Career Improvement

A great way for you to increase your income is to reassess the income that you bring in. You may be due for a raise or a promotion, or even may be in the market for looking at a new job.

When asking for a raise it is important that you set up a meeting with your boss in private. Keep track of the things you have done and ways you have improved the company or business. Most bosses will not give you a raise just because you asked for one, or you think that it has been a long time since you have had one. You have to prove to them that you are worth the extra income. Be realistic, don’t ask for an amount that people in a big city make if you live in a smaller town.

A promotion can come with more income and greater responsibility. Many promotions may require an application and interview process. It is important to research the position and be prepared to defend why you are the best person for the promotion. You will probably be competing with a co-worker, but it is important not to let it strain any working relationships. In the interview explain to them ways you will improve the company, save them money, or increase their profits. Highlight any accomplishments that you have had with the company.

When looking for a new job you may have to update your résumé. If you have a lot of job experience you may want to exclude any jobs that are not related to the field of work you are applying for. Another important rule is to avoid lying or over-exagerating on your résumé. Employers will contact previous employers and it will jeopardize your chances at the job, not to mention ruin your credibility.

An effective cover letter is your chance to go into further detail of what you could not show on your résumé. You will defeat the purpose of a cover letter if you list everything that is on your résumé. Make sure each cover letter you write is specific to the job you are applying for. Employers can recognize a template cover letter where you just insert the position you are applying for and change the date and address. Your cover letter is a good chance to show how much you know about the industry and company you are applying for.

When it comes to your résumé and cover letter it is vital that it is grammatically correct and free of typos. There is not a faster way to be eliminated from consideration of a job than an error. So proof-read, proofread, and then proof-read some more. Have more than one person read over it for mistakes or changes.

When you are living from paycheck to paycheck and you get a raise it can still be difficult to change your ways. Many people think that they can spend more because they have more money coming in. This is a time when you should take advantage of saving and spend wisely. Stick to your previous budget and bank the extra income.



Halloween can be a fun time for everyone. The best part is how creative you can be and the costumes you can come up with from items around the house. Here are some homemade recipes and ideas for kids and adults.

Homemade Face Make Up:

1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp water
1/2 tsp cold cream
food coloring

Stir together starch and cold cream until well blended. Add water and stir, then add food coloring.

Wash your face and any area that you will be applying the makeup to. Dry thoroughly. Use fingertips to spread onto large areas. Use a small paint brush to paint designs on face. Removes with soap and water. Store in airtight container.

Tourist: Tan shorts, tall black socks, a camera, some maps hanging out of your pockets.

Biker/Rock Star: Old torn jeans, black sleeveless shirt, dog collar, bandanna. Paint on fake mustache, sideburns, etc.

Clown: Wear mismatched clothes, oversized shoes, a tie, face paint, messed up hair.

Hunter/Soldier: Wear camouflage, bright orange clothes, stocking cap, camouflage face paint.

Nerd: Small pants hiked up, suspenders with a half tucked-in shirt, slick parted hair with a cowlick, old pair of taped glasses, pens/pencils in shirt pocket.

Highway: Gray sweatshirt and sweat pants, yellow tape, toy cars. Tape a dotted yellow line down the middle of the sweat-suit and tape or glue cars on the “road”.

Ninja: All black clothes, you can wrap a black material cloth or bandanna around face. Cut weapons out of cardboard and wrap in aluminum foil. (You can create almost anything from some cardboard and aluminum foil)

Ghost: A classic! Cut holes in a white sheet for eyes. For better vision cut hole big enough to drape on shoulders and paint face white, or you may use a white ski mask.

Hobo: Old raggy clothes and hat. If you have old shoes, cut the toes out of them. Paint a beard on and rub a little dirt on the clothes.

Vampire: Black pants, white button up shirt, fake fangs (really cheap). Slick back hair, paint face white with black bags under eyes. Use black fabric or garbage bag and pin to back of shirt as cape.

Pirate: Baggy button-up shirt, short pants, colored socks, bandanna/scarf, paint on beard and eye patch, or buy eye patch (usually not more than $1).

Beauty Queen: Use an old bridesmaid or prom dress. Make a sash wear a lot of jewelry and makeup. For a scary effect tear holes in dress, add a little dirt, paint face white with dark rings under eyes. Put an old date on the sash.

Sports Athlete: Wear a sports jersey, hat, cleats, carry a ball, paint some black marks under eyes.

Bag of Jelly Beans: Cut holes in a clear garbage bag for head and arms. Fill bag with small colored balloons. Tape up bottom of bag, make a label and tape on front of the bag.

We could fill all of October’s Pilot with great Halloween ideas. Unfortunately, we have limited space. So I encourage you all to use your imagination and find things around your home. Have a fun and safe Halloween!



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A Risky Decision

Just in time for Halloween we have a good horror story for you.

Jon and Jane are in love. Things are just peachy. Then one day Jane asks Jon to co-sign on a credit card for her. Of course Jon does because he’s in love. Well, after awhile things go astray and Jon notices Jane’s carefree spending habits. Sadly, they break up and soon after, Jon is getting calls from a creditor saying he owes them because Jane is not making the payments. Jane’s now with Barry, spending like crazy on her credit card and not paying it off. Jon is single and working two jobs to pay for his ex’s expenses, all because Jon co-signed on a credit card. Pretty scary huh?

When you co-sign a loan or a credit card you assume all responsibilities of that account if the applicant cannot or will not pay. This includes any late fees, interest, or court costs and attorney fees. Collectors can pursue you by the same means that they would use to collect from the applicant. The Federal Trade Commission states that for every loan that is co-signed, 3 out of 4 co-signers are asked to repay the debt. In some cases, the creditor can collect the debt from you without trying to collect from the primary debtor.

Consider the following if someone asks you to co-sign with them. Assume that you may have to pay on the loan. Is the monthly payment out of the range of your budget? Could you comfortably make payments if it were your loan? If it is not their first loan there is a significant reason a lender is requiring them to have a co-signer. The person who asks you may be very trustworthy and have honest intent to pay on time and to the penny. What if something were to happen to them, like they get injured or become unemployed and don’t have any income. Now what? Now the creditors are going to come after you to collect. If you cannot afford to repay, they may pursue legal action against you and destroy your credit. You are putting your credit score at risk by co-signing, even if you are not asked to repay on the debt. The primary applicant may make late payments that will show up on your report. By co-signing on an account you can ruin your credit, which in turn can require you to get a co-signer on any future loans or credit cards you might need to take out.

There may be times when it will be inevitable that you will have to co-sign a loan. For example, you may have a son or daughter that need a co-signer for a private school loan because they have no established credit. Your teen may want a credit card for college “emergencies” that you will co-sign for. Again, you are taking a risk. I know you want to trust your children but an emergency according to a college student could be gas for spring break or that there is a huge sale at The Gap. They will find it easier to use each time. Many students are not ready for that kind of financial power and even more can not come up with the funds to pay off what they charged over the month. This leaves the parents holding the bill and receiving the countless phone calls.

Married couples often co-sign loans together. Either for joint possession or one of them may have come into the relationship with credit problems.

If you still decide you need to co-sign for someone, there are some things you need to consider. First and foremost, make sure you can make payments on the account. Go with the borrower and try to negotiate with the lender on what your obligations will be. You may be able to get the lender to agree that you are only responsible for the principal, and to exclude you from any late charges, court costs, or attorney’s fees. The creditor is by no means obligated to, but it can never hurt to ask and include it in the contract.

Another thing you might want to ask to be included is that whenever the borrower is late or misses a payment, to contact you immediately. That way you can handle it before it becomes a big problem. You will want to make sure you get copies of the loan contract, and any other important papers. If the lender does not give you copies, get copies made from the borrower.

There are other ways you can help someone out without having to co-sign on a loan. Have the borrower check his credit history to make sure there are no mistakes on it that are causing lenders to require a co-signer. If you know that the borrower is having some financial problems, suggest that they meet with a Certified Credit Counselor. A counselor can steer them on the right path of making better financial decisions and begin to rebuild their credit.



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A Family Necessity

In the game that is life sometimes the roll of the dice does not come up in our favor. Unfortunately, there are many things that can take us out of the game leaving other teammates behind. That’s why life insurance is so important; it allows the other players on your team a chance to keep rolling the dice. How your dependents carry on after you die will be determined by how much life insurance coverage you had.

We will discuss some of the choices you have in choosing a policy. We will also try and help you figure out how much insurance you should have and behaviors that may affect how much you will have to pay.

When it comes to life insurance there are basically two types, term and whole-life. Term life insurance is coverage for a specific time period, generally one to 30 years. You can also choose coverage that protects you until you reach a specific age, usually 65 or 70 years old. This protection will provide your spouse and dependents an ample amount for living expenses and debt if you were to die.

Whole life insurance provides protection and grows as cash value that you could use while still alive. You pay a fixed premium and over the years the policy will build up a cash value that is tax deferred. You can withdrawal from the policy, but as you do, it decreases the insurance benefits, which defeats the purpose of having a life insurance policy.

There is a good formula on how to figure out how much coverage you will need. Ideally, you want enough so that your spouse or any dependents can live comfortably without your income. Take your short-term needs plus your long-term needs minus your assets and savings and that should give you a good idea on how much coverage you will need. Your short-term needs include final expenses like hospital care, funeral charges, taxes, and attorney costs. Add up how much outstanding debt you owe, such as, car loans, credit cards, and student loans. You will also want to include extra for an emergency fund. Your long-term needs include your mortgage and any other monthly expenses (childcare, food, clothing, utilities, entertainment, travel, repairs, etc.) You will need to take these expenses and multiply them by the number of years you want or need to provide for your dependents.

College tuition is a long-term need that you may have to calculate the future cost for. If your child is older and expresses that he or she does not want to attend college or that they are planning on paying it for themselves, than you can exclude that when figuring out your costs.

You can subtract any resources you know you have from the total amount. This can include any mutual funds, stocks and bonds, social security, savings, or any other life insurance policies you may have. Calculate your formula and you will have a good number to go on for the amount of coverage you will need.

It will be important to update your life insurance with any major life changes like another child or long-term care for a child with disabilities. You will also need to adjust your insurance with any divorce.

Your lifestyle can play an important role in determining what your premiums will be. Many life insurance plans require a medical exam and blood tests. The healthier you are the less risk the insurance company is taking, which means you will pay less. It is important that you are honest when filling out insurance applications. Many insurers have access to your medical history and you could be denied for lying.

Tobacco users on average can pay three times the premiums than non-smokers. Excessive alcohol use will result in higher premiums. Any alcohol related convictions (DUI, etc.) will be a red flag that there might be a history of abuse. During an examination, a blood test can be used to measure liver enzymes; elevated liver enzymes may signal alcohol-related medical problems. Your weight will also factor in on how much you will have to pay. Insurers generally use a height-to-weight comparison to determine what kind of risk you pose. If you are not in the healthy weight range for your height you will pay more. High cholesterol and blood pressure are other warning signs that insurance companies will consider as high risk. If you are taking medications to help with your blood pressure or cholesterol, make sure you note that, it may help. You will be showing the insurance company that you are making an effort to better your situation and you are listening to your doctors. By showing improvement of your health, over a long period of time, you could save a significant amount of money.

Okay, so life’s not a game, but researching the right policies and then reviewing and updating your policy can prevent you from being played.

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Counting Games

The best things about introducing your child to money, is that it is very simple and can be fun. Almost any parent can invent a game that will help their children to recognize and learn about money and counting.

Have your child recognize different money. Give them certain coins and tell them what it is called and what the value is. If your children are a little older you can explain the images on the coins. Have them draw out different money. A great way to do this is if you have some chalk and a big driveway. Other visual activities children can do to recognize money is coin rubbing. You put a coin under a piece of paper and have your child use a crayon to rub over the coin so the image is rubbed through the paper. Then see if the child can identify which coin it is. Like many other learning activities with children, it will take a significant amount of time for them to learn and retain this information.

Another fun and easy way to teach children is with a variety of counting games. Once your child can identify and distinguish between denominations you can setup different piles of money. Next have them separate and identify the money and then add up the piles of money.

You can make money flashcards. Use money stamps or money stickers (that you can find at a craft or teacher store) and blank note cards. Put different combinations on the cards, and then put all the cards into a manila envelope or bag. Have kids draw the cards out of the bag and have them calculate the amount of the coins. This game works as well with one child as it does with many children.

There are countless numbers of interactive games on the Internet that young children can learn from. A fun site that teaches children about coins is The US Mint website ( It is full of games and cartoons that are fun for a variety of ages.

Another site with a lot of good games and activities for all ages is

Getting your child excited about math and money at a young age is a good first step in leading them to becoming financially wise adults.

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Career Fair (pt. 1)

Many schools are starting programs that help kids understand what being a financially responsible adult really entails. Career fairs put students in real-life scenarios with jobs, families, bills, taxes and other financial obligations. It is like a more advanced version of the board game LIFE.

Some schools assign students occupations based on a personality survey. Other schools let the students pick their occupation or everything is chosen by random. Educators spend time researching the jobs and the average incomes that are associated with them. They also use state averages on certain costs, such as, the cost of raising a family, or owning a home. These figures are then applied to the activities.

Students will get paychecks based on what jobs they have. Then the students will draw what responsibilities they will have. Some will have large families, while other students will be single parents, or just living on their own. This attributes to their housing, family costs, and taxes. They will draw what kind of car they have and the payments that come with it. An example would be a new car with a high monthly payment and insurance, a used car that does not have as big of payment, and an older car that is paid off so there is only a monthly insurance payment.

Students then learn how to balance their checkbook and set up a budget based on the career and lifestyle that the student has drawn. While some students will find it easy to budget, some will struggle or stretch to get bills paid.

After the activities, students will share and discuss each other’s outcomes. It can be a real eye-opener for students to realize where the dollars go.

It is a fun way for teens to learn the value of a dollar and to get a peek at the real life that is not too far away for them.

Parents do not need to wait or hope that their school will have a Career Fair. They can do it themselves with a little research and work.

Next month we will go into more detail on how you can set up a career day at home. We will give you a list of materials and resources where you can find occupational statistics to use. We will give you directions and then some topics that you can use to discuss with your child.

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Budgeting Tools

Keeping a budget and tracking your expenses is the best way to manage your money. If you own a home computer it can make this financial chore a lot easier. Along with online banking, there are many user-friendly programs that do all the hard work for you. All you have to do is use the information to control your spending habits and save.

The two most popular programs are Quicken® and Microsoft Money. Quicken® is available for both Macintosh and PC formats, while Microsoft Money is only available for the PC. Microsoft Money Deluxe 2006 was listed at $59.95 ( Quicken Deluxe 2006 was listed at $49.99, while the Macintosh version was listed at $59.99 ( (All prices as of August 25, 2005). Larger versions are available that will track investments and manage small business finances. Shop around, many stores will offer mail-in rebates where you can save a significant amount of money. There are many other programs that are cheaper and do not have as many features, but will help with finances. It is important to shop around and find a program that will meet all your personal needs. Whatever you choose it will help you track expenses and monitor your budget.

These programs have features that show you where your money is going. You can set up categories like entertainment, clothes, food, etc. They have connections with many banks that allow you to bring up your savings, checking, or credit card accounts. It will put your spending information in graphs and compare your averages in each category per month. These easy-to-read graphs will show you if you are reaching your financial goals, or if you are close to exceeding your budget for the month. Many programs also have a tax preparation feature, making it easier to do your own taxes and save money by not having to take them to a professional. You may also be able to find tax breaks and deductions that you qualify for. Another popular feature is online bill paying. The program will remind you of all your bill’s due dates. You can set them up to be paid out of your account automatically or manually and you don’t have to worry about stamps or the time it takes to get there by mail.

Security is also another good reason for keeping track of all your expenses at home. Instead of looking at your statements only once a month, you can now monitor it everyday if you wish. So any suspicious activity will be noticed right away. If you choose to do all you banking online you can eliminate paper statements, which could be used to steal your identity. It is also important that you have a good security program for your computer that includes virus and spy-ware protection.

With a little more work, a spreadsheet program can be used to keep track of your spending. You can set up columns that contain categories (around 20). The first column is for where you spent the money and the second column is for how much. The next columns are the spending categories. This will help you to keep track of everything you have spent and to know where your money is going. Add up your columns to get your totals. Divide each category’s total by the total amount. (In the example below, divide 153.79 by 771.83 to find out that 20% of your budget goes to food). Microsoft Excel is a good spreadsheet to use and they even have a downloadable budget template that makes it easier to use. If you lack a computer you can also use the trusted pencil and paper method, it works just as well.

The point is that when you have a visual perception of where your money is going it will help you to control it. When you see that 5% of your monthly income goes to gas-station coffee, you may decide to start brewing your own at home. I encourage you to explore the opportunities of a personal finance program either through your computer or a notebook.

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