We're taught a lot of useful things in school (how to tell time, multiplication tables, how to find—or at least attempt to find—Oklahoma on a map) and some not so useful (geometry). But do you ever wish you'd been taught some real life skills instead? Skills you may have had to learn the hard way, e.g. paying off interest fees on a credit card or paying full sticker price for a car. As an adult you may try to teach your kids these lessons, but wouldn't it be great if they actually taught them in school? Here are some life lessons we should probably learn early, in order to avoid future mistakes.
And not just our friendships, family, and romantic relationships. Ask multiple people how they landed the job at which they're currently working and you're bound to find at least a few who admit that they "knew someone." As anyone who has ever been on the market knows, securing a job is one of life's greatest stressors. It's like dating, but without the booze and possibility of sex. While the thought of networking may elicit a curled lip or exaggerated groan from most people, it's exceptionally important if you want to establish and grow your career.
You hate traffic too? Let's connect over coffee.
For those of you who'd prefer dentistry without Novocain to entering a room full of people you don't know and attempting to strike up a conversation, there are ways to make it more palatable and effective. The single most important tip for networking is not to exchange business cards or speak with as many people as possible, but rather to find people with whom you can form a long-term relationship. The woman who enthusiastically talked your ear off about her mushroom fertilizer business may have held court for 40 minutes, but it's the man with whom you bonded over a mutual love of ugly dog sweaters for two minutes who may actually be someone you'd want to see again, and could become friendly with.
Make a point to follow up on contacts you meet at networking events: grab coffee or a drink, send them a link to an article that they may find helpful, or simply drop a note to say "hi". Then comes the hard part – building the relationship. Do whatever you need to do to stay in touch with them, whether it's a reminder on your phone or a to-do list taped to your bathroom mirror. People will remember you and will be more open to helping you achieve your career goals because you they know you, not because they met you once at a mixer where you talked awkwardly while guzzling cheap white wine.
Never pay sticker price
Flea markets and craft fairs aside, we tend to think that the prices of most common products and services aren't negotiable. Not so. Even medical services are negotiable (yep, sometimes just letting a provider know you don't have insurance results in an automatic reduction). While rolling into Mark Jacobs and politely requesting a discount on the latest bag probably won't get you very far, one place where you should never pay full price is at the car dealership.
I do my best negotiating online
One strategy for getting the best possible deal on a car involves a little research, but it's well worth the effort. Start by identifying the exact car (or cars), including manufacturing year, you want to buy. Narrow it down to one if possible, but no more than two or three. Check the average value by using Kelly Blue Book so you have an idea of what prices to expect. Then identify several dealerships near you that have the car(s) and request a price from the sales team. Choose the lowest price and send that to yet another dealership that has your desired car. Tell them you were offered the car for that price at another dealership, but if they can beat it by X amount (go ahead, reach for the moon here – the worst they can say is no) then you'll buy it from them. Voila! You just scored yourself a great deal on a car. You can also try this strategy with medical expenses, home repairs, and other negotiable goods and services.
Use a credit card to build up your credit, not as a bottomless bank account
Think long and hard about that purchase before you pull out the plastic
You're probably no stranger to debt, which means you understand the concept of interest. Yes, that nefarious little percentage that ultimately results in paying way more than the original borrowed amount. If you think college loan and mortgage interest is high, a credit card's eye-popping percentage is often three to four times that rate.
To illustrate how much money you'll end up spending if you let your credit card debt accumulate, pretend you have a $3,000 balance on your card and you pay the minimum (say $25 every month). You'll end up paying a whopping $2800 in interest alone before you pay it off. The lesson here? Only buy what you can afford on a credit card, and pay it off monthly. If you hate carrying cash but can't help but splurge when you go shopping, use a debit card. It won't build up your credit but at least you won't be going into massive debt.
Learn how to budget
Speaking of using a credit card wisely, it's also smart to have a budget so you know how much you can afford to spend at a night out with the girls or for rent and groceries. Generally speaking, you shouldn't be spending more than 30% of your gross (before taxes) income on housing. Lifehacker's simple budgeting plan recommends the 20% rule for paying off debt: 20% of your monthly income goes towards debt, 10% to savings, and 70% for the rest.
You can sleep when you're dead
Helloooo wedding photographer
If you find that you're squeezed for cash once all your necessities are paid for, you may want to look into a side hustle. You don't have to be a master at a particular craft; there are plenty of side gigs that require very little skill. If you have an extra room you can rent it on Airbnb; if you enjoy driving you could try your hand at being a Lyft or Uber driver. Dog walking and sitting has also become a serious business, thanks to sites like Rover.com. If you love fur children you can make some decent scratch, especially if you walk or sit multiple dogs at once.
School curriculum has its shining moments, no doubt. Perhaps knowing the capitals of all fifty states will finally come in handy during trivia night at your local watering hole or maybe understanding the true meaning behind Wuthering Heights will help you imbue that blog post you wrote for your boss with true depth. But really, would it be too much to ask to replace calculus with a crash course on how to pay down debt?
- 16 Important Life Skills Not Taught in School - WiseStep ›
- 20 Life Skills Not Taught In School - Successful Student ›
- 15 Life Skills They Don't Teach Our Kids in School — Babble ›
- 25 Basic Life Skills That Should Be Taught In School (But Aren't ... ›
- The 12 Important Life Skills I Wish I'd Learned In School ›
When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.