Personal Improvement Column


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 Personal Improvement 
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Learn a second language on the cheap

learning-foreign-languages

February 3, 2016
One of my relatives believed the Russians planned to take over the United States in the 1950’s, so she decided to learn their language.

She took all the classes offered and then to further her skill, she volunteered at a local Russian community center.

That worked for her. And she learned to make the best piroshky.

Now, though the fear of another country running our government has diminished, speaking and understanding Spanish, Korean, Japanese or any other language benefits us in many ways.

For me, knowing Spanish helps me communicate with many of my service providers.

When you’re in the market to change careers or better your current one, a second language improves your job prospects.

Studies show that while learning another tongue, you develop better mental health and stave off dementia. The process helps you get comfortable with other cultures. And when you’re fluent, you feel successful.

If you want to learn another language, you don’t have to buy expensive books, audio tapes or take costly classes. Try some or all of these methods instead.
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 Personal Improvement 
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9 tricks to get a jump on 2016 money resolutions

Most people have some sort of financial resolutions at the start of every New Year, whether it’s to be debt-free or save more.

There’s something about having a clean slate when you flip to a new calendar year that can be quite motivating.

Here are some ways to evaluate your spending and put more cash back in your pocket – and you should start now, while you’re in the throes of holiday shopping.

Trick 1. Create a “fun fund” to cover small outings or extras that come up throughout the year.

You know how you’ve had to pass on that holiday brunch or happy hour because you’re flat broke this time of year?

You can find room in your budget next time if you start socking away as little as $5 a week now.

Physically put it in a jar, or set up an automated contribution to a separate savings account. I used this approach in 2015, and I saved up enough to enjoy a last-minute weekend getaway over the summer.

I’ve since replenished the fund and dip into it here and there for everything from salon appointments to dinner dates with my husband.
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 Personal Improvement 
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Those heavily promoted $10-a-month gym memberships are great … But will you ever go?


Health clubs have a brilliant business model that counts on members who sign-up with the best of intentions rarely, if ever, showing up.

If everyone who belonged to a gym actually worked out on a regular basis there’d be chaos (for a deep dive into the economics of gyms, check out this Planet Money podcast.)

But the super cheap $10-a-month deals health clubs are touting these days are pure genius.

It’s the perfect play for customers who know they’re unlikely to actually go and are wise enough to reject a year-long contract that costs $30 or $50 a month.

At $10 a month — and no long-term commitment — it’s almost irresponsible not to embrace the financial risk and take another shot at remaking yourself into a dedicated gym rat.

I say another shot because I’ll bet these deals attract a surprising number of new members who’ve spent hundreds of dollars on unused memberships in the past.

Maybe even at the same club.

So what happens if you fail this time?
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 Personal Improvement 
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Manage your life like a CFO

If you want to save money, you’ve got to manage your life much like the chief financial officer runs the company where you work.

J.D. Roth of the personal finance blog “Get Rich Slowly” just launched a course that can help you do just that.

The course aims to help you eliminate debt, master your money and achieve financial independence.

It includes a 52-week email series with the best lessons from the Get Rich Slowly blog and a 120-page guide called “Be Your Own CFO” with supplementary downloads.

You’ll also find interviews with well-known individuals in the personal finance sector including Jim Wang (the creator of Bargaineering), Ramit Sethi, Pat Flynn, Jean Chatzky, Gretchen Rubin, Mr. Money Mustache, Paula Pant and Adam Baker, to name a few.

After taking a year off, Roth realized that there was an aspect of personal finance he hadn’t yet tackled.

“I think it’s imperative that people understand that they are responsible for building their own financial future,” he says.

It’s easy to sit back and take advice from your real-estate agent, broker, banker, family and friends, but Roth notes that the advice isn’t always geared toward your best interests.
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 Personal Improvement 
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Downsize Your Life for the New Year

A new year often represents a new beginning. One of the best ways to start off the new year right is to think about how you can downsize life a little bit.

This isn’t just about moving to a smaller home. It’s about looking at your lifestyle, and figuring out how you can make it a little bit simpler. As you consider what you want your life to look like going forward, it might be time to downsize a little bit.

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 Family, Personal Improvement 
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How to Treat Poison Ivy – And Kill It If You Know Where It Is

Poison IvyOne of the staple of summer, it seems, is poison ivy. Whether you stumble upon it while camping, or whether you’ve got a problem with it on your property, poison ivy can cause a great deal of discomfort. Your reaction to poison ivy depends largely on your body chemistry, and how it responds to urushiol, an oily resin common to poison ivy, as well as to poison sumac and poison oak.

Reactions to poison ivy vary. My husband is quite sensitive to poison ivy. He breaks out in severe rashes when he comes in contact with it. I, on the other hand, am not as sensitive. While contact will produce some discomfort, it is not usually the full-blown rash my husband experiences. In most cases, poison ivy isn’t a serious problem. However, you will want to treat it as best you can to alleviate the discomfort until the symptoms subside.

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 Personal Improvement 
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Setting Realistic Goals for the New Year

goalWhether you are preparing to set personal finance goals for the new year, or whether you have other goals in mind, the hardest part seems to be achieving success. Indeed, many of us set forth grand aspirations for the coming year — only to have those hopes dashed relatively early on. The problem is that, in many cases, we fail to set realistic goals.

While there is nothing wrong with dreaming big, someone with $30,000 in debt, and a low-paying job isn’t going to achieve financial freedom in eight months just because it’s a goal. You’re not going to lose 20 pounds in six weeks, and, even if you do manage to lose the weight, keeping it off is going to present its own challenges.

The key is choose realistic and sustainable goals for the new year. Here are some tips that can help you set realistic goals for the brand new year:

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 Personal Improvement 
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How to Write a Thank You Note

Thank You NoteIn today’s fast-paced world, it can be easy to forget to say “thank you.” And, it often seems as though writing a thank-you note is something that is even more overlooked. My son recently had a birthday. He received plenty of gifts. And, because he’s used to it, he remembered to sit down and write notes thanking all of the givers for his presents.

Writing a thank-you note can be a good way to show gratitude, but also a way to help combat materialism. When you are grateful for something, you turn your focus to the giver, and their thoughtfulness. It’s a good idea to carefully consider the gift, and express your gratitude with a note.

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