• Textbook "arbitrage"

     one entrepreneur's method for profit from used books

    "Arbitrage" is a Wall Street word for selling assets (or companies) at a profit at almost the same moment you are buying them at the lower price. The Planet Money episode linked below highlights two entrepreneurs who have applied the concept to used textbook buying and selling on a grand scale. Wildly divergent prices create an opportunity for profit. They call it a "guaranteed" way to double their investment. There is a built-in market for textbooks, and the market is predictable--the schedules of classes describe the market size. The textbooks are very expensive, and the price is very volatile, as the price rises at the beginning of each semester. Editions are current for about three or four years. The entrepreneurs used computer data to find out which textbooks were the most lucrative. 

    The market is changing somewhat for textbooks that have current online content. And more people are getting into the market. But the opportunity exists for those willing to do the research and can manage the logistics. 

    Source: "Episode 581: Free Money" by David Kestenbaum and Jacob Goldstein, NPR: Planet Money, October 18, 2017. (podcast)

    Follow up:

    • What are more lucrative applications of arbitrage? Give several examples. 
    • How do you buy your textbooks? Do you re-sell them? Do you know anyone who has a significant income stream from this business? Either from personal experience, secondhand experience, or by listening to the podcast, describe the advantages and pitfalls of buying and selling used textbooks. 


  • Two bosses at CFPB resolved by court decision

    images of Leandra English and Mick Mulvaney from Heavy.com

    When Richard Cordray resigned last week as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), he followed the law that established the independent consumer watchdog agency: he appointed his deputy director,Leandra English, as acting director. But then President Trump double-appointed his Office of Management and Budget pick, Mick Mulvaney, to the same position, claiming that all agency positions were his to appoint. 

    Ms. English filed a lawsuit on Sunday against both Donald Trump and Mick Mulvaney, seeking a restraining order to block Mulvaney's appointment.  But on Monday, Mr. Mulvaney showed up to work earlier than Ms. English with doughnuts and instructions to staff to ignore Ms. English. 

    The confusion about who should fill the vacancy rests on two laws with conflicting procedures for appointments--one of which may or may not apply to the CFPB (quotations are from the Charlie Savage article linked below):

    • The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB as an independent regulating agency said "that the deputy director, who is appointed by the director, 'shall' serve as acting director if that position becomes open." Those supporting this interpretation read the word "shall" to be definite rather than a possible suggestion.
    • The 1998 Vacancies Reform Act--not directed at a specific agency--includes a default position that overlaps Dodd-Frank (that the deputy director should assume the position of acting director). It also, however, "gives presidents the option of instead appointing as acting head any other executive branch official who has already undergone Senate confirmation, as Mr. Mulvaney has. [The Vacancies Reform Act ] procedures are the 'exclusive means' of temporarily filling a position unless another statute expressly designates an acting successor. Since Dodd-Frank does just that, the question is whether the 2010 law superseded the Vacancies Reform Act for the purpose of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."

    By late on Tuesday, Judge Timothy Kelly ruled that the 1998 law superseded the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act and cleared the way for Mick Mulvaney to head the CFPB.  But it appears that Mulvaney would like to deregulate himself out of the job. Slate cited his testimony to the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations: "I don’t like the fact that CFPB exists, I will be perfectly honest with you.” Mulvaney also co-sponsored HR 3118, a bill to eliminate the CFPB.


    Follow up

    • Who did you want to prevail as head of the CFPB? Why?
    • What might you have done if you reported to the director (or acting director) of the CFPB and you were at work on Monday with two bosses in conflict? If you have been in a situation where you have observed or have been a person reporting to two bosses, discuss the issues that arise as a subordinate. 
    • Listen to these views of the CFPB: The Young Turks interviewing Elizabeth Warren and Ralph Nader on Fox NewsDo either of these interviews help you better understand the Consumer Financial Protection Board? Why or why not? 

  • Responding to the growing backlash regarding sexual harassment claims

     sexual harassment claims on YouTube

    Backlash. The word has a negative connotation, but the phenomenon is almost inevitable--no matter what the topic. But when the topic is sexual harassment, conversations can become so polarizing that "overwhelm" sets in with a vengeance. Lili Loufbourow explains the phenomenon: 

    "With every news story there comes a moment of satiety so absolute that the weight of it trumps any story's actual merits. After everyone reads one too many descriptions of the same incident — whether it's allegations about Russian electoral interference or sexual harassment or rape — a reactionary mood sets in. It's the urge everyone gets as a news cycle crests: That's all very well and good, but come on. Time for the takedown, the pushback, the cooler heads that will reason the volume of the tide away."

    Here's an example of how it happens:

    "We all know what will come next. As in 2006, when the Duke lacrosse case gripped the news; as in 2014, when Rolling Stone published its piece about an alleged rape at UVA, one of the accounts coming out during this wave will be in some way disproved. When that happens, the familiar landslide of public opinion will turn. The incident will become a muted indictment of the hundreds of real victims who have come forward to tell their stories. Much of the public will seize that one false story as an excuse to facilitate the calming of the waters, the burying of a conversation so ugly and difficult that we regress to truisms about 'human nature' and try to explain sexual predations as mere 'awkwardness' or hapless attempts at flirting."

    There are also the actualities of what the New York Times terms the "unexamined realities of the male libido." An observer needs to over-ride any knee-jerk responses to situations in order to consider all aspects and all inputs to complicated interpersonal situations. What tools can a person access in a situation where a gut-feel response might be inappropriate?

    One choice: "Mindfulness" is meta-awareness about what one is experiencing. In a simple example, one can experience frustration or even road-rage in bad traffic among selfish drivers. Meta-awareness would be noting that one has a strong feeling and that a choice exists as to whether to run with those feelings or just sit and notice that the feeling has arisen. In other words, one can swear or yell at the other driver...OR take a breath and notice how much a part of the experience of delay is shared with other humans.

    With respect to the backlash issue, meta-awareness might look like this: if one experiences a thought such as: "They are not being fair to Louis C.K." or "That's not an apology!!"-- it is possible to have two responses (at least). One response is to feel moral indignation and ramp up one's emotional agitation regarding the unfairness. Another response is to have a meta-awareness: "Oh, I am experiencing a sudden thought that might get me riled up. I can choose to let it take over, or I can just sit in this meta-awareness until it subsides." One then has the chance to ask--again and again if necessary: What really happened? 

    Source: "The sexual harassment backlash is coming. Here's how to respond," by Lili Loufbourow, The Week, November 3, 2017. 

    Follow up:

    • What backlash have you experienced in response to the sexual harassment allegations and the range of responses from those accused? 
    • What backlash have you felt in response to the sexual harassment allegations and the range of responses from those accused? 
    • How can mindfulness around difficult discussions and interactions on this topic be applied in the workplace?
  • The House tax plan looks bad for students

     from Newsy on YouTube

    The GOP tax reform plan is far from being finalized, but certain aspects of the bill have a disproportionate (and negative) impact on specific populations. These groups tend to be people who don't make much money anyway. These education-related "losers" with respect to the proposed tax plan are:

    • Graduate students: Their tuition wavers (even though never received in cash) would be taxed as income--see the Kelly Balmes example below for the huge impact this has.
    • Universities: a new tax of 1.4% on net investment income--which was changed to apply only to "well-endowed" colleges when universities complained.
    • Those with student loans: a) the loan forgiveness benefit provided by some employers would be taxed as income; b) The $2500 deduction for student loan repayment that those making under $80,000 are eligible for would be eliminated; c) Loans would not be forgiven upon debt or permanent disability.
    • All students: a) Three tax credits now available to those paying for higher education (American opportunity tax credit, lifetime learning credit and Hope scholarship credit) would be consolidated into one credit. b) The Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (allowing families to save for college without being taxed) would be eliminated. 

    Many observers feel the plan disproportionately affects STEM students and diverse populations. The Senate plan will be different; before any bill becomes law the differences will have to be reconciled. 

    Since today's students will be employed over the next few years, the next question to ponder is:

    image from Wealth Management

    As the details in the legislation get ironed out, the data that can provide realistic answers will become available.


    Follow up

    • How does the tax plan affect you? Don't guess: do the numbers for your self now and a 5-years-in-the-future-self (further education, higher income, maybe a change in family status). Run the numbers for your parents or others you know.  What is the reality?
    • How does the Senate plan affect you? 
    • Think of the big picture: what are all the factors that you can think of that determine an optimum tax situation? Consider taxation of ALL kinds, as well as revenues, expenses, current and future deficits, and how deductions and tax credits figure into "social engineering" (Examples of social engineering are corporate tax credits for locating in a city to create jobs, or encouraging stability by allowing deductions for mortgage interest for home buyers).
  • "When was the last time you told a lie?" and other tough interview questions

     image from YouTube video produced by Wah! Banana

    Interviewing for a job means that you have your "foot in the door." You have made the "paper cut" and the employer is interested enough in you as a future employee to take the time to meet you. But a job interview can be more stressful than a first date. A person can do their homework on the company and have excellent qualifications, but might be get flummoxed when asked one of several tricky and tough interview questions--designed to put an interviewee on the spot. Here are a few from Forbes Magazine

    • Why have you been out of work so long, and how many others were laid off?
    • If employed, how do you manage time for interviews?
    • How did you prepare for this interview?
    • Do you know anyone who works for us?
    • Where would you really like to work?
    • What bugs you about coworkers or bosses?
    • Can you describe how you solved a work or school problem?
    • Can you describe a work or school instance in which you messed up?
    • How does this position compare with others you’re applying for?
    • If you won the lottery, would you still work?

    A few of the above questions shouldn't surprise anyone who is preparing for the interview process--experience solving problems or learning from mistakes is pretty standard interview fare. But some of the other questions can test for emotional intelligence and, without asking directly, for honesty. 

    Here are a few more tough questions, these from Onward Search

    • What kind of tree is your career?
    • What is your greatest weakness?
    • What is the last book you've read? (I was asked this when applying for my full time position at SMC)
    • What is the one question you were hoping I wouldn't ask you today?
    • How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

    And, especially if a person has been stretching the truth in the interview process, the really tough question to answer is: When was the last time you told a lie?


    Follow up

    • How would you answer the question: "When have you lied at work and gotten away with it?" What was your motivation? What might you do differently?
    • Discuss how the article suggests answering several of the questions above. Prepare your own answers to the questions. 
    • Why might an interviewer ask you to describe how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?


  • After hitting bottom, Detroit's revival includes Mahindra's nearby auto plant

     A Mahindra factory in India

    The Detroit area is growing again. The Mumbai, India-based company, Mahindra, had a ribbon-cutting ceremony today signaling a new plant to be built in Auburn Hills, MI. This is the first auto plant investment in the Detroit area in over 25 years. Off-road vehicles will be manufactured there. 

    Reasons cited by Anand G.Mahindra, CEO, for the location of the plant include: 

    • Elon Musk has proven that some of the barriers to an American auto plant start-up can be overcome.
    • "We have a responsibility to contribute to the resurgence of Detroit. That means jobs, and that means investment.”
    • The Detroit area has the human resources of engineering and manufacturing experience, and is a hub for self-driving innovation and testing sites.

    Source: "Indian Automaker's Plant is Latest Sign of Detroit Comeback," by Bill Vlasik, New York Times, November 20, 2017. 

    Follow up

    • List and discuss some additional reasons for locating in southeast Michigan, other than those cited by the company in the linked article (check related internet search links)
    • According to the article, what other foreign corporations have invested in southeast Michigan, and why?
  • How to Deal with a Bad Boss

    image from the The Daily Worth blog

    The recent rise in sexual harassment complaints has highlighted one aspect that may arise in dealing with a "bad boss." But bosses can be troublesome in a variety of  ways. Four general behaviors that indicate a supervisor may be problematic are:

    • Communicating only rarely. This type of boss might only communicate when he or she has something negative to say.
    • An unwillingness, repeatedly, to take personal responsibility for problems.
    • No evidence of a moral center--cannot focus on what is right and wrong for the organization, but will do anything to improve his or her own situation.
    • Failure to foster and mentor subordinates.

    Forbes magazine recently did an article on how to deal with a difficult supervisor, suggesting five constructive ways:

    • "Make yourself indispensable.
    • Try to see things through his or her eyes.
    • Don't complain to your boss's boss.
    • Stay true to yourself and your values.
    • Don't be a victim--vote with your feet."

    It is difficult to apply these rational responses and deal with the emotions that arise in the moment when being criticized or otherwise poorly treated.  Mindfulness is a technique that might help. Mindfulness is meta-awareness about what one is experiencing. In a simple example, one can experience frustration or even road-rage in bad traffic among selfish drivers. Meta-awareness would be noting that one has a strong feeling and that a choice exists as to whether to run with those feelings or just sit and notice that the feeling has arisen, not taking the situation personally.  

    With respect to the bad boss issue, meta-awareness might look like this: if one experiences a thought such as: "I am really being treated unfairly! What a jerk!"-- it is possible to have two responses (at least). One response is to feel moral indignation and ramp up one's emotional agitation regarding the unfairness. Another response is to have a meta-awareness: "Oh, I am experiencing strong emotions here. One is anger. Another is fear. I could really let this build until I want to explode. I can choose, however, to  just sit in this meta-awareness until the strong feelings of helplessness subside.Then I will think about the situation rationally and maybe discuss it with a trusted friend or colleague so I I can handle it more skillfully." 

    Source: "5 Constructive Ways To Deal With Bad Bosses," by Victor Lipman, Forbes, September 14, 2017. 

    Follow up

    • Give examples of how a person might exhibit each of the five behavioral suggestions for dealing with a difficult boss. 
    • When might each of the five suggestions be inappropriate? Give examples. Are any of these suggestions useful in sexual harassment situations? Explain your answer, and offer better alternatives if you think of any. 
    • Do you have any experience with mindfulness or meta-awareness when dealing with difficult people? Describe. You might want to read more about this concept: "Situational Awareness Matters."


  • SNL skit addresses sexual harassment--an unfunny reality for 48% of the female workforce

     "Claire from HR" (Cecily Strong from SNL) on sexual harassment (TVMA)

    According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, sexual harassment is a reality for 48% of women in the workforce. Individuals who do not identify as women are being harassed as well. Human resource departments (now often heavily staffed with attorneys) often use "trainings" in an attempt to mitigate corporate liability resulting from sexual harassment, which can be costly in terms of productivity and turnover, as well as dollar settlements. These trainings clearly are not doing enough to address the realities of harassment if so many are still experiencing it.

    The humorous skit from Saturday Night Live is far more direct than any HR training might be. It deals with the issue in substance, rather than side-stepping the interpersonal issues by focusing on the legalities. Marketplace's Sabri Ben-Achour addressed the effectiveness of various approaches to sexual harassment training in a previous podcast: "What makes sexual harassment training effective--and ineffective."

    Source: "SNL's Claire From HR nails sexual harassment, but she won't be part of your training," by Jana Kasperkevic, Marketplace: American Public Media, November 13, 2017.

    Follow up:

    • What part of the #MeToo movement resonates as with you? What, if anything, makes you uncomfortable about the revelations regarding sexual harassment? Have you felt any backlash?
    • Do you have any apologies to make? Do you feel any apologies are due to you? Have you witnessed behaviors that have made you uncomfortable? Describe at least once situation in which you would have behaved differently, in any of the three roles (harasser, person being harassed, and bystander).
    • In small groups in a classroom or workplace setting, role-play harassment scenarios and delineated at lease three ways to respond if you were a bystander. List possible positive and possible negative outcomes that may occur with each response. 
    • How should Human Resource departments deal with sexual harassment and sexual harassment training? Listen to the podcast linked above on effectiveness to inform your answer. 
  • Why millennials make great seasonal employees

      image from flexjobs

    Holiday seasonal employment creates new opportunities in the "gig economy." The number of jobs spike in delivery and other logistics arenas, as well as in both on-ground and online sales. Employers can maximize both short and long term benefits by hiring millennials, according to the linked article and information from the National Retail Federation. The reasons include: 

    • Millennials like to communicate in person and online, and are especially adept at following up via social media. 
    • Angry and impatient customers provide opportunities for millennials to prove themselves--in an environment where they are not bored or burnt out by dealing with the public year-round.
    • The season provides a fertile but lower-risk training ground, both for and employee who might hone and develop skills to other positions, and for the employer who might want to hire the now-proven temp employee full-time. 

    In addition to the reasons listed in the article, the acceptance of short-term employment as a lifestyle make the millennial generation a first-choice for seasonal hiring. I'm sure there are plenty of other reasons...

    Source: "3 Reasons Why Your Seasonal Hires Should Be Millennials," by Deborah Sweeney, Business.com, October 19, 2017.

    Follow up

    • Have you ever worked as a seasonal employee--either during the holidays in a sales or logistics business, or during the summer in a beach, camp, or tourism related business? Describe your experience. What are the pros and cons?
    • What OTHER millennial attributes make this generation a great choice for hiring?


  • Want to increase your anxiety? Become rich

    According to Thomas Gallagher, being a multi-millionaire might actually increase one's anxiety about having enough money. Professionals who work in this psychological niche say that those with acquired wealth might fear:

    • not having enough money to last their lifetimes
    • that the money might "corrupt them"
    • that the money might "make them insensitive to the needs of others"
    • their children will be unmotivated, leading them to have meaningless lives
    • becoming a sure source for loans or largesse in the eyes of family members
    • becoming a target for crime

    The rich certainly do not get much empathy when they complain about these worries. Those with inherited rather than acquired wealth seem to have even more problems--especially if they have siblings with whom they must work out their differences. 

    At least a rich person has the resources to get help to ameliorate their psychological unease. Charlotte Beyer, an author and entrepreneur specializing in wealthy individuals, has this advice: “How you spend your money is the ultimate representation of your values, and you should do it with joy and fun and love.”

    Source: "I'm rich, and that makes me anxious," by Kerry Hannon, New York Times: My Money, November 7, 2017.

    Follow up

    • What amount of money in the bank would make you feel rich and secure? What about your net worth? 
    • Discuss the differences experienced by those with inherited wealth vs. those with acquired wealth.
    • When you read this article, did you think, "luxury problem" or "white privilege"? What would you like to say to Thomas Gallagher and others with his anxieties?  


  • The new employee benefit: Help paying off student loans

     image from blog article

    Students who teach in challenging urban areas or doctors who practice medicine in remote areas have historically been able to get help from their employers (usually local governments) in paying off their student loans. That employee benefit is being introduced to the private sector by companies that operate as third-party managers of this perk. 

    Gradifi is one such company.  It has placed ads directed at employers, telling them that the reason students have accumulated so much debt is that they "wanted to work for you." PricewaterhouseCoopers (the Big Four accounting firm, known as PWC) was Gradifi's first client.

    It turns out that millennials (who are healthy and far from retirement) find very useful a benefit that will help them pay down their student loans by matching the payments they have to make RIGHT NOW. According to Tim DeMello, CEO of Gradifi, “the millennial workforce will be 50 percent of the workforce by 2020, and 75 percent of them graduate with student loans.” And student debt now totals $1.4 trillion. The potential for growth seems apparent.

    Source: "The new workplace perk: help with student loans," by Amy Scott, Marketplace: American Public Media, November 8, 2017.

    Follow up;

    • What employee benefits interest you the most and why? Consider repayment of student loans, health care, vision and dental care, vacation time, personal and sick leave, defined benefit pension plans or 401(k) plans with employer matching, child care leave, on-site child care, flexible scheduling, ability to work from home, office or cubicle surroundings, on-site workout areas, on-site masseur/chef/barista, product discounts, professional development training, self-development training, technology freebies or loans (phones, tablets, laptops), business car, business class travel upgrades, expense accounts or entertainment expense reimbursements.
    • How important is salary vis-a-vis benefits?
    • Describe the tax law change that would make the student loan benefit more attractive. Would this be possible under the tax bill currently being proposed by Republicans in Congress?


  • Holiday season hack: How to say "I'm out of the office"

    How-to video in case you don't know how to do this is Outlook 2013

    Out-of-office replies to email or voicemail abound during holiday season. Your workplace may have general guidelines or templates, but taking personal responsibility for their length, content and tone can shape a correspondent's reaction and response. Ask yourself if your intention is to be:

    • Humorous?
    • Distant?
    • Helpful?
    • "Crispy"?
    • Indispensable and on-call?

    Remember that people's time is valuable, and they are contacting you for a reason. Try to let them know when they can contact you and find you in the office, and an alternative way to get help in the meantime. Seriously consider not misleading them with promises you can't keep. And be careful about humor, as you don't know how it might be received or misinterpreted. 

    The most important thing is to leave SOME kind of notice that you are going to be out of the office, and for how long.

    Source: "Your Best Ways to Say, 'Sorry, I'm Out of the Office'." by Tim Herrera, New York Times: Smarter Living, November 6, 2017.

    Follow up:

    • Check out the suggestions that readers of the linked article serieshave shared, as well as the back story on this topic: Emily Gould. Summarize what you found to be the best suggestions.
    • Compose your own out-of-office replies for email and voicemail. Share and comment on the replies of others, paying particular notice to tone and any messages that may have been conveyed between-the-lines.


  • Chicken Soup for the Wealthy Soul

     Jack Canfield tells a story

    Jack Canfield and Victor Hansen started the "Chicken Soup for the [fill-in-the-blank] Soul" franchise. The company had successfully branched out into greeting cards and calendars before its sale to William J. Rouhana, Jr. 

    Rouhana overreached, however, by expanding into movie-making and soup production, both of which failed. He has had success, however, in pet food and several titles that are similar to those in the original series, but more cleanly branded. An example is "Chicken Soup for the Soul: From Lemons to Lemonade." In this format, the franchise has expanded to around 300 titles.

    What seems like a good idea to an entrepreneur thinking out-of-the-box may not pan out for several reasons. Actual chicken soup seems like it could have worked. But just because a company has one very successful idea does not mean it can branch out on a tangent that might not resonate with the market.  The article gives the examples of a vodka specialist trying to branch into gin, which is a different production process and has a different market. Even more clearly far afield, could Exxon try to make an ice cream? In any event, Rouhana--in partnership with his wife, Amy Newmark--is now extremely successful, and has new plans for expansion. 

    By the way, this article was part of a series in the Business section of the New York Times called "Wealth Matters." The series is directed at, and about, strategies for the affluent--so it may be of interest to anyone who is, or plans to become, extraordinarily rich.

    Source: "Wealth Matters: Chicken Soup For the Soul? Sure, but served in a Bowl?" by Paul Sullivan, New York Times: Money Matters, November 3, 2017.

    Follow up:

    • What other attempts at expansion into other fields can you think of? How successful have they been?
    • What is the take-away lesson of "Bobsie the Fireman"? 
    • What can you learn from the experience of Rouhana and Newmark? What is Rouhana's immediate plan for future expansion?


  • Sales pitches in response to Equifax hack abound: what to do instead

    image by Minh Uong for the NYT in article linked below

    In the aftermath of the Equifax security breach, several companies have tried to step into the marketing niche as financial-identity Hero. But the costs can be hefty: ID Shield charges $899 to handle an identity breach, and a monthly fee of $9.95 or $19.95). But most individuals haven't had a breach yet--they just want to avoid one. Here are a list of steps than an individual can take. From an insert in the article linked below, these cover most of what the identity services promise, plus a few things that are out of their jurisdiction:

    1. File your taxes as soon as possible. That way, someone else can't use your social security number to snag your refund.
    2. Ask your doctors' offices for copies of your medical files. This way, you have the facts, documented and dated.
    3. Go paperless. This increases the chance that you will get notices on your mobile devices, and lessens mail theft possibilities.
    4. Dedicate one computer or prepaid cell phone for all your online financial activity.  I have not taken this step, but I see how it would be extremely helpful in created a physical "firewall" against theft.
    5. Open a MySocialSecurity account. That way, someone else can't use your SSN to open an account that you can't access--or get benefits from.
    6. Freeze your credit files.  See the blog from last week on how to do this. 
    7. Sign up for free fraud alerts. That way all the bureaus will be notified if one has an alert.
    8. Read your credit reports. You can get a free report from each service bureau every year. The reports might be a dozen or more pages long, but every item needs to be checked. If you have trouble obtaining a report from any of the three bureaus, you might have a bigger problem. 
    9. Consider free credit monitoring, but understand the terms first. For example, there might be ads.
    10. Keep as few accounts as possible.  This keeps your monitoring workload down, as well as lessen that chance you might forget about something.

    In any event, it is important to remember: NOTHING is 100% secure. Vigilance is important

    Source: "The Post-Equifax Marketing Push: Identity Protection Services," by Tara Siegel Bernard , New York Times, October 25, 2017.

    Follow up

    • List several of the sales pitches that followed the Equifax breach disclosure. How is each one potentially problematic?
    • How many of the ten suggestions listed above can you commit to? Make a plan, and a critical-path timetable to complete the items. For example, gather all of your 2016 records that you will need to complete your tax return before the end of the year, so you just have to wait for your W-2's and 1099's to complete your return in January 2018. 
    • Put reminders and calendarize events in your phone so that you will not forget maintenance items. 
    • What is phishing and how can you prevent it?


  • YOLO: How to decide what to do with your career and your life

     image from Merit Career Development

    Regardless of your belief system, the only life that you can make decisions about is the one you are living now. And even if you are independently wealthy, your choices about work, career and how you spend your time are major factors in determining your personal satisfaction--no matter what hand of circumstances you were originally dealt. 

    Getting out of the mindset of "I HAVE to..." and into the mindset of "I GET to..." sometimes requires a change of perspective--particularly if you have gotten into the habit of listening to your relatives or your instructors to guide your life up to this point. Some suggestions delineated in the article linked below include:

    1. Assemble a personal "Board of Directors": Pick a small number of people you trust to talk things over with on a regular basis. You are not alone.
    2. Build a financial cushion: Without a financial cushion, a person cannot act on opportunities or respond to sudden expenses. [Tips for saving]
    3. Take time to introspect and ponder: This has to be scheduled into your calendar. Distraction-free time to really think can help you feel when decisions leave you at peace and confident, rather than nervous or "holding your breath."
    4. "Find a sponsor, not just a mentor": This seems like a tough one, but a mentor can just be a source of advice (or someone who is using your skills to be part of his or her team). A sponsor has your interests at heart. Maybe they see something of themselves in you. At any rate, a sponsor has to be coming from a place of security.
    5. Remember that a career path is not a direct line from point A to B to C: Careers are a marathon, not a sprint. You can't see the end point when you start out. A career path has surprises. Being open to new experiences but being ready to commit and adapt while maintaining your goals are key skills. 

    These suggestions are part of an over-arching set of concepts: Legacy, Mastery, Freedom and Alignment. An additional piece of advice offered: "collect experiences and be generous." This means it is OK to be compassionate with yourself and others as you either succeed or fail forward into new challenges and a bigger life. 


    Follow up

    • Who are potential sponsors in your life? Who do you know that has a sponsor? Brainstorm possibilities from among:
      • the higher-ups in your organization
      • members of your extended family;
      • the friends of your parents or other close relatives;
      • past work connections
      • an idealized mentor you do NOT know, but who embodies the qualities that could help you be effective
    • Assemble your own Board of Directors--maybe from among the individuals who can't really serve as a sponsor. Write down three career issues to ask each of the possibilities as you decide who will be your go-to group. 
    • How much do you have in savings? Do you have any other financial safety net? Make a plan for contingencies...and commit to a plan to save.