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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Inspiration from Emily Esfahani Smith, Cus D’Amato, Steve Martin, and More

Once a month (or so), I share a dozen things that have inspired me to greater personal, professional, and financial success in my life. I hope they bring similar success to your life.

1. John Green on loving people and things

“People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos, is because things are being loved and people are being used.” – John Green

A friend of mine shared this quote with me recently, along with the comment that we’re utterly wasting the current technological revolution because we’re just chasing more and newer stuff without solving basic problems of human suffering.

I think this is the struggle of the twenty first century. We either have or will shortly have the technology needed to handle almost every kind of manual labor and low skill job in existence. What happens then? What happens when the vast majority of the world doesn’t have a skillset that’s worth employing? We’re walking straight toward that point, and we’re not even seriously talking about it.

What value do those lives have? Do we continue to buy into the idea that the only real value of human life is what that person can produce? That’s the idea we’ve operated under for the last few hundred years at least, but in that situation, we consign the majority of the human race to worthlessness.

Perhaps we need to start asking ourselves if people beyond our immediate circle have worth beyond what they can produce, because when things can exceed the production capacity of most people, when automated fleets of machines do all of the farming and all of the manufacturing and all of the transportation and all of the warehouse work and all of the unloading and loading and all of the package and mail delivery… what’s left?

It is easy to say, “Well, sure, all humans have worth,” but what does that mean in a world when the majority of people are essentially idle because all of their work is being done by machine? What is their purpose, if not to produce? How do we begin to transition to a world that shows them love beyond what they produce? Or do we? It’s a question I’m really struggling with right now, and it’s inspiring me to read a lot of challenging material.

2. The Seven Year Pilgrimage to Enlightenment

From the description:

For our latest episode of Endurance Test, LA-based director Ivan Olita explores the spiritual practice of Kaihōgyō, performed by the monks of Mount Hiei, Japan. The 1000-Day pilgrimage has been completed by less than 50 monks in over a century, and traditionally, any monk who cannot complete it must take their own life.

From the related article:

What these monks do is an example of the ultimate distillation of life. They go to the essential core, getting rid of literally anything that is unnecessary both physically and spiritually. The doiri, a nine-day retreat without food, water, or sleep, which takes place around the fifth year of the pilgrimage, is the most extreme example of this.

They lose themselves in the trees, rivers, purity.

The fact that they make this journey on foot does not mean the movement is the goal—it is just a means to reach enlightenment. They lose themselves in the trees, rivers, purity—entranced by the rhythm of the mountain, awakening their spirits with the pace of nature from night to sunrise, day after day.

Whenever I feel that I can’t achieve a goal, I think back to this video. These monks take on 1,000 marathons over the course of seven years, of which 100 are essentially marathon-and-a-half in length and 100 more are double length marathons. They do this for spiritual enlightenment. Along the way, they take on additional challenges, like the mentioned doiri.

I could fill myself with questions of why they are doing is, but the why isn’t really so important in the end – suffice it to say that they are seeking enlightenment. What’s meaningful is the focus on the goal and the willingness to give up so much to attain that goal. Spiritual enlightenment is central to their life and they take on a truly incredible goal to attain it.

What am I willing to take on to achieve my own goals? What can I do to achieve enlightenment, or any other thing I want from life? What am I willing to give up?

3. Mitch Albom on moving on

“In order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did and why you no longer need to feel it.” – Mitch Albom

The biggest mistakes that I make in life are ones that are driven by regret.

My past is filled with a ton of what-ifs. What if I had just stayed at my old job and kept The Simple Dollar as a side gig? What if I hadn’t said yes to Sarah and given up on another relationship that was dying on the vine? What if I hadn’t decided to sell The Simple Dollar in 2011 and remain just as a writer?

Sometimes I look down those other paths and I feel a bit of regret. I see what my life might have been like. I see relationships with people that I now miss quite a bit. I see business opportunities and intellectual challenges that seem wonderful.

It’s easy to get lost in those regrets. However, when I step back to right now and I look at those moments seriously, I realize I chose the right path. All of my feelings are on the side of the path chosen. Those other paths withered away for a reason – and often for many reasons.

Regret takes me away from the life I have now, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

4. Emily Esfahani Smith on how there’s more to life than being happy

From the description:

Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but what if there’s a more fulfilling path? Happiness comes and goes, says writer Emily Esfahani Smith, but having meaning in life — serving something beyond yourself and developing the best within you — gives you something to hold onto. Learn more about the difference between being happy and having meaning as Smith offers four pillars of a meaningful life.

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about the concept of contentment, which I view as a state in life where happiness occurs naturally from your day-to-day life. Hand in hand with that idea is that contentment comes hand in hand with finding some sort of meaning in life.

In this video, Smith touches on four pillars of finding meaning: belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling. On the surface, those seem almost “buzzword-y,” like they come out of a pop psychology book, but as I thought about them, I realized that a person who has those things really has a content life.

A person with belonging is someone with a healthy social circle around them, one that they’ve worked to build over time. It isn’t given to you.

A person with purpose is someone that just has a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Maybe it’s just being a parent, or a good spouse. Or maybe you have a job that you derive meaning from.

A person with transcendence is someone who can find wonder in everyday life and can achieve a state of flow where they’re wrapped in the task they’re doing and lose track of time.

A person with storytelling is someone who can simply work through the events in their life and set them in terms of redemption, growth, and love. What stories do you tell about yourself? Do you grow? Do you redeem yourself? Do you share stories with those elements? Do you think about situations in that way?

Those four things really are at the foundation of a content life, at least as I see it. This is a beautiful talk, well worth listening to.

5. Rumi on changing the world

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi

The only thing you can really change is yourself. You can try and try, but you can’t really fundamentally change anyone else unless they choose to open themselves up to you.

The only change that matters comes from a person who is in control of themselves and exhibits great virtues in the world, and that’s a person who has invested the time to change and improve themselves.

That person, by their normal actions, makes the immediate world around them better. This improves the lives of those nearby, and that ripples outward. Perhaps that person can inspire or mentor others to make similar changes, but, again, those changes come from within. The changes ripple outward.

In the end, though, it comes back to changing you. It comes back to making yourself better.

6. Tinycards

As many of you know, I started on a path recently to become a black belt in taekwondo. I chose taekwondo because I’ve long been interested in a martial art, there are inexpensive lessons near my home, and it has a self-defense and personal improvement focus that really appeals to me. It focuses greatly on self-defense, focus, and elements of personal growth. The vast majority of classes is spent on individual technique and then “sparring” with a partner which is mostly about developing defensive technique.

Part of learning taekwondo at my school is learning a pretty sizable number of move sequences intended to simulate certain fighting situations where you may have to respond defensively or certain sequences of moves that synchronize well together. The list of these that you need to know to achieve black belt status is impressive.

As a result, I’ve been seeking out a “flash card” tool I can use on my phone to review the moves and other pieces of information that I need to remember and master. Tinycards is hands down the best tool I’ve found for this.

What I’ve done is created a big set of “cards” that depict the name of the move on one side and a description of the moves on the other side. During belt progression tests, the instructor simply calls out the name of the move and the students are expected to be able to pull off the move immediately, so it requires knowledge of the moves expected in response to just the name of that moveset.

If you’re struggling to remember a large set of individual facts, I highly recommend Tinycards. It’s brilliant for this.

7. Caitlin Quattromani and Lauran Arledge on how their friendship survives opposing politics

From the description:

Can you still be friends with someone who doesn’t vote the same way as you? For Caitlin Quattromani and Lauran Arledge, two best friends who think very differently about politics, the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election could have resulted in hostility and disrespect. Hear about how they chose to engage in dialogue instead — and learn some simple tactics they’re using to maintain their bipartisan friendship.

For the last several months, I’ve been deeply inspired by a private group I’ve been a part of with several of my oldest friends and a few of their closest friends – people who I know socially but perhaps aren’t incredibly close to. The purpose of this private group was to have discussions on issues entirely without negative tone or personal attacks – they were entirely banned. If you wanted to criticize something, you had to come with a question, not a criticism. If you attacked someone, your message was deleted; if it happened too often, you’d be tossed out of the group. If you quoted a statistic, you had to provide a source for it.

The thing is, once we adopted those strict rules of being pleasant to each other and discussing issues in a positive fashion, we came to realize that we all had a lot in common with each other, far more than we would have initially thought on November 9, 2016. Most of us want many of the same things – security and freedom for ourselves and our family, opportunity and respect for the people of the world. The difference is in our route to those goals, but when we sit down and actually discuss those routes in a positive way, we can begin to see that other routes have positive elements and our own ideas perhaps aren’t as perfect as we once thought, either. In fact, there may just be some room for compromise and borrowing ideas from each other.

Strangely enough, having political discussions with friends with very different views in 2017 has actually brought some of us closer together.

Unfortunately, this is a private group of friends, so it’s also filled with in-jokes and coarse language and references to personal matters and so on – not something to be shared publicly.

Instead, I’m sharing this video, which really hits on the same points. Be positive. Focus on the common things that we share. Don’t waste your time with people or media that tries to paint whole groups of people as bad or immoral, because they’re really not. Talk, listen, and ask questions, and recognize that other people are generally good people who may just see a different path than you do.

8. Theodore Roosevelt on mind and morals

“To educate a man in mind, and not in morals, is to educate a menace to society.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I’m very happy with the education that my children receive at school. They are adept readers. They’re strong at arithmetic. They’re able to reason through difficult problems. I really couldn’t ask for more.

However, public schools are pretty weak in one area. They don’t really do much to teach character or morals. The rules structure there is mostly meant to keep children in their seats and focused on learning the material as presented, which is fine for what it is, but it doesn’t really teach much about having an internal sense of right and wrong.

I can also understand why schools shy away from such education. No one really wants their children to be taught morals and values that they themselves don’t 100% agree with.

Thus, such lessons fall back on the parents, which I consider to be a good thing provided that the children have involved parents.

I feel like my children have strong basic values and morals, but they’re growing older, and many of the moral and ethical questions that they’re starting to face are very challenging ones.

It’s up to me as a parent to guide them through this, to begin some of their final preparations for flying on their own through life. I want to send out good citizens, people who will make the world a better place than they found it. I relish the challenge.

(In case you’re wondering, one big step I’m taking is having dinner table conversations about this stuff, working through the right and wrong of complex issues and getting them to think about it while their focus is engaged with the rest of the family. The conversations we have and the resultant subtle behavior changes tell me that this is a good path to keep following.)

9. Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Singers – NPR Tiny Desk Concert

From the description:

It’s hard to think of an artist who’s brought more joy to more people, across more generations — and in more ways — than Steve Martin. In the 1970s, he won the hearts of young children for his playful appearances with The Muppets while simultaneously charming legions of older fans with his subversive standup routines. Later, as an actor, he wrote and starred in some of the most memorable comedies (and a few dramas) of all time, while writing books, plays and even a Broadway musical.

Throughout his 50-year career, one constant in Steve Martin’s life has been the banjo. It was a staple of his early standup shows and even fans who only wanted to laugh couldn’t help but marvel at his playing. Over the years, he’s continued to perform and record with country and bluegrass luminaries like Earl Scruggs, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill and others.

These days Martin is working on music full-time. He’s just released a stellar bluegrass album he recorded with The Steep Canyon Rangers called (perfectly) The Long-Awaited Album, a record filled with often hilarious story songs and world-class performances.

Martin’s set with The Steep Canyon Rangers at the Tiny Desk was at times thrilling, particularly his opening solo for the song “So Familiar.” But it was also playful, comical and a joy to witness. At the end of the typical three-song performance, the group graciously decided to do one more called “Caroline,” a hilarious, first-person account of how not to handle a breakup.

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with an older relative who was just baffled that Steve Martin would walk away from a stellar comedy career to play bluegrass music. Why on earth would he give up making so many people laugh to play bluegrass music at small venues and sell recordings that not many people listen to in the big scheme of things?

Well, for me, I find it hugely inspirational. Martin may have been really successful in the comedy world, but when he found that his passion was heading elsewhere, he didn’t just keep churning out comedies and making money with them when his heart wasn’t in it. He walked away. He had always loved bluegrass, but he now wanted to devote himself even more fully to it.

And so he did.

It’s difficult to walk away from something successful, even when your heart is calling you elsewhere. It’s courageous to do it, and inspirational to others when you do.

Keep playing that banjo. I’ll listen. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I happen to like bluegrass anyway and Steve Martin is a really good banjo player.)

10. Jack Dixon on change and results

“If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.” – Jack Dixon

It’s easy to set giant goals for yourself. I’m going to lose 100 pounds this year. I’m going to pay off all of my debts. I’m going to do this big thing or that big thing.

The problem is that those goals don’t have anything to do with how you actually live your day-to-day life. They don’t encourage you or motivate you to really change for the long term. You climb that mountain, and then what? You’re the same person with the same habits as before and you’ll eventually go right back to where you started.

The path to a better life is in changing that day to day routine. It’s in giving up the routines that caused you to get into debt or to get heavy in the first place and find better routines, and then mindfully practicing those routines until they become the new normal in your life.

Then, you’re a changed person. Your life path has changed. You’re headed to a new destination.

11. The Destructive Switch from Search to Social

A key quote:

Whereas the 2006 Internet was used to find specific information, the 2017 Internet is more used to see what’s out there to entertain you. You don’t go to Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, or Instagram because you’re looking for something, rather, you want to see what it has found for you.

On the Internet in 2006, you were focused on pulling out what you wanted. Unless you were reading the news, whatever you read was something you had sought out. But now, most of your information is pushed onto you. You no longer enter the Internet the way you would a public library, where you browse and pick out what you want to read in peace, it’s more like the Las Vegas strip, where you’re bombarded with demands for your attention and need not exert any effort to be entertained.

It’s a subtle change, and most of us haven’t noticed it happening, but it’s been damaging to our minds in a few ways. Ways that don’t feel evident in our day to day, but when we step back and look at them, are glaringly obvious.

The clearest problem is what it’s done to our attention spans. How easily can you sit down with a book for an hour without checking your social media or email? Can you read through this whole article without switching to another tab or window at least once? What about at work, do you get a few hours of deep work without checking the news, email, or social media? Or do you jump around multiple times a minute?

I notice the same thing. If I have an internet device near me, I find myself jumping around constantly, looking at all kinds of information sources that are foisting information on me. Inherently, I have some level of trust in those sources of information, and they shape what I think, but the problem is that when I’m doing this, I am never thinking deeply.

The only solution I’ve found is to regularly disconnect. I turn off my phone and put it away completely. I turn off my computer. I then just go do things that don’t involve electronic devices. I go on a walk in the woods. I read a book and take notes on it sometimes. I make a complex meal. I play a game with friends or with family. I help my children practice at soccer. That time is incredibly inspirational for me. It fills me with energy, with thoughts, and with peace. I highly recommend it.

12. Cus D’Amato on a beaten man

“To see a man beaten not by a better opponent, but by himself, is a tragedy.” – Cus D’Amato

It’s one thing to be beaten by something outside of our control. A great opponent. A disaster or an illness that we couldn’t prevent.

It’s another thing entirely to be beaten by ourselves. To give up. To throw in the towel. To not try with our whole heart.

The thing is, it’s rarely the outside world that beats you. Almost always, people beat themselves. That’s the greatest tragedy of all.

The post Inspiration from Emily Esfahani Smith, Cus D’Amato, Steve Martin, and More appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Withdrawal Rate and What It Means for You

One of the most important factors to consider when thinking about retirement is your withdrawal rate. It comes up time and time again in articles and books on retirement, but is rarely fully explained and often becomes a topic that people gloss over.

Let’s change that.

Withdrawal rate simply refers to the amount of money you’re taking out of your savings each year (unless otherwise specified). So, if you’re taking $500 a year out of your savings account, that’s your withdrawal rate.

Most of the time, withdrawal rate is expressed as a percentage. So, let’s say you have $100 in your savings account and you withdraw $1 per year, your withdrawal rate would be 1%. Makes sense, right?

Here’s where things get tricky. With almost all investments, that investment continues to earn money during the years when you’re withdrawing money. So, with that savings account example above, it might be earning 1% interest during that year, so although you might withdraw $1 per year, it’s also earning $1 per year. So, at the end of the year, you will have taken out $1 but the account will still have a balance of $100 – the $1 in interest plus the $99 that you left in the account.

That’s why withdrawal rate is usually based on the amount in the account when you started making regular withdrawals.

Let’s clear this up with another savings account example. You have $1,000 in there, and you’re committing to withdrawing $10 each year. Your withdrawal rate is 1%. However, that account earns 1.25% interest. So, each year, you’re withdrawing $10, but during the first year, the account actually earns $12.50 in interest, leaving it with a balance of $1,002.50 at the end of the year. The next year, your withdrawal rate is still 1% and you’re still withdrawing $10 (because that’s all based on the starting balance of $1,000), but it’s earning 1.25% on the current balance, which means that it earns $12.53 in interest that year and ends up with a balance of $1,005.03 at the end of the year.

The key thing to notice here is that the withdrawal rate and the annual withdrawn amount stay the same, but the account balance can actually change over time. The withdrawal rate is based on the initial account balance and thus doesn’t change.

So, what does this all have to do with retirement?

Retirement calculations follow this same exact principle. When you retire, your goal should be for your retirement savings to last the rest of your life, right? You don’t want your money to run out when you’ve still got years of life left in you.

So, what people typically do in retirement is that they figure out a withdrawal rate and then withdraw that amount each year from their account. Let’s say, for example, that they have $1,000,000 in retirement savings at the start of retirement and decide on a 4% withdrawal rate. That means that, each year, they’re going to take 4% of $1,000,000 – or $40,000 – out of their account.

In other words, you might retire at 65, you hope to last until you’re in your 90s, and so you want to be able to withdraw 4% – $40,000 a year – for 30 years.

If you do the simple math – $40,000 times 30 – you’ll see that over those thirty years, you’re pulling $1.2 million out of the account, but it only has a balance of $1 million at the start. That means that the money that stays in the account had better be invested well, in order to earn that extra $200,000 in investment income.

Let’s play around with this a bit. Let’s say you choose a withdrawal rate of 5%. That would mean you’d take out $50,000 a year over 30 years, or $1.5 million. Your investments would have to come up with another $500,000 along the way as you’re drawing it down. That’s a pretty tall order!

On the other hand, you might choose a withdrawal rate of 3%. That would mean you’re taking out $30,000 a year for 30 years, or $900,000. In that case, you can actually afford to lose $100,000 in investments along the way and still be okay!

What you can see here is that the higher your withdrawal rate, the less safe everything is. The more money you take out each year, the less likely it becomes that your investment is going to last from the start of retirement to your passing.

(Yes, that’s an obvious point, but it’s an important one.)

Of course, you have another factor pushing the other way. If you go for a safer withdrawal rate, that means less money each year for you to live on. The person that takes $30,000 out of their investments each year might be safer than the person who takes out $50,000, but they have far less to live on.

The trick, of course, is to find a balance, and that balance is called the safe withdrawal rate. It’s the percentage of the initial balance you can take out each year and expect, with a high likelihood, that your investments will last until you pass away.

Obviously, a safe withdrawal rate comes with some assumptions. It assumes that you have a certain number of years to live between retirement and death – usually, thirty years is used. Also, it depends a great deal on how your money is invested and what the economy is like when you’re in retirement. Typically, a safe withdrawal rate is calculated with the idea that you’re invested fairly aggressively and that the market does pretty poorly by historical measures over that timeframe.

So, what exactly is a safe withdrawal rate, then? Most experts tend to agree that a safe withdrawal rate for retirees with a heavily diversified 401(k) is somewhere between 3% and 4%, with a few suggesting a bit lower, as low as 2.5%.

In other words, if you set your withdrawal rate at 3% when you retire and stick to that amount and your retirement investments are diversified but have a healthy amount in stocks, most experts agree that your retirement savings will last you for 30 years (at least).

Of course, you can set a different withdrawal rate if you choose. A higher one means that there’s a lower likelihood of your money lasting for 30 years; a lower rate means that it’s extremely likely to last for 30 years with money left over at that point. The choice is up to you.

How is this useful in retirement planning? You can use that “safe withdrawal rate” to see how much you’ll have to live on when you retire.

For example, let’s say you think you’ll have $600,000 saved up when you retire. If you multiply that by the safe withdrawal rate of 3%, you get $18,000 per year. Is that enough, along with Social Security and any other benefits you might have? What about inflation – remember, prices will go up, too. You might want to consider accelerating your savings.

A safe withdrawal rate simply helps you get a realistic picture of what your finances will look like after you retire. It suggests how much you can safely withdraw each year, and you can use that along with your Social Security estimates to figure out if that’s enough or if you need to start bumping up your retirement savings.

Good luck!

The post Withdrawal Rate and What It Means for You appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

When It’s Too Costly to Retire

A few days ago, the Washington Post published an amazing article by Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan entitled The New Reality of Old Age in America. Right off the bat, the article sets the tone for what’s to come:

“I’m going to work until I die,” says one 74-year-old in a generation finding it too costly to retire.

That quote comes from Richard Dever, who works for $10 an hour as a temporary maintenance worker at a campground. His job, at age 74, requires him to mow grass, empty trash bins, swab shower stalls, and all of the other types of manual labor tasks that are needed to maintain a nice campground.

As the article discusses, Dever is doing this because, without that $10 per hour, he and his wife wouldn’t be able to live:

In addition to their $10-an-hour paychecks, the couple receives $22,000 a year from Social Security, an amount that has barely budged while health-care and other costs have soared.

“If we didn’t work, our money would run out real quick,” Richard said.

How did they get there?

In 1960, when John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were running for president, Richard started repairing homes and Jeannie made root beer floats in a drugstore back home in southern Indiana, near the Kentucky border. Later, they ran a business that put vinyl siding on homes and a little start-up called Southwest Stuff that sold Western-themed knickknacks.

They raised two children and lived well enough but never had much extra cash to put away. After a lifetime of working, they have a small mobile home in Indiana, a couple of modest life insurance policies and $5,000 in savings.

The thing is, this isn’t an unusual story. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, 19.7% of Social Security recipients 65 or over receive 100% of their income from Social Security, and another 33.4% receive over 90% of their income from Social Security (meaning they have a very tiny nest egg).

There are no pensions. There is no 401(k). There’s nothing other than Social Security.

It’s worth noting that Social Security is less income than a full time minimum wage job. A person working 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year makes more than a person solely relying on Social Security. What’s worse is that Social Security benefits are growing at a rate that’s slower than the cost of living for people in that age bracket, meaning that each year, the Social Security checks buy less and less.

Even with Medicare, once you figure in the cost of health care for people in those groups, there’s not enough money to go around to keep food on the table, a roof over their head, and clothes on their back. So, they work.

I was perhaps even more stunned by the story of Joanne Molnar later on in the article:

A few miles up the road from the Devers, Joanne Molnar, 64, and her husband, Mark, 62, live in their RV and work at another campground.

For 21 years, Joanne worked as a manager for a day-care company in Fairfield, Conn. She said she paid regularly into a 401(k) account that, at one point, was worth more than $40,000.

By the time she left the company in 2008, however, its value had fallen to $2,000.

Molnar said the company’s owner thought he was doing his 100 employees a favor by managing their retirement accounts. “But he didn’t know what he was doing,” she said. Instead of being angry with him, she’s furious with the 401(k) system.

“It stinks,” she said.

A final quote, from Joanne’s husband:

“Forget the government. It’s got to be ‘We the People,’ ” he said. “We’re on our own. You have to fend for yourself.”

I strongly encourage you to read the whole article, as it’s a great piece of journalism – very readable and clear, mixing real-life stories with the data that shows how widespread and serious the challenges really are.

Let’s start unpacking this.

What If You’re in This Boat?

Let’s say you’re in that 50% of 65-and-older Americans who receive 90% or more of their income from Social Security. What exactly do you do?

Obviously, you’re probably going to have to work to supplement your income unless you forego some very basic things, like health care. The money simply isn’t there to keep up with health care, keep food on the table, keep a roof over your head, keep the power on, keep clothes on your back, and so forth. If you want to make ends meet just with Social Security, a job is probably going to be a part of the picture for you. There’s no way to escape that picture.

Again, stating the obvious, but frugal living is absolutely essential. If you’re in this situation, frugality is already a big part of your life, but make sure that you’re really maximizing it. Do you need that cable or satellite service? Do you need that cell phone service? Do you need that home internet service? Do you need your car? Could you move to a smaller place with fewer expenses? Those are serious questions to be asking yourself.

You should also find out if you’re eligible for any additional community and local services. It is highly likely that, if you’re in this situation, you qualify for usage of a local food pantry or clothing pantry. Use it. That’s what a local food pantry and a local clothing pantry are there for. It’s there for you. It’s there to make sure that no one has to make a choice between eating and having heat in the winter. It’s to make sure no one has to choose between having warm clothes and being able to afford a doctor’s visit. Your community wants to help you, but you have to go there and get the help. You have to take the final step to bring it to your door. Do it.

While you’re visiting such places, ask the staff about additional resources. People working at food and clothing pantries care deeply about your situation and will help you in any way they can. If they don’t know of any services, they will know of people to direct you to who can help you find additional services. It’s often hard to find what’s available at low cost and what’s available for free for seniors with low income in an area, so you can start this journey by simply finding a local food pantry, going there and signing up, and asking them what the next step is.

Beyond that, there’s not much you can do. It’s very unlikely that there will be significant enough changes in federal and state programs in the next few years to really help with your situation. It’s really up to you, unfortunately. Live frugally and take advantage of the services available to you now.

What If You’re Afraid of Heading There?

I want you to stop right now and scroll back up and re-read the section above that relates to those who are 65 and older who primarily have to live off of their Social Security benefits. No matter how you spell it out, that’s a challenging situation. There simply isn’t enough money to go around, and the typical options of improving income by going back to school or angling on your career path really don’t work at that point.

If you’re on a financial path that’s going to likely put you in that situation, you need to do what you can now to change that path. Here’s what you can start doing right now.

If you’re not saving for retirement, start. The reality is that you simply cannot rely on the government to provide you with adequate resources to live in retirement. Social Security, as it exists right now, isn’t enough for most people to cover Medicare costs and basic living expenses. You’re going to have to supplement it with either additional work or savings, and the only one of those two you can handle right now is savings. So, get started.

Your best bet in most situations is to simply open up your own individual retirement account. For most Americans, the best option is to simply open a Roth IRA at a large, reliable investment firm – I use Vanguard for my own Roth IRA. Sign up there, select a straightforward investment (I suggest choosing a Target Retirement Fund for a year that’s somewhere around your 70th birthday), and then choose to start automatically depositing money into it. All of that can be done online, quite easily.

If your employer offers a 401(k) or 403(b) or TSP plan and matches your contributions, then you should choose that over the Roth IRA and get every dime of matching money. Sign up for that plan and contribute enough to at least make sure that you’re getting the matching funds your employer offers.

Start now. Start socking away something. It is the best thing you can do for yourself.

If you are saving for retirement, save more. What if you’re already saving? Save more. Suck it up, cut out a few expensive things, and bump up your savings to the next level. Raise your 401(k) contributions by another percent or two. Add another $25 a month to your Roth IRA contributions.

Whatever you’re saving, it is very likely that more savings will be a big positive down the road. It’s going to help you avoid a situation like the people in that article. It can make the difference between working because you have to when you’re 75, or working because you want to at a meaningful job of your choosing.

You have the power to choose to save more now, and in doing so, you give yourself the power to choose a better life later. Do it.

Understand your retirement savings. It’s not enough just to save, either. You should never, ever fully trust someone else’s knowledge or decisions regarding your retirement savings. This is your future. You owe it to yourself to put in the work to actually learn about retirement savings.

Here’s your homework: Go to the local library and check out a copy of The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning. In my opinion, it’s still the best single volume on practical retirement savings out there. Get it. Read it.

When I say “read it,” I don’t just mean shuffle through the pages and skip any sections that seem “hard” or that aren’t clear to you. Those are the important sections. What you should do is get out a notebook and a pen, read the book slowly, write down anything that seems remotely important that you may want to remember, and, most important of all, if you hit something you don’t fully understand, stop and write it down, and then go to the computer or your smartphone and figure out what it means. This is an absolute must. If you hit something you don’t understand and then keep on trucking, all you’re going to do is get more and more and more lost, and thus the rest of the book is a waste of your time.

Yes, this will take a while. I often spend 30 or 40 hours processing a book that is challenging to me. I take tons and tons of notes on books I’m trying to understand and incorporate into my knowledge of the world. I stop constantly to look up words and ideas and understand them. It’s really okay to do that – in fact, it’s the best way.

If you can tackle the entirety of The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning that way, you’ll have a pretty strong understanding of your retirement savings options. You’ll know what pitfalls to look out for. You’ll know what choices are before you. You’ll know how to allocate your money (we’ll get to that more in a second). In short, you’ll be able to steer your retirement savings away from some of the pitfalls discussed in the Washington Post article above.

Diversify your retirement savings. One of the big lessons that a good retirement book will teach you is the need to diversify your retirement savings. This is so important that I’m actually mentioning it here as a bullet point. You have to diversify.

You absolutely should not have all of your money in one individual stock investment. If your company’s 401(k) puts your money just into company stock, that’s a very, very risky move. You absolutely need to have most of your money in other things, so you need to make that happen by whatever means you can.

It’s okay to have most of your money in a single index fund or mutual fund, because those investments are at least somewhat diversified within themselves. A Target Retirement Fund, for example, is already diversified, so it’s a good place to put most or even all of your money.

Just avoid having all of your retirement savings in the stock of one single company or in one specific real estate investment. That’s a giant flashing danger sign.

Plan ahead now for the kind of work you might do as a second act in the first years of retirement. It’s likely that even with more retirement savings, you may still be in a position where you have to work in what you may consider your “retirement years.” That’s okay, but you should come to terms with that now and plan for it now.

What might your second act look like? Would it just be working at a campground or greeting people at Wal-Mart? Or are there ways you can continue to ply some of the skills you have from your main career or skills that you might have from hobbies or side gigs?

Take a look at what you’re good at, what skills you have, and what things you enjoy doing. At the same time, take a look at people in your life who are in their 70s and seem to be doing interesting things. Talk to them. See how they got there. See if they have any advice for you as to how you could prepare yourself to be in a similar situation when you reach that age.

Even if retirement is closing in, you can still prepare yourself so that the landing is a lot less rough. You just need to start now.

What If You’re Young?

Now, what if you’re young? What if you’re young enough that the idea of old age and retirement seems incomprehensibly far off? (To tell the truth, I’m still in this boat to an extent. Even with all the long-term thinking and planning that I do, I still struggle to visualize myself in my 70s.)

The first thing you can do is follow most of the advice from the preceding section for people moving toward retirement. Start saving now. The earlier you start saving, the better. If you’re already saving, see if you can save more. Learn about retirement savings – and don’t just “learn” about it, actually learn. Those are the biggest steps you can take to ensure your own future.

What else?

I think the most important step is to be aware of what the government is doing on both the state and national level with regards to your future. I’m not going to suggest a political stance that you should have – everyone has an opinion, and most of them are wrong, right? What I am suggesting is that you become aware of what actions the government is taking (or considering taking) and how your representatives on the state and national level are participating in the decision-making process behind those actions.

Along with that, make sure that you understand the facts about what is going on. Don’t rely on the opinions being served up by your media source of choice. Read about bills and changes being considered from a variety of sources, even ones that you may not fully agree with in terms of their editorial stance. Get lots of angles before you make up your mind.

Along with that, do some thinking on your own. What do you think the role of the government should be in helping people in retirement? How do we pay for that? Is that truly a fair way of doing things? Don’t just latch onto an easy opinion. Think it through. It’s important, not just for you, but for everyone.

Being involved does require some effort. Being involved beyond simply being on “one side” of the issues requires even more effort. It’s worth it. You’ll not only be able to vote sensibly in the future and pick people that really reflect your views, but you’ll also be able to talk sensibly to others regardless of their opinions, find common ground, and perhaps even change some minds.

Final Thoughts

I think we can all agree that finding yourself in retirement age without the means to actually retire is a difficult tragedy. It often means that a lifetime of hard work has simply led to even more years of hard work, and it often means that people are in situations where they are struggling with the basic essentials – food, water, clothing, and shelter.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to that problem. Given the current state of public retirement support in the United States, people absolutely have to supplement Social Security and Medicare with additional income in order to be able to avoid working (or, at least, avoid extremely difficult choices) in their final years.

If you’re younger than retirement age, you have a chance to take action and avoid this situation yourself. If you’re substantially younger, you can get involved with figuring out a better solution for us all, because you have time to shape the system that you’ll be using when you arrive at that age.

It’s your future. It’s our future. Take action.

Good luck.

Related Articles:

The post When It’s Too Costly to Retire appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Should You Use an Auto Repair Shop Recommended by Your Insurance Company?

When your car has been damaged in an accident, one of the most important things you can do is find a quality auto repair shop that will make it truly roadworthy.

Your insurance company may offer to relieve you of the burden of finding a reputable repair shop by giving you a list of its own preferred providers. This is a tempting offer when you’re in a hurry to get back on the highway and not eager to check out repair shops on your own.

Insurers typically tell policyholders that they have carefully checked out these businesses to make sure they do quality work at reasonable prices. Your carrier may offer to guarantee any work that is performed by shops on its preferred list.

But although these shops may be fully qualified, they do have a business relationship with your insurance company. And by sending you to these shops, insurance companies are gaining more control over their costs. Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), a nonprofit consumer group, says motorists usually are better off finding their own auto shops.

“What you want to do is find the repair shop that does the best job,” she says. “That isn’t necessarily the one they would recommend because they’re into cutting costs. In general, it’s a good idea to pick your own place. Do your own shopping. Look at reviews and decide on your own where you want your car to go.”

Harvey Rosenfield, an attorney and founder of the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog organization, says many consumers don’t realize that state insurance regulations around the country typically allow them to choose their own repair shops following accidents.

Because insurance-affiliated repair shops depend on insurance carriers for their business, in some cases they may more concerned with how much they’re costing your insurer than how well they’re repairing your vehicle, Rosenfeld says.
“You’re at a disadvantage when you’re dealing with a car repair facility whose principle allegiance is to the insurance company,” he says.

Not everyone says you need to be worried about finding your own repair shop. John Espenschied, the principal with Insurance Brokers Group, says shops recommended by insurance companies “are under constant review for quality, workmanship and customer service.”

Many people choose preferred provider auto shops for greater convenience, says Jim Armitage, a longtime insurance agent in Arcadia, Calif. Preferred providers typically bill insurers directly, and the policyholder doesn’t have to deliver a check, he noted.

“They do everything electronically,” he says. “The shop gets paid directly. It’s a more streamlined process.”

If you decide to accept an insurer’s offer to back up the work of a preferred provider, it’s a good idea to get the guarantee in writing to avoid misunderstandings later. Rosenfeld says it’s also important to make sure the repair shop you choose uses original auto parts provided by the manufacturer. He holds that using parts that aren’t original could pose a safety risk.

Tips for choosing the right auto repair shop

If you decide to find your own auto shop, here are steps you can take to improve your chances of having your car repaired properly:

Get recommendations. Ask friends and family members if they can recommend a repair shop that has done good work for them.

Do your homework. Armitage suggests using online consumer-review websites such as Yelp to see what other consumers have to say about the repair shops you’re considering. Another good source of information is your local Better Business Bureau. If you encounter a lot of complaints, consider going elsewhere.

Get several estimates. You won’t be certain of the full scope of the work that needs to be done unless you get repair estimates from several repair shops. The idea is to make sure that you don’t take your car back on the highway until it’s completely repaired and safe to drive.

Check for cleanliness. The nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence recommends finding a tidy, well-organized shop with modern equipment. This may seem unimportant, but the institute holds that it reflects the level of the shop’s professionalism.

Always follow your instincts

It’s important to find an auto repair shop that you trust. If you aren’t comfortable with a shop for any reason, don’t use it. If someone is disrespectful or uncommunicative when you’re seeking an estimate, don’t count on them to repair your car and stand behind the work. There’s usually another repair shop just down the road.

Related Articles: 

The post Should You Use an Auto Repair Shop Recommended by Your Insurance Company? appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

100+ Scholarships for International Students (2017-18)

The “American Dream” can mean something different to everyone. For international students hoping to attend school in the United States of America, that dream means getting accepted to and paying for college. It also comes with a price tag, as the cost of higher education in the U.S. continues to rise.

Applying for scholarships is one of the best ways for students – both domestically and internationally – to offset the costs of higher education. There are thousands of scholarships available each year, ranging from academic and athletic scholarships to need-based and creative. However, the scholarship application space is cluttered with information, and not all of it is factual. Additionally, you need to be wary of scams before applying.

To help ease the process for you, we’ve put together a guide to navigating the scholarship application process, as well as a complete list of scholarships for international students.

Start the process now by exploring our list of 100+ Scholarships for International Students (2017-18)!

Note: The information provided within this guide is correct as of the time of publication. Some information may have changed after the publish date, impacting accuracy.

The big list of scholarships for international students

       
       
Scholarship Amount Due date
15-Minute MindSumo Mini-Scholarships Up to $1,000 Rolling
1800wheelchair.com Scholarship $500 May 1, 2018
AES Engineering Scholarship Program $500 Oct. 6, 2017
AHIMA Foundation Student Merit Scholarship Up to $2,500 Sept. 30, 2017
Airbus Leadership Grant from Women in Aviation International $5,000 Nov. 13, 2017
Airports Council International – North America Scholarship $5,000 Dec. 15, 2017
April 15, 2018
AJ Madison Scholarship Program $1,000 Dec. 1, 2017
American Association of University Women Educational Foundation International Fellowships Up to $30,000 Dec. 1, 2017
American Copy Editors Society Education Fund Scholarship Up to $2,500 Nov. 15, 2017
American Occupational Therapy Foundation Scholarship Up to $5,000 Oct. 31, 2017
Annual CGTrader Scholarship $500 to $2,000 Jan. 15, 2018
Annual Healthcare and Life Sciences Scholarship from The Expert Institute $1,000 Dec. 31, 2017
Archie Motley Memorial Scholarships for Minority Students from the Midwest Archives Conference $750 Mar. 1, 2018
Asia-Pacific Community Service Award from Golden Key $1,500 Sept. 30, 2017
Asia-Pacific Outstanding Academic Achievement Award from Golden Key $1,000 Sept. 30, 2017
Asia-Pacific Postgraduate Study Award from Golden Key $1,000 Sept. 30, 2017
Asian Cultural Council Individual Grants Up to $10,000 Nov. 9, 2017
Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE) International Scholarship Up to $2,500 Feb. 2018
Bachus & Schanker, LLC Scholarship $2,000 Nov. 30, 2017
BeSkinHost.com Scholarship Program $1,500 Nov. 25, 2017
Be the Future Scholarship from 'Internal Auditor' magazine $1,000 Sept. 30, 2018
Nov. 30, 2018
Jan. 31, 2018
The Boeing Company Career Enhancement Scholarship from Women in Aviation International $2,500 Nov. 12, 2017
Brown Wharton & Brothers Scholarship $500 Dec. 1, 2017
Build U. Scholarship from Buildium $2,500 Nov. 1, 2017
“Business Plan” Scholarship For Students With Disabilities from FitSmallBusiness.com $1,000 Nov. 1, 2017
Carole Fielding Grant from the University Film & Video Association $1,000 Dec. 15, 2017
ChameleonJohn Annual Student Scholarship $2,000 Dec. 15, 2017
Chereddi NarayanaRao and Radhamanohari Scholarship from the Telugu Association of North America $2,000 Sept. 30, 2018
Chuan Ai Lu Engstrom Memorial Scholarship $1,000 Dec. 1, 2017
Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program $50,000 TBD 2018
Comedy Defensive Driving Scholarship $1,000 Dec. 31, 2017
May 31, 2018
Community Veterinary Partners College Scholarship $1,000 Oct. 1, 2017
April 1, 2018
Costa Rican Vacations scholarship $1,000 Feb. 15, 2018
The Cover Guy 5th Annual Scholarship $500 July 1, 2018
CPR Certification Institute Scholarship $2,000 Sept. 30, 2017
Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation from the Japan-American Society of Hawaii Tuition + $25,000 for living expenses Nov. 24, 2017
DEED Educational Scholarships from the American Public Power Association $2,000 Oct. 15, 2017
Feb. 15, 2018
Dispensable Soccer Scholarship $500 Mar. 1, 2018
Dr. Elemér and Éva Kiss Scholarship Fund from the Hungarian American Coalition $1,000 TBD 2018
The Elie Wiesel Foundation Prize in Ethics Up to $5,000 Dec. 11, 2017
Elva Knight Research Grant from the International Reading Association $5,000 Jan. 15, 2018
The Emily Murray Student Scholarship from The Hastings Center $750 stipend + 2-4 week residency Apr. 15, 2018
Engineering Technology Scholarships from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. $5,000 Dec. 1, 2017
Fight For Sight Summer Student Fellowship $2,500 Nov. 15, 2017
FormSwift Startup Scholarship $1,000 Sept. 15, 2017
Dec. 15, 2017
The Future of Bariatric Surgery Scholarship from the Bariatric Surgery Source $1,000 Jan. 1, 2018
July 1, 2018
Gadde Sitaramamma and Tirupataiah Scholarship from the Telugu Association of North America $2,000 Sept. 30, 2018
Gear Up Your Future Scholarship from Gearupz $2,000 Nov. 19, 2017
GEICO Life Scholarship from Golden Key $1,000 Dec. 15, 2017
Geraldine “Polly” Bednash Scholarship from the American Association of Colleges of Nursery and CastleBranch $5,000 Oct. 31, 2017
Jan. 31, 2018
GOGO Charters National Scholarship for Immigrants and Refugees $10,000 Spring 2018
Golden Key Graduate Scholar Award $10,000 Dec. 15, 2017
Golden Key Research Grant $2,000 Dec. 15, 2017
Golden Key Undergraduate Achievement Award $5,000 Dec. 15, 2017
Google Lime Scholarships for Students with Disabilities $10,000 TBD 2018
Green Law Firm Nursing Home & Elderly Care Scholarship $1,500 Dec. 31, 2017
Guthikonda BasavapunnaRao and Umadevi Scholarship from the Telugu Association of North America $2,000 Sept. 30, 2018
Guthikonda Ramabrahmam and Balamani Scholarship from the Telugu Association of North America $2,000 Sept. 30, 2018
Grungo Colarulo Giving Back to the Community Scholarship $500 Oct. 31, 2017
Healthcare Training Scholarship Plan from the National CPR Association $2,000 Nov. 30, 2017
HealthGrad.com Leadership Scholarship $2,000 Nov. 1, 2017
https://www.literacyworldwide.org/about-us/awards-grants/ila-helen-m-robinson-grant $1,200 Jan. 15, 2018
Hemingway Research Grants from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum $2,500 Nov. 1, 2017
The Homes.Com #FeelsLikeHome Scholarship $1,000 Oct. 13, 2017
Honest. Wild. Beautiful. Scholarship Program from Annmarie Skin Care $1,000 Sept. 30, 2017
HubShout Internet Marketing Scholarship $1,000 Nov. 1, 2017
Mar. 1, 2018
International Scholars Program for Young Vascular Surgeons from the Society for Vascular Surgery $5,000 Aug. 2018
Jane C. Waldbaum Archaeological Field School Scholarships from the Archaeological Institute of America $1,000 Mar. 1, 2018
Japan-IMF Scholarship Program for Advanced Studies Full tuition Jan. 31, 2018
John J. McKetta Undergraduate Scholarships from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers $5,000 June 2018
John R. Mott Scholarship Foundation Up to $10,000 Apr. 15, 2018
JRC Insurance Group Scholarship $1,000 Oct. 15, 2017
Kenneth Warren Scholarship from Slots.Info $2,000 Nov. 15, 2017
Kerri Castellini Women's Leadership Scholarship from Price Benowitz LLP $500 Nov. 30, 2017
KidGuard for Education Essay Scholarship for University Students $1,000 Dec. 1, 2017
Kodali Veeraiah and Sarojini Scholarship from the Telugu Association of North America $2,000 Sept. 30, 2018
LabRoots Scholarship $2,000 Nov. 30, 2017
Leonora Lindsley Memorial Fellowship Up to $12,000 Dec. 1, 2017
ListShack.com' Marketing Scholarship $1,000 Dec. 14, 2017
Live Your Dream: Education and Training Awards for Women from Soroptimist International of the Americas Up to $10,000 Nov. 15, 2017
The Lydia Cabrera Awards from The Conference on Latin American History $5,000 Oct. 15, 2017
March of Dimes Dr. Margaret C. Freda Graduate Nursing Scholarship Award $5,000 Jan. 12, 2018
Market Inspector Scholarship In Support of Those Under the Revised US Travel Ban $1,000 Oct. 31, 2017
Microsoft Scholarship Program Partial Tuition Jan. 26, 2018
Money Metals Exchange Scholarship Program Up to $2,000 Sept. 30, 2017
Monte R. Mitchell Global Scholarship from the Aircraft Electronics Association $1,500 Apr. 1, 2018
Mosmiller Intern Scholarship Program from the American Floral Endowment $2,000 + internship Oct. 1, 2017
Mar. 1, 2018
MuchGames.com Research Grant $1,500 Sept. 30, 2017
Mulberrys Garment Care for Aspiring Entrepreneurs Scholarship $1,000 Dec. 8, 2017
MyProjectorLamps.com Annual Scholarship $500 Sept. 30, 2017
National Arab American Medical Association Foundation Scholarships $1,000 July 1, 2018
NearMeFinds Scholarship $1,000 Oct. 12, 2017
The NextGen Scholarship from P.E.R.K. Consulting $1,000 Feb. 2018
Parking Solutions Scholarship from Parking BOXX $1,000 Oct. 15, 2017
PAVE 2017 Student Design Competition $7,500 Oct. 31, 2017
P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship $12,500 Dec. 15, 2017
Percy Martinez Law Scholarship $5,000 Dec. 31, 2017
PowerScout Smart Energy Home Scholarship Award $1,000 Nov. 30, 2017
Pretty Lightroom Presets Bi-Annual Scholarship $500 Dec. 15, 2017
June 15, 2017
Price Benowitz Social Justice Scholarship $1,500 Apr. 30, 2018
QASymphony Software Testing Scholarship $1,000 Nov. 1, 2017
QS Graduate Scholar Award from Golden Key $2,500 Dec. 15, 2017
Raymond Davis Scholarship from the Society of Imaging Science and Technology $1,000 Oct. 1, 2017
Reston Limousine Scholarship $1,000 Dec. 10, 2017
Rice-Cullimore Scholarships from ASME International $2,000 Feb. 15, 2018
Richard D. Stehly Memorial Scholarship from the American Concrete Institute $3,000 Nov. 3, 2017
Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Up to $10,000 Jan. 29, 2018
Robert E. Altenhofen Memorial Scholarship from The Imaging & Geospatial Information Society $2,000 Oct. 4, 2017
Robert Guthrie PKU Scholarship and Awards from the National PKU News Up to $3,500 Feb. 15, 2018
The Rosenblatt and Herbert Scholarships from the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers Up to $6,000 June 1 2018
Ruth Abernathy Presidential Undergraduate Scholarship from the Society of Health and Physical Educators $1,250 Oct. 15, 2017
Scandinavian Society of Cincinnati Foundation Scholarship/Grant Up to $1,000 Oct. 1, 2017
Jan. 1, 2018
April 1, 2018
July 1, 2018
Scholarship Essay Content by EssayPro $500 Sept. 20, 2017
Scholarship for Growing the Future from the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association $2,000 Jan. 15, 2018
Aug. 15, 2018
Scholarship for Outdoor Lovers from Nature Immerse $2,000 Nov. 24, 2017
SelfScore International Student Scholarship $5,000 Sept. 28, 2017
https://www.senioradvice.com/senior-caregiver-scholarship-spring-2018 $1,000 Jan. 15, 2018
SeniorAdvice.com Senior Volunteer Scholarship $1,000 Jan. 15, 2018
ShearComfort Scholarship $1,500 Oct. 15, 2017
SHRM Foundation Student Undergraduate Scholarships from the Society for Human Resource Management Up to $5,000 Oct. 10, 2017
Simplilearn Students Scholarship Program $1,000 Dec. 1, 2017
Skilled Labor Shortage Scholarship by HomeAdvisor $5,000 Dec. 15, 2017
Smile Marketing's Bi-Annual Dental Scholarship $500 Mar. 15, 2018
Society of Exploration Geophysicists $2,500 Mar. 1, 2018
Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers Graduate Scholarships Up to $20,000 Feb. 1, 2018
Society of Plastic Engineers Pittsburgh Petroleum Section Scholarship Program $2,500 Feb. 1, 2018
SWAAAE Academic Scholarship $1,000 Dec. 8, 2017
Ted Parnell Scholarship from the Yukon Conservation Society $500 June 30 2018
Transtutors Essay Scholarship $1,000 Nov. 30, 2017
Undergraduate Engineering Scholarships from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. Up to $10,000 Dec. 1, 2017
Unpakt College Scholarship $1,000 Dec. 15, 2017
Vallabhaneni Sukundamma and Lakshmaiah Scholarship from the Telugu Association of North America $2,000 Sept. 30, 2018
Vertical Flight Foundation Scholarships Up to $6,000 Feb. 5, 2018
Ward Law Group Better Future Scholarship $500 Nov. 30, 2017
Why Decor Matters Scholarship from Southwestern Rugs Depot $500 Jan. 2, 2018
Women in Technology Scholarship from Buildium $2,500 Nov. 1, 2017
Zeqr Scholarship $1,000 Dec. 15, 2017
Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship Program $10,000 Nov. 15, 2017

Ready to apply? Download our full list of scholarships for links to application pages and additional info.

Get scholarship list

The cost of college

Higher education in the United States costs a lot! Exactly how much? To find out, the College Board looked at the average cost of attendance for undergraduates enrolled in 2016-17. These estimates include in-state and out-of-state students at both public and private schools. They accounted for tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation, as well as other expenses.

Here’s what they found:

  • $17,000 – Public two-year, in-district, commuter
  • $24,610 – Public four-year, in-state, on-campus
  • $39,890 – Public four-year, out-of-state, on-campus
  • $49,320 – Private, nonprofit, four-year, on-campus

And that’s just for one year! If the cost of college stays the same all four years, that means you’ll pay nearly $100,000 to attend a public, in-state school and stay on campus. However, that’s the cost for U.S. citizens. For international students, the cost is even greater. For instance, at the University of Iowa, the estimated total costs for international students (tuition, fees, books, health insurance, and living expenses) during the 2017-18 school year range from $42,219 for liberal arts and sciences majors to $57,478 for pharmacy majors. That’s a whopping $168,876 or more for four years of college!

Despite the costs, studying abroad – especially within the U.S. – is still desirable to international students and their parents. In the HSBC: The Value of Education Global Report, it was reported that 64% of parents would consider sending their children abroad for undergraduate study, while 70% would consider their children studying abroad for postgraduate degrees. As the HSBC Report states: “The USA is regarded as offering the highest quality education in the world, with 51% of parents ranking it in their top three countries.”

Related:

The scholarship application process

Once you’ve decided to study abroad in the U.S., it’s time to start thinking about finances, including scholarships. In general, there are two types of scholarships – school-specific and general, which can be applied to any school.

How to find scholarships

School-specific scholarships

If you’ve been accepted to a specific school and know that’s where you’ll be attending, your first stop should be the school’s financial aid website to look at financial aid and scholarship options.

For instance, the University of Oregon offers more than $1 million in financial aid and scholarships each year to international students, according to their website. Here you’ll find information about scholarships available to students from all countries as well as country-specific scholarships. The University of Oregon, for examples, offers the $1,000 Pressman Family Scholarship to students from all countries, but the $3,000 Sushil Jajodia Indian Student Scholarship is only open to students from India.

During this process, don’t hesitate to reach out to college admissions officers or financial aid experts at the university. They’re there to help you find as much money as you qualify for during your time at school.

General scholarships

In addition to school-specific scholarships, there are thousands of general scholarships open to international students attending any school within the United States. These can range from $500 from the Yukon Conservation Society to $20,000 from the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, or even more!

Finding and applying for these scholarships may be harder than school-specific scholarships, though. Often, since these organizations only have a limited amount of money to offer, there are more restrictions on applying, such as specific majors or an essay component. Additionally, these scholarships can be posted anywhere on the web, so you may need to do some searching for them and confirm that they are a legitimate scholarship.

We’ve done the digging for you and compiled a complete list of scholarships for international students offered throughout the rest of 2017 and into 2018. As more scholarships for international students become available, you can check other resources, such as:

  • Cappex – This site lets you search and compare colleges, get admission information, and find scholarships to apply for, all in place.
  • Education USA – Run by the United States Department of State, this site offers information to help international students interested in studying in the U.S. find their best fit and finance schooling.
  • Fastweb – This free scholarship service helps you find scholarships and also provides information about financial aid and student loan options.
  • ForeignBorn.com – This site’s founders came to the U.S. in 1998 and have been providing information and guides on U.S. immigration, including studying abroad in the United States, since 2000.
  • InternationalStudent.com – This site offers information and resources, including scholarships, to international students looking to study abroad in various locations, such as the United States.
  • Peterson’s – With detailed information on more than 4,000 colleges and universities, you can find everything you need about the college process – from financial aid to test prep to scholarships.
  • Scholarships.com – This free scholarship search tool compiles thousands (to millions) of scholarships, financial aid options, grants, and more to help you find money for college.
  • Unigo – As a college matching and school review site, Unigo offers a lot of information about colleges, as well as a scholarship search to help you pay for school
  • USA TODAY College – In addition to college related news, information on housing, jobs, tutors, and more, the news site also offers scholarship searches.

Mark K quote

Tips for verifying scholarships

Whenever money is involved, there’s also the opportunity for scams. Here are some tips for verifying that a scholarship is legitimate.

Never pay an application or processing fee.

Paying money to apply for a scholarship is a huge red flag. “If you have to pay money to get money, it’s probably a scam. Never invest more than a postage stamp to find information about scholarships or to apply for scholarships,” says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of strategy at Cappex.com, an online college matchmaker.

Check for contact information.

If there’s no address or phone number, question whether or not the scholarship is authentic. Scholarship scams typically avoid listing contact information (aside from an email address) because physical addresses and phone numbers are easier to trace.

Verify the scholarship name and past winners.

Do a quick search of the scholarship to see if you can find past winners or information about the award on other third-party sites. If there’s no other information available aside from the original website, that could be a red flag.

Never provide your personal credit information.

Sometimes need-based scholarships may ask for financial information, but you should never have to provide a credit card number, bank account number, or your social security number to apply for a scholarship.

Don’t claim a scholarship you didn’t apply for.

Be wary of emails or phone calls claiming you won a scholarship you don’t know about or didn’t apply for personally. The easiest way to do this is to keep a spreadsheet or list of scholarships you’ve applied for with the date applied, contact information, etc. so you can verify later.

Be wary of superlative claims.

Sites that claim to “do all the work for you,” that the scholarship is “guaranteed or your money back,” or “you can’t get this information anywhere else” should raise a red flag. There are a number of databases you can sign up for to search scholarships; however, that information should always be free and readily available and should outline the steps you need to take to apply.

An overview of the application process

Once you’ve compiled a list of scholarships you believe you qualify for, it’s time to start applying. In general, your application process should look something like this:

Timeline

A few general tips:

  1. Review and verify the qualifications and deadlines.
  2. Gather or request all relevant information (transcripts, recommendation letters, etc.)
  3. Develop, write, and proofread required essays, if applicable.
  4. Prepare all the information and review it for accuracy.
  5. Submit the information using the proper method.

We’ve also created a checklist to ensure you’re gathering all the information you need for most scholarship applications.

Download checklist

Tips for applying for scholarships

While the scholarship application process may seem as easy as “Apply for a scholarship. Win money,” it’s actually highly competitive. To stand out during the application process and maximize your chances, follow these tips.

More is more.

With general scholarships, your motto should be “Apply early. Apply often.” A small amount like $500 to $1,000 may not seem like a lot, but if you receive ten of these smaller scholarships, you could have $5,000 to $10,000 to put toward your schooling. Smaller, local scholarships offered where you live or in the town where you’ll be studying may attract fewer applicants and could be easier to get.

Put in the work.

Create a strategy for applying to scholarships, and don’t wait until the last minute. In many cases, you can start applying for scholarships a year or two before you start college, and you can keep applying for undergraduate scholarships until you’re a junior in college. Take your time and put in the work.

Do it yourself.

It may be tempting to have a friend or parent fill out your applications or write your essays for you, but your submission won’t be authentic and may come across that way. Submit the application yourself, but don’t hesitate to ask a parent or friend to review or provide feedback for you.

Details, details, details.

Pay attention to all of the submission details and ensure you’re following them. Double check deadlines, names, addresses, email addresses, etc., proofread everything thoroughly, and think twice about the email address you use to send in your application. It may seem harmless, but officials may frown upon an email address like prettyprincess2001@hotmail.com.

Select recommendations wisely.

Having a senior level executive at the company you interned for write a letter of recommendation may seem fancy, but if they can only speak about you generally, it won’t be as impactful. Instead, ask someone who knows you personally – a direct boss, teacher, counselor, or another adult – and can make a case for why you deserve the scholarship.

Write or record with passion.

If the scholarship requires an essay or video submission, highlight your passions, not what you think the scholarship officials want to hear. Don’t be afraid to get personal, be original, avoid clichés, and tell a story that is motivating and empowering. You’re more likely to get their attention if you’re being true to yourself.

Avoid templates.

It may be easier to write one essay and use that for every application, but you should tailor each application to a specific scholarship. This shows officials that you take the scholarship – and the money they’re providing – seriously.

When it comes to scholarship applications, you want to be authentic to who you are and highlight your best qualities to officials. Don’t worry about telling them what you think they want to hear. They get dozens to hundreds of applications, so instead, make yourself stand out by being true to yourself.

Ronald R quote

Ronald Ramsdell, founder and president of College Aid Consulting Services, an independent, full-service advisory on financial aid, shares some dos and don’ts for international students applying for scholarships:

Scholarship dos:

  • Do ask the college(s) you are applying to if they have a list of scholarships you can pursue.
  • Do read all of the qualifications and requirements before applying.
  • Do ask a native speaker to read your essay(s) and make appropriate corrections.
  • Do check with your home country. They may have resources for students that attend college in the USA.

Scholarship don’ts:

  • Don’t have somebody write the essay for you.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to get started. It does take a lot of time and effort to properly pursue scholarships.
  • Don’t stop your scholarship search. Continue to pursue scholarships even when you are attending college.

Other ways to save money

In addition to scholarships and financial aid, there are a number of other ways you can save money while attending college within the United States. One area to look at is your living situation. Sharing an apartment or house with other students may be cheaper than living in a dorm. While some colleges require freshmen to live on-campus their first year, it’s something you may want to consider in subsequent years.

Another area is food. A meal plan is convenient, but if you’re not using it regularly – because you’re meeting up with friends for pizza off-campus, or the like – it may not be worth it. Research all your options, then consider downgrading your meal plan — or make your food at home in order to stick to a budget.

Adrian R quote

Another option is to explore alternative credits that meet some of your general education requirements at a lower cost. “International students can save on tuition by addressing the issue from the source and reducing the actual cost of college. Supplement the traditional college experience with low-cost alternative credit options like College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams or online courses, which are options available to international students,” says Adrian Ridner, CEO and co-founder of Study.com, a website for online college credit courses.

Ridner continues: “These alternative credit options can help get some of those general education requirements out of the way and speed up your path to graduation, ultimately saving you thousands of dollars in tuition.”

Related:

Conclusion

Attending college within the United States can be quite a process – finding a school, getting accepted, taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), applying for scholarships, getting a student visa, and more. However, it’s also an extremely rewarding experience. You’ll have the opportunity to experience life outside of your home country, meet new people from unique and different backgrounds, and gain knowledge within your chosen field. Applying for scholarships helps relieve some of the financial burdens of college so you can focus on your studies!

The post 100+ Scholarships for International Students (2017-18) appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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The Temptation of a New Store

As a resident of rural central Iowa, I often visit Ames and Des Moines for shopping purposes, with Ames being somewhat more convenient for my family. I have a strong grasp on the different shopping options in Ames and take advantage of various grocers for various things – we go to Aldi and Sam’s Club frequently, and to the local food co-op for some esoteric items.

A few days ago, I was driving through town with my three children and they spotted a new store opening up – Fresh Thyme. For those unfamiliar, Fresh Thyme is a grocery store chain that seems to aim to be something of a hybrid between Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods – I think of it as Trader Joe’s if Trader Joe’s sold more natural and organic foods, but at least attempted to keep the prices relatively low.

My kids read the sign out loud and asked what it was, and I described it to them, as I’ve visited one in the past. Then, they immediately wanted to know when it would open and whether we would go there.

The thing is, I wanted to go, too, but I really couldn’t explain why.

(Please note that everything I say below is not a knock on Fresh Thyme, which is a perfectly good store. I have visited other locations of the store in the past and enjoyed those visits, and my comments below have more to do with my perception of their competition than Fresh Thyme themselves.)

There’s not really much they could sell that I don’t already have access to at a good price. Between the other grocery options in town, I can already find virtually every food item I could want except for a pretty small handful of obscure things that I’ve failed to acquire over the last several years – and those are available if I make the longer drive to Des Moines. I really doubt that this store is going to carry those rare items anyway, given its size.

While the prices of the chain will be solid, the only area where they might compete price-wise is against the food co-op and perhaps against the more expensive primary grocer in town, Hy-Vee. Based on my experience, I can’t imagine competing against Fareway and Aldi and Sam’s Club on price for most things.

It’s also a chain store. It’s not a locally-owned business. I’m not helping the local community nearly as much as if I spent my premium food dollars at the local co-op, which is locally owned and operated and makes a point to stock as much stuff from the local area and the state as possible.

Furthermore, the simple act of going into a store without a purpose in mind opens up a very large chance of wasteful spending. I’m going into a place that’s trying to sell me stuff when I don’t really need anything, and I’m going in there by choice.

Yet, even knowing all of that, I still have this desire to go there and check out this new store when it opens.

I understand why I want to do this. It’s that basic human interest in the new experience. Suddenly, there’s a new option available. Let’s check it out.

Yet, consciously, I’m aware that there’s little chance I will find something there that I want to buy and use.

In other words, I have this strong unconscious desire that makes little sense when I consciously evaluate it, yet that desire persists.

Honestly, it’s the same reason so many people want the latest smartphone, even though it really doesn’t do anything much different than what they already have. Another quarter-inch of screen space and a “rounded bevel” isn’t going to add up to a life-altering change.

Is this kind of desire triggered by a consistent desire for something new? I was curious about that angle, so I did some research and came upon this article entitled Why Getting New Things Makes Us Feel Good. Bear with a bit of the ol’ neuroscience here:

There’s a region in our midbrain called the substantia nigra/ventral segmental area or SN/VTA. This is essentially the major “novelty center” of the brain, which responds to novel stimuli.

The SN/VTA is closely linked to areas of the brain called the hippocampus and the amygdala, both of which play large roles in learning and memory. The hippocampus compares stimuli against existing memories, while the amygdala responds to emotional stimuli and strengthens associated long-term memories.

It’s been thought before that novelty was a reward in itself, but, like dopamine, it seems to be more related to motivation.

Researchers Bunzeck and Düzel tested people with an “oddball” experiment that used fMRI imaging to see how their brains reacted to novelty. They showed the subjects images such as indoor and outdoor scenes and faces with occasional novel images (oddballs) thrown in.

The experiment found that the SN/VTA was activated by novel images—that is, brand new images that hadn’t been seen before. Images that only slightly deviated from more familiar ones didn’t have the same effect, and neither did images with strongly negative emotional context such as car crashes or angry faces.

In other words, that desire to go to the new store isn’t a rational one, it’s a deep biological one, triggered deep in the SN/VTA region in our brains. When our brains see something new, we are biologically motivated to want to learn more about it.

Translate that to my family driving by the new store: we see a new store opening up, all of us have our SN/VTA regions activated in our brains, and we all want to go check out that new store (or at least know more about it, but it’s a store, so it’s not potentially scary and thus we want to go check it out).

It’s the same reason that going on vacation to a new place is so exciting, albeit on a smaller level. When we go to new places, the SN/VTA region of our brains is working overtime, encouraging us to check out all the new stuff.

Again, a biological response is working inside of us, nudging us toward what might not be the wisest financial move. So, what can we do about it?

The first and most useful thing is to be aware of it. That strong impulse you have to go to the new store? It’s not a rational one. It’s a biological one, the same impulse your ancestors had when they saw a new food source or a new trader’s wagon rolling across the prairie. You are wired to be attracted to the new thing and to want to check it out.

Of course, if you follow from that, just because you are wired to be attracted to something doesn’t mean you have to dive into it. Sure, it’s an attractive impulse, but it’s just that. You don’t have to follow up on it. It’s just your deep mind alerting you to something new and getting excited about it.

Instead, give it a bit of rational thought outside of the heat of the moment. If Fresh Thyme had been open, I probably would have been pulled by my SN/VTA to go right into the parking lot and right into the store, but because I waited and left the situation and thought about it later, I began to realize that the store wasn’t really that big of a deal. I don’t need to go there; in fact, there’s likely little I would buy there that isn’t found elsewhere.

If you do decide to go later on, go with a purpose. If you’re going to a grocery store (like Fresh Thyme), go with a list of items that you might buy there with the intent of comparing prices. If you’re going to a clothing store, do your homework first, know what they specialize in, and go there with the intent of hitting their sales and specialties. If you’re going to an outdoor store, go there with the intent of checking out a specific outdoor product that you already intend to purchase and use that time to examine the product and figure out if the price is right for you.

You get the idea. That pattern follows for almost any new store you might go to, because almost any new store is going to be selling similar things in comparison to other stores in the area and online.

So, will I go to Fresh Thyme when it opens? Sure. But I’ll go there with a few specific items in mind to buy and I’ll use that opportunity to price check some of the items I might buy there and examine the quality of their produce. I won’t walk in there just because it’s the new place to go.

In other words, I’ll let my SN/VTA have a turn at running the show in my brain, but only after I prepare for it a little.

Good luck!

The post The Temptation of a New Store appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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