6 things to study for the well-rounded mind


What are the best subjects to learn for business – and life – success? If anyone sat down to identify the perfect secondary (and maybe college) education, I doubt they would come up with today’s average American curriculum. While there are plenty of courses in basic skills (reading, writing, mathematics, and so on) many other just as critical basic skills are overlooked (personal finance, homemaking, health/physical education). What are some of the critical components missing from our national curriculum?

From my own personal experience, I can suggest a few, but there are probably many more you can think of easily. I could also bash a few courses I took, but an argument can always be made for “knowledge for knowledge’s sake.” I believe that sincerely. I have never, for example, “used” A Tale of Two Cities in my day-to-day life, but I’m glad I was forced to read it, stuck with it and finished it. Experiences like that created a love of reading for me. Other subjects I guess can be chalked up to “generally good to know although not terribly useful.” For me this included subjects like biology and mythology (one semester of “English” was actually spent studying mythology, which apparently means “Greek mythology” since we didn’t study anything else (not even the excellent D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths). While those subjects were sometimes interesting, I didn’t learn much from either except that I don’t like biology and that you shouldn’t steal fire from the gods.

Here are a few subjects that are very useful, and why:

1. Typing. Out of all of the courses I’ve taken in my life, this one has made the most profound difference in my daily life. I took a typing course in high school, back when it meant learning to pound out “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” 500 times on a MANUAL typewriter. However, the experience taught me how to type, and very, very well, which means I can blaze away typing even while carrying on a conversation or reading something else. I doubt I have to explain to anyone who uses a computer why lightning-fast typing speed is useful.

2. Speech. I took a public speaking class that changed my life. Before that class, like everyone, I was nervous about speaking. After it, I was still nervous, but I learned that it was a temporary nervousness and that anything was possible. We had to give speeches to groups, recite monologues, debate, take questions and almost any type of “speaking in front of a crowd” activity you can think of. To this day I am relaxed and confident speaking to any group; I have addressed 2000 people or 10 board directors or 1 interviewer with equal calm.

3. Personal finance. I didn’t ever take a personal finance course, and I wish I had. Everything I learned about finance before college came from my parents, my grandparents about money, part 1 | brip blap or my own reading. A course that taught me things they weren’t as familiar with or not as proficient with – real estate dealings come to mind – would have been a great learning experience for me. That having been said, I’m sure personal finance would use textbooks sponsored by Capital One and tout the benefit of home equity loans to consolidate credit card debt.

4. Physical education. As a varsity athlete I was exempt from physical education, but I wish I hadn’t been. Learning to do some very basic “normal” training would have been helpful. I focused all of my energy on preparation for one sport (tennis) rather than general fitness. This had disastrous results later in life.

5. Homemaking. Don’t laugh. I think learning how to cook could save this country billions in health care costs. Imagine if people could actually prepare healthy food at home. My mother is a terrific cook, and I never had any motivation throughout high school to learn how to cook. I went straight from there to a fraternity house where meals were provided. When I finally started living on my own, my gourmet best was frozen pizza…

6. Civics. I took a civics course, but it was ridiculous. My wife, who is an immigrant, was required to undergo detailed testing before she obtained US citizenship on the Constitution, US history and civic life. Now, it may not be necessary for everyone in this country to know how many Congressmen there are or how many Supreme Court justices there are (although they should) but everyone should know the Bill of Rights and their civic duties (jury duty and so on).

Optional Bonus #7: A foreign language. Now, many people might disagree with me on this suggestion, and of course many people feel a certain nationalistic need to defend English as “America’s language” or French as “Belgium’s language” or whatever.  I don’t really think most people need to become fluent in a foreign language, and I’ve been a great proponent of the world agreeing on a true lingua franca – a second language everyone would learn.  As of today, that language might be English – it’s fairly easy to learn and already quite widespread.  But 100 years from now it might be Portuguese, or Spanish.  Who knows, who cares.  The point is that foreign languages open up your mind.  Studying a foreign language helps you understand that different people think differently.  That’s invaluable, in my opinion.  My life so far has taken a vastly different direction than it might have thanks to my study of foreign languages – especially Russian.  You can see why by reading an old post of mine, “boosting your career with an overseas stint“.

You could go on, but these are some basic courses that would make a big difference in the US population. They are not taught often enough, and it’s a shame they aren’t. I am amazed to this day when I see people hunt-and-peck on the keyboard – not because I blame them, but because that’s not a basic required course for graduation from high school today. The same goes for the other 5 subjects up there. It’s hard to say when they will be required – or if they ever will be – but we can hope.

Teaching Children About Finances

monopoly money

monopoly money

It seems that most parents are always lecturing their children with the old adage that says “money does not grow on trees” whenever their children seem to be asking for too many things. Money certainly does not grow on trees, but how are children supposed to know that? To all intents and purposes, some children do not have any idea about finances and how their parents are able to get money for all their ‘needs’ and ‘wants’. It is therefore important that parents take the time to teach their children about money when they are old enough to grasp financial concepts.

Educating children about money will empower them to become financially savvy when they grow up. They will know the importance of getting a savings account as well as making sound financial investments when they become adults. Below are some great ideas for financial education for kids.

1. Explain How Mommy And Daddy Earn Money:

The concept of work and pay has to be explained first and foremost. Children need to know how their parents get money to take care of family needs such as food, accommodation and clothing. Explain to them that parents get paid for the job they do at their workplace. Make them understand that some of this money is used to take care of all the family needs, and the rest is placed in a savings account for future needs.

2. Teach Them About The Exchange of Labor for Money:

To better help children grasp the principles of work, parents should employ them when they are old enough to do simple tasks around the house such as vacuuming, sorting the laundry or taking the trash out, for which they get paid. Parents can also encourage children to work at odd jobs once they are a bit older: starting up a neighborhood business raking leaves is a great example.

3. Teach Them About Saving Money:

Buy a piggy bank for them and encourage them to save some of the money they’ve earned from working at home. When children are trained to do things in a certain way, it never departs from them when they grow up. Open a savings account in their name if possible. They will feel a sense of pride when they see the statement addressed to them.

4. Investments And Life Insurance:

Let children know that investing in bonds and real estate are some long-term means for making money. Buy bonds in their names if possible, to instill that education in them. They will do the same for their children in future. Also let them understand the importance of life insurance. If parents happen to have a policy (and if you have children you probably should), they should educate their children about the purpose of life insurance as soon as they are old enough to understand the concept of life and mortality.

5. Teach Them About Needs And Wants:

Help children understand the difference between the things they need and those they want. They should know that certain things are just frivolous and though they can be indulged in occasionally, those indulgences should not become a habit. This will stop reckless spending when they grow up. Teaching frugality at an early age is critical, because once children start school they’ll be surrounded by other kids who won’t have been taught the same lessons. If your kids haven’t learned to be frugal at home, they certainly won’t from their peers.

Photo LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by p e e p e r

in the future, college will be for the rich and smart




Read this:

In 2003, only two colleges charged more than $40,000 a year for tuition, fees, and room and board; by 2009, 224 were above that mark. The total amount of outstanding student loan debt is now more than $1 trillion.

That’s from this NY Times article.  The simple fact is that in the future the smart and the rich will attend college, and if you’re poor or middle class and attend college, you’ll be saddled with tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars of student loan debt – the only debt that the US government won’t allow you to discharge in bankruptcy.  Wonder why the government wants every kid to attend college?  Because you can’t discharge that debt – you’re on the hook whether you can afford it or not.  So we all need to attend college, and a good one, and incur plenty of debt doing it.  I didn’t buy it – I turned down the Ivy League and went to a state school, and still ended up with a six figure career.

I’ve written about this before.  I do not plan to pay for my childrens’ college education.  They will have to be smart enough to get scholarships, or they’ll have to work their way through college, or they can start a business right out of high school.  I don’t plan to indebt myself a quarter million to send them to a private school – a waste of money in my opinion – or allow them to indebt themselves, either.  That may sound cruel, but I think it’s far crueler to allow your 18-year-old – who doesn’t understand the world or personal finance – to go into a quarter million dollar debt for their English degree from Harvard.

There are exceptions, of course.  If you want to go into debt at Harvard to study government or finance and you’re going to leverage that into a job at Goldman Sachs, sigh, fine, have at it.  If you want to work your way through school to get a social work degree and you need an extra $10K to cover tuition, OK, that’s fine.  But if you want to study Sanskrit at Brown, and you’re my kid, good luck.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb:  don’t take out more in student loans than you can make (reasonably) in your first year out of school.  If you’re in education, and you plan to make $30K in your first year as a teacher:  don’t incur more than $30K in debt for school.  That may not sound like much, but after you pay for housing, food, insurance, and on and on, you’re going to be chipping away at that $30K per year for a decade.  And if you decide in the interim to get married and buy a house?  Forget about making headway against that loan.  Kids?  Paying it off at 50.

Generation X had a mixed bag: some paid, some earned, and some coasted on their college scholarships.  Many Gen Yers coasted.  Many Gen Xers – or whatever they are called – are counting on coasting, and will be shocked to find out their parents don’t have the money to let them coast.  Here’s hoping the Millenials – which include, I guess, my own kids, or whatever their generation will be called – will realize that they need to be smart and win scholarships, or be hard workers and sludge through community college and state college, or else will need to forge a college-less path through life.  I won’t encourage either of them to incur massive amounts of debt to get a low-earning degree; they’ll be better off starting a business or working as freelancers.  And you know what?  Motivated, talented people will always succeed, degree or not; and unmotivated, untalented people will always fail, even if they go to $100K/year schools.

Photo LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by Francisco Diez

back to school (the imaginary kind)

This is an old article from brip blap – almost four years ago – so in case you missed it the first time, here it is again…

I have given some thought over the years to going back to school. Ah, to be back in the fraternity, drinking Schlitz, playing lacrosse and sleeping from 4 am to 2 pm. Oh, you thought I meant for the classes and the knowledge? Are you kidding me?

[In 2007] I was invited to participate in a meme: to devise a list of 5-10 courses you would take to fix your life. I was supposed to pick one of the courses that the person who ‘tagged’ me for the meme chose, as well, so that we can skip classes and copy each other’s notes. Just for the sake of being different I’ll attend 7 (imaginary) courses.

  1. Art of Persuasion 101 is the class I’d like to share with her [Melissa, who originally tagged me]. Why? Who doesn’t need this skill? Is there any way that’s NOT a useful skill to have? I can think of a million ways that could be useful, but in particular being able to persuade my son to eat his breakfast would be a HUGE benefit!
  2. Car Maintenance for Your Post-2000 Car 101: When I was younger, I managed to do a lot of car maintenance on my 1976 Mercury Comet without too much trouble. Nowadays I open up the hood and don’t see much that I can distinguish from the guts of my Toshiba computer. I’m nervous just adding wiper fluid. Hopefully this imaginary life-fixing college would have an imaginary community college campus where I could take a class like this one.
  3. Simplification 101: As much as I do try to simplify, there is always something new to complicate my life. I’d like to have a magic bullet – as much as I know there isn’t one – so why not take a course like this?
  4. Yoga 102: I have been to a yoga course, and I liked it. I like the idea, I like the fact that many pro athletes rely on it for conditioning, and I like the promised stress relieving benefits. Yet… I never do it. I need a class to convince me once and for all that I need to engage myself fully in yoga.
  5. Real Estate Appraisal/Inspection 101: OK, the real estate bubble burst. OK, this isn’t your typical college course. However, I can’t imagine any way, shape or form it wouldn’t be handy to have a good understanding of how to appraise and inspect and evaluate real estate. Even if you never invest in real estate, being able to help family and friends or even look at your own home would be a hugely useful skill.
  6. Environmental Studies 202: I’ve read a lot about the environment. One book in particular shook me terribly, but I sometimes feel that I could use a twofold course about the environment: 1, the detailed science around global warming, 2, a detailed examination of the environmental threats faced by urban dwellers and 3, how to protect your home. Fortunately most of this information is available through blogs and websites so I’ve got a lot of resources to fall back on.
  7. Getting Off the Grid 101: I get really worried sometimes that I’m “out there” too much…hence the semi-anonymous blogging. There may be too many people with too much information about me. I think a thorough course in how to “disappear” myself as much as possible would probably be handy later on in life. I may actually soon de-anonymize (is that a word) brip blap [ed. note: since 2007 I have…], so I probably have to be careful about this…

I suspect as I look at that list I may have been too narrow minded – these are hardly grand themes to fix my life, just tweaks. I just thought that something like “Perfect Retirement Planning” wouldn’t be as interesting to read. In any case, these courses would fix parts of my life.

And one more course for nothing more than my own enjoyment, Astronomy 103b “Just the Cool Stuff.” I love astronomy – discovering planets, dark matter, Voyager and Pioneer trivia, quasars, and on and on. I am really, really fascinated by the Pillars of Creation. Oddly enough, I never took a course in astronomy while at college and have never done more than show a layman’s fascination. I think in an alternate lifetime I was an astronomer, though, because I could read about this stuff for days. Nothing close to earth like the space shuttle or the space station, but the crazy far-off stuff just fascinates me. It won’t fix my life but it might make me happier… so that might be a fix, anyway.

Tags. Hmm. I tagged a bunch of people recently so maybe I’ll stretch past my normal blogroll and tag-ees and go to some blogs I haven’t mentioned much (or at all) before, but that I do read: Variable Interest and One Money Dummy Getting Smarter. And as always, tag yourself if you feel so inclined!

Recommended Reading

Photo Attribution Some rights reserved by kschlot1

3 Things I Wish I Was Told As A College Freshman

Today’s guest post comes from Jenny. In her own words: “I am currently a junior in college and living in New York City. Going through the job recruitment process now has made me reflect a lot on the past 3 years of my life. Here are some things I wish I had been told on day one:”

Pick a major you love, not necessarily one that is related to the career you think you want.

There is a very simple reason for this: if the subject is something you enjoy learning, you will inevitably be good at it and that will lead to a high GPA. From experience, I can say that GPA has been the very first factor used by both large and mid-size firms when screening applicants’ resumes and thus is a deciding factor in landing your first internships and full-time jobs. It is to your dual advantage to have a high GPA while studying what you enjoy.

But what if I am a biology major and want to go into the financial services industry, you ask – shouldn’t I major in economics or finance, such as with the degree at this university? Not at all.

See, with all of the competition in today’s job market, companies have grown to love the “story hires”. These are people who have a story as to why they have decided to change their career path or explore other options and that makes them more interesting to employers and well-rounded as individuals. I know for a fact there are people working at one of the top investment banks on Wall Street right now who actually have medical degrees and used to be surgeons.

You can major in whatever you want, as long as you are able to talk about “transferrable skills” you acquired along the way that are relevant to the job.

Have a 5-Year Plan.

Although this is not Soviet Russia under Stalin, it is important to have an idea about what the next 5 years of your life will look like. I was blind-sided when my junior year of college rolled around, summer internship recruitment season was in full swing, and all of sudden all of the interviewers expected me to know exactly what location, what division and what group I want to work in. I felt like I had to decide the rest of my life in just 2 weeks.

Very often when young adults start college, they are advised that they should use this time (all 4 years) to explore. Though I am in no way against this, I do believe that “exploring” should be done in a specific direction. Because at the end of those 4 years, everyone will want the same thing: a job to start their career.  The people who have done the research, know what to expect, and have a clearer sense of the direction of their career are in a much better position.

Take a few minutes to plan what classes to take when, which school clubs may be good to get involved in, and start talking to upperclassmen about their experiences so you know what to expect.

Start Talking to Upperclassmen About Their Experiences

Upperclassmen are a seriously under-valued and untapped resource for underclassmen. These are people who were just recently in your shoes and have survived it unscathed and that much wiser. Why not ask them about it?

A lot of times first-year (and second year) students are intimidated by upperclassmen and tend to shy away from interaction, let alone asking for advice. I remember I used to think upperclassmen were so much smarter and so busy that they could not possibly relate to me. Well, with time I have learned that all it takes is some courage to ask a question and the rest works out. You would be surprised how incredibly willing people are to give advice if you just ask for it.

I recently adopted a freshman buddy in this way. I was at an event and this girl sat down next to me, we started talking, and she later asked for my telephone number so that she may call me if she needs advice. I gladly gave it to her and now she texts me whenever she has questions.

The next time you’re in class, at a club meeting, sporting event or a company presentation, approach an upperclassman and ask a question. They were in your shoes just a year or two ago and can give you so much information about the right classes, professors, clubs, and internships that you would never be able to find on Google.

Jenny is a undergradute finance major attending college in New York and a first-time contributor on brip blap.

Photo Attribution Some rights reserved by lethaargic

how I became Russian

Patrick, of Cash Money Life fame long ago tagged me to give my best financial move in college.  I posted this long ago, but it’s worth reposting.  How I came to become a Russophile is an interesting story – I think.

Steve at the Hermitage in St Petersburg

(me, in St. Petersburg, circa 1997)

Learning an “exotic” foreign language, and how it changed my life.

If you read this blog, you probably know that I’m a Russophile. I lived in Moscow for several years, I can read/write/speak Russian fairly comfortably and my wife is Russian. Even more:  I have been interested in Russian long before I “knew” Russian or Russia.  Key the computer geek theme music: I mentioned that I was a finalist in the International Science Fair: I wrote, in Basic on a Tandy Color Computer with a cassette-tape drive, a very primitive artificial intelligence program that reliably translated English into Russian, grammatically correct. I even had to develop the Cyrillic font. I did all of this after buying a Russian grammar book at a public library for $.10 and using it to set it up – I didn’t know Russian at all.  Pat, pat, pat on the back, Steve.  Score one for geeky computer boy.  The US Army liked my program, gave me a commendation and took the code.  What happened with it after that, I dunno.

Anyway, after the ISF my interest in Russian waned. I always joke that my ancestry is German with a little German mixed in. Even though the Original Blap Ancestor ventured to the new world in the 16th century, my paternal ancestors clung to German ways and traditions and language. And I mean they clung. To the best of my knowledge, my dad was probably part of the first generation of Blaps to speak English at home rather than German. So in high school and college I had a strong motivation to take German, and I did.  I loved it.  I had a great teacher, and I spent a summer semester in Germany as an exchange student.  To this day I speak, read and understand German quite well.

But I always liked foreign languages in general. I took French and Latin as well and decided in my sophomore year that Japanese would be a good challenge. Keep in mind that this was the mid-80s: Japan appeared to be well on its way to becoming the dominant economic power of the 21st century. We know now, in retrospect, that Japan’s economy tripped and stumbled and has never really recovered, and China and India are now careening past it, but at the time it seemed that Japan might become an economic superpower at a minimum and THE economic superpower if everything fell right.

I decided to take Japanese. It was a new course at the University of Mississippi, where I went to school (yes, we had Japanese courses in Mississippi) – only one class was offered. So on registration day I woke up and strolled over to the registrar only to find that it had filled up in minutes and no slots were available. I was disappointed, but I still wanted to take a language. I thought Spanish might be useful, but boring (I didn’t care for French when I learned it – romance languages don’t appeal to me). I skipped through the catalog until I saw Russian and remembered my little project at the ISF four years earlier. And best of all, it was at 10 am so I could sleep late – back in college I had yet to discover the benefits of waking up early.

Russian was fantastic. The teacher was a guy straight out of PhD school, passionate about the subject and the culture. He invited his students to his home, showed us Russian movies, introduced us to actual Russians (quite the novelty in the Deep South in the 80s, let me tell you – we were in the midst of the cold war and that was amazing) and managed to get Russian food. I loved the intellectual challenge of the language – a different alphabet but more importantly a language completely removed from the European languages’ interrelationships.

So why was this a good financial move? I’ve already mentioned it in 8 steps to a six figure career, but here it is in a nutshell: it gives you instant credibility as a smart person (deserved or not). Employers and contacts and almost everyone I meet expresses shock that I can speak Russian, read it and write it. I don’t think it demonstrates much intelligence, personally. Language acquisition is more of an inborn skill, I think. But I do think that learning Russian demonstrated some intellectual curiosity and the fact that I stuck with it indicates some intellectual discipline. I have benefited hugely in my career from knowing Russian. It meant that I was plucked out of obscurity as a junior staff member of a Big 6 (now 4) accounting firm and hurled into the middle of the mid-90s Russian economic explosion. It opened up opportunities I would never have had as just another staff person.

But that’s not the biggest part of it. Without developing my Russian skills I wouldn’t have met, pursued and married my wife. Maybe if I had taken Japanese I would have lived in Japan, developed a fondness for all things Japanese. Hard to say. But I do know that the decision to learn Russian set in motion the life process that brought me to where I am today: with a wife who is focused on the same things I am, personally and financially. So that’s actually the single biggest reason why that was a great financial move.

So what was your best move?

is college worth it? (part 1)

guinea pig reading a book

Based on a few recent comments on some of my articles about careers (this one, for example), I started wondering about the difference in wealth between college graduates and skilled non-college graduates. A college graduate can usually expect to go into the professional world as a “white-collar” worker, earning substantially more than his non-college graduate peers. However, the college graduate – unless he is very athletically or academically gifted – will probably come out of college with at least some student loan debt. He will probably start earning money several years (4 or more) later than a non-college graduate.

So I decided to do a comparison of the two career paths, and see what those big choices meant for someone later down the road. Specifically I wondered if I could answer a few questions:

  1. Can the late start in saving by the college graduate be overcome through higher salaries?
  2. Does the lower earning potential of a non-college graduate mean that the non-college graduate will be required to “work until they die”?
  3. Who will be able to quit the rat race first?

I made a lot of assumptions and put together a spreadsheet to try to come up with answers to some of these questions. I’ll cover that in part 2. I ignored a few things – I didn’t worry about inflation, for example, since it would affect them both equally. You could argue this is wrong, because inflation moves at different rates in different parts of the country, commuting costs (gas, etc.) might expose one or the other to more inflationary pressures, etc. I skipped that. I also assume that both are highly disciplined savers, always saving 10% of their income and getting decent returns over time. If, of course, both started saving as soon as they start earning and never reduce that amount, they would be in the .000001% of the US population that does so.

My findings were a surprise and weren’t a surprise to me. The main point of the exercise was for me to challenge my own personal context (a concept Robert Kiyosaki talks about a LOT in his book “Retire Young, Retire Rich“). My context is that smart people go to college and get desk jobs. My context is that wealth is created through earning as much as possible. I am trying to challenge my own prejudices about what “building wealth” and “escaping the rat race” actually mean to me. It’s interesting, because I don’t have much exposure to people who don’t subscribe to the “go to college, earn money” credo; but fortunately I’m learning more about the opposite mindset and it’s interesting for me. It’s too late for me to undo my decision to go to college for 7+ years. There were alternatives – I could’ve started a business and educated myself. It’s not too late for me to learn something new.

Stay tuned!

(photo by GirlReporter)

Reconceptualizing Education

I’ve spent nearly a lifetime, albeit a short lifetime, navigating through the United States educational system. I’ve succeeded, in a very traditional sense, throughout primary, secondary, and post-secondary curriculums. Yet, as these studies are coming to an end, I’ve been doing a great deal of questioning as to what I’ve really learned throughout this time, and what I think I should have been learning. Education serves as a reliable barometer as to what a society values. It seems readily apparent that this country values competent cogs above all else, or, industrialized citizens. Yet, what relevant role does this play in a rapidly changing American economy?

A great deal of the following ideas derive from Maslow (on a theoretical basis) and Huxley (on an anecdotal basis). What I wish I would have been learning doesn’t exactly differ from the subject matter I have been learning. The problem, though, presents itself in presentation, in the means. There is nothing inherently wrong with learning the governing laws of the world in which we inhabit (physics and mathematics). The subject matter is useful in a number of different fields. Yet where I think our educational system is failing us is in robbing these subject matters of their awe-inspiring aspects. Physics and mathematics, as they are currently taught, have been reduced to the rote memorization and application of formulas. Sure, this produces competent, linear-thinking engineers and mathematicians, but it does nothing to produce the novel, creative thinkers we covet, the next Einsteins, the next Leibnizs. These men were taught to see beyond the formulas we’re all familiar with. The formulas weren’t presented as reality, they were guidelines to a far more complex reality.  No one can be expected to fully immerse themselves into a subject matter if they are not encouraged to, and presented with the awesome nature of their subject matter.

This is not to imply that every man will be naturally inclined to be amazed by the governing laws of reality, as in mathematics. Our various idiosyncrasies dictate that our curiosity and our creative abilities will naturally lead us to absorption in one field over  another. The point is, that we must foster an environment for these innate curiosities to be expanded upon and explored. This is how we produce the individuals whose curiosity will produce the next wave of scientific and artistic breakthroughs. As it currently stands, we have made ourselves reliant on the extraordinary perseverance of a select minority to foster their own path to true education. Yet this is to deny ourselves the rewards of an entire population’s worth of untapped potential.

Most students are lost at a very early age as they find their education being dictated to them in a disinterested fashion, less concerned about the fostering of curiosity and wonderment than the reproduction of meaningless answers on a standardized test. It must be recognized that the need for industrialized cogs is quickly diminishing within this country and if we are to persist within this changing environment, then the core tenets of our educational system must change with it. The emphasis must be turned away from the production of competent works, to the production of competent thinkers, of competent innovators. Our system, as it currently operates, seems set up to inhibit the production of such individuals.

This article was written by Anthony Benedict. Anthony helps to run and maintain inetzeal.com. This website is an entity of an Internet marketing company which provides many services, which includes a white label link building service, as well as many other white label SEO services.

7 things you don’t want to skimp on

You don’t always want to save as much as you possibly can on everything.  I can think of at least a few examples where spending the least amount possible is not always a great idea:


I am a huge proponent of public education for two reasons:  1, the involvement with your community, both for parent and child, is going to happen somewhere – there is no sense in insulating yourselves from it; 2, you’ve already paid for it (through taxes).  That having been said, education – particularly college – is not a good candidate for finding the cheapest option simply because it’s cheapest.  That might seem to contradict some of my earlier pieces.  But I don’t think it really does – I simply think that far too many people choose the most expensive college just because it’s the most expensive, and that’s wrong, too.  At every level you need to find options that are good for you and that really address your goals.

Health care.

This one is tough.  Of course you don’t want to overspend, but I can tell you that when you are seriously ill, most – not all, most – thoughts about money go right out the window.  Of course in the case of lingering illnesses, such as happened in my family this summer, you still have to worry about the person’s family’s future – will the cost of health care be too much to allow them to keep a house, for example?  And it’s a sad state in this country that we have to worry about the cost of wellcare.  But in general, when you are really sick or injured, you don’t stop the hospital from doing procedure X because it costs too much.  The hospital or insurance company may stop it, though.

Cars and related expenses.

When you read people suggesting ways to save money on cars, I always think “this is a metal box that you get in and drive around in at 60 miles per hour – do you really want the cheapest car you can get?”  I want the safest car, with reasonable mileage that keeps it from being an outright assault on the environment.  I’ll pay a bit extra for the good tires, even though I could get reconditioned ones cheaper.  Then again, I still drive a 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix.


If you live in a flood zone, you can save some money by skimping on the flood insurance.  When the flood comes, though, if your insurance isn’t enough to rebuild your place or buy a new one, why did you bother?  What was the point of saving that money if you can’t use the insurance when you need it?  Make sure you’re insured against financial catastrophe.  Life insurance is important.  Having a $100 deductible on your auto isn’t.

Babyproofing equipment.

I think the choice here is clear.  If you want to skimp on gates at the top of the stairs for your child, then I don’t think you have your priorities straight.


This one may be a little more contentious, but I think trying to save money on certain types of food is ridiculous.  If you eat meat, try this experiment.  Go buy some heavily processed, dyed, factory-farm raised chicken, and buy some organic free range chicken.  Prepare them both the same way, but don’t overdo the breading, herbs, spices, whatever – keep it simple.  Try both of them.  Tell me which one was a better use of money.  If you aren’t a meat eater, try buying organic, locally produced tomatoes and then buy a Mexican imported tomato from the supermarket.  In both cases, the more expensive option is likely to taste far better, therefore it satisfies you better meaning you’ll eat less, enjoy it more and be less tempted to let it sit in the fridge until it goes bad.  It’s probably healthier, too, but I won’t even use that argument.

This one is the tough one – making money.

If you are starting a business or investing, you don’t necessarily want the cheapest possible option.  Undeveloped property 80 feet from the road with no plumbing or electricity in Montana might be cheap, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good investment.  If you are starting up a restaurant, you don’t want to serve the cheapest possible food.

I guess the purpose of these examples is to show that sometimes the mania for frugality and savings isn’t always the best idea.  Saving money can’t always be solely about retiring or financial freedom.  Between now and then there is a life to be lived, and lived safely and comfortably.

Insufficient Education: Then and Now

Steve writes about the “31 Causes of Failure” included in Napoleon Hill’s seminal work on financial success, Think and Grow Rich.  High on that list, holding down the #4 slot, is education. The discussion of education tends to center on keeping your mind active with constant learning activities, or on “continuing education,” which can amount to community college classes, seminars, or self-help books. There are many professions, nursing and teaching among them, that require some element of continuing education as a prerequisite for retaining a professional license.  Accounting is another, and you can get a degree like Warner Pacific’s bachelors of accounting for adults as a great start before pursuing advanced degrees.

But there is also a case to be made for redefining insufficient education within the context of the economic changes that have swept this nation over the past decade. The last three years have seen a prolonged financial and employment downturn, but in both cases they are signs of trends that have been underway for some time. The offshoring of the U.S. manufacturing sector has been devastating to millions of wage earners and (former) homeowners. Nonskilled jobs have been followed to the developing nations by skilled positions including IT jobs, accounting and actuarial jobs, many other white collar support roles, even freelance writing: I am constantly underbid on writing gigs by people in Bangalore or some other exotic time zone.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that insufficient education today may be because a job for which a bachelor’s degree was sufficient a decade ago now requires a master’s degree. That may be due to the increasing complexity of some professions – civil engineering comes to mind – or it may mean that employers can be more selective in their baseline requirements for professional employees. The IT requirements for many jobs have shot up over the past ten years; today you can find graduate degree programs in nursing informatics and financial engineering – two examples of professional niches that didn’t exist for the last generation.

For someone who is currently unemployed, has gotten through college and put in several years of successful work experience based on those undergraduate studies, the suggestion that they lack sufficient education isn’t a fair statement. The education that many of us obtained prior to entering the work force simply isn’t applicable in today’s domestic economy or doesn’t meet newly established benchmarks for professional advancement. Fixing a situation like may require a more concerted effort than continuing education.

Today a wealth of online graduate degree programs designed for experienced and/or working professionals exists. Many are part time, for those of us who are still working; others are accelerated programs that can get you through a master’s program in a hurry. And today, most of them are offered by traditional universities that have expanded into distance learning. The morphing job market can be a frightening situation, especially for people who have embarked on a career track. Sometimes the best insurance for someone who has to change direction is an advanced degree to bolster those years of experience.

Article Source: Bob Hartzell is an in-house editor for Masters Degree Online.com. He writes about the current state of traditional and for-profit education including student loans, scholarships and distance learning.

knowledge versus credentials, and links

A few links below got me thinking.  I’ve written about this before, but it’s amazing how much our society – particularly corporate society – values credentials, versus knowledge. I have done enough phone interviews with clients to realize that they are far more interested in my credentials than what I actually know.  They want to know that I worked for a Big 4 firm, or have a master’s degree.  Very seldom am I asked about specific technical knowledge.  I can only recall one call, about five years ago, when a client quizzed me on an accounting standard.

That’s fine, of course:  most companies like to use your work history as “shorthand” for knowledge. A certain body of knowledge can be assumed based on the company.  Or can it?  Credentials can be misleading.  I know CPAs who don’t know thing one about taxes, for example, but many people would assume that having “CPA” tagged after your name means you are up-to-date and knowledgeable about taxes.  And I’ve ridden my master’s degree for years, even though it’s a body of knowledge frozen in time in the early 90s; there have been huge changes in the field of accounting since I got my imitation sheepskin.

But until the day comes when someone with no college degree but an impressive volume of self-taught knowledge can get a good white-collar job – or even get in the door for an interview – having a few “good names” on your resume will make a big difference.

Are there Alternatives to College Careers?: Of course there are. I’m always surprised at how dismissive people can be of careers that don’t require a college degree, especially considering the cost of a degree these days (see The Educated Indentured Servant).  But as I said above, even if I worked my way through thousands of hours of self-taught education (books, online resources and even free TV lectures, etc.) on accounting, I doubt I could get in the door for an interview in a corporate accounting department.

The Incredible Value of the Local Library (A Visual Tour) versus Books. If you read both articles, you’ll notice there is a big gap out there between people who love libraries and frequent them often, and those who simply never go to one because so much free information is available online. My suspicion is that the people who value libraries the most are parents of small children. Before I had kids, I had probably been to a library three times in ten years. Nowadays, though, it’s not out of the question for me to go two to three times a week.

teaching and being taught, and links

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this on this blog or not, but I spent a fair amount of time as a part-time schoolteacher for both middle school and college freshmen as a substitute teacher and later as a graduate assistant. I taught intro to calculus and accounting in grad school and substituted for math, gifted ed and other subjects when I was still chasing my starry-eyed dream of becoming a math professor.  I was good.  My students liked me and I don’t recall if I’ve ever had a negative review or bad experience teaching (I don’t think I have).  I continued my teaching/training throughout my corporate career, leading new employee classes and training in software for over 15 years.  I like training and teaching.  Nowadays I do little of that as a corporate consultant – nobody wants me to train, they want me to DO.  And now, if not yesterday.

Well, I get glimpses of the past and flashbacks now that I have kids. I spent a couple of days at my children’s preschool/pre-K school where Little Buddy attends pre-K and Pumpkin goes to daycare (or preschool or whatever you’d like to call it).  I do realize from time to time, when I self-analyze my abilities, that I do have one ability if nothing else:  kids like me.  I can engage them in learning and don’t make them nervous as some other parents do.  I probably would have made a decent grade school or middle school teacher if I could have supported a family on that salary.  That’s a sad observation, frankly, but one for another post.

I’ll make one other observation, too, unrelated to personal finance or careers: my children’s school concentrates heavily on play, and I like it.  Not learning, but play – directed, but not with any intention towards teaching any specific subject.  It’s interesting as a parent to process the conflicting emotions that arise from watching this:  you want your kids to learn but I also (mentally) slap myself and say “Pumpkin’s not even 3 yet – she deserves play time.”  I’m a firm believer in the concept that kids need play time – creative time, self-directed – to develop themselves.  They’ll have plenty of time to be crammed into desks and forced to learn times tables later, I guess.  Just my parental opinion, I guess.

MonaVie Blackmails Me?: Stunning that a company, or a rep for a company, would stoop this low. Read the article to see how low a supposedly ‘legitimate’ company can stoop. You can also read MonaVie: Multi-Level Marketing Gone Haywire for more idiocy. I can’t believe anyone falls for MonaVie’s crap after I’ve read stuff like this.

Blue Cash Rewards Increase: I’ve owned a Blue Cash card for years, so this is good news.  I’ll take it…

Social Lending Arbitrage Beats Projections: I still think Lending Club is a good bet – if you’re interested in trying it they have a $25 signup bonus right now.  I’d treat it like any other investment – it has its ups and downs, but it can serve as a reasonable diversification strategy versus the market.

Personal Finance the Krav Maga Way: Since I’ve seen all the Krav Maga signs up around my neighborhood, I thought this was an amusing – and timely – post.

Small but Alarming Indicator: This is unpleasant – but not unexpected – anecdotal news.  On the other hand, Bubelah just attended a small business workshop where they barely had enough room for the interested attendees, and I remarked that it must have been all of the laid-off people thinking about launching small businesses (and good for them if they were)…

Life After Debt: What It’s Like in the Third Stage of Personal Finance: Just an interesting read, on many levels (fitness, travel, etc.)

and more…