelist. It’s taking time, and I work on it more than I did when employed as an accountant, but I will succeed if I live long enough. The work ethic lives on after retirement.

Selling Services

Writing is my choice, but there are other opportunities. I see needs everywhere. There are a lot of elderly in my city. They have a need for a transportation service. Or to run errands. Many people who aren’t so elderly need help catching up with the computer age. There’s a need for personal technical assistance—not over the phone, but over-the-shoulder assistance. I could use some assistance myself. Even if these services are already available, someone else might provide them at a better price. The services don’t have to be done personally. They could be hired out. Sometimes, you don’t have to provide the product or service but connect people to those who can provide it. Many people need help connecting to good health care. I have a friend who started a successful nurse referral business. Opportunities abound for anyone with the entrepreneurial spirit.

Selling Products

I’m interested in providing a product—books, but that’s not the only thing I could sell. I make some of the best home-made fudge on the planet. At least that’s what my family says, and they’re the only ones who eat it. I can tell they’re truthful by how fast it disappears. I could set up a business making fudge in my own kitchen and sell it over the internet. I have a lifetime of experience crocheting and design my own items. I used to make a fair amount of change selling my crochet at craft fairs, but I could sell on the internet. I wouldn’t get rich selling fudge or crochet, but I could add to my income.

The internet age opened a whole new world of entrepreneurs. Some went bust, but some made it big.photo 3

Does the idea of starting your own business appeal to you? You’ll need a budget for that. We’ll look at things to consider in setting up a budget for the sole proprietorship next week.

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The Right Side of the Budget

And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. –John 10:4

I tried to get out of this post. A little accident left me feeling…well, crabby. My assistant was out of town and I was puppy sitting and I wanted to work on my novel and… I had to remind myself why I started this blog. Actually, I didn’t remind myself so much as God did. If you’re a Christian, you know what I mean by hearing His voice.

My original goal for the blog was inspired by my grandchildren. I wanted to leave them with all the practical advice related to money management I’d gleamed over a lifetime, things I wish I’d known when I got out on my own. Things they’ll need to know in a few years.  I began this blog because I felt compelled by that Voice to share this knowledge, not only with my grandchildren, but with all who want to use their money more wisely.

And when I started making excuses to skip this week, the Voice reminded me of my goals

I’ve already covered every expense in the budget. Let’s look at the other side—income and assets.photo 2 (4)

Salary and Wages

If you work for someone the bulk of your income will likely come weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly in a set amount. This makes it easy, but we should account for gross income, not take home. Why? Those withholding amounts are expenses that should be accounted for in the budget even if we don’t have control of them, like taxes. If we don’t include withholding in the budget, we’re not accounting for our money down to the last cent. And we do have control of some items. They should be reviewed periodically to determine if too much or too little is taken out.

Variable Income

Some employees are paid in commissions or tips. Some, like construction workers, may have to deal with fluctuations in working hours. In these cases, it’s essential to tabulate a “normal” monthly gross income for the purpose of budgeting. If you don’t, you may come to depend on those higher amounts. This will spell trouble during a dry spell. Adjustments may, and should, be made quarterly or semi-annually. This is a common-sense consideration, but unless you put it down in black and white, you won’t know where you stand. Living from paycheck to paycheck isn’t wise for anyone, but especially for those who depend on variable income.

Bonuses and Windfalls

What are we to do with compensation over and above salary and wages? Just as we should be prepared for emergencies, we should also have a game plan for unexpected gain. Prioritize. I recommend this order. (1) Pay off debts (2) Put it in your emergency fund, if that fund isn’t sufficient. (3) Invest (4) Buy your heart’s desire. Another good use is to give it away, and if the amount you give to charity doesn’t measure up to what the Voice says, you should.

What if Income Falls Short?

Obviously, if you work for someone else, and you’re not making enough to make ends meet, your choices are limited. You could ask for a raise or a promotion. If you have a good reason and your performance is good, do ask. Sometimes we don’t have because we don’t ask. And if the answer is no, ask again after a reasonable length of time and better performance. Ask those who’ve achieved success in your company. My guess is, they had to prove themselves to advance.

If you fail to get a raise or promotion, you can always get another job—just don’t walk away until a better job is secured. Many people have to take a second job. We all do what we have to do.

Being Your Own Bossphoto 1 (1)

If you’re self-employed, the whole picture changes, and gets more complicated. You have a lot more financial documents to consider than a simple budget. But the opportunities are much greater. Far greater than this post can cover, so next week we’ll look at those opportunities.

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Getting Through the Lean Years

 And the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. The famine was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. –Genesis 41:54

While I was working toward my BBA I took a lot of economic classes. None of what I learned helped me in my job as a government purchasing agent. It didn’t help in my job as an accountant. I swore that somehow, some way, in my lifetime, I’d find a way to use that knowledge. The time has come.

 

The Value of Money

What is money worth? Whatever the government says it’s worth. Years ago we lived under a gold standard, meaning the government couldn’t print money unless it was backed up with gold. Did that make a difference? It kept the government from printing money recklessly. Now, that’s determined by the Federal Reserve. Since this is a capitalistic economy, economic pressures motivate the Fed. The stock market, the labor market, consumers, business, all contribute to these pressures. If one thing goes out of whack, the whole economy suffers. But though the government puts a monetary value on money, that’s not really what it’s worth.

Your money, whether paper, coinage or gold, is only worth the goods and services you can exchange for it. Enter inflation.photo 2

The Cost of Living

The economic downturn began almost six years ago. Since then we’ve been in a recovery. Did you know that? Wall Street investors know it. They’ve done great. Laborers haven’t fared so well. Even those who’ve remained employed have seen their income shrink. The middle class has shrunk. Some have moved into the top ten percent, but many more have fallen into the lower economic class.

Did you know inflation is pushing people into the lower class? No one talks about it. Luxury and high priced items have remained stable, but prices for food and other necessities of life have crept up at a steady pace. This doesn’t affect upper income people and the government weighs certain items. Food isn’t considered as important as a car (how convenient) and some necessities are taken out of the inflation equation, so on paper, the numbers don’t look bad. But in the marketplace, it is bad. The cost of living is a lot higher for poor and middle income people.photo 2 (1)

The Economic Cycle

In capitalistic countries the economy goes in cycles—prosperous, lean, recessions, booms, depressions. Regardless of which cycle we’re in, we have a chance to move from one economic class to another. America still has opportunities.

If we only had Joseph’s insight during ancient Egypt, we’d save during the prosperous years so we’d have enough during the lean. But though we don’t know how long the cycle will be, if we maintain an emergency fund, we can weather the lean years. Just remember you’ll need more than you think. Money saved today won’t be worth as much in future years, especially with interest rates on liquid accounts being almost non-existent.

Save Things When Possible

I save durable high inflation items like paper products and detergents, even food items like rice, beans, coffee, sugar, and canned food. If there’s a sale I stock up. I’ve saved a lot on coffee alone, and let’s just say I have enough toilet tissue to take me through the tribulation. Laugh if you must, but these are inflation-proof items.

Your emergency fund must cover more than emergencies. It must see you through the lean years of the economic cycle.

But be of good cheer. It’s sometimes during the lean times that we’re motivated to progress. America’s greatest resource is the innovative spirit of its people. Somewhere out there people are working to provide the stuff we need at a lower cost.

Oh, and there’s something else that goes in cycles—politics. When the people get fed up with the economic policies of one group, they’ll switch to another.

I’m glad I was finally able to get this economic stuff off my chest. I feel better now.

Next week we’ll do a budget checkup.

 

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What Are the Odds?

Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem; the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem. -Nehemiah 11:1

I hate to consider myself a gambler, but I am. We all are. The atheist wouldn’t consider himself a person of faith, but he’d be wrong. We can’t even get out of bed in the morning without some measure of faith. Gambling requires faith because we can’t possibly know all the possible outcomes of—well, almost anything except drawing lots. And we all, consciously or unconsciously, assess the odds. download (4)

Hold onto that thought. It requires deep thinking, soul searching, going down to the marrow type thinking. I never really thought about this until I wrote my first inspirational manuscript. The heroine gives the hero a preposterous scenario which he ridicules. Her comeback question is, “What are the odds?”  An offhand remark, but a turning point for the hero, because the question keeps echoing in his mind, and he finally has to access the odds on all those things he’s been avoiding.

What does this have to do with your budget? Actually everything in the budget has to be accessed, but nothing more than insurance.

Do You Need It?

If the loss will put you in dire straits, yes. The loss of life, auto or home can certainly put you or your family in dire straits. Healthcare is not true insurance but necessary. That subject was covered in my posts, Is Healthcare Really Affordable and What’s the Best Fit for Your Healthcare Budget, both in the January archives.

Insurance is needed when the odds are small but the stakes are great. We’re actually hedging our bets because we don’t want to ever file a claim. None of us would want this to happen.images (6)

Or this.images (7)

 

 

How Much is Enough?

When we’re accessing our need for insurance, this is the tricky part. If you over-insure you’re wasting money. If you don’t have enough and the unthinkable happens… This is where you have to access the odds for each situation.

Life Insurance

I, and a lot of much smarter money managers, believe no one should take out whole life insurance. It’s not a wise investment, nor should insurance be used as an investment. Term insurance is the way to go. The only purpose of life insurance is to provide for your family in the event of your death. It’s only needed if people depend on your income. Obviously this includes your spouse and minor children. It does not include grown children unless they depend on your income. If you want to provide an inheritance, it should come from your estate, not insurance.

If no one depends on your income, the amount of life insurance you need shouldn’t exceed debts and final arrangements.

Auto Insurance

You’ll have to carry enough auto insurance to meet the requirements of the loan company if you’ve financed your vehicle, and states may require liability insurance. Take the highest deductible allowed. This can make a big difference in payments. I wouldn’t carry collusion and comprehensive insurance on a car over seven years old. You should have enough in your emergency fund to replace the vehicle. The odds are not great enough to justify the cost of such insurance. Your policy should cover liability and uninsured motorist, even if your state doesn’t require it. Court costs can wipe you out. One other thing to consider—pay in six months or yearly increments, not monthly. The insurance company will tack on interest charges that can be significant.

Homeowners Insurance

Again, the amount of insurance will depend on the mortgage company for the life of your loan. Also be aware you may have to pay mortgage insurance if your loan exceeds 80% of the principal. When the loan balance drops below 80%, drop the mortgage insurance. The company may not notify you, so be aware.

How much insurance should you carry if you own your home outright? No more than fair market value. This fluctuates, so make an assessment yearly. When the real estate market crashed, house values fell drastically. Guess what? The insurance companies probably didn’t adjust your insurance. You may be carrying too much for today’s market.

Should you carry renter’s insurance if you rent? From what I can tell, the insurance is fairly low, so yes, especially if you don’t have enough liquid funds to replace the contents of your home.

If you were drawing lots, the odds would be obvious. Not so when assessing insurance needs, but consider the odds we must.

Are you carrying too much insurance, or not enough?

 

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Taking Control

You cannot serve God and Mammon. – Matthew 6:24

Do you control your money or does your money control you? There was a time in my life when I have to say I had no control. It reminds me of when I lost control of my car. Someone came at me from nowhere and I swerved. Somehow I had sense enough not to slam on brakes, but though I tried to steer, the steering wheel didn’t respond. The car went into the oncoming lane, and if another car had been coming, it would have been a head-on smash up. If the highway hadn’t been straight, I’d have wound up in the ditch—or a telephone pole.

I didn’t ask Jesus to take the wheel, but I think He must have. During this ordeal I was perfectly calm until the car slowed down and got under my control. And I think Jesus must have been there when I lost control of my money, because I survived without permanent damage. download

How well I remember that sensation of making good money but seeing it slip through my fingers. I had a bad habit of spending money unwisely, not accounting for it. It controlled me.

It’s a Matter of Will

As with all habits, breaking it requires willpower. You can either use willpower to avoid the thing or keep it under control. You can avoid drugs or cigarettes, but you can’t avoid money. Like food, you need it to live.

Here is a story of a young woman who managed to control both food and money.

Addicted to Cupcakes

This woman wasn’t overweigh but she loved sweets, especially Hostess cupcakes. She couldn’t see them without buying a package and devouring both of the little devils food delights before she got home. Of course she realized this was not a healthy snack, and she knew she was addicted. It seemed ridiculous, even scary, that these cakes had such a hold on her.photo 1

Resolution

She resolved to break this habit and decided the only way to do that was to keep a package of those cupcakes in her bedroom, sitting in full view, day and night…and resist eating them. There had to be a package of two cupcakes sitting on her dresser week after week, indefinitely, to prove she’d broken her habit.

You have to remember this woman loved the taste of these cakes–drooled over them. The test she’d set up for herself wasn’t easy. Before the first day was out, she started rationalizing. Just one wouldn’t hurt. If she could get through the week with one cake left, she could claim a victory. Not only did she not have one left, but she had to bring in more. But she stuck to it and every time she gave in to temptation, she’d give herself a talking to, pray, and resolve to do better.

Gradually, she made progress. A week passed, then two…a month…with those Hostess cupcakes sitting there, still tempting her.

Then a miracle happened. One day she realized the cupcakes had no appeal at all. She couldn’t even remember what they tasted like, nor had any desire to find out. She dropped the package in the trash and hasn’t eaten any packaged cupcake since.

Breaking a Money Habit

When this young woman found money slipping through her fingers, she decided to try the cupcake approach. She’d leave a twenty on her dresser, in full view, and resolve not to touch it no matter how short on cash she was. And instead of just breaking the spending habit, she decided she might as well develop the saving habit. Each week she was able to leave the twenty alone, she’d add another one.

It wasn’t as easy as breaking the cupcake habit. Everything seemed to happen to break her budget, and there were so many things enticing her to buy…just this once. It was manageable at the beginning of her pay-period, but near the end, that twenty was in jeopardy. But she was determined. Each time she took the money and ran, so to speak, she asked herself what she’d have done if she hadn’t left it there to begin with—and prayed.

After almost a year, she’d accumulated only a hundred dollars. Christmas was coming up. How nice it would be to blow the whole wad as a reward. But by this time, she’d learned a few things about getting by when emergencies came and how to resist impulse buying. She decided it would feel a whole lot better to see how fast she could save another hundred.

Willpower is Power

I’m constantly in awe of the great gift God gave us in the form of a free will. Let us never forget willpower is useless unless we exercise it. It requires consistency and determination, but its power is enormous. With it you can control any behavior. You can control your money. It will become your servant as it should be.

Was the young woman me? Perhaps. She could be anyone.

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Getting on the Right Road

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Matthew 7:13

All roads are not equal, but there’s a right way and a wrong way with every decision we make. Added to that, the stakes are really high when you’re deciding what you’re going to do with your life.

I’m speaking to the graduates today, and I’m sure everyone is pumped after hearing those lofty commencement speeches. Now that the celebrations are over, this is where the rubber meets the road. It would be wonderful if every decision was as clear as the girl pictured here. It’s not, but here is an exercise that will help you get your financial road in focus and answer the question are you ready to live on your own. This will help you come up with Plan A. images

If you’re a graduate, you’re too young to remember the old Cosby Show when Theo said he didn’t need to get good grades because he could just get an ordinary job. Bill challenged him to live like he’d have to if he had an ordinary job. Things were exaggerated for comic effect, but the message was clear. Things are not as simple in the real world as young people think. Here is the exercise without the comedy.

Find a Job

The first step in this exercise is to see what’s available in your area (commuting distance) that you’re qualified for. An internet search is adequate for this effort, but if you know of a big business, search it specifically to see what’s offered. Take note of the qualifications required and the salary or wage. For the sake of this exercise we’ll assume you get the job, provided you’re qualified. This is a big assumption that probably won’t happen in real life. Do a little math and find out how much this job will pay you each month and deduct thirty percent. Why? Because that will be needed to account for deductions for taxes, insurance, retirement, and other fees you have no control over.

Find a Place to Live

Now that you know how much you’ll make, look for a place to live. This should cost no more than twenty-five percent of your after deduction pay (net income). Your residence doesn’t have to be a palace, but it should be safe, clean, and within commuting distance of your job. While you’re at it, take a deduction for a car or other transportation. Don’t forget gas and upkeep.

Prepare a Budget

Your budget should include all those living expenses we’ve discussed over the past months. If you don’t remember, go back through my blog posts. Is there enough money left to cover these expenses?

Assess Your Situation

Look at how much money is left at the end of the month. There should be enough for savings and investments. You have your future to think of. Do you have the type of residence you’d like? Vehicle? Is there any slack? You always need slack.

If you don’t like what you see, you’ll have to consider Plan B, and that may require getting more education, training, moving. Options are out there, but look ahead to where those options will take you.

Theo, from the Cosby Show, was only in Middle School when he had to do this exercise, and truthfully, that’s not too soon. I’ve already gotten my grandchildren to play this game. Now they understand how the real world works, they understand the importance of good grades and further education.

images (3)Keep in mind you may have to go on to Plan C because things don’t always work out the way you plan. There are more forks in the road than you might imagine. If you’re just starting out, you have an advantage. You don’t have mistakes to undo. That’s not true for most of us.

Most of us have to back up before we get on the right road, and one of the reasons we make bad decisions is because of attitude. That’s the topic for next week and it applies to us all.

 

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Looking for a Position or a Job

For the laborer is worthy of his wages. – Luke 10:7

From a sheer economic standpoint, the high school graduate makes the greatest decision of his/her life when s/he chooses a career or work, a profession or a job. Of course there’s a lot more prestige in a profession, and most parents think that’s the way their children should go. But there are other things to consider.

The World Needs Both

320px-Plumber_at_workThe world not only needs both professionals and laborers, it needs more laborers than professionals. Since needs and opportunities always balance out in the end, it should work out—but it doesn’t. Because of bad decisions made by our leaders, the economy suffers, and individuals often wind up in the wrong job.

Trust me, you will be miserable in the wrong job. With careful planning and preparation, you can avoid that unhappy situation.

If I Knew Then

The trouble is when you’re a young person just entering the labor market, you don’t have a clue…or a sense of urgency. I know I didn’t. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, nor a good idea of what was available. However long it takes, you won’t go anywhere until you’ve answered those two questions. I was over 30 before I got my dream job. I’m working on my second dream job now, and I won’t say how old I am.

One thing is certain. Your dream job won’t knock you over the head. It will take time, as much time as you expect doubled—tripled. Your dream job will require a lot more work than you expect, too. And everyone will be after your dream job. There’ll be more competition than you imagine.

Regardless of all that, you should start looking for your dream job as soon as you receive your diploma. You may have to work at a lot of other jobs before finding what you want. Most people do. And while you’re looking for your dream job, you have to make a living.

Follow Your Heart

Maybe college, a profession, doesn’t appeal to you. There are plenty of alternatives. Unfortunately, high school may not have prepared you for a skill, but you can still prepare for the work you’d enjoy, and in the long run, technical jobs often pay more than professions. Like the plumber above, or these. But how do you go about it in today’s job market?320px-Electrician_Working

320px-Lineman_changing_transformerSince at least as far back as the middle ages, skills were taught through apprenticeships. The master craftsman took in one or two young men and taught them job by job. Even today, there’s no better way to learn a skill than the hands-on approach.

Big and small businesses may offer on-the-job training. Competition will be fierce, but research the market anyway. If you’re willing to move, extend your search nation-wide. Even with the high unemployment numbers today, there are locations where jobs go begging.

Local governments may offer programs for municipal jobs like firemen, policemen, and other first responders. Hospitals and clinics are always looking for employees in the medical field.

It’s likely high level skills will require technical school training, but the tuition is usually much lower than at colleges, the school terms shorter, and financial aid more accessible.

Ask and It Shall be Given

If you are clueless about how to get your foot in the door of that high-paying dream job, ask someone holding the job. Research the possibilities and be prepared for opportunities. Everyone who seeks diligently will find.

It’s so much easier to live richly if you start out right. The first step is finding a job you love that will bring in enough income on the right side of the budget to pay for all the expenses on the left.

If college is still in your plans, check out these sites.

https://studentaid.ed.gov

https://www.scholarships.com

Next week we explore Plan B.

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The Graduate’s Dilemma

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12

 

Graduation time is here. Proud parents. Excited young people glad to have the tests behind them—but the test has just begun. The real world is waiting.graduation_cap_and_diploma

Oddly, the thought of graduation reminds me of an episode of that magnificent nature series, Planet Earth. They had filmed a snow leopard in the wild for the first time. The female leopard spent several days stalking prey and finally bagged a mountain goat which she had to drag up the steep snow-covered cliffs to her lair. She couldn’t eat the goat on site because she had to share the meal with her young. The offspring proved to be a young male as big as she was. I’m thinking…why didn’t that big oaf go get his own meal? But he couldn’t. He didn’t have the skills to hunt his prey.399px-Uncia_uncia leopard

That’s the way it is with humans. The six-foot-two graduate still has to depend on his five-foot-two mama. In fact, most high school graduates receiving their diplomas this June aren’t ready for the real world. A great number of the college graduates aren’t. In today’s world, some aren’t even ready to leave the nest when they’re thirty. Why? They haven’t been taught how the economy works. Their parents realize this too late and become enablers.

But there will come a time when Mama Leopard will run Junior off…and enabling parents will also. The high school graduate hasn’t reached that point. Given the economic climate of today, very few of them are ready to live on their own, but it’s time they started gaining the skills to become independent and adjust expectations. Most young people want to be independent. They also want to live in the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. That’s not realistic.

So the high school graduate’s dilemma is to decide whether they will learn a work skill or go to college. All things considered, going straight to work isn’t realistic. Some do and are successful, but they are the exception. But if this is for you, get in line.download line of people

Be Prepared

Whether work or college, getting prepared begins way back in the lower grades, and I don’t mean academics. Just like that leopard mother was teaching her young from birth to live in the real world, we human parents ought to be teaching our children. Share your life experiences with the tikes. If you have to search for a job, tell the kids how it’s going, what works, what doesn’t. You might mention it doesn’t help to show up for a job interview with tattoos and slouching pants. If they’re old enough, let them read your job resume. Practice the interview with them.

Never thought of that, did you? I didn’t either. We expect the schools to do it all…but we expect too much.

Have you saved enough for college? Most have not. College costs are soaring. Who would have guessed? All isn’t lost, however.

Which College?

Cost will determine where the high school graduate goes to college more than academics or desire. Keep that in mind. Small state colleges and universities can provide just as good an education as the ivy league ones. And the student won’t have to listen to as much liberal propaganda. True, the small colleges won’t provide the same credentials, but after a few years in the workplace, it won’t matter, since work performance will become your credentials.Wellesley_College_Tower_Court

Funding

The high cost of higher education today is an unintended consequence of government programs to help more students go to college—guaranteed student loan programs.

Anyone with a miniscule of knowledge of economics knows higher demand increases cost. The worst of these programs are deferred student loans. Because of this, large numbers of people are graduating so far in debt, it’ll take a lifetime to get out.

Tip for Parents

I recommend that parents save for their children’s education, but if that’s been impossible, do not…I repeat…do not co-sign student loans. Yes, help the kids as much as your current budget will allow. Let them have free room and board while they attend a community college, or buy the text books, or help with the tuition, but never co-sign a loan.

Tip for Students

Suppose your parents couldn’t save enough for your dream college. Direct your sights to another dream. It might even be a better one. Resist with all your might the temptation to take out a student loan.

Apply for scholarships. If you have good grades, there are academic scholarships. If you belong to a minority, there are scholarships for that. If your parents are an alumni, you might qualify for scholarships that way. Google scholarships all over the country and apply to all.

Get a part-time job. Yes, working your way through college is old-fashioned, but it still works. You might even do what I did the last two years of college—night school. The diploma is just as good.

If you have your heart set on a high-priced university, go to a community college the first two years and transfer to the university the last two. The diploma will be just as prestigious and you will have saved a lot.

There are ways to get a college education without going into debt if you’re creative and willing to work hard. The experience will prepare you for the real world far better than that lazy rich kid who goes to college to party and scrape by.

But is it really necessary to go to college at all? I’ll explore that question next week.

Also, when I come across information that I can recommend for budgeting advice, I’ll share it here. These are three.

Dave Ramsey just came out with a new book geared to kids. Smart Money, Smart Kids. Ramsey’s common sense money management approach is highly recommended.

The Suze Orman Show comes on CNBC, Saturday night at nine. The show is entertaining and chock-full of budgeting advice.

Here’s another blog on budgeting advice you might find helpful: budgetbrainiac

Now go get measured for your cap and gown.

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