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Education and Careers
Updated: 4 min 54 sec ago

Education insight: 5 tips for conquering college later in life

Fri, 08/01/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Today’s college students are breaking the stereotypical mold. Older students are no longer intimidated to conquer college later in life, and many colleges see students in their 20s studying alongside students in their 30s, 40s - even 60s! If it’s been a long time since you’ve been in a classroom, it’s important to understand how modern educational changes are making getting a degree easier than ever before.

Perhaps why more working adults and older individuals are considering a college degree is because the classroom landscape has changed immensely in recent years. Online colleges and virtual classrooms make it more convenient than ever to take classes, and studies show that the average online learner is 34 years old. What’s more, between 2013 and 2017, e-learning is projected to grow 23 percent. 

If you are an adult contemplating going back to school, consider these five tips for finding the right program and conquering college later in life:

Find your focus
Whether you want to advance your current career or start a completely new one, begin by investigating the field of study and growth expectations for different career paths. A good resource for learning about industry growth, employment statistics and wage outlooks is the Bureau of Labor Statistics at www.bls.gov. Some of the fastest-growing industries today include health care, information technology and education.

Analyze your lifestyle
Many adults put off getting a college degree due to time constraints. Because online education is flexible and convenient, more adults than ever before are able to complete a college degree. When deciding what college to attend, explore time commitments and flexibility of the classroom environment. Every college has different philosophies and requirements, so you’ll want to find the one that best matches your lifestyle.

Use your experience
As an adult, you’ve likely gained career and life experience that younger students do not have. Some colleges recognize this as an asset, such as Western Governors University, which offers online degrees based on real-world competencies as opposed to seat time or credit hours. Because progress is determined by whether you can "prove" you know the skills, you can draw upon your personal experience to complete assessments faster, ultimately saving you both time and money. Learn more about competency-based degrees at www.wgu.edu.

Crunch cost considerations
It’s no secret that college can be expensive. With some research, you can find an institution that offers quality curriculums with reasonable tuition rates. To start, ask your employer about tuition reimbursement programs. Many companies offer partial or full reimbursement to qualifying employees. This can cut costs considerably. Next, you should research colleges with affordable tuition rates. For example, WGU is a self-sustaining nonprofit with tuition of $5,800 per year for most programs and has not increased rates since 2008.

Ask about accreditation
With thousands of colleges across the U.S., and particularly because of the exponential growth of online universities, accreditation is key when comparing institutions. You should always ask about accreditation to ensure the college and curriculum have been evaluated by a leading third-party organization so you know the education is high quality and that the degree you earn will be recognized and respected by employers and other academic institutions. It’s also wise to ask about faculty credentials, which can be a great indicator for what you can expect from the program and class time.

Learning is a lifelong journey, and now it’s easier than ever for older people to go back to school and complete their degree. These five key factors will help determine the right college and program to suit any lifestyle.

Categories: Lifestyle

Providing national defense from the air and the sea: An exciting opportunity from America's Navy

Fri, 08/01/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - When it comes to protecting America, a group of highly trained Navy Pilots and Naval Flight Officers are ready to serve from the air and the sea. This world-class team maneuvers the most sophisticated airplanes and helicopters to electronically detect and track ships, submarines, aircraft and missiles.

Naval aviators fly tantalizingly close to the ocean surface and execute strategic aerial maneuvers using the most innovative and high-tech aircraft in the world.

Joining the Navy and becoming part of this elite group requires a bachelor’s degree, and candidates must successfully complete an intense, comprehensive aviation training program before earning their “wings of gold.”

Candidates should have a background in math and science and must have completed or be pursuing a four-year degree. A recruiter will be able to discuss the specific physical and mental requirements needed to join the military, and offer other opportunities in the Navy.

Naval aviation is open to both men and women. In fact, there are more than 600 women Naval Aviators today continuing a proud heritage that began in 1973 when the Navy started a test program to train female Naval Aviators. In the 1980s, females started landing helicopters on aircraft carriers, which is one of the most challenging maneuvers for a pilot. By 1993, female aviators were serving with combat squadrons.

When not flying, Naval Aviators collect intelligence, control and maintain internal and external aircraft systems, and study aerodynamics, aircraft engine systems, meteorology, navigation, flight planning and flight safety. In addition, they provide vital attack, defense and logistical support to others in the Navy around the world.

Once they’re finished with Navy service, aviators are well-positioned for careers with airlines, government agencies or private corporations to work as pilots, aircraft construction and maintenance, or other fields requiring this unique leadership experience. For more information, visit www.navy.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

Going back to school? Tips to choose the right degree

Fri, 08/01/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - For many, earning a college degree opened the door to the working world; it may have even been instrumental in landing your current job. But are you applying what you learned in college to your current career field? A recent survey suggests this might not be the case.

Only 35 percent of college-educated workers consider all or most of what they learned in college to be applicable to their current jobs, according to a survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix.

Today, many working adults are returning to college to either complete a degree that better aligns with the skills required for their current job or earn a second degree to gain additional experience for a potential career change. The National Center for Education Statistics reports an estimated 8.7 million adults over the age of 25 were planning to enroll in college in 2013, up nearly 37 percent from 2000.

“There is significant progress being made in higher education to adapt to the needs of the employment market and tie curriculum to careers earlier in a student’s education,” says University of Phoenix School of Business Executive Dean Ruth Veloria. “It is critical to choose the right degree program so you know the knowledge you glean from coursework can be applied to the career you desire.”

Veloria offers these tips to help you get the most out of your educational experience:

* Research degree programs with a career in mind – Don’t wait until you are enrolled in college to determine your career path. Research specific positions, develop learning plans with an academic advisor and take career and skills assessments. Phoenix Career Guidance System is designed to help any student – from those just starting to those looking to advance their careers – research jobs related to different degree programs and discover which fields best fit their interests and personalities.

* Go straight to the source - If you know someone currently working in the career field in which you are interested, schedule an informational interview to learn more about the skills and experience required for that line of work. Don’t know anyone? Veloria recommends joining industry associations and attending networking events as a way to make new contacts and learn more about a new career field or job.

* Communicate with your boss – Your return to school will most likely benefit your company, so share your education plans with your boss, including how your classroom learning can benefit colleagues and special projects in the workplace. If your manager feels invested in your goals, it could be a source of support and motivation for you. Additionally, contact your human resources department to see if the company offers education reimbursement benefits to help pay for school.

* Consider certificate programs that lead to a degree – Many working adults balance school with workplace and family priorities, so it can take additional time to earn a college degree. University of Phoenix offers a certificate option that allows you to move core courses toward the front of your degree program. This program allows you to earn certificates along the way to degree completion to help you gain the knowledge needed to elevate your career.

“Researching and planning the education path you need to achieve your career goals is very important,” says Veloria. “You want to know that the skills you learn in college are the skills you need to advance your career to the next level.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Healthy lunch and snack ideas for back to school

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If schools and parents received report cards on the lunches they’re serving kids, most wouldn’t receive a passing score. Many lunches, whether served at school or brought from home, are made with bleached flour, artificial sweeteners, food coloring, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial preservatives, hormones and trans fats. Studies have shown that these ingredients are linked to weight gain, defects in insulin and lipid metabolism, hyperactivity, increased risk of tumors, cancer, digestive issues, asthma, premature heart attacks, diabetes, and overexposure and resistance to antibiotics. Some of these ingredients are even banned in other countries.

As a parent, what can you do to keep your child healthy? Life Time – The Healthy Way of Life Company, suggests checking in with your child’s school to learn where foods are sourced, the nutritional values and ingredients in order to make informed decisions.

“The more highly processed foods are, the more likely they are to contain the seven unsavory ingredients. Meaning they are foods it’s best to find alternatives for,” says Laura Burbank, a registered dietitian with the Life Time Foundation.

“We encourage parents to speak with school nutrition directors and cafeteria managers about reducing the amount of highly processed and artificial items served in their lunch rooms, in favor of wholesome, real foods, and we’re able to help parents throughout that process,” Burbank says.

Until changes are made, Burbank advises actively engaging kids - starting when they’re young - in packing lunch at home. “Getting kids involved in packing their lunches makes them more likely to eat and enjoy them,” says Burbank. “They feel helpful and they’re learning along the way.” She says it’s important to include a protein, whole grains, fresh fruit, vegetables and healthy fats with every meal, and provides some ideas below.

Lunch box option one:

* Lunch: turkey or ham sandwich with avocado and spinach on whole grain bread. Look for meat that is free of hormones, antibiotics, nitrates, artificial preservatives and other additives.

* Snack: orange slices and string cheese.

Lunch box option two:

* Lunch: grilled chicken breast, avocado and roasted bell pepper or shredded carrots in a whole grain pita with a Greek yogurt based dressing or pesto.

* Snack: apple slices and almond butter. If your child’s school has a strict nut-free lunchroom guideline, include Greek yogurt with vanilla and/or honey.

Lunch box option three:

* Lunch: a wholesome PB&J made with almond butter and 100 percent fruit preserves on whole grain bread.

* Snack: hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers with Greek yogurt based vegetable dipping sauce, or pita chips and peppers with hummus.

Healthier lunch room choices

Burbank notes that sometimes making lunch at home isn’t a viable option. If that’s the case, she suggests parents discuss healthy lunch room options with their kids, as studies have shown that in addition to nutritional benefits, healthier diets also associate with higher academic performance. Things to consider include:

* Choose a salad when available to include more vegetables in the meal.

* Choose white milk over chocolate milk to cut down on sugar intake.

* Choose 1 percent milk over skim or non-fat milk, the higher fat content is more satiating.

* Choose whole grain pasta over bread which may contain bleached flour and preservatives.

* Choose red pasta sauce (vegetable-based) over cream sauce (high in fat).

* Choose fresh fruit over canned fruit which may contain artificial colors, preservatives and sweeteners.

Parents should also be encouraged to talk to the nutrition directors and cafeteria managers about reducing the amount of highly processed and artificial items in the school meals. The Life Time Foundation is a great resource for more information on this.

The Life Time Foundation partners with schools to help them remove highly processed and artificial ingredients from school meals by providing resources and assisting with menu development. For more information on how your school can get involved, visit www.ltffoundation.org.

Categories: Lifestyle

Going home again: A great office is a key to success for new home-based workers

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Whoever first said, “You can’t go home again,” probably wasn’t considering the 38 million home-based businesses in the United States, or the approximately 37 million households that have active home offices. More workers are plying their trade from home, as employers recognize the value of flexibility for their work force and more employees decide to enter the ranks of American entrepreneurship.

It’s not just small business owners or lucky full-time employees who are working from home, either; the Bureau of Labor Statistics says 24 percent of people employed outside the home work at home at least some of the time. If you’re poised to become home-based, here are some things to consider as you’re putting your home office in order:

Location is key

Without the need to fight rush-hour traffic during a twice-daily commute, you may think the location of your home office isn’t that important. Actually, it is. Where your office is located in your home can affect your productivity and even your personal life.

Choose a room that’s in your home’s heavy traffic lanes, and you could face frequent interruptions. Park your desk in the game room over the garage and you may feel isolated from the rest of the house. Try to stuff a desk in a corner of your bedroom and you’ll spend most of your life stuck in the same room – you may even feel less inclined to sleep there if you’re always working in your bedroom.

You’ll need to balance personal and professional priorities in order to decide which room in the house makes the most sense for your home office.

Good lighting sets the stage for success

The harshness of artificial lighting is a common complaint among people working in offices outside the home. A window in one’s office has long been a sign of prestige in cities across the country, and having abundant natural light in a home office is one of the many advantages of working from home. Natural lighting has a mood-boosting impact that’s been well-documented, making office workers feel happier, healthier and more productive. What’s more, use of natural light can help reduce reliance on artificial lighting and trim utility bills accordingly.

If the space you’ve chosen for your home office is short on windows and adding them isn’t practical, skylights can be a good alternative, not only for lighting but also to save valuable wall space for other uses. Adding Energy Star-qualified skylights, like those manufactured by VELUX America, can be as cost-effective as installing quality vertical windows, without creating the hassle of opening a wall. If you opt for a remote-controlled fresh air skylight, you can also use it to enhance the indoor air quality of your home office. Additionally, many of the features that make skylights appealing in other areas of the house – such as privacy in a bathroom or space conservation in a small bedroom – also make them a good choice for a home office.

Finally, skylights can be a good investment for your home-based business. Adding no-leak solar-powered fresh-air skylights and energy-efficient solar-powered blinds to your home office can qualify for a 30-percent federal tax credit on both products, including the installation costs. And from now until Aug. 15, there’s also a $200 cash rebate from VELUX on solar powered skylights. Visit www.veluxusa.com or energystar.gov to learn more about energy-efficient skylights.  Want to see how skylights would look in your home?  A free skylight planner app is available to show you, room by room, what’s possible with skylights.

Furnishings create a foundation

Considering how much time you’ll spend in your home office, it’s important to invest in furnishings that will be functional, comfortable, inspiring and in step with your lifestyle.

If you prefer to sit while you work on a computer, the comfort of your office chair will be key. Prefer to get in a bit of healthful exercise while you work? Consider an ergonomic desk that allows you to stand while you type. Many versions of standing desks also can be lowered for use while seated.

Desks should incorporate storage and easy access to electronic components. Office chairs should be comfortable and ergonomically correct. Be sure your furniture choices not only fit your needs, but the room’s, too. A huge desk may make you feel like a Wall Street CEO, but your enjoyment will evaporate if you don’t have space to walk around the desk in a small office. It’s important to keep office furniture appropriate to the scale of the room you’ll be working in.

The number of people working from home continues to grow, according to Census Bureau statistics. One study by a Chinese travel website found that working from home increased employee productivity by nearly 14 percent, according to the Harvard Business Review. Ensuring your home office is set up to inspire can help you achieve greater productivity and satisfaction as you work from home.

Categories: Lifestyle

Ideas for awesome classroom enhancements

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The approach of the school year has parents seeking out the best deals on back-to-school supplies, and teachers everywhere are preparing their classrooms to give students the best educational experience possible. From decorations designed to create engaging learning environments to having extra supplies on hand for students, the back-to-school shopping season requires a bit of planning by teachers.

On average, teachers spend more than $400 of their own money each year to purchase supplies and decorating materials for their classrooms. This year as they stock up on those needed materials, teachers can use them to create awesome rooms where students will love coming to learn.

* Elementary rooms – Picture books, numbers magazines, puzzle books and a large collection of crafting supplies are often needed in elementary school classrooms to create the perfect learning environment for younger children. Plastic containers, shelving dividers, colorful hanging tote bags and boxes – all decorated with fun shapes and colors – are the perfect way to keep the classroom organized. A teacher could create a puzzle corner to provide challenging word, mathematical or even scientific puzzles to stimulate their students’ minds. Keep extra paper, pencils and calculators in this area so students have the materials needed to stay engaged.

* Middle school rooms – In middle school, students tend to rotate from classroom to classroom to study different topics. It’s good to keep them moving in the classroom as well to engage their interest. Teaching history? Use media photos and crafting paper to create a timeline of historical events wrapping along the walls around the room. Are you an English teacher? Paint a door with chalkboard paint and provide colorful chalk for students to create short poems or words of inspiration for their classmates. Challenge them to create art with their words on the chalkboard and print out finished pictures of projects to decorate the board. At the end of the quarter or semester ask the students to vote on the most creative project.

* High school rooms – At high school, students need less action, but they still appreciate stimulation. Math students can use graphing calculators to create graphs of different trig functions, and then print those graphs on paper to create colorful and beautiful wall designs. Physics teachers can set up plastic boxes of problems featuring subjects their students are interested in. Namely, the cars they drive to and from school or the sports teams they support on Friday nights. Fill the boxes with different situations related to these subjects, and have the students apply the laws of physics to calculate what will happen to the car, or if the sports player will make the play.

Teachers can save money on their classroom supplies and decor by enrolling in the Staples Teacher Rewards program. Those who are enrolled will receive a coupon for 25 percent off any purchase of $10 or more to be redeemed during the Teacher Appreciation Event Aug. 1 – 3, alternatively they can provide their Staples Teacher Rewards Number at checkout. These savings are only available for teachers, and exclude any technology items. Educators who are not currently Teacher Rewards members can sign up at any Staples store, Aug. 1-3, and receive 25 percent back in rewards during this special Teacher Appreciation event. Exclusions apply, see store for details. Visit StaplesRewardsCenter.com to learn more.

The school bell will be ringing soon, which means teachers need to get their classrooms in order for a great year of learning. Whether they’re looking for materials to support a room theme or extra supplies to have on hand for student use, Staples has the school supplies needed.

Categories: Lifestyle

Help your kids make the grade with healthy back-to-school snacks

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - School means big adjustments and big demands for everyone involved: shopping for supplies, shuttling here and there, studying – or overseeing the studying – special projects, and more. It’s easy to forget nutrition in all the hustle and bustle.

Make a pact to embrace healthful eating, whether breakfast on the run, packed lunches or after-school snacks. In other words, plan now to fuel those little bodies with something better than potato chips and cookies and to nourish at regular intervals to avoid big dips in energy and focus.

The first step is to start the day off right. Eating breakfast helps the brain to function and has been shown to improve performance in school. In fact, children who eat breakfast score higher on cognitive tests than those who don’t. With a little forethought, you can stock your pantry with breakfast staples, and orchestrate a fresh and healthful breakfast that is also tasty and quick.

One of the easiest options is to simply mix yogurt with granola and top with California grapes for a balanced and nourishing boost to the morning. Pump up the good stuff even more with a Yogurt Power Bowl.  This breakfast-in-a-bowl combines Greek yogurt, fresh grapes, walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds with a touch of cinnamon. The yogurt serves as a great source of protein, the walnuts, flax and chia seeds offer healthy omega-3 fatty acids, while the fresh grapes offer a fresh flavor boost and contribute beneficial antioxidants and other polyphenols that support a healthy heart.

Yogurt Power Bowl with California Grapes
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon chia seeds

1 teaspoon flax seeds

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 cups red, black or green seedless California grapes, halved

Directions:

Mix the yogurt, walnuts, chia, flax and cinnamon in a large bowl. Toss the grapes into the mixture to coat. Serve chilled.

Next, keep your child’s brain-power on a roll at lunch time by offering a balanced variety of foods. Grapes from California are an easy component of packed lunches; they complement sandwiches, salads and soups as well. Plump, juicy clusters of grapes help to hydrate and refresh, and won’t likely be traded off for something else. Grapes are easy to share, so you might just want to pack extra.

After school, kids need to refuel and recharge to accomplish the slate of afternoon activities, whether homework, sports, enrichment classes or simply a playdate. They aren’t alone, actually: according to a recent study by Technomic, 71 percent of people enjoy a snack in the mid-afternoon, with some 50 percent stating that healthfulness is important to them in a snack.

Fresh grapes are the quintessential healthy, but oh-so-tasty snack. They are the perfect finger food, easy to eat, convenient and portable. Grapes play well with other foods too, complementing cheese, crackers, nuts, yogurts and granola bars. Grapes from California are available May through January, with a wide selection of grape varieties available throughout the fall.

Consider these super snack ideas:

* Let the kids make their own no-brainer burritos: Spread a tortilla with whipped cream cheese, a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar, and line the center with grapes. Roll up for a tasty fruit-filled burrito.

* For a savory roll-up, spread cream cheese on a sun-dried-tomato tortilla, and top with sliced turkey.  Roll it up and slice to enjoy.

* Smoothies are a great way to add wholesome fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet. Enhance it with a spoonful of nut butter for extra staying power.

* Set out a platter of hummus, pita bread and fruit. Remember that hummus, while traditionally made from chickpeas, can be made from any type of bean, from black beans to white beans to pinto beans, and edamame (soybeans).

* Top an open-face peanut butter sandwich with bananas and grapes.

* Create a fresh trail mix with nuts, cheese cubes, chocolate chips and fresh grapes instead of raisins.

* Pair almond butter with fruit. Spread directly on apple slices or mix with a little honey for a peanut dip for colorful grape skewers.

* Frozen grapes are always a cool treat.

* Sometimes it is OK to play with your food! Create some grape caterpillars by threading green grapes onto bamboo skewers. To make eyes on the end grape, place a dot of cake icing on the back of each of two mini chocolate chips and stick them to the grape.

Categories: Lifestyle

Teenager danger: Five rules for young drivers

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If you’re feeling nervous about handing the car keys to your teenager for the first time, you’re not alone. It’s a common sentiment given some sobering statistics. According to teendriversource.org, 20 percent of all 16-year-old drivers will be involved in an accident during their first year behind the wheel.  And studies show more teenage motor vehicle fatalities happen during the summer than any other time of year. But there are some things you can do to help keep your teenager from becoming a statistic. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has some tips and tools to keep your teen safe.

Though auto accidents are a fact of life for most drivers, even a minor fender bender can impact insurance rates, costing parents and teens for years to come. The good news is research shows teen drivers who follow rules are half as likely to get in an accident. Before your teen hits the road, consider establishing some simple guidelines to protect his or her safety and your wallet:

1. Set a driving curfew. More than 40 percent of teen auto deaths occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Set a curfew to keep your teen off the road during these times.

2. Limit passengers. A teen’s relative risk of being involved in a fatal crash increases with each additional passenger. More passengers equal more potential distractions.

3. Make the cell phone off limits while driving. Talking and texting can double the likelihood of an accident. If your teen must use the phone, instruct him or her to pull over before doing so and be sure to set a good example when you are behind the wheel.

4. Empower your teen to exercise his or her rights as a passenger. Only 44 percent of teens say they would speak up if someone were driving in a way that scared them. Remind your teens they are just as vulnerable in an accident as the driver, so they should speak up if they feel unsafe.

5. Be Prepared. Arm your teens with the knowledge of what they should do if they do get into an accident. Mobile apps such as WreckCheck can help take the guesswork out of a tense situation, guiding users through a step-by-step process to create an accident report. WreckCheck uses your device’s location service, camera and audio recorder to document all pertinent information about the incident and provides tips on how to file and follow up on a claim.

A Teen Driver Contract is a simple way to keep your teen accountable. It establishes basic driving ground rules and clearly lays out the consequences associated with driving privileges. The NAIC has developed an online tool to guide parents through building a customized Teen Driver Contract. There’s also a downloadable sample contract to help get you started.

Educating yourself and your new driver about the risks and insurance implications of unsafe driving can save lives and money. As your teen begins his or her journey on the roadways, take time to speak openly and candidly about your expectations for behind-the-wheel behavior.

Categories: Lifestyle

5 packing tips to make the back-to-college move easier

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Back-to-school season has thousands of college students packing their childhood rooms into cars, vans and moving trailers to transport into dorms and off-campus apartments. While college students usually don’t have a lot of belongings that need to be moved, the process can be exhausting and overwhelming.

Whether you're moving to college for the first time or the third, you'll find there are ways to make your move smarter and, believe it or not, more enjoyable. There are many resources available to make the move to college much easier. One of the most practical things you can do is to rent a moving truck. Since college moves often mean traveling long distances, it can be hard to get a lot of people to help with the move. Rather than stuffing gear into multiple vehicles, a truck is a good, simple solution.

Rather than relying on guesswork, take some tips from the experts at Penske Truck Rental:

1. Condense. College apartments are small and dorm rooms even smaller. Especially if you have a roommate. Everything you own will not fit, so make the effort before you start packing to take only the essentials. Pare things down by considering what you need most. For instance, if you have some clothes you like for special occasions but wear rarely, it is best not to bring them. Instead, take the clothes, shoes and personal items you wear time and time again. As for what you'll need, see if your college has a checklist of essential items; this can be used as a guide.

2. Tackle packing bit by bit. Last-minute packing leads to stress and the potential to either over pack, or forget something. Start early and create a running list of items you need to bring but are unable to pack until it’s time to leave. Also keep a box open and waiting for additional items as you think of them. When moving day finally comes, make sure you have sturdy boxes in a variety of sizes, along with foam "peanuts" and bubble wrap to protect your fragile items, as well as a good supply of packing tape and bold markers for labeling boxes. Moving blankets and hand trucks will make the experience easier, so be sure you've got them on hand.

3. Mark and group. Label the outside of your boxes as you pack. Try making a generalized list of what's in the box. It's also a good idea to label the box with your first name or a symbol that'll help you recognize what's yours, particularly if you have roommates or are moving into a dorm. In the hectic whirlwind of thousands of students moving in at once, it's important to cut down on confusion.

4. Plan ahead. If you're renting a moving truck, it's essential to reserve it at least two weeks in advance. Because it's a busy moving season, delaying could leave you stuck without transportation. Most movers find the 12- or 16-foot truck perfect for moving a few large items or the contents of a small apartment. For guidance with truck selection, visit www.PenskeTruckRental.com.

5. Safety and security. Trucks are taller, wider, heavier, and they require more stopping distance than the vehicle you are used to driving. Take extra precautions, especially when the truck is loaded. Watch out for low-hanging tree branches and building overhangs, and use extra caution when cornering. To protect your belongings, park in well-lit areas and padlock the rear door, especially if stopping for the night. If possible, back the truck up tight against a building wall to prevent access to the storage area. This can be particularly important when moving to college, as thieves have a ripe opportunity to take advantage of the hectic moving days leading up to the start of the academic year.

One final packing tip is to keep the important documents like registration information and dorm confirmations, as well as credit cards, driver’s license, drinks and energy snacks in a bag that doesn’t get packed for easy access. For a complete list of moving tips, visit www.PenskeTruckRental.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

Growing your business: Tips for applying for small business loans

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The outlook for small business is up with many business owners feeling good about the future of the economy, their financial positions and their plans for growth, according to Capital One’s Spark Business Barometer. But for many business owners looking to secure capital to either start or expand their enterprise, the process can be challenging, particularly for those with a limited or negative track record, or poor personal credit. Fortunately, there are a variety of products and programs designed to help address those challenges and enable business growth, one of which is offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration (or SBA).

SBA loans offer a number of key advantages, including longer payback terms and higher borrowing limits, which can be useful when financing necessities like real estate and equipment. For example, Freshbikes, a bicycle shop based in the Washington, D.C., area, worked with Capital One to refinance debt it incurred by expanding its business and opening new stores. This resulted in an improved payment schedule and additional working capital for the now-thriving business.

Unfortunately, despite the many benefits SBA loans offer, few small businesses take advantage of them, and those who do say they find the process for applying for SBA loans “complex and confusing.” In fact, Capital One’s latest Spark Business Barometer found that a majority (79 percent) of small-business owners are aware of SBA loans, but only 9 percent have actually applied for one (and most business owners who did apply found the process complicated.)

There are a number of ways to simplify the SBA loan application process, and given the SBA recently announced that they will extend fee waivers for loans meeting certain requirements, now is a great time to understand how these loans can work for your business and consider applying for one.

Capital One has a few tips to keep in mind when applying for an SBA loan:

* Know your business. The first thing any lender wants to know is how well you know your business. Do you know your cost of sales, gross margin, payroll expenses off the top of your head?

* Look for a Preferred Lender (PLP status). Preferred lenders have more experience and authority in processing SBA loans, which is critical when it comes to navigating the SBA’s requirements and procedures. Working with a lender who fully understands the process and can explain it to you will make life a lot easier. Since they are experts in this area, typically your loan will close more quickly, as well. Preferred lenders are usually listed on the SBA website for your state. You can always contact the SBA directly as well.

* Come prepared. SBA loans require comprehensive document packages. Be prepared with full copies of your personal and business tax returns for the last three years, current financial statements and projections and personal financial statements. Check the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov for required documentation for the product that interests you. Having a complete package up front can save a lot of time.

* Consider applying for a smaller loan. In an effort to streamline the application process, the SBA recently announced plans to maintain current fee waivers to make it easier to secure smaller loans for small business, including a 2 percent fee waiver for loans $150,000 or less. If you want to reinvest in your business, now is a great time to act.

Capital One is committed to helping small-business owners achieve their financial goals by offering SBA loans with features or opportunities that might not be available through conventional loans, and helping small-business owners to navigate the application process. For more helpful information on managing a small business, visit www.capitalonesmallbusiness.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

Promoting peer engagement through afterschool programs

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - As summer winds down, inevitably kids’ nerves begin to show with the thought of the upcoming school year. The changes that lie ahead, be it a new school, teacher or a grade level, can create anxiety in many children.

Interacting with their peers in an afterschool classroom setting can help alleviate some of those fears. Whether a child excels at athletics, academics, is a musician, or an artist, finding the right enrichment program does not have to be a daunting task. Many parents are familiar with S.T.E.M. terminology and with the inclusion of arts in the mix, STEM has evolved into STEAM. With science-, technology-, engineering-, arts- and mathematics-focused programs, children have the opportunity to learn afterschool what many curriculum cuts have depleted during regular school hours.

One standout program, Bricks 4 Kidz, helps to boost self-esteem in children with an award-winning, STEAM-based curriculum that boasts both learning through creative play and playing to learn with LEGO Bricks. “Engaging with their peers in afterschool classes, students collaborate outside of their structured class, allowing for a broader scope of retention and participation,” says Dan O’Donnell, COO of Creative Learning Corporation, the franchise developer of Bricks 4 Kidz.

Integrating these condensed classes into busy back-to-school schedules should be a priority for parents looking for project-based programs designed to improve social interaction, in-classroom engagement and academic performance.

When signing up for an afterschool program, look for one that:

* Emphasizes cognitive development, while building self-esteem in a fun environment.

* Implements relatable tools for children to learn with, such as LEGO Bricks.

* Allows children the opportunity to work with peers as well as individually.

* Promotes creativity through engaging lesson plans.

“Our certified teachers guide students through model builds using cooperative teaching techniques as well as allowing for individual construction time for visionary thinkers,” says Michelle Cote, founder of Bricks 4 Kidz. “Every new school year gives us a perfect chance to expose children to more creative learning with our proprietary model builds that we develop throughout the year.”

LEGO Bricks have become the ultimate afterschool teaching tool, illustrating the principles and methods of engineering with age and skill-appropriate lessons ranging from kindergarten through middle school. With the addition of gears, motors and robotics, children grasp technology through hands-on participation in these enrichment classes. Hours that were once lost to afterschool boredom can now be filled with a multitude of learning opportunities.

After-school enrichment programs with an emphasis on STEAM-based fundamentals allow children to collaborate with their peers, teaching teamwork and organization while improving fine motor skills.

To find a Bricks 4 Kidz program in your area, visit the interactive map at www.bricks4kidz.com. You can learn more about the programs and new afterschool programs by searching for a location by state or zip code.

Categories: Lifestyle

Strategic tips to save money on back-to-school deals

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The cost to send children back to school increased 5.3 percent for elementary and middle school students and 9.5 percent for high-schoolers last year, according to Huntington National Bank's annual Backpack Index. When prices increase that much from year to year, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and look for ways to save.

Before the back-to-school sales are posted, start creating lists of the supplies your children will need so you can keep an eye out for when they go on sale. There’s a good chance your school district already has a supplies list posted on the district’s website. Next, put these strategies to use to save even more money:

* Buy in bulk – No. 2 pencils, notebooks, 3-ring binders and folders are items that have been on school-supply lists for decades, and even with the advancement of technology, they will probably still be required long after your children graduate. If you have the storage space, stock up on these items to take advantage of bulk discounts; you’ll have access to the supply for many years to come. If you don’t have the storage space, contact friends with children, and ask if they want to go in with you on a bulk purchase, helping everyone save some money.

* Shop online – Coupon codes and discounts for free shipping are readily available during the summer months. Ebates.com has thousands of deals via online retailers, providing you with plenty of opportunities to save on all your back-to-school shopping needs. In addition to offering discounts, Ebates.com also has a cash-back program. For example, if you decide to purchase school supplies from Target.com, you can earn up to 2.5 percent of your total purchase, providing you with additional savings.

* Use an app – Price-comparison apps are making it easier for parents to take advantage of back-to-school sales. Most of them are set up for you to type in a product’s name, and they provide you with the store and price of the item. Some also have alerts to notify you when a price drops or when a price is listed at the amount you want to pay for the item.

* Membership discounts – If you belong to travel membership clubs, wholesalers clubs or other clubs that offer membership perks, ask about discounts for your back-to-school shopping list. Keep in mind that your children will probably need new clothes for the school year, and clothing discounts can add up to significant savings.

The Backpack Index estimates families of elementary students spent $577 on school supplies last year. That amount rose to $1,223 for high-school students. These strategies for finding discounts can help your family significantly reduce those costs, while still sending your children to school with the supplies they need.

Categories: Lifestyle

Expert tips for making peer learning part of your child's academic success

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - As students young and old head back to school, attention turns to getting good grades. Smart parents know that positive study habits boost success in the classroom, but finding ways to encourage kids academically can be difficult. A growing body of evidence proves peer learning and study groups are main drivers for academic success.

“Parents want children to succeed across all academic facets. Peer tutoring, a teaching strategy used regularly in classrooms, has been found by research to optimize student performance in all academic areas,” says Dr. Michele Borba, an internationally recognized expert and author on children, teens, parenting, bullying and moral development.

“Not only does it boost achievement, but it also helps students learn critical life skills like communication, goal-setting, teamwork, cooperation and more,” says Borba. “For today’s tech-savvy generation, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to boost face-to-face time and it’s a fun way for kids to stay connected with peers as well as meet new friends.”

According to the National Education Association, “Peer tutoring is a beneficial way for students to learn from each other in the classroom. While one student may excel in math, another student may be top-notch in English. These two students can work together to help each other understand difficult concepts, while deepening their own knowledge of the subject.”

Borba explains that having a study buddy can change the dynamic of homework and study time. For the overscheduled child, the procrastinator or the one who hates homework, parents often find themselves nagging less when children encourage each other and learn together.

Borba suggests five tips for adopting peer learning, encouraging positive study habits and positioning kids for academic success:

Find a buddy
Encourage students to find a classmate to exchange phone numbers and emails with should they be absent or miss a lesson. In this case, modern forms of communication like text messaging and emails are an acceptable way to ask for help.

Stay organized
Cooperative group work promotes creativity and teamwork. Offer helpful tools like products from the Post-it Study collection to help make time spent working more effective. The Post-it Study Notebook Kit attaches inside back covers of text books, notebooks or planners and folds out allowing for easy access to notes and flags while studying. Students can also use note tabs to write down key facts and information from textbooks and then remove the notes from the book to use them as study cards while reviewing for a test.

Reduce stress factors
Social situations at school, tests and academic concerns, and worries about the future are just some sources of anxiety for teens. You can help your child work through this stress by teaching coping skills, healthy study habits and good social skills that can carry them through future stages of life.

Encourage peer study
Peer interaction can help reduce stress, so encourage your child to interact with others in a positive way. For example, students can create study groups and communicate with one another about tests, assignments, group projects and more. Use Post-it Study products to make time spent together efficient and fun. Students can write down questions and key facts that are guaranteed to be on the test on Post-it Study Notes and rotate them amongst the group to test one another. Building relationships can make school work more enjoyable and the school a safer environment.

Find a mentor
Parents play a key role in a child’s healthy development academically and beyond, but it’s also important for kids to have role models outside the household. Consider matching kids with mentors who are a social and academic fit. Ask your school guidance counselor for a tutor who is slightly older, as students often look up to those who are a peer group ahead of them.

For more information and additional study tips from Dr. Michele Borba, visit www.post-it.com/study.

Categories: Lifestyle

Take these steps to keep your kid's information secure on school computers

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - A lot has changed since you were in school. Your children don’t listen to the same types of music you enjoyed, and they certainly dress differently despite your protests.

They learn differently as well.

Today’s classrooms are no longer focused on chalkboards and lectures. Digital devices tied to curriculum leveraging big data technology are becoming more central to learning and are key to creating dynamic classrooms that support personalizing learning for every student. This new approach is helping students to learn at their own pace and aids educators to deeply engage with students in their learning process. These new technologies rely upon access to student data to provide more informed instruction and individualized approaches to helping all students succeed.

But with the gathering of more data, schools have more responsibility to ensure a student’s privacy is safeguarded. Many parents are now asking schools about how their kid’s data is being secured. There are Federal laws in place to guide districts on protecting student privacy. These include  FERPA, COPPA, PPRA and even HIPAA regulations that help give districts some guidelines on privacy and security, but many of these regulations were created before the massive adoption of technology in schools and the laws haven’t kept pace with classroom realities. This places the burden of creating more modern plans for minors’ privacy and security on states and districts.

“While these laws are important for schools to understand and comply with, they alone will not ensure the privacy of student data,” says David Hoffman, director of security policy and global privacy for Intel. “It’s up to district officials, teachers and parents to ensure privacy and security are top priorities in school districts.”

As a parent, you know that new technology is the key to furthering your child’s educational development. But how can you be sure your child’s district is protecting student privacy? It’s simple, get involved. You can do so by asking your district these six questions about data security:

* What data are the school district collecting? Understanding what data are being collected makes you more knowledgeable about what your child’s school is doing with the data and allows you to better assess the risk if a breach occurs.

* Are district staff allowed to store student information on personal laptops, smartphones or tablets? These devices may not have the same level of secure protection as a district owned device and they will leave the district grounds, increasing the risk that they could be lost or stolen. If the district is allowing student information to be stored on personal devices, ask to see copies of all applicable policies requiring district staff to secure the information.

* What is the district doing to protect district owned devices? Ask what security measures have been used to encrypt data on district computers and whether there are guidelines regarding where district staff can take and use these district owned devices.

* What is required of the district should a data security breach occur? Should a data breach occur, the faster it is recognized, the better for all students possibly affected.  Ask to see the district’s policies regarding staff’s requirement to report such a breach and how quickly reporting must occur.

* Has the district experienced a data breach in the past? If the answer is yes, then ask what policies the district has changed to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

* Does the district use online service providers to host applications, such as websites, student information system, school cafeteria management, etc? If so, ask what data are being collected and how is it being used? Also, ask if there is a contract to cover responsibility for students’ personal information.

Technology is fast becoming essential to teaching and learning in schools everywhere. Making sure your child’s school is following robust data security protocols by asking the right questions can ensure a successful learning experience for everyone involved. You can learn more by visiting www.k12blueprint.com/privacy and following @IntelK12Edu on Twitter.

Categories: Lifestyle

How to change careers in 5 simple steps

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - A teacher transitioning to a job in the corporate world. A stay-at-home mom rejoining the workforce. A baby boomer choosing a new career over retirement. There are countless individuals every day that carefully weigh the pros and cons of making a major career change. Are you one of them?

Driven by passion and the desire to have more satisfying work, eager individuals are taking the leap of faith and switching to an entirely new career this year. If you’re contemplating a career change, there are some important things to consider so you can plan and position yourself for success. These five tips will help you gain confidence in your decision to transform your work.

1. Define your passion
What do you truly love to do? It could be cooking, working with children, gardening, number-crunching, etc. Start by defining what you’re passionate about and realistically look at how that passion can be tapped so you can make money doing what you love. It’s also wise to analyze the reasons why you want to make a career change. Long-term dissatisfaction with your work might be a good reason to consider a new career, but isolated issues that have taken place recently might not necessarily be the best reason to make such a big life change.

2. Think outside the box
You may already know what you love to do, but finding a way to make it a career might be a more complex task. Think creatively and don’t be afraid to go outside the typical 9-to-5 job options. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, starting a franchise can be a rewarding opportunity. For example, if you enjoy helping children learn and want to play a role in shaping the future of growing minds, consider being an owner/operator of a Kumon Math and Reading Franchise. By building a career with the world’s largest after-school math and reading academic enrichment program, you’ll be a business owner who is also a driving force for social good by having a profound impact on the lives of children in your community. Visit kumonfranchise.com to learn more.

3. Make time to plan
Changing careers is a huge step that can be challenging. It is not something that should be done impulsively, and you must give yourself time to plan. You’ll want to be sure you are mentally and financially prepared for what’s next. Setbacks are bound to occur along with the successes, and with thorough planning you’ll position yourself for even more positive outcomes.

4. Be practical and research
Changing careers is a journey, not a race. Being practical about decisions and making changes in stages can be helpful. Explore opportunities that are attractive to you and talk with others who work in that industry. They can provide the best insight into what the day-to-day responsibilities would be, including the pluses and drawbacks of the job. Remember to research the outlook for different industries and career paths as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook is a great resource.

5. Build a support network
Having supportive friends and family can be a key factor in successfully making a major career change. Make sure you have a network of supportive individuals who will be there for you through it all. Professional support can make a big difference, too. Franchise owners at Kumon join more than 2,000 individually owned and operated centers across North America, meaning they have the support of many other people who know the industry and what it takes to succeed. Additionally, having a mentor, no matter what career path you pursue, can provide you with expertise and counsel to help position you for a bright future.

Categories: Lifestyle

Doors opening wide for women to serve in the Navy

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - What’s it like being a woman in today’s Navy? Challenging. Exciting. Rewarding. But above all, it’s incredibly empowering. That’s because the responsibilities are significant. The respect is well-earned. The lifestyle is liberating. And the chance to push limits personally and professionally is an equal opportunity for women and men alike.

The notion of “man’s work” is redefined in the Navy. Stereotypes are overridden by determination, by proven capabilities and by a shared appreciation for work that’s driven by hands-on skills and adrenaline. Here, a woman is definitely in on the action. And women who seek to pursue what some may consider male-dominated roles are not only welcome, they’re wanted – in any of dozens of dynamic fields.

Train to become an Electronics Technician who knows her way around a nuclear propulsion power plant or a Naval Reactors Engineer who designs them. Work with advanced weapons systems on state-of-the-art ships, or lead security details anywhere in the world. Launch a cutting-edge career in the field of aviation as an Air crewman, an Aviation Structural Mechanic or one of several other specialties in this area. It’s all possible, and women are filling these rolls in the Navy now.

The Navy doesn’t only provide excellent career opportunities for women. From fitness rooms to pick-up sporting games and discounted tickets for national, regional and local attractions, women have the ability to connect with and make new friends while serving. Women interested in serving in the Navy will be able to join a team of more than 65,000 female Sailors, assigned to 206 ships in the Fleet.

From enlisted to officer positions, there are many high-impact positions currently in great demand, including:

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician – Locate, identify, render safe and dispose of various forms of explosive devices – conventional, nuclear, chemical and biological.

Navy Diver – Perform underwater salvage, repair and maintenance, submarine rescue and support to Special Warfare and Explosive Ordnance Disposal communities.

Aviation Rescue Swimmer – Perform aviation rescue operations over land and in an open-water environment.

Builder – Construct everything from buildings to bridges or runways, and install finish work.

Naval Aviator – Be part of one of the world’s most renowned aviation teams, directing critical flight missions and piloting the most state-of-the-art aircraft ever created.

For information about women serving in the Navy visit www.navy.com/inside/winr.html or www.navy.com/inside/winr/faqs.html for a list of questions women frequently ask about training, hair presentation and enlistment requirements. For more information about opportunities to serve, visit www.navy.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

Life after the Olympics: Luger offers insight on balancing work, school and life

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - A natural-born athlete, Erin Hamlin grew up playing a variety of sports, although it wasn’t until the age of 12 that she was introduced to luging. Her prior athletic experience instilled a great deal of concentration, dedication and strength of mind and body, and it wasn’t long before she worked her way through the national team’s developmental luge program and was living and training full-time in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Hamlin’s hard work paid off and she went on to compete in the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games and recently made history when she became the first American luger to win a medal when she earned bronze at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. In addition, her momentous feat was recognized by the United States Olympic Committee at its 2014 “Best of Us” Awards Show where she earned the title of Best Female Olympian of the Winter Games.

Q: What was it like to compete at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi and make history by becoming the first U.S. singles luger to win an Olympic medal?

“Each time I’ve competed at the Olympics, I’ve learned and grown so much. The challenge of being the greatest in the world is what drives me to pursue my Olympic dreams,” says Hamlin. “Becoming the first American luger to win a medal in the history of the sport was a surreal experience. Standing on the podium and accepting my medal was the culmination of years of preparation, dedication and persistence to achieve success in my sport.”

Q: Now that you’ve made history and achieved Olympic success, what other life goals are you looking to reach?

“After I retire from competing, I want to help corporations plan more environmentally friendly events. Being a part of many sporting events over the years has shown me that there is room for improvement from a sustainability standpoint. Continuing my education and earning a degree will allow me to explore a career in which I can achieve this,” says Hamlin.

She adds, “To help me reach this goal, I am preparing for my career by earning a bachelor’s degree in technical management with a specialization in sustainability management at DeVry University.”

Q: How do you balance you athletic training with your academic endeavors?

“Since I can take my courses online it allows me to balance my school work and my rigorous training schedule. I feel that learning helps me look forward to what is next and earning my degree will prepare me to achieve success off the track, as well,” Hamlin says.

Q: What advice do you have to share with young athletes who aspire to compete in the Olympic Games?

“It can certainly be intimidating to balance school and other life responsibilities – especially when you aspire to be successful in athletics or any extracurricular activity,” says Hamlin. “The big picture can be very overwhelming. It’s important to remember to stay focused on the end goal and break it down into smaller steps – that way it becomes much more manageable.”

DeVry University is an official education provider of the United States Olympic Committee. To learn more about Hamlin or other Team USA student athletes who have competed in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, visit newsroom.devry.edu.

Categories: Lifestyle

Don't let college debt drag you down

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - With each passing year, student loan debt is digging a deeper hole for more young Americans. Over a nine-year period, the average student loan balance among 25-year-olds has grown 91 percent, from $10,649 in 2003 to $20,326 in 2012. More than 38 million Americans have outstanding debt amounting to nearly $1 trillion. This figure has nearly quadrupled over the last four years, surpassing both credit cards and auto loans as a leading source of personal debt, according to Pew Research and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

While the statistics are startling, some of today’s young people are prepared to take on the financial challenge. Younger generations (those in their mid-20s to early-30s) are showing signs of taking their finances seriously, according to a MassMutual 2013 State of the American Family Study. Nearly two-thirds want to be actively involved in all decisions regarding their finances, and almost half are actively seeking ways to educate themselves about personal finance, a rate significantly higher than older generations. For young people looking to take control of their future, there are ways to ease the strain of student debt. MassMutual offers the following tips to help graduates manage their loans:

* Seek out scholarships – College is expensive, and taking out student loans is often inevitable. If you are still in college or considering getting your degree, be sure to research and apply for a range of scholarships to help lower your education costs. “One of the most powerful steps young people can take to mitigate educational debt is to aggressively seek out scholarships to help fund college,” says Michael Fanning, an executive vice president with MassMutual. “Graduating from college with less debt can help take the financial worry out of the equation when making ‘grown up’ decisions like homeownership, starting a family and saving for retirement.”

* Make a budget that includes all expenses – Expenses fall into three categories: fixed, flexible and discretionary. Sit down and review all of your monthly costs, from meals to rent payments, and identify which category they fall in. From there, you can allocate funds to each area. It’s critical that you have a full understanding of all expenses, debt and assets in order to not only stay on top of fixed expenses – like your student loans – but also build a realistic financial plan.

* Borrow or swap – Before making a purchase, ask a friend or relative if you can borrow or swap for a similar item. This especially holds true for items you may use only once or very few times. Going on a backpacking trip abroad? See if you can borrow a friend’s backpack rather than buying a new one. Looking to update your wardrobe? Ask a friend to swap outfits, doubling each other’s wardrobes instantly. Buying something with your money isn’t the only way to get it.

* Keep living at home – Rent is a huge expense. If you’re moving away from your hometown to work, it’s unavoidable. But if your first job is close to home, consider asking if you can move in with your parents for the first year or two to save on expenses. Use the money you’re able to save during that time to make larger payments toward your student loans to pay them down quicker. That will also allow you to bolster your savings for when you do move into a place of your own.

* Avoid credit card debt – Post-graduation is a crucial point that will help determine your credit-score for years to come. Younger generations have close to $5,000 in credit card debt, according to MassMutual’s study. To keep credit card debt in check, only use one or two cards at a time with limits that aren’t high, and pay your balance in full each month to avoid interest. Missteps could affect the rate you pay on big purchases down the road, like a car or home loan.

* Ask for a raise – Once you have established a solid foundation at your job, usually around the one-year mark, raise your hand and ask for a raise. Be sure to approach your supervisor prepared, both with how much more you want and why you deserve it. Highlight how you’ve demonstrated value to company over the year and how your work merits a raise. Even if you don’t get it right away, you’ve started the conversation.

Taking steps today to manage your finances and get out of debt will help ensure a successful, debt-free financial situation in the future. For more tips and information regarding smart money management, check out www.massmutual.com/myfuturenow.

Categories: Lifestyle

How to say goodbye to work worries while on vacation

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Summer has just begun and that long-awaited vacation is on the horizon. Unfortunately, it can quickly pass you by and before you know it, that precious vacation time has been wasted due to inadequate trip planning or a basic inability to relax.

Twenty-three percent of Americans take no vacation time at all, according to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. With employees skipping out on vacation days every year, the bigger question remains as to why this continues to happen, and what happens when employees actually take that time off? More importantly, how can an individual enjoy a vacation without being completely disconnected from work?             

First off, it’s important to understand the value of taking time off work. “A well-placed vacation can help break the cycle of everyday workplace-related stress,” says Dr. Joffrey Suprina, dean of the College of Behavioral Sciences at Argosy University. “Chronic stress takes a toll on our body's health, disrupting its ability to resist infection, maintain vital functions and even avoid injury. When you're stressed out and tired, you are more likely to become ill. Your sleep will suffer and not only do you become more irritable, depressed, and anxious, but your memory will become worse and you'll make poor decisions. So vacations are important to our overall physical and mental health.”

A new survey from Glassdoor found that 61 percent of employees admitted to doing some work while on vacation. In a connected world of smartphones, iPads and Wi-Fi, that might not seem like a big deal. It's easy to work remotely. However, many people aren’t getting the most of their vacation. Checking an email can easily lead to jumping on a project, which has potential to take up hours of your valuable vacation time.

“Taking time off has a positive effect on employee happiness and productivity, however many people are simply afraid to walk away from their work even for a few days,” says Dr. Carlos Tasso E. De Aquino, assistant dean of the Graduate School of Business and Management at Argosy University. “With globalization and increasing competition, the workforce feels threatened to lose their jobs to people anywhere in the world, so they develop this ‘addiction’ and never stop working,” adds Aquino.

So before you leave the office for vacation, assign a person to help others regarding your normal responsibilities and let everybody clearly know who this person is - including them in an automatic email reply and voice mail.

“Consider a time blocking strategy, where you choose a small block of time to catch up on work. Let your coworkers know that this is the only time you'll be responding to emails, calls and other work needs. By doing this you’ll be in control of your responsibilities, setting employee expectations, and alleviating some of the stress that comes from having to constantly check in,” says Suprina.

Another good idea is to train your stand-in coworker well in advance. Consider having your employees partner up with somebody who understands their job. When their counterpart goes on vacation, only they can contact each other if something comes up. This means that all the attempts to access the vacationing employee have to go through their “gatekeeper” who can judge just how important it actually is to contact that employee.

Vacations give you a chance to unwind, enjoy life, and to keep your work-life balance from swinging too far toward work. They allow you to take a step back from your normal, stressful routine and enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation. So go ahead this summer and take a few days off. Just don’t forget to bring a camera.

Categories: Lifestyle

Preparing for cyber warfare

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Recently, emboldened Russian hackers breached the systems of power plants across the United States and Western Europe. In June, Chinese hackers attempted to gain access to several U.S. power plant operation control systems. And in May, the Department of Homeland Security announced hackers had actually gained control of a mechanical device at an unnamed U.S. energy facility.

These brazen cyber attacks on a critical infrastructure have raised new alarms within the information and homeland security sectors. Dr. Jane LeClair, COO at the, National Cybersecurity Institute notes that these types of incidents, in which hackers exploit  vulnerabilities within the country’s digital infrastructure, are referred to in military parlance as “prepping the battlefield.” Following other recent high profile data breaches at private companies such as Target, Michaels, and eBay, and the digital bomb that was left in NASDAQ in 2011, the question is being raised – is America prepped to handle a contemporary cyber war?

While there may be no definitive answer to that question right now, it’s apparent the U.S. needs to look beyond the basics in cybersecurity like never before, says Dr. Sherly Abraham, program director for cybersecurity at Excelsior College. She emphasizes the need for a more proactive approach and comprehensive situational awareness.

Traditionally, the information security community has reacted to a cyber attack or discovery of a particular malware by developing an algorithm to identify the virus’s signature and then creating anti-virus software to prevent a future breach. But many in the security community argue in favor of training cyber professionals to “think like a hacker,” says LeClair. Many higher education institutions are now offering cyber programs that detail both offensive and defensive approaches.

The need for greater situational awareness and increased security education and training may seem like common sense, yet these are often underutilized or even ignored. Experts are urging private companies, organizations and governments to become attentive to the security strengths and weaknesses of their entire operational network - evaluating, monitoring and securing each device, user and service.

A strengthened posture of situational awareness also means taking into account individual weaknesses. Human error often is an organization’s largest cybersecurity vulnerability. Focusing on the human-side of the equation can help stave off social engineering, the criminal practice of using deception to trick an employee into giving up access to a company’s system or confidential information via clicking on a link that contains a virus or malware.

In fact, greater situational awareness and a proactive approach may have been able to prevent at least a few of the past data breaches. Data alerts surrounding the use of memory-scraping malware attacks against credit card companies were first issued in April 2013. A few days prior to Thanksgiving that year, malware introduced into Target’s security and payment system led to the theft of 40 million customer credit card numbers.

Did the merchant take the data alert warnings seriously enough? Even if they had, would this have prevented cyber intruders both at home and abroad (where there are reports of state-sponsored hacking efforts) from perfecting their craft? Industry analysts and commentators will continue to debate the issue. But what is certain is that better education and training can improve the likelihood that cyber-defenders not only heed attack signs in the future, but develop the necessary measures to build defenses against them before they are created in the first place.

Categories: Lifestyle
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