Chapter 1

Becoming Financially Disciplined

Whether you start at the beginning of the year or you start today, some actions to keep your financial plans on track include:

  • Set a money objective. Simplify your approach for financial goals by selecting a word or short phrase to give your direction. This theme might be “future needs” (for retirement planning), “spend mindfully” (for controlling spending), or “kid’s college.”
  • Use automation. Using automatic transfers will allow you to save for a house down payment, an emergency fund, a vacation, or retirement.
  • Challenge yourself. Cut unnecessary expenses to allow you to have money left over each month for financial goals.
  • Change your environment. Modifying your financial habits can occur with visible reminders, such as photos, sticky notes, or note cards placed on your credit card, desk, bathroom mirror, refrigerator, car dashboard, or computer screen. Also consider keeping a financial diary or journal.
  • Obtain needed support. Instead of going it alone, work with a friend, roommate, spouse, or group to achieve your money objective and stay accountable.

 For additional information on becoming financially disciplined, click on the following links:

Financially disciplined #1

Financially disciplined #2

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to others to obtain ideas for achieving financial goals.
  • Have students create visuals that might be used to remind them about financial goals and actions.

 Discussion Questions 

  1. What are the main reasons people who not achieve financial goals?
  2. Describe methods that might be used to help you and others achieve financial goals.
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How to Profit from the Ultra-Tight Job Market Right Now

“The war for talent that obsesses tech companies is intensifying and is about to spread economywide.”

This Fortune article is a must read for job seekers in today’s world, Geoff Colvin explains that after nine years of sluggish economic growth, the economy has turned the corner and creating jobs at a record pace.  The hiring boom is not only creating opportunities for unemployed workers, but also currently-employed workers who want to get a better or higher-paying jobs.

In the current job market, employers are seeking talented employees that have a great future.  Traits that include creativity, the willingness to work hard, and love of learning often help employers evaluate potential.  Digital skills are very important, but not restricted to just tech companies.  For example, many retailers are hiring workers who can use digital skills to reach customers in new ways.

Human skills are also more important than in the past.  Companies want workers to feel they’re part of the organization and a valued asset.  These “same people” skills are very important for workers applying for management positions.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Reinforce that employers want workers who have the knowledge and skills that they need, but also are willing to work hard, become part of the organization, and keep learning once they get the job.

Discussion Questions

  1. How do you develop the traits and skills so that employers are willing to pay you a salary?
  2. If you were an employer, how would you choose between job applicants applying for a customer service position at American Airlines? What traits and skills are most important?
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Personal Financial Satisfaction

The Personal Financial Satisfaction Index (PFSi), reported by the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) is at an all-time high.  This quarterly economic indicator measures the financial situation of average Americans.  PFSI is the difference between (1) the Personal Financial Pleasure Index, measuring the growth of assets and opportunities, and (2) the Personal Financial Pain Index, which is based on lost assets and opportunities. The most recent report had a Pleasure Index 68.1 in contrast to a Pain Index of 42.1, resulting in a positive reading of 25.9, the highest since 1994.

While the stock market is high, unemployment is declining, and inflation is low, remember the economy is cyclical.  Be sure to consider and plan for your long-term goals. Stay aware and position your financial plan appropriately to safeguard finances when the economy is in a downturn.  Also, analyze your cash flow to an attempt to increase savings, including an appropriate emergency fund.

For additional information on financial satisfaction, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students create an action plan for situations that might be encountered in times of economic difficulty.
  • Have students create a team presentation with suggestions to take when faced with economic difficulties.

 Discussion Questions 

  1. What are examples of opportunities that create increased personal financial satisfaction?
  2. Describe actions a person might take when faced with economic difficulties.
Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Economy, Financial Planning, Investments, Retirement Planning, Stocks | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Hurricane Financial Toolkit

Natural disasters create a need for unique actions.  After physical safety is assured, some of the activities related to finances include:

  • contacting your insurance company – request a copy of your policy, take photos and videos to document your claim.
  • registering for assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.
  • talking with your mortgage lender and credit card companies since you may not be able to make upcoming payments on time.
  • contacting utility companies to suspend service if you will not be living in your home due to damage.

Beware of various scams that surface after natural disasters.  These frauds can include phony repairs, deceptive contractors, requiring up-front fees, fake charities, and misrepresenting oneself as an insurance company agent or government representative to obtain personal information.

Assistance for the personal and financial chaos created by a hurricane or other natural disaster may be obtained from these organizations:

For additional information on financial actions for disasters, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students role play situations that might require actions such as those described in this article.
  • Have students create a video with suggestions to take when encountering a natural disaster.

Discussion Questions 

  1. How might the advice offered in this article be communicated to people who are victims of a natural disaster?
  2. Describe common mistakes people might make when encountering a natural disaster.
Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter 3, Financial Planning, Frauds and Scams, insurance | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Financial Plan – Silent Killers

CPAs and financial advisers point out five “silent killers” that create barriers for the successful implementation of estate, retirement, and investment plans.  These common mistakes are:

1. Unrealistic Expectations. A valid financial plan must be based on practical assumptions, such as an appropriate forecast of rate of return, inflation, and future cash flow needs
2. Emotional Decision Making. Feelings and personal sentiment must be identified and minimized when setting goals and planning financial projections.
3. Inflexibility. A useful financial plan must take into account unexpected events. Creation of an emergency fund and contingency plan is vital.
4. Inaction. Without a plan for action, the perfect financial plan is worthless. Common results of inaction can be not having appropriate of property and casualty insurance coverage, financial hardship of dependents due to inadequate life and disability coverage, failing to address how assets are to be distributed in an estate plan, and overlooking a tax strategy.
5. Unclear Values and Priorities. Being on the wrong path will result in an undesired financial destination. Reflection of areas of importance and priorities is fundamental for implementing a financial plan and achieving financial goals.

For additional information on financial planning silent killers, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk with others about barriers they have encountered in their financial decision making.
  • Have students create situations that reflect each of the five situations. Ask them to suggest actions to overcome these difficulties.

Discussion Questions 

  1. Explain which of these financial planning barriers you believe is the most dangerous.
  2. What are possible actions a person might take to avoid these financial planning barriers?
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Innovation for Improved Financial Health

Mobile start-up companies and other organizations are working with financial institutions to assist consumers with apps and websites that address various financial tasks and concerns.  These include:

  • Albert (www.meetalbert.com) is a mobile app to guide your financial decisions with the assistance of various financial institutions.
  • EARN (www.earn.org) is a national nonprofit to help low-income families create a habit of saving and break the cycle of financial instability.
  • eCreditHero (www.getcredithero.com) is designed to fix errors that appear on an estimated 80 percent of the credit reports of Americans.
  • Scratch (www.scratch.fi) helps borrowers to better understand, manage, and repay loans.
  • WiseBanyan (www.wisebanyan.com) is a free financial advisor that suggests and manages investment plans for various financial goals, such as savings for retirement, creating an emergency fund, and buying a home.

For additional information on innovative financial planning apps, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students search for a website or app that would be of value of improved personal financial planning.
  • Have students talk to others about the financial concerns they face. Ask students to propose an app or website that would address a personal finance concern.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What personal financial planning areas provide people with the most difficulty?
  2. Describe potential apps or websites that might be created to assist people with their personal financial planning activities?
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Financial Literacy Survey

Based on an online survey of personal finance knowledge, 40 percent of Americans earn a grade of C or worse. Financially literate people possess a fundamental understanding of money management activities, and are able to apply them for their financial well being.

The Wallet Literacy survey is available to assess your financial literacy. This test covers a wide range of topics, including credit scores, paycheck deductions, emergency funds, car insurance, home buying, inflation, and investment risk. Respondents are encouraged to use a calculator and other resources when taking the survey.

For additional information on the financial literacy survey, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students take the financial literacy survey to determine the areas where additional learning is needed.
  • Have students encourage others to take the survey, and then have students talk with them about their results.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What items on the survey are topic areas for which most people need additional learning?
  2. How might people be encouraged to learning more about various personal finance topics?
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FINRA’s National Financial Capability Study (NFCS)

According to a recent FINRA study, the financial circumstances of Americans have improved over the last several years—driven in large part by an improving economy and job market.  For example, the percentage of survey respondents reporting no difficulty in covering their monthly expenses increased from 36 percent to 48 percent.  This is very significant and 12 percentage point improvement.

However, some groups are still struggling, particularly blacks and Hispanics, those without a high school education, and women.  Here are some sobering statistic: About half of respondents with only a high school diploma or no diploma could not come up with $2,000 in an emergency compared to 18 percent for those with a college degree.

Debt continues to be a problem for many Americans.  More than one-in-five Americans have unpaid medical debt.  Similarly, more than one-in-five Americans with credit cards have been contacted by a debt collection agency in the last year.

In terms of financial literacy, absolute levels are low; only 37 percent of respondents are considered highly financial literate—meaning they could answer four or five basic questions correctly on a five-question financial literacy quiz.  And, financial literacy is down slightly since 2009.

For more information,click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this article to

  • Help students understand that many minority groups are still struggling even though economy and job markets have improved.
  • Explain how people can improve their financial lives by saving even a tiny portion of their income for emergencies.

Discussion Questions

  1. What can be done to improve the financial circumstances of minorities?
  2. What might be some reasons that debt continues to be a problem for many Americans?
  3. Since financial literacy levels are so low, what can individuals, local, state and Federal governments can to improve financial literacy of all Americans?
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The Single Best Question to Ask in a Job Interview

“What did you do to prepare for this interview?”

According to CNBC contributor and author Suzy Welch, the above question is the most important question that a manager can ask and the best question a prospective employee can answer.  She explains she has asked this question for years and is always surprised at the answers she gets from prospective employees–answers that are the good, the bad, and the ugly.  One answer stands out.  When asked what she did to prepare for the job interview as my personal assistant, the applicant answered, I’ve been stalking you for three days.  Welch loved the answer because stalking  involved reading virtually everything she could find written about Welch plus reading and scanning everything I’ve ever written online and in print.

Not all answers display the passion that a job applicant should have.  For example, one applicant answered, “Well I drove here last night with my boyfriend so I wouldn’t get lost today.”  Not an answer that would demonstrate the kind of passion and curiosity and most importantly, the resourcefulness Welch was looking for.

For more information, click here

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Stress the importance of doing some detective work when preparing for a job interview.
  • Point out there are many websites that can help job applicants prepare for a job interview.

Discussion Questions

  1. Assume you unemployed and have scheduled a job interview with a human resources manager for a bank teller position at a local Bank of America branch. What would you do to prepare for your interview?
  2. What traits or skills do you have that would make the bank want to hire you for this position? How can you tell or illustrate your traits and skills during the interview process?
Categories: Career, Chapter 1, _Appendix A | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Smart Money Moves for January

With a new year, many people hope to get a fresh start with changes in their financial planning activities. To do so, the following actions are suggested:

  • Maintain or increase the amount of money in your emergency fund.
  • Pay off high-interest credit cards and other expensive loan accounts.
  • Set goals that will contribute to long-term financial security.
  • Review your cash flow (spending and income) from the previous year in an effort to increase saving by avoiding unnecessary payments.
  • Merge various banking, investment, and retirement accounts into one low-cost account.
  • Determine if changes are needed in your estate plan.
  • Increase your retirement account contributions.
  • Revise your tax withholding, as needed

For additional information on January money moves, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to various people about which actions they believe to be most valuable for long-term financial security.
  • Have students create a brief presentation describing the value of one of these suggested money actions.

Discussion Questions 

  1. Describe the January money actions that you consider to be most valuable for long-term financial security.
  1. What are some other money moves that you would recommend?
Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Financial Planning | Tags: | Leave a comment

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