• Posts Tagged ‘education’

    The Best Investments In Myself

    by  • January 23, 2009 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    During these tough economic times, I have investments in something that has a high rate of return and little risk: ME. Fortunately, I started investing in myself before everything hit the fan; because of that I feel that I am in a good position to keep my job or even advance my career. Here’s two investments that I made in myself that has tangible financial rewards:

    Taking Classes

    I did not take advantage of our company’s tuition reimbursement benefit the first two years that I was employed. In hindsight, that was really dumb; I left $5,000 in educational expenses on the table.

    Eventually I decided to start using some of that benefit and enrolled in a certificate program that will put me in great position compared to my peers. I am almost finished with that and have started taking classes that are more broad in scope and will make me more versatile, like at http://financial.kaplan.co.uk.

    The total out-of-pocket cost of my classes comes out to less than $200 per year, or the amount that the tuition of the classes exceeds $2,500.

    These classes have had an immediate impact on my performance at my job. I have knowledge and skills that none of my peers have. I am able to work smarter and add value to my small company. I’m pretty sure that my 72.5% pay increase since I’ve started is due to my increased contributions to my workplace. If you are already working full time, it can be difficult to find the time to upgrade your education. After all, very few employers are going to want their employees missing time every week, even if it means they will be able to make a greater contribution in the future. There are options for these people, however, as online universities now offer a variety of different programs, so there is a good chance that you will be able to find yours somewhere. Just because you are unable to attend a university campus does not mean you have to give up on furthering your education.

    I just wish that they would reimburse me for the coffeehouse trips that I take when I study!

    Getting and staying healthy

    Since this blog began I’ve lost about 60 pounds. It all started when I had ACL knee reconstruction surgery. The events leading to that were directly related to me being overweight.

    The cost of losing and maintaining this weight and lifestyle is a little high. First, I had a gym membership for a while, but I recently quit the gym in favor of more home-friendly workouts. I am pretty active, but need goals like running a half-marathon or playing soccer to keep me motivated. My diet is now much healthier, but now without an initial hit to our wallet as I was working out the kinks.

    There have been numerous financial benefits to losing weight. First off, we didn’t have to buy a new bed to hold our fat asses. Last year, my doctor took me off high blood pressure medications and told me to see him once a year instead of twice. We’re currently in the process obtaining a life insurance policy and I’m sure that my new weight and lack of health problems will contribute to a more favorable rating, which will lead to a less expensive premium.

    Being healthy will also prevent future healthcare costs. I’m at a lower risk for diabetes and heart disease. I will also miss less days of work that I because of health problems.

    How are you investing in yourself? Are your investments going to benefit you financially?

    Hidden Educational Costs

    by  • December 3, 2007 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    photo: powerbooktrance

    I’m currently taking some classes in order to obtain a certification that will help me in my current job and in my career. Due to the specialty of the field that I’m in, this program is not common; in fact there are only 4 institutions in the world that offer it, and the one that I’m taking just happens to be the best one. Despite all the great colleges in Chicago IL or in other major cities, this particular program is not well represented. In order to obtain the certificate, one chooses 4 classes in the curriculum and must receive a passing grade in each of the classes.

    The classes are somewhat expensive at $1,400 each, plus the cost of books. My job covers up to $2,500 in educational expenses per calendar year; therefore I’ve elected to take 2 of the classes at the end of this year, and the final 2 classes at the beginning of next year. By doing this, I limit our out of pocket expenses to just $600 (plus books), which is all tax deductible. I also put the tuition on our rewards cards; in addition to being able to command more salary after I get the certification, the tuition payments will also help in paying for our honeymoon.

    The one cost that I can’t quite shake off is the cost of studying and doing homework in a coffee shop. While I love our apartment, it doesn’t have any areas for me to buckle down and concentrate on studying and homework. Having computers, television, cats, refrigerator, chores, and everything else just makes it impossible for me to not be distracted. I attribute this to my college days; where I lived in college was always too rowdy and loud for me to get any studying done, so I always went to a coffee shop. Thus, when doing my homework for these classes, I’ve found myself in coffee shops around Chicago. It’s almost Pavlovian: coffee shops just make me want to study.

    For my first class, I went to a coffee shop 5 times to do homework and spent a total of about $30. Were the cappuccinos and pastries worth it? Well, last week I received my grade in the mail:


    To me, it is definitely worth it.

    I’ve recently heard a great deal about online universities and I believe that they are an option that is worth exploring. For starters, they provide you with access to programs that you might not have access to in your local area, giving you the opportunity to complete the degree or certification that you actually need. In addition, you can work full time while taking your online courses, making it easier to pay for your education. If necessary, online programs are even eligible for financial aid, so you will have plenty of options when paying for them.

    Morningstar.com’s Investing Classroom ROCKS!

    by  • January 11, 2007 • Tagged:   • Comments

    Think you know it all about investing? Think you know nothing? Either way, morningstar.com’s Investing Classroom is a fun way to learn something new. They offer 172 e-courses on Stocks, Funds, Bonds, and Portfolios. Read a 10-minute summary then take a five-question quiz. For every question you get right, you earn a point. Redeem your points for free Morningstar investing tools including books and premium online membership. It rocks! So far I have earned 79 points (I got one wrong) and have learned a ton of new investment definitions and theories.

    Help Your Child Choose a College and Career

    by  • June 14, 2006 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    Most would agree that college is a good investment. But as with all investment vehicles, some perform better than others. The same is true for choosing a college and a career. No matter who pays for your child’s college education, you can help your child make an informed decision.

    First, talk with your child about choosing a major. What are they interested in? What kind of careers are they thinking of pursuing? Sketch out some possible career options they might follow. Have your child go to salary.com and look up the average starting and peak salaries for each career option. Also have them research what degrees are necessary for each career.

    Next, compare financial packages at the schools your child is applying to. Help your child calculate the total cost of their four-year degree, plus any additional degrees they will need for their career choices. You might want to exclude any financial aid that is contingent on maintaining a certain GPA, since many freshmen struggle with the transition and lose their scholarship.

    Talk with your child and clearly define how much (if any) financial assistance you will give them. Help them calculate how much loan assistance they will need to cover the entire cost. Help them calculate how many years that debt will take to repay and how much the monthly payments might be.

    Finally, put it all together. Compare their potential salary with their potential debt service. Most kids haven’t dealt with such large dollar amounts before, so help them relate it to your own family expenses. If you have a family budget, share it with your child. Discuss how a salary must cover the basics of food and shelter, plus debt service. If there are big financial differences between several schools or careers, talk with your child about the lifestyle they will be able to afford immediately after graduating, and ten years after graduating. Discuss the trade-offs of each option, such as stress, freedom, and fulfillment. Keep the conversation friendly and work as a team – remember, the goal here is just to become informed.

    This is not meant to say that anyone should choose a college or career based solely on the financial rewards. However, this exercise can help your child make an informed financial decision when choosing between several school and career options. Sharing your life experience and gentle guidance can help your child make the best choice.

    Beware of Scholarships

    by  • April 5, 2006 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Right now, thousands of families are finding college acceptance letters and financial assistance offers in their mailboxes. Seven years ago, I applied to several schools and was accepted at all of them. The full-price tuitions at those schools ranged from $4,000 per semester to over $17,000 per semester. However, all the schools offered various financial assistance packages that reduced the tuition rates by a little or a lot. At the time, I compared the bottom line (tuition minus assistance) to determine how much each school would cost me. But I made a big mistake in not comparing what kinds of assistance they were offering.

    The biggest mistake I made was in assuming that merit scholarships were guaranteed. One school offered me a $4,000 per year merit scholarship and I ended up accepting their offer. In high school I was a straight-A student with no academic worries. I did not anticipate the academic struggles I would face when I was competing with the country’s smartest students. Lots of students were their high school valedictorians (I wasn’t). In classes where my grade was determined by my rank in the class rather than the average of my scores, I was at the bottom of the heap. My GPA slipped so low I no longer qualified for the merit scholarship. In addition, the scholarship stipulated that you could not re-gain the scholarship if you later improved. My freshman year struggles cost me $16,000 over 4 years, even though I recovered and graduated with a good GPA.

    So, if you are comparing offers, beware of merit-based scholarship offers. Even the best students struggle with the transition to college. Be sure you understand the requirements for the scholarship and be aware of any risks involved so you can make a realistic comparison between financial packages.