Never Put These 7 Things on Your Resume

Are you preparing a resume? It’s natural to want to tell prospective employers all about yourself — but some things are better left unsaid.

Remember, you have only a limited amount of space to convince someone you would be a good hire. So, avoid including anything that might offend, or cause an employer to question your abilities.

Following are some key things to avoid on your resume.

Criticism of past employers

A sure way to put off a potential employer is to waste space on your resume criticizing past employers or supervisors. You may feel perfectly justified in your criticism, but the purpose of a resume is to showcase talents and abilities, not to air grievances.

Don’t give prospective employers the impression that you are disloyal or generally disgruntled. Instead, write about your positive relationships and accomplishments. Tell people about the good things you can bring to their business if they give you the opportunity.

Excuses for past problems

If you have been laid off or dismissed from a job, you may feel the need to explain the situation in your resume. It’s natural to want to tell your side of the story, especially if you feel that you were not at fault.

However, it’s easy to spend too much time discussing disappointments and missed opportunities. You may give the impression you aren’t taking responsibility for your own mistakes.

A better approach is to write about past successes. If you are called upon to explain a layoff or dismissal in an interview, be honest, but brief. Let people know that your focus is on the future.

Irrelevant skills

When a job applicant lists skills unrelated to job performance, it can appear that he or she has no valuable skills to showcase. Instead, describe things that you’ve learned that have improved your performance on the job. For example:

  • Do you have great internet skills?
  • Did you pursue special training to enhance your contribution in past jobs?
  • Are you attending school to earn an advanced degree or certificate?

Old achievements

Focus on recent achievements in your resume. If something happened 10 or 15 years ago, prospective employers may get the impression your successes are behind you.

So, leave out that Cub Scout merit badge.

Poor grammar and spelling

If you submit a resume with misspellings, typos or grammatical errors, you are unlikely to score a job interview. Even if you are in a field where the proper use of language seems unimportant, most employers want to know that their hires have good communication skills.

Grammatical mistakes on your resume can signal you’re careless and possibly unreliable. A resume free of errors lets recruiters know you’re serious about the job.

Too much information

Recruiters have a limited amount of time to sort through applications. So, keep it brief.

When screening applicants, recruiters look for experience, training and past employment. If you write in great detail about every job you’ve ever had, you may overwhelm. Worse, the information that makes you stand out as an applicant might get overlooked.

In most cases, submitting one or two pages worth of information is adequate. You can expand on your qualifications once you get to the interview stage.

Anything that isn’t true

You may be tempted to exaggerate skills, training or accomplishments. However, doing so always is a mistake. Once you put something in writing, you can’t take it back. Even if it helps you land a job, the lie may resurface years later and damage your reputation or career.

So don’t exaggerate qualifications. If you don’t have a college degree, describe the training you’ve received on the job. The best way to get a resume filled with accomplishments is to do work that you’re proud of.

Article written by Emmet Pierce for moneytalksnews©

Photo credit: ©stock-Asso / Shutterstock.com

Source: Never Put These 7 Things on Your Resume (msn.com)

Never Accept a Friend Request Before Checking These 3 Things

Facebook recommends investigating three things before accepting a friend request.

Robert Traynham, head of public affairs at Facebook, told Today that so far in 2021 Facebook has removed almost 1.3 billion fake accounts. The company says they’re constantly working to find ways to protect their users from scammers, but as is the case with most things in life, nothing is foolproof. However, the social media company says there are steps that you can take to protect yourself as well.

Facebook told Today that you should investigate new friend requests or direct messages before engaging by checking three things in particular: your shared connections, that they’re not a duplicate profile, and that they’re active users. The social media company suggests “comparing your shared connections and who their friends are on the platform.” Additionally, you should make sure you’re not already friends with a similar account that already exists because this likely means the new page is an imposter.

And lastly, Facebook recommends looking to see if the account has any recent posts. Check their timeline, their interaction with other accounts, and who or what they’ve tagged. People tend to interact with friends on Facebook—after all, that’s what social media is for. If the account doesn’t have any activity with others, that’s suspicious.

Article by Allie Hogan for BestLife

Source: Never Accept a Friend Request Before Checking These 3 Things, Expert Warns (msn.com)

Windows 11 cheat sheet: Everything you need to know

Microsoft unveiled on June 24, 2021 its newest operating system, Windows 11—almost six years after Windows 10 debuted. Windows 11 will offer several updates and new features, including a simpler design intended to increase productivity, ease of use and creativity, ways to connect to people faster, better PC gaming experiences, faster ways to get information you need, an all-new Microsoft Store, and a more open ecosystem that unlocks new opportunities for developers and other creators.

This Microsoft Windows 11 cheat sheet details the operating system’s main features, lists system requirements for the OS, explains how and when to get it and more. (Download the free PDF version of this Windows 11 cheat sheet.) We’ll update this Windows 11 guide when new information is released.

SEE: Windows evolves: Windows 11, and the future of Windows 10 (TechRepublic) 

What is Windows 11?

Windows 11 is Microsoft’s newest major release of its operating system and the successor to Windows 10. The OS features an all-new simplified, yet modernized, interface and was designed to inspire productivity and creativity. 

Pre-release updates of Windows 11

As of July 29, 2021, a preview version of Windows 11 is available for review to members of the Windows Insider Beta Channel; before that date, preview versions of Windows 11 were only available to members of the Dev Channel. So, to install Windows 11 Version 22000.100 or better on a valid Windows 10 PC, activate the Windows Insider Beta Channel on the Update & Security Settings screen in Windows 10 and then click the Check For Updates button.

As of August 23, 2021, Microsoft has released an ISO file for the Windows 11 Insiders Preview; previously, your only option was to upgrade Windows 10 to Windows 11 through Microsoft’s Windows Insider program. To download the Windows 11 ISO file, navigate to the Windows Insider Preview Downloads page and sign in with your account.

SEE: How to install Windows 11 from Microsoft’s ISO file (TechRepublic)

What new features come with Windows 11?

In Windows 11, the newly centered Start button uses the cloud and Microsoft 365 to show recent files, no matter what platform or device they were being viewed on previously, including an Android or iOS device.

A new set of features to Microsoft Windows 11 will be the introduction of Snap Layouts, Snap Groups and Desktops. These offer a “powerful way to multitask and stay on top of what you need to get done,” according to the Microsoft’s press release. With these Windows 11 features, users can organize windows and optimize screen real estate for a cleaner visual layout. Users can create and customize separate Desktops for each part of their life—like one for work and one for personal use. 

In Windows 11, Microsoft is integrating Chat from Microsoft Teams into the taskbar so users can instantly connect via text, chat, voice or video with personal contacts regardless of which platform or device is being used across Microsoft Windows, Android or iOS. Through Microsoft Teams, users can now instantly mute and unmute or start a presentation directly from the taskbar in the new OS.

For gamers, Windows 11 “unlocks the full potential of your system’s hardware, putting some of the latest gaming technology to work for you,” according to Microsoft. Windows 11 will offer DirectX 12 Ultimate, which enables immersive graphics at high frame rates; DirectStorage for faster load times and more detailed game worlds; and Auto HDR for a wider, more vivid range of colors. Microsoft Windows 11 will still support users’ favorite PC gaming accessories and peripherals. 

Windows 11’s new Widgets are a personalized feed powered by artificial intelligence and Microsoft Edge. Instead of using a phone to check news, weather or notifications, now users can open their Windows 11 desktop to see a similarly curated view. Widgets offers new opportunities within Windows 11 to deliver personalized content for creators and publishers. 

The Microsoft Store is getting a major overhaul–users will have one safe location for apps and content to watch, create, play, work and learn. According to Microsoft, the Store “has been rebuilt for speed and with an all-new design that is beautiful and simple to use. Not only will we bring you more apps than ever before, we’re also making all content—apps, games, shows, movies—easier to search for and discover with curated stories and collections.” Soon, leading first- and third-party apps such as Microsoft Teams, Visual Studio, Disney+, Adobe Creative Cloud, Zoom and Canva will be available in the Microsoft Store.

Coming in late 2021 for Windows 11: Android apps on Windows. Through its partnership with Amazon and Intel, and for the first time ever, the Microsoft Store will allow users to discover Android apps, which can be downloaded via the Amazon Appstore. Microsoft is enabling developers and independent software vendors to bring apps to the Microsoft Store, no matter what app framework is used to create them. 

What are the system requirements for Windows 11?

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with two or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC)
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB or larger storage device
  • System firmware: UEFI, Secure Boot capable
  • Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver
  • Display: High-definition (720p) display that is greater than 9″ diagonally, 8 bits per color channel
  • Internet connection: Windows 11 Home edition requires internet connectivity and a Microsoft account to complete device setup on first use. Switching a device out of Windows 11 Home in S mode requires internet connectivity.

SEE: How to tell if your PC can run Windows 11 (TechRepublic) 

Photo credit: © Provided by TechRepublic  Microsoft Windows 11 Image: Microsoft. Article by TechRepublic Staff.

Source: Windows 11 cheat sheet: Everything you need to know (msn.com)

People Who Use These 5 Negotiation Tricks Have Very High Emotional Intelligence

© Getty Images

This is a story about emotional intelligence and getting what you want. It’s the kind of practical advice you’ll find in my free ebook, Improving Emotional Intelligence 2021, which you can download here for free.

The techniques we’ll be talking about have to do with negotiating, but they apply in many other aspects of life, too. The principles carry over into almost every interaction that you have with other people.

Really, there are five key principles or rules, each based on a principle of emotional intelligence. If you keep them in mind, you’ll find you’re more likely to see positive outcomes.

Rule Number 1: Never skip the small talk.

I feel like this is one we’re all going to have to work on after the pandemic.

But people who have the emotional intelligence to be patient, and develop a rapport over things that aren’t critical to the conversation — in other words, engage in small talk — are far more likely to get what they want.

You don’t just have to take my word for this one. A study at the Stanford Graduate School of Businesses involved setting up some negotiators who conducted most of their discussions over email, and others who began with a friendly, non-agenda phone call to develop rapport ahead of time.

Since I’m citing it as support, you’ll likely guess the result:

“Even though the telephone conversation was strictly non-business, schmoozing negotiators anticipated and planned a cooperative, positive negotiation experience from the outset, and they attained better economic and social outcomes.”

Why does it work? Well, I’ve written before about the difference between parallel response convergent responses during conversations. In short:

  • Parallel responses are ones that suggest that you believe your process of achieving empathy is complete, on the basis of something else you’ve brought to the interaction (often, past experience).
  • Convergent responses suggest that you believe the process of achieving empathy is incomplete, but that you want to work to make it complete (by continuing the discussion and learning more about the other person’s point of view).

To use an example, imagine that an employee confides that they had a very hard time coping with work during the pandemic.

  • A parallel response might be something like: “I’ve had a hard time too. I understand exactly.”
  • A more convergent response? Maybe: “I’ve had a hard time too. Tell me more about what’s been going on.”

One theory about why small talk becomes important in negotiations (big or small), is that they’re an exercise in attempting to reach convergence.

The more convergent your small talk is, the less awkward it will feel, and the more rapport you’ll build. Emotionally intelligent people know to work on it — and never, ever to skip it.

Rule Number 2: Envision the other side’s emotional motivations.

Start by thinking through what you imagine the people you’re dealing with would like to see as an outcome, and then imagine what their emotional motivation for wanting that outcome might be.

Examples:

In a business negotiation, the other side might want you to offer a product at a particular price.

They might want this because it makes good business sense, but they might also want it because they want to avoid the feeling of being taken advantage of. Or, they might want the pride of knowing that they got a better deal than their competitors.

In a personal conversation, friends might have ideas about where to go to dinner together.

They might want to suggest a particular place (or avoid making any suggestions at all) because they want a certain kind of food. But, they might also be motivated emotionally by a desire to feel like their suggestions are taken seriously.

Either way, people are sometimes motivated by a root emotional goal as much as their practical goal. That emotionally intelligent realization on your part might easily affect how you decide to play it.

Bonus points: Examine your own emotional motivation. Will advocating for the practical thing you thought you wanted really help you get there?

Rule Number 3: Use the first person plural.

Whenever you can, say “we” instead of “I.”

Obviously, don’t just plug it in willy-nilly.

But, if you find yourself talking about yourself, change the context so that “we” makes more sense.

  • Not: “I really want us to reach an agreement tonight,” if you can instead say: “We should hopefully be able to reach an agreement.”
  • Not: “I want Thai food tonight,” but instead: “Oh, we could try that new Thai restaurant that just opened!”

“Highlight what you have in common,” Carolyn O’Hara wrote in Harvard Business Review. “Using ‘we’ rather than ‘I’ signals to the other side that there are areas of agreement and that you envision a future working together.”

This is really a very small change that takes only a brief moment of thought to incorporate. People with high emotional intelligence understand why it’s worth it.

Rule Number 4: Figure out if the other side actually can reach an agreement.

Another way to put this is: Don’t waste your time, and don’t waste the other person’s time.

More negotiations fall apart at the end because one side suddenly announces that they don’t actually have the authority to reach an agreement, than for any other reason.

Sometimes, you realize that this has been true throughout the conversation. Sometimes, terms have changed. Sometimes, it’s just an excuse.

In that last case, at least you know no agreement is going to be forthcoming.

Lest we make this sound too much like a pure business context rule, it works in social situations, too.

To use a slightly self-deprecating example, when I was in high school and really hoped I could convince a girl to go out with me, if she only wanted to date varsity football players, then she was only going to date football players.

It didn’t matter if I suggested Friday or Saturday, or where I suggested we go.

The emotional intelligence piece here is as much about you as it is about the other side. Don’t allow the fact that they won’t agree no matter what to leave you feeling hurt.

“Yes” wasn’t going to happen, no matter what you did. It’s not you; it’s them. (No, seriously.)

Rule Number 5: Use your codewords.

This is my favorite rule on the list. I warn you: some might call it passive-aggressive.

But let me defuse that by saying up front, as un-passively-aggressively as possible, by stating quite clearly that they’re dead wrong.

You won’t find this rule in any business school case study; in fact, it’s something I learned when my daughter was just 3 years old, and I was taking her to church with my father-in-law.

I told her as we went inside that she had to remember to be good, not just because we were going into a church where people often have to be quiet, but also because her grandfather — my father-in-law — really needed peace and quiet for this one hour.

And I also told her that we should come up with a codeword together, so that if I said it, she’d remember she had to be quiet and sit still, and it would be our secret little joke.

I let her pick the word. She chose “broccoli.” It worked.

Every time she got a little worked up, I’d whisper “broccoli” with a smile, and she’d chuckle a bit before calming down.

It’s not just for negotiating with 3-year-olds, though. Create codewords for the others on your side.

Example: “If I use the phrase, ‘peel the onion,’ stay quiet and don’t say a word until we make the other side talk first.”

Look, emotional intelligence has gotten a bad rap lately, but to my mind, it’s like anything else: a set of tools and a mode of thinking that you can use to train yourself to react in ways that make it more likely you’ll get what you want out of life.

It’s really about recognizing that people have disparate motivations for the same things and that they often don’t even recognize their emotional motivations.

If you can start paying attention to them closely — both in yourself and in other people — it gives you a big advantage.

Start with these five rules, and see if they don’t improve your outcomes. And while you’re at it, download the free ebook, Improving Emotional Intelligence 2021, with all kinds of good, practical advice.

Article by Bill Murphy Jr. for INC.©

Source: People Who Use These 5 Negotiation Tricks Have Very High Emotional Intelligence (msn.com)

Keeping open body language makes you seem more trustworthy.

Job hunting and interviewing, dating, or just meeting people can leave a wrong impression by doing one thing that implies mistrust or insecurity:

Slide 1 of 5: Especially with face masks covering our mouths these days, body language is a huge factor in how we come across. Whether you're sitting straight up, slouched over, or fidgeting with your pen, people are quick to make judgements based on the little things you do. In fact, experts say that making one common gesture with your hands makes people less likely to trust you. Read on to find out what it is, and for more on why people may be doubting you, If You Answer Questions This Way, People Don't Trust You, Study Says.Read the original article on Best Life.

© Provided by Best Life

Doing This With Your Hands Makes People Not Trust You, Experts Say

Especially with face masks covering our mouths these days, body language is a huge factor in how we come across. Whether you’re sitting straight up, slouched over, or fidgeting with your pen, people are quick to make judgements based on the little things you do. In fact, experts say that making one common gesture with your hands makes people less likely to trust you. Read on to find out what it is, and for more on why people may be doubting you.

Putting your hands in your pockets makes people not trust you.

If you want to come off as inviting and trustworthy, keep your hands where people can see them, says Susan Trombetti, a relationship expert and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking. “When people keep their hands in their pockets, it appears they are hiding something. And someone is more likely to be lying because they are hiding their hands,” she explains. Concealing your hands comes across as more controlled, which can be interpreted as “deceitful and untrustworthy,” she notes. “People generally consider individuals with their hands in their pockets to be insecure,” explains Girish Shukla, a mental health and psychology expert.

Keeping open body language makes you seem more trustworthy.

According to Trombetti, someone who is telling the truth—or at least, seems to be—is more likely to keep their hands open and palms up. When your hands are visible, “the physical openness of your body language invites trust,” says Lauren Levy, a sales expert who teaches people in the industry how to appear trustworthy.

Slide 4 of 5: According to Trombetti, someone who is telling the truth—or at least, seems to be—is more likely to keep their hands open and palms up. When your hands are visible, "the physical openness of your body language invites trust," says Lauren Levy, a sales expert who teaches people in the industry how to appear trustworthy."Keeping open hands while talking can give others the idea that you can be trusted and that you know what you are talking about," Shukla says. "Whenever you expose your palms it means that you are not hiding anything."And for more tips and tricks for navigating everyday life, sign up for our daily newsletter.

“Keeping open hands while talking can give others the idea that you can be trusted and that you know what you are talking about,” Shukla says. “Whenever you expose your palms it means that you are not hiding anything.”

Article and photos provided by Best Life.

Source: Doing This With Your Hands Makes People Not Trust You, Experts Say (msn.com)

You’re Going to Forget 50% of What You Just Learned in an Hour. Here’s the Smart Way to Change That.

Article by Melanie Fellay for Entrepreneur

Over the past year, digital learning evolved from a nice-to-have to a necessity. Without the ability to conduct in-person training sessions, companies flocked to cloud solutions that would enable them to train an increasingly dispersed and remote workforce. a man in a blue shirt talking on a cell phone© PeopleImages | Getty Images

For many, the LMS (Learning Management System) was a safe and obvious solution. Convert the onboarding sessions, tool or process training traditionally shared in a classroom-style format into LMS courses easily consumable from anywhere, at any time. 

Yet, despite the popularity, compelling research suggests there are detriments to relying solely on an LMS for training and onboarding employees. Here are four of the most common pitfalls every entrepreneur should be aware of when evaluating an LMS solution and what you can do about it.

1. LMS course content is quickly forgotten

Studies have shown, (specifically, the Forgetting Curve by Ebbinghaus) employees will forget up to 50% of what they just learned within an hour without revisiting the material. This number jumps up to 70% by the following day. 

What’s happening? Our working memory has a limited capacity, known as cognitive load. It’s estimated that the average adult can store between five to nine pieces of new information at once in their short-term memory. So, if an employee goes through a two-hour course on a new tool, it’s likely they’ll forget most of the training when they go and use the tool the next day. 

2. It’s not easily accessible

A McKinsey report found employees spend, “1.8 hours every day – 9.3 hours per week, on average – searching and gathering information.” 

If that number feels hard to swallow, I bet this scenario isn’t: on day one, an employee takes a course on your company’s competitors where they learn about your unique differentiators. On day 45, they run up against one of those competitors on a prospecting call. To recall that information from their training they need to find the course, the right module and fast-forward to the exact section just to recall the competitive differentiator.  

Compound that by the fact that today, instead of being able to turn to a coworker for a quick answer, employees are waiting for responses on email, Slack, etc. The result is a staggering amount of time and energy wasted.

Retrieving knowledge from an LMS course requires an employee to leave what they’re doing, find the course and identify the exact spot within the course containing the answer they’re looking for. 

Learning teams put so much energy and effort into developing these courses but ultimately if the information isn’t readily accessible, it won’t be used. 

3. It’s not reinforced

This goes back to the original challenge of short-term memory capacity. When information isn’t reinforced and processed into our working memory, it’s discarded to make room for new concepts and ideas. 

For knowledge to be retained, it needs to be reinforced as the employee is going about their day-to-day workflow. Imagine, you’re trying to learn basketball and the coach walks you through a two-hour course and sends you on your way. Do you feel like Steph Curry? Likely not. 

In the same way that the fundamentals of a sport are repeated over and over to make it into long-term memory, employees need repetitive training on processes and tools before they’re proficient. 

4. It doesn’t mirror how employees learn outside of work

Let’s say you’re at home and you want to know how to cook the world’s best scrambled eggs. Odds are, you’re not going to comb through hundreds of cookbooks to find that recipe. A simple Google, YouTube or Facebook search and within seconds, you’re whipping up an Anthony Bourdain caliber feast.

In our personal lives, information is instant. Yet, in our professional lives, we’re forced through lengthy courses that are rarely immediately applicable. 

In essence, we’re accustomed to learning as we’re doing. Rather than treating training as a corporate destination, effective professional learning should align and flow with our working days as simply and friction-free as a YouTube search does in our personal lives. 

5. It’s not designed for training on small changes

Businesses are evolving more rapidly than ever before. A recent study revealed 44 percent of companies change or update tool processes at least every two weeks! Between rapidly changing processes, frequent adoption of new tools and the tools themselves constantly changing – employees struggle to keep up. 

Training on these changes using an LMS would require the creation of a new course for each of these frequent updates. Due to time constraints, businesses typically defer to low-retention, easily ignored methods to communicate small changes like email, Zoom meetings or Slack channels. This results in crucial information and updates getting lost in the day-to-day shuffle. 

Methods for adapting your training to the modern age

Despite all of the shortcomings, there are still benefits to LMS platforms.  Before you toss your LMS out the window, ask yourself, “what type of training is suited to course style learning and what type of training is not?”  

For example, general company policies, security training or department overviews might make sense to deliver in a course-style format. But, training on tools, processes or methodologies could be better served in a different format. 

For the latter, ensure you’re addressing the below key challenges:

  • Reinforcement: How can you reinforce crucial training throughout an employee’s day-to-day workflow? 
  • Accessibility: How can you make training instantly accessible in the moment of need, right where questions arise? 
  • Digestibility: How can your training more closely mirror how employees learn outside of work? 
  • Flexibility: How can you train on those small, frequent changes in a way that solves the above challenges? 

Luckily, there are new Digital Enablement solutions specifically designed for these challenges that pair well with an existing LMS. There are also strategies you can adopt, regardless of what tools you use, to adapt your training. 

Source: You’re Going to Forget 50% of What You Just Learned in an Hour. Here’s the Smart Way to Change That. (msn.com)

8 Easy Ways to Make a Great Impression in Seconds

Connecting with people quickly is essential to landing new opportunities and building relationships. Here is a 1:19 video to explain how.

Source: 8 Easy Ways to Make a Great Impression in Seconds (moneytalksnews.com)

10 Financial Moves to Make before the End of the Year

By Matt BeckerPosted  October 25, 2019

Note: This article is somewhat dated but still contains worthwhile information for this year end. DH

We’re closing in on the end of the year, which means it’s almost time for family, friends, travel, stress, fun, and everything else that comes with holiday season.

It’s also a great chance to take stock of your financial situation, reflect on what’s gone well this year, what could be improved, and what you need to do to put yourself in the best situation possible going into next year.

But let’s face it: you don’t want to spend the holidays handling your finances. That’s no fun for anyone. So instead of waiting until the last minute, and potentially missing some important deadlines, I’d like to help you get a bit of a head start.

Here are 10 moves you can start making right now to improve your financial situation before the end of the year.

1. Review your goals and set new ones

If you set some financial goals at the beginning of the year, now is a good time to check back in on them and ask yourself some questions:

  • What’s gone well?
  • What hasn’t gone well? Why is that?
  • Are these goals still relevant? Do any of them need to be discarded or updated?
  • Are there any new goals you’d like to be working towards?
  • What are some specific steps you can take to make better progress going forward?

Block some time off in your calendar to review those goals, update them as needed, and set new goals for the coming year. Your life and your circumstances have almost certainly changed over the past 12 months, and your goals should reflect those changes.

In the end, your financial plan can only be as good as the goals you set. Make this review a priority, block the time off in your calendar, and set yourself up for success in the coming year.

2. Maximize your retirement/financial independence savings

The easiest way to reach financial independence as soon as possible is to save more money. Nothing else you do will have as big an impact.

So it makes sense to take stock of how much you’ve already saved this year and whether you should be making any special moves to maximize your contributions to accounts like your 401(k), IRA, and HSA.

There are some limits and deadlines to consider here, so let’s walk through them quickly.

3. Plan next year’s savings

With both your goals and your savings still top-of-mind, you’re in prime position to make a least a rough savings plan for next year.

Here’s a little cheat sheet you can use to set up automatic contributions that max out each of your tax-advantaged investment accounts:

401(k)

  • 2020 annual max: $19,500
  • Monthly: $1,625
  • Per paycheck (26 paychecks): $750
  • Per paycheck (24 paychecks): $812.50

Traditional or Roth IRA

  • 2020 annual max: $6,000
  • Monthly: $500
  • Per paycheck (26 paychecks): $230.77
  • Per paycheck (24 paychecks): $250

Health Savings Account

  • 2020 annual max: $3,550 individual / $7,100 family
  • Monthly: $295.83 / $591.67
  • Per paycheck (26 paychecks): $136.54 / $273.08
  • Per paycheck (24 paychecks): $147.92 / $295.83

But of course financial independence shouldn’t be your only goal. Back in Step 1 you might have set goals like buying a house, traveling, building an emergency fund, switching to a single income, or starting a business.

Those shorter-term goals are just as important as the long term ones, so make sure to set aside some regular savings for those as well.

4. Optimize your employee benefits

The end of the year is open enrollment season, which means your employer will probably be sending you a big packet of information about your 2019 employee benefit options. That might sound pretty boring, and it kind of is, but it’s also a big opportunity to make sure you grab every last financial incentive available to you.

Here are a few of the things you might be able to take advantage of:

  • Retirement plans – Have there been any new plans introduced? Are there any changes to the old plan? Are you taking full advantage of your employer match?
  • Health insurance – Check both your options and (if applicable) your spouse’s options to make sure you’re getting the right coverage for your family’s needs. You may even be able to choose a plan that qualifies you for a health savings account!
  • Dental and vision insurance – This can be valuable coverage, especially if you know you’ll need care in the coming year.
  • Medical FSA – Money contributed to this account is tax-deductible and can then be used tax-free for medical expenses. Just be cautious because this money is, in many cases at least, use it or lose it. The maximum annual contribution for 2020 is $2,750.
  • Dependent care FSA – Money contributed to this account is tax-deductible and can then be used tax-free for childcare expenses. Hey, at least there’s SOME relief from this enormous cost! Though again, this money is use it or lose it so plan carefully. The maximum annual contribution for 2020 is $5,000.
  • Life and disability insurance – There are pros and cons to getting this coverage through work, but at the very least it’s good to know what’s available to you so you can make an informed decision.
  • Legal services – You may be able to take advantage of heavily discounted legal services, which can range from estate planning, to immigration assistance, to family law.
  • Other perks – There’s a whole range of other perks your employer might offer, such as gym membership, transportation reimbursement, education assistance, and many others. Make sure to look through all your options so you can take full advantage of everything that’s available to you.

5. Use any remaining FSA money

One of the tricky parts of a medical FSA is that the money is often use it or lose it. That is, any money that’s still in your account at the end of the year is gone forever.

So, while there’s still time left, check your FSA account balance and think about how you might be able to use it before the end of the year.

Do you need new glasses? Do you have any medical care you’ve been putting off? Maybe your child could use a trip to the dentist?

See if you can find a use for this money before the end of the year so that it doesn’t go to waste.

Quick note: Not all FSA plans are 100% use it or lose it. Some offer a grace period where you’re allowed to use the money for a certain period of time after year end. Others will let you keep up to $500 for next year. Check your specific plan details to see what leeway you’re allowed here.

6. Plan for the holidays

The holidays can be a lot of fun. Time off from work. Time with family. Maybe even some traveling.

They can also be a HUGE money drain. Between gifts, food, plane tickets, hotels, and all the rest, the money you spend during the holidays can throw you way off your other goals, and potentially even leave you with a new pile of debt to handle.

The best way to avoid all of that is to plan ahead.

Make a plan for how much you want to spend. Set a gift budget, a food budget, and a travel budget. Save ahead for the things you know are coming.

I’m all for traveling to see family and spending on things that matter. And the holidays are a great opportunity to do just that.

With a little bit of planning, you can do it in a way that keeps your other goals on track.

7. Rebalance your investments

I like to be pretty hands off with my investments.

As long as you pick a good enough investment strategy, minimize your costs, and automate your savings, you should stop worrying about it and get back to the rest of your life.

But there IS a small amount of regular maintenance that helps keep things on track, and rebalancing your investments is one of those pieces.

Rebalancing is essentially this:

You chose to invest in a particular way with a particular mix of investments. This much money in stocks, that much in bonds, etc.

But over time the markets will move and that mix will naturally change. When the stock market is up, that part of your investment account will increase in value and you’ll have a bigger percentage of your money in stocks than you originally planned. The opposite is true when the stock market is down.

Rebalancing is how you bring everything back in line with your personal goals. It’s simply the process of resetting your investments back to your original plan.

Of course, there are also a number of investment options that automate the process of rebalancing so that you don’t have to worry about it. 

8. Double-check your insurance and estate plan

Life moves fast, and as your circumstances change you may find yourself with new things to protect, or maybe even things that no longer need protection.

Which means it’s a good idea to review your insurance and estate plan from time to time to make sure it’s still covering what you need it to cover, and nothing more.

Here are three things in particular you’ll want to review:

  • Life insurance – A change in circumstances, such as a new child, a new house, a windfall, a marriage, or a divorce can significantly change your need for life insurance. If you’ve been through any big changes, you can use this tool to re-evaluate your need for coverage.
  • Disability insurance – If you’ve changed jobs or had a significant change in income, you may need to update your coverage to make sure you’re fully protected.
  • Estate plan – The same changes that would trigger a review of life insurance should trigger a review of your will and other estate planning documents. This is simply to make sure that your family will always be cared for in the way you want.

9. Review the past year’s income and expenses

If you’ve been tracking your spending for the past year, now is a good time to look at the full year’s worth of information and ask yourself some questions:

  • Do any of the numbers surprise you?
  • Were there any irregular expenses you hadn’t planned for?
  • Did you save for the things you wanted to save for?
  • Are there any expenses that would be easy to cut?
  • Do you see any opportunities to increase your income?
  • Do you have room to put more money towards more enjoyable activities?

There’s nothing like looking at the cold, hard numbers to get a real sense of where your money is going, what you’re prioritizing, and what you’d like to change.

10. Record your net worth

Your net worth is your single most important financial number for the simple reason that just about every good financial move you make serves to either increase it or protect it.

And that means that tracking your net worth over time will help you gauge whether the financial moves you’re making are actually working. If your net worth is increasing, you’re making progress. If not, it might be time to re-evaluate the decisions you’re making.

So no matter what, recording your net worth now is a good idea. And if you can, compare it to your net worth at the same time last year to see how it’s changed, think about what worked and what didn’t, and use that information to influence your plans for the coming year.

What will you do to improve your financial situation?

You certainly don’t have to hit all 10 of these by the end of the year (though it would be great if you did!). That’s a lot to take on.

But as you look at this list, try to find at least 2-3 things that you can commit to handling before December 31, and maybe another 2-3 that you can commit to at the start of next year.

This isn’t about getting EVERYTHING right. It’s about making consistent forward progress one step at a time.

What next step will you take?

Source: 10 Financial Moves to Make before the End of the Year – Mom and Dad Money

AnnualCreditReport.com

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AnnualCreditReport.com is a website jointly operated by the three major U.S. credit reporting agencies, EquifaxExperian, and TransUnion. The site was created in order to comply with their obligations under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA)[1] to provide a mechanism for American consumers to receive up to three free credit reports per year.

Background

One of the provisions of FACTA, passed in 2003 as an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), was a requirement that each of the three credit reporting agencies provide, upon request, a free credit report every twelve months to every consumer. The goal was to allow consumers a way to ensure their credit information is correct and to guard against identity theft.[2]

Accordingly, the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion created the joint venture company Central Source LLC to oversee their compliance with FACTA.[3] Central Source then set up a toll free telephone number, a mailing address and a central website, AnnualCreditReport.com, to process consumer requests. Access to the free report was initially rolled out in stages, based on the consumer’s state of residence. By the end of 2005 all U.S. consumers could use these services to obtain a credit report.

Companies participating

Currently these companies are required to participate in the website:

Companies not participating

Use of website

AnnualCreditReport.com requires users to register with the site and provide their basic identification information, such as name, address, and Social Security number. The user is then sent to the website of the individual credit reporting agency they select, where they are asked additional security questions to confirm their identity before getting their report.[2] A consumer can request reports from all three agencies at the same time or stagger the requests throughout the twelve-month period as a way to self-monitor their credit data.[2] In order to obtain a free credit report, users are not required to give a credit card number but establishing an account is required by some of the agencies. Any inaccuracies or signs of identity theft may be dealt with using the mechanisms provided for under the FCRA and FACTA.

Over a two-year period from December 2004 to December 2006, 52 million credit reports were issued to consumers through AnnualCreditReport.com. According to the Consumer Data Industry Association, fewer than 2 percent of the reports reviewed by a consumer resulted in a dispute in which data was deleted from the report.[4]

Credit scores are not included in free credit reports obtained from AnnualCreditReport.com. For a fee, each of the credit bureaus offer credit scores as an add-on feature of the report.

Concerns

Credit inquiries effect on credit scores

Using this service does not lower the consumer’s credit score, as it counts as a “soft” credit pull. “Hard” credit pulls made by lenders directly, however, do affect the borrower’s credit score.

Third-party fraud attempts

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only federally mandated and authorized source for obtaining a free credit report. The Federal Trade Commission cautions consumers to be aware of “impostor” websites that have similar names or are deliberate misspellings of the real name.[2] Such impostor websites include websites with titles like FreeCreditScore.com.[5]

In order to investigate this concern, the consumer group World Privacy Forum has made two studies regarding AnnualCreditReport.com. Their July 2005 study found that there were 233 domains with names very similar to AnnualCreditReport.com, of which 112 routed users to a variety of unintended destinations, including for-fee services, “link farms” and pornographic sites. The report concluded that the credit reporting agencies and the Federal Trade Commission needed to do more to rein in and shut down impostor sites. A follow-up study from RentPrep found that of the original 112 routed links, only six currently remain. [6]

Source: AnnualCreditReport.com – Wikipedia

Working from Home? 10 Small Office Décor Ideas

Slide 1 of 10: This lovely space from @loves_leeds_homes proves you can carve out workspace almost anywhere. Define it with inspiring wallpaper (or color). Check out that wall-mount desk with slim attached legs, with matching overhead shelves for storage. So smart!

 © via love_leeds_homes

Unexpected Nook

This lovely space from @loves_leeds_homes proves you can carve out workspace almost anywhere. Define it with inspiring wallpaper (or color). Check out that wall-mount desk with slim attached legs, with matching overhead shelves for storage. So smart!

Slide 2 of 10: A painted floor pattern, slim storage towers and airy drapes (no actual window required) helped @bloomingdiyer carve a cozy farmhouse office out of a dark basement storage room. Create a similar look with these herringbone wood wall decals and this Moroccan tile floor stencil.

 © via @bloomingdiyer

Cozy Farmhouse

A painted floor pattern, slim storage towers and airy drapes (no actual window required) helped @bloomingdiyer carve a cozy farmhouse office out of a dark basement storage room. Create a similar look with these herringbone wood wall decals and this Moroccan tile floor stencil.

Slide 3 of 10: A small office can feel dark and cramped. To make a space feel bigger and brighter, use recessed LED lighting and playful wallpaper, as shown in this office from @littlesquaresofhome. A cubby wall adds plenty of storage, and freestanding plant stands lighten without bulk.

 © via @littlesquaresofhome

Bright and Playful

A small office can feel dark and cramped. To make a space feel bigger and brighter, use recessed LED lighting and playful wallpaper, as shown in this office from @littlesquaresofhome. A cubby wall adds plenty of storage, and freestanding plant stands lighten without bulk.

Slide 4 of 10: Every square inch of this workspace by @lauracoxhome is maximized, thanks to choices such as cut-to-fit shelves, a hardworking pegboard and a roomy basket that tucks perfectly into what would typically be wasted space. It also serves as proof that there's always space for plants, which add life, texture and cheer without taking up much space. When your desk is next to a bright window, it's practically mandatory, though faux plants are always an option.

 © via @lauracoxhome

Plenty of Plants

Every square inch of this workspace by @lauracoxhome is maximized, thanks to choices such as cut-to-fit shelves, a hardworking pegboard and a roomy basket that tucks perfectly into what would typically be wasted space. It also serves as proof that there’s always space for plants, which add life, texture and cheer without taking up much space. When your desk is next to a bright window, it’s practically mandatory, though faux plants are always an option.

Slide 5 of 10: A small desk and chair tucked into the corner of your bedroom or living room certainly qualifies as a home office. A large piece of artwork anchors and defines the workspace, as @rice_camp so beautifully demonstrates.

 © via @rice_camp

Super-Sized Art

A small desk and chair tucked into the corner of your bedroom or living room certainly qualifies as a home office. A large piece of artwork anchors and defines the workspace, as @rice_camp so beautifully demonstrates.

Slide 6 of 10: The right decor choices can make a small space feel bigger, like in this small office from @prettyrealblog. Vertical shiplap draws the eye up, and the neutral color palette feels calm and airy. The wall-mount shelves and smart sconce lighting free up desk space.

 © via @prettyrealblog

Calm and Neutral

The right decor choices can make a small space feel bigger, like in this small office from @prettyrealblog. Vertical shiplap draws the eye up, and the neutral color palette feels calm and airy. The wall-mount shelves and smart sconce lighting free up desk space.

Slide 7 of 10: How can one wall host so much? Pin the praise on @oakeydesignandco's large cork board, equal parts inspiration and organization. (Use cork tiles to customize one to your space.) It definitely communicates "command central" while helping keep the desktop clear — especially challenging in a small space. And an acrylic chair is always a strong choice in a small space, since it all but disappears.

 © via @oakeydesignandco

Cork It Up

How can one wall host so much? Pin the praise on @oakeydesignandco’s large cork board, equal parts inspiration and organization. (Use cork tiles to customize one to your space.) It definitely communicates “command central” while helping keep the desktop clear — especially challenging in a small space. And an acrylic chair is always a strong choice in a small space, since it all but disappears.

Slide 8 of 10: Pegboards can be reconfigured as your needs change, and they don't take up any floor space — great for small offices. We love this beautiful reimagining of the classic wooden pegboard in this small office from @cozy.happy.home because it works as storage and art. Check out this budget-friendly option, or make your own by adapting this garage unit.

  © via @cozy.happy.home

Versatile Storage

Pegboards can be reconfigured as your needs change, and they don’t take up any floor space — great for small offices. We love this beautiful reimagining of the classic wooden pegboard in this small office from @cozy.happy.home because it works as storage and art. Check out this budget-friendly option, or make your own by adapting this garage unit.

Slide 9 of 10: An office tucked inside a closet, of course! Just remove the doors and nestle a horizontal workspace inside — a floating desk like the one @flynnhaus used is perfect. Add wallpaper and a cute pendant light and you'll forget the space was ever meant for anything else.

 © via @flynnhaus

Create a “Cloffice”

An office tucked inside a closet, of course! Just remove the doors and nestle a horizontal workspace inside — a floating desk like the one @flynnhaus used is perfect. Add wallpaper and a cute pendant light and you’ll forget the space was ever meant for anything else.

Slide 10 of 10: Take a blank wall and add some plywood and a couple of 2x4s and voilà — a long workspace for two! @this_little nook went the DIY route to create a narrow shared office, though the store-bought version (i.e. this two-person desk) works, too.

 © via @this_little_nook

Go Long

Take a blank wall and add some plywood and a couple of 2x4s and voilà — a long workspace for two! @this_little nook went the DIY route to create a narrow shared office, though the store-bought version (i.e. this two-person desk) works, too.

Article by Erica Young  for Family Handyman

Source: 10 Small Office Décor Ideas (msn.com)