Having “The Other Talk” With Your Teen – Part 2

(about planning for their future)

My last article asked students to reflect about their interests and natural inclinations while thinking about their choices for a life-long career.

When first discussing career choices the prospective student will grow weary of the phrase “best fit”. This is usually taken to describe the school at which the student will be most comfortable. Somewhere in its definition, however, it should include finding the education that “best fits” the students (and parents) long term financial goals.

But for this post, we’ll look again at some of the educational options.

Free training – Never underestimate the power of self-initiative. It just may be the single most important quality that many employer are seeking. Free training for just about any career can be found on-line. I have worked with highly skilled, self-taught employees in a wide variety of disciplines. Finding  a job without career placement assistance can be a challenging obstacle for those pursuing a self-taught career. Use seminars, professional organizations, or events to begin networking early with those in the industry. You may even find a mentor to assist your pursuits. For more information on self-taught careers take a look at https://careertrend.com/jobs-can-self-taught-7970.html.

Internships are paid or unpaid, short-term, educational training programs typically offered to undergraduate students seeking to learn a little bit more about a type of industry before committing to a specific career-path; while gaining work experience and confidence. At the end of the internship, there is are no expectations for a job offer. Internships can be a great way for students to receive training and pick up some cash for their educational pursuits.

Apprenticeships offer the benefits of education, hands on experience, and pay. A tried-and-true standard for the building trades, now healthcare, hospitality, IT, and other industries are embracing apprenticeships as a viable option for obtaining a skilled workforce. There is a great amount of time, effort, and resources training an apprentice. The intention is to create a highly-skilled employee to which the company is confident to offer a job. A great benefit for the apprentice, is that they begin getting paid while they are being trained. This gives them an opportunity to start saving money, and starting their life without the debt that is often associated with trade school or college. For more information on apprenticeships, check out https://www.apprenticeship.gov/. For information regarding apprenticeships in the building trades take a look at https://aflcio.org/about-us/careers-and-apprenticeships, https://www.abc.org/Education-Training/Craft-Training-Apprenticeship, or https://www.ieci.org/apprenticeship.

Vocational or trade schools offer training for a specific career. Their coursework does not require general studies classes and can be completed in a much shorter time. Trade schools may offer an associate’s degree, a certification, or another document to signify completion of their program. If you think this may be a good fit, see https://mycollegeguide.org/blog/2011/04/vocational-school/ for a list of the ever-increasing number of careers that can be started via vocational school training. Vocational training may be facility-based an hands-on, or it may be online training only. Vocational schools offer some kind of document or certificate at the completion of their coursework. But use caution in choosing the school or program. Many schools are not accredited or licensed by any agency to verify that their programs meet an industry standard. Take time to read the schools offerings, but also research their credentials and reviews. Not doing so may leave you with a lot of debt and no career. For more information about choosing a vocational school see https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0241-choosing-vocational-school.

Community colleges are smaller colleges usually offering 2 year, and sometimes 4 year, degrees. With the proper accreditation, the college hours earned at these colleges will transfer to a 4 year college and apply towards a bachelor’s degree. Often appealing to students because of the lower tuition and the ability to live at home while taking coursework, attending these colleges can dramatically reduce the cost for a 2 or 4 year degree.

College degrees have become a standard requirement for many employers. As it is with trade schools, a 2-year associate’s degree may be all that is necessary to begin work in a specific career. Often, however, a 4 (or 5) year bachelor’s degree is required for an entry-level position. Pursuing a four year degree gives students who are unsure about their career choice, time to investigate their options and interests. And although some trade schools can be equally as expensive, the cost of a college degree   is typically the most expensive choice for career training. With that said, the difference in costs for similar degrees received at different institutions can be staggering. Researching the options is a big task that will seem overwhelming to the prospective student. They will need guidance with the process (and its related frustration). But this is their future and they need to be armed with enough knowledge to make a good decision. Starting early with the process will set expectations, ease frustration, and help avoid making a last-minute decision. Here are some good websites to get an review of the overall process:

Whether you’re a student lucky enough to know exactly what you want to do in life, or whether you’re unsure of your interests and need more time and guidance, then I hope you now see there are many tools and educational options available to help you reach your goals.

Finding the ‘best fit’ may seem like an insurmountable problem. But hey….many of life’s issues seem that way at first. This is the great part of becoming an adult. Learning to make decisions for yourself. It’s not easy. But it the challenge can be fun.

The next post in this series will examine key financial drivers for educational choices. This is a tough conversation. Both parents and students would like to be able to completely fund the pursuit of dreams, wherever that leads. But there are financial realities that must be considered both during, and after, your training; as you step into life after school. We’ll expand on understanding the financial assistance programs available for each of the choices. We’ll also look at some of the processes college applicants must now go through; whether or not they can expect financial aid. This is a key component of making a quality ‘best fit’ decision. It will also contain additional resources for the application and financial aid processes. So you won’t want to miss it!

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

Having “The Other Talk” With Your Teen

(about planning for their future)

It’s that time of year again. When young students are asked to start thinking about their future.  There are so many questions they may be asking themselves. Questions like:

  • What do I want to do when I graduate high school?
  • Do I think trade school or college is best for me?
  • Which school is best for me and how do I find it?
  • What are the costs of my decision?

These are the typical questions which begin conversations of self-discovery.  Students mostly turn to their parents or school counselors for help finding answers. Some teens know exactly what they want to do. Some are still searching for their interests. Some have thought about it for years. Some haven’t really given it much thought at all. But most, have had very little practical experience with the adult choices of life. And, although they may be eager to get started, they probably could use a little guidance on organizing their thoughts on what to consider.

I like to believe that all parents want their children to succeed in life. The difficult part is guiding them to define their version of success.  Some may want to go to college and explore a their options while earning a degree in general studies. Other’s may know exactly which trade school they’d like to begin. But not many of them understand the stifling impact which debt can have on their life. With that in mind, starting conversations with a different line of questions may help with this process. Below are questions which they can ask themselves to help determine what really interest them.

  1. Do I enjoy working with my hands?
  2. Do I like building relationships with people?
  3. Do I think I would prefer working indoors or out? Always in the same location, or at varying locations?
  4. Do I think that I may wish to own my own business one day?
  5. Why do I want to go to college or into the trades?
  6. For whose future am I working so hard? Am I trying to fulfill what I believe my parents want of me?
  7. What are the pros and cons of college versus an apprenticeship?
  8. Whose job is it to pay for college, and for how long?
  9. What is the average college debt and how would that impact my life after college?
  10. What schools fit within my goals? How does their program rank in comparison with other schools offering the same degree?
  11. What are the pros and cons of community colleges?
  12. What are realistic expectations for income and living expenses during, and after completion of, my studies?

These are big questions with complicated answers. Yet their impact may last a lifetime. Indeed, helping your child organize and plan their future will be a major step in their growth towards independence and success. I recommend starting these discussions early in high school. Waiting till college discussions are underway may seem less like guidance, and more like an attempt to push away from already formed expectations. Discussing plans early, and often, doesn’t mean they can’t be changed. Indeed, it gives them more flexibility as new information is explored and expectations change.

Having a discussion with your student about the 12 questions above is a great place to start. It will begin the discussion and let them consider the different choices for their vocational education; without getting too far in the details. Here are a couple more resources to consider:

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/316320 Trade School vs. College: Which Is Right for You? (Infographic)


The next few articles will go deeper into these questions. We’ll do an analysis of the short, and long-term, financial impact of each choice. We’ll also look at the next steps and provide some tools to get started. But for now, the next step is just to have a conversation and write down some thoughts. I recommend asking the student to keep a notebook dedicated for this process.

I’m always looking for feedback. Please don’t hesitate to respond with additional thoughts, concerns, questions, or suggestions regarding this topic

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

The Power of Limited Choice

I once had the pleasure of knowing an extremely successful insurance salesman named Pete. He routinely won company vacations to Hawaii and other intriguing places by being the agency’s best salesman in the Midwest. The man simply didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘No’. And I can only remember him to utter the phrase “I don’t know” once. Like many of his generation, he had an amazing self-believe and self-reliance; the product of some incredibly difficult times. Pete was raised during the great depression. Like many children of the time, he spent much of his time doing whatever he could to earn a little money to help his family. He once told me that he got his start in sales at a very young age, selling pencils on a street corner. He credited his strong sales ability directly to his childhood experience. He simply stated “I had no other choice”.

In a recent article by CBS news, the author discusses the unintended consequences, of having too many choices. The subject is specific to parents helping their children with college finances and beyond. If you are at or approaching this stage in life, you should definitely read it. But the ‘story behind the story’ may be that it’s become increasingly difficult to recognize the impact of our choices. Even though we’ve seen the catastrophic results of credit card and mortgage debt within a generation, household debt is now at an all-time high; with student loan debt now greater than that on credit cards and only second to mortgages. These are the three elephants in the room. Growing bigger and eating more than ever. And as if that wasn’t enough, most of us are choosing to feed the cute little critters that come our way each day; like restaurants, cable, automobiles, costly entertainment, and the latest electronics. The feed bill is getting bigger… and it’s not going away.

There are a lot of theories about how consumers have returned to overspending. Several of my previous articles discussed identifying ‘wants’ versus ‘needs’, household cash flow, and budgeting. Perhaps that seems overwhelming. Maybe, as a start, it would be easier to limit our choices.

Here are a few Steps For Today which will help you get started:

– Talk to your friends about cutting their cable costs. The streaming choices are changing almost daily. And many homes now get HDTV with multiple sub channels.

-Think about what nights you can prepare meals at home. Cooking seems to be a lost art. It does not have to be complicated. It can be as simple as a Chef’s Salad.

– Discuss with your friends the ways they’ve found to save on regular expenses.

– Learn to expand the rule of 72. To approximate how long an investment will take to double, divide 72 by the interest rate. For example a 7.2% rate (a conservative market average) will double the investment in 10 years (72÷7.2 = 10). Do this before every purchase and you’ll get really good at visualizing the long-term financial impact of your choices; and the importance of starting in your younger years.

– Consider an alternative to that $5 cup of coffee. Or use it as an occasional incentive after accomplishing a goal.

– For motivation, take those coffee savings and put them into the investment calculator at: https://www.investor.gov/additional-resources/free-financial-planning-tools/compound-interest-calculator.

– Stop and examine your motivations for wanting the top-of-the-line, next generation products. Perhaps what you have, or a model with less bells and whistles is sufficient for your needs.

– Get a sheet of paper, or your journal, and make a list of your self-imposed limits.

– Start each day reviewing your list of temptations to avoid.

– Finish each day giving yourself a pat on the back for the temptations you overcame. Journal what you saved and how you’re going to invest that amount towards your savings.

– Lastly, take action! Take your savings and set them aside in a location dedicated for your emergency fund and retirement needs.

Success breeds confidence. Learning to limit our choices will surely make it easier to plan for the future. And the best thing you can do for your children is to give them this skill and confidence as well.

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

Making It Clear

My last post discussed being a good advocate for your, or your loved-ones healthcare. The following is a re-post of my 2017 article identifying the need for Advance Healthcare directives and medical instructions which should be considered when we can no-longer speak for ourselves.

This week’s post continues with providing medical information and instructions during an emergency. We’ve discussed Power of Attorney, but did not cover what kind of instruction can be provided if the POA is not available. There are other advance directive documents specifically for this situation. There are several different names for the documents which share the same function as the Advance Health Care Directive; Advanced Directive, Advanced Decision, Personal Directive, or Living Will. This is a legally binding document a person uses to specify the medical care that they can be given under end-of-life conditions. Three common phrases used on Advance Directives are Do Not Resuscitate (DNR), Do Not Intubate (DNI), and Do Not Hospitalize (DNH). Another commonly used phrase is ‘No Heroic Measures’. It is often suggested to avoid the use of this phrase due to its lack of clarity. In its stead, give specific direction for medical treatment such as: the use of a feeding tube, mechanical ventilation or intubation, catheters, shock, or vasopressors. Most health care facilities have a DNR form on hand for the patient to fill out upon arrival (if able). I think we can agree, however, that this is something that should be thought about and discussed with loved ones prior to an emergency situation. But all of these documents are useless if they can’t be found when needed. This is why I recommend keeping copies of them with the EMI documents and the POAs discussed in earlier posts.

I am always amazed when I find couples who have not discussed the advance directive options with their spouse or POA. They often find that their wishes were not as clear as they believed. I suggest the following steps to avoid any misunderstandings:

1. Schedule a meeting with your spouse and/or loved ones to discuss what actions you’d like to be performed in the event of a medical emergency.

2. Search the internet for an example Advance Health Care Directive which suits your needs. There are many available.

3. Store a copy with your EMI and POA documents.

4. Discuss your wishes with friends and families to minimize the stress during a difficult time.

Be aware that requirements for advance directives can differ by state. And although states usually honor the home states directives, it is not always the case. Therefore, if you reside in more than one state, you may need directives for each state.
Below is a link to an excellent resource for further information and example documents for each state.

Thanks for reading,
And remember to take the next step…

Be Your Best Advocate

I’ve recently spent a lot of time in medical offices supporting and advocating for family members. Anyone who has done so will quickly tell you how annoying it is to fill out the same paperwork over and over. We would all like to think that the staff will have this information on file, or be able to recall it from memory. Although there are talented and dedicated people in the medical profession, the truth is that most see dozens of people a day and are hard-pressed to keep information up-to-date. Of course they keep medical records from visit to visit. But, things can change constantly, and they may no longer have the latest information. And relying on memory only works as well as our ability to recall; which can be compromised in an emergency or traumatic situation. Supporting our doctors and caregivers with supplemental information can make a big difference in the care we receive.

Here’s and idea for what should be on a personal healthcare record (PHR):

Part One: Emergency Medical Information (EMI)
– Your name, age, address
– Emergency contact name, address and phone number
– Name and phone number for your Healthcare Proxy or Healthcare Power of Attorney (POA) (if any…..and why don’t you have one!)
– Your preferred hospital (where your POA and Advance Directive documents should be on file)
– Allergies. Including medications and latex sensitivities
– Current medications. To help prevent a possible conflict with medications or procedures.
– Current health issues
– Current and past physicians, their phone numbers, and a brief description of why they were seen- Immunization history
– Past health issues

Part Two: A running log of events
– A running record of vitals provides an expectation for your normal blood pressure, pulse, etc.
– Latest test results
– A running summary of topics discussed with, and medical directions provided by, caregivers

This is Steps For Today, so let’s get started now….

1. Set a date on your calendar the date by which you’re going to get this accomplished. Give yourself a couple of weeks. If your using an electronic calendar, set a few reminder notifications along the way.

2. Much of this information is now available through online portals and apps (such as MyChart) offered by your healthcare provider. I recommend that you get familiar with what’s available.

3. Create an EMI record, even if it’s handwritten, containing part one from above. Make sure your family and caregivers know how to find it. It is recommended that part one (the EMI) be carried with you at all times. This can be on paper, a thumb drive, or something describing how it can be accessed online.

4. Create a log, either written or electronic, to carry with you to each medical appointment. Take notes on your vitals, discussions, diagnoses, and treatment plans.

5. Make sure your appropriate family members, or trusted loved-ones, know about your records and how to access them.

More information on these topics can be found at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/emergency-health-information/basics/art-20134333.

Remember, this information is only useful if shared with your caregivers. They can’t read your mind. Share your history, thoughts and concerns at each visit.

Speaking of sharing, I am always looking for new ways to help others. Please share any tips, experiences, or suggestions for this topic here.

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

The Power of Planning

“Planning is bringing the future into the present, so you can do something about it now.” -Alan Lakein

My grandfather used to tell stories of helping his grandfather, a carpenter by trade. They would use the cold winter months to prepare for the upcoming projects. They would purchase the materials, sharpen tools, and pre-cut the lumber so that he’d be ready to start when warmer weather arrives.

In a similar fashion, every new year’s day my wife and I spend some time discussing the projects we’d like to accomplish during the new year. It’s interesting and rewarding to review the accomplishments of the prior year. We rarely review the list during the year, but its contents always seem to guide our endeavors. I believe the list gathering exercise gives us a chance to share thoughts and align our priorities; cementing the project firmly in the background of our minds. But, of course, the list is readily available, in case we need to review it.

Here are some Steps For Today tips for creating a list of your own.
– Get a small notebook or journal solely dedicated to managing home projects.
– If you followed my last post, you already have a list of possible indoor projects to put in your journal.
– Remember to date your entries. You’ll really appreciate this habit over the years.
– Take some time to walk around outside your home and add possible outdoor projects to your list.
– As always, have meeting with your household decision makers to prioritize your list, discuss funds and resources, and get some items on the schedule!
– Remember too, that this is a chance to model the planning process for any kids in the household. So invite them to participate.

Keep an eye on this site for more information on project planning.

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…


Winter Projects

It’s wintertime. In the midwest, outdoor projects are often on hold till warmer weather. What a great opportunity you now have to focus on indoor projects.

We all have them. Those annoying little things we’d like to get done. They sit and wait, occasionally imparting a guilty feeling, until some of them can no longer be ignored. So why put them off until their necessity forces itself into your schedule; which might occur on the most beautiful weekend of the year. Taking time now to organize your home, do some painting, or update a room, will only free-up more time to enjoy the outdoors when warmer weather arrives. If your like most of us, the problem can be deciding what to do first.

Here are a few steps to help you get started today:

– Set aside some time to think about your indoor projects

– Get something on which to take notes and take a walk through your home, listing things you’d like to accomplish

– Prioritize the list with the help of your household decision makers

You now have a place to start. Pick out an indoor project for which you have the time and resources and put a start date on your calendar. If the project you’d like to start first seems a bit too large, you may want to pick a smaller one. My next post will focus on planning for larger projects. It may be best to start with a small project anyway. Once you get the first one done, you’ll probably get excited about the next.

One last thing. I recommend telling your friends and or family about the project. The benefits for doing so include any suggestions they may have, and knowing they will ask you about its status will help to ensure you’ll get it done.


Thanks for reading,
And remember to take the next step…

Winter is Around the Corner

Well it seems as though it’s going to be a typical fall in St. Louis; last week it was 90, this week it’s 45. Saint Louisans will tell you, fall is short here…winter is around the corner. And although winters here are not as brutal as those up north, there is still enough dangerous cold and icy weather to warrant a quick safety checkup.

Here are some steps to take in preparation for winter:

The Furnace – As the cold nights set in, we eventually will switch the furnace on to ward away those cold chills. Whether gas, electric, or wood heat, check your smoke detectors to ensure that they’re in working order. I know most of us replace the batteries when we set our clocks as daylight savings time switches back and forth, but it is a good idea to give them a test when you switch on the heat. If you’re not using electricity to heat your home, you should definitely have carbon monoxide detectors in your home as well, especially near the furnace or other source of heat. It’s also a great idea to purchase a couple of electric space heaters just in case your furnace has a problem during freezing temperatures. Even if you decide to leave home. A couple of space heaters may be enough to keep pipes from freezing in the kitchen or bathroom. Remember too, never use outdoor heating or cooking equipment indoors. Every year it seems there are lives lost to fire and carbon monoxide poisoning because of this bad decision.

Food and water – If there is a major storm, why risk having to go out of the house for food and water. Or this area, I recommend keeping at least a week’s supply of water and food that needs no cooking or refrigeration. It doesn’t have to be gourmet, just edible and safely stored.

Light and backup electricity – Sure, we’d all like to have a backup generator in our home. But they’re just a wee bit expensive. What we can have instead, is a couple of fully charged flashlights, backup batteries or rechargeable battery packs, and solar chargers. I recommend getting a small 12V rechargeable battery pack at the discount store. You can find these in either the home electronics or automotive section (some of these store enough power to start your car). Most of these come with a charger that plugs into household current and have a USB port on them for charging phones and such. If you leave it plugged in, it will be fully charged when the power goes out. Likewise, there are small solar panels available which have USB ports on them to charge small battery operated appliances such as phones or USB powered LED lights. And of course, it wouldn’t be a complete list without recommending a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.

Keeping outdoors safe – Make sure you’re ready for snow and ice but refreshing your supply of ice melt and checking that you still have a shovel handy. Also, make sure your outdoor faucets aren’t leaking at all. Any leaks will eventually freeze and burst the pipe indoors. Not a problem…..until it thaws.

Automobiles – Along with the flashlight, tire inflator, booster cables, and road flares you should already have in your car, prepare your automobile for a winter emergency by loading it with a warm blanket, boots, gloves, and a hat. Throw in an ice scraper, ice melt, sand or cat litter (for traction), and a small shovel just in case we get another snow like ’82. We also try to have a few small bags of necessities such as gloves, hats, snacks and heat packs handy to hand to anyone who looks like they might need it.

An additional resource for winter preparedness can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/features/winterweather/index.html

One last thing, for some of us winter weather represents a hazardous mobility challenge. So remember to check up on those family and friends who may need a little assistance or just a friend to talk to during the inclement weather.

Thanks for reading,
And remember to take the next step…