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Conferences Contemplate Offering Childcare + How to Offer Your Child a Leg up in Life!

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If you’re a working parent, you may have been forced at times in your career to skip important conferences due to a lack of childcare. The good news is, the tides may be turning, though slowly. Conference organizers in various industries are starting to come around to the idea that they’re missing something if parents are unable to attend. The trend, according to Quartz, is most poignant in science, technology, engineering, and maths, likely because those fields are trying to come up with creative ways to increase female participation.

This is important because these conferences create an opportunity for its participants to connect with others in their field and ultimately helps them increase their value in the workplace. It also allows them to make more money, which will come in handy as they are looking to improve their children succeed. So if you are a parent who wants to help your child with college, what do you do? Although college isn’t something that they will attend until they become an adult, it is important that parents start to plan for this expense as early as possible. With childcare being almost as much as rent or a mortgage, it can be challenging to save money for anything these days, especially college expenses.

Fortunately, a 529 Plan can help parents save money for their child ’s future college experience. The 529 Plan is a tax-advantaged investment. It was created to encourage parents, grandparents, legal guardians, etc., to begin saving money for the future college educations of their children, grandchildren, are legal wards. It receives its name from Section 529 in the IRS Code, and it is offered by state agencies and state organizations.

Not all states offer the 529 Plan, but those who do individually decide how the plan is designed and what kind of investment options they will offer. Most plans allow investors to come from out of state. The advantages for in-state residents who apply for a 529 college savings plan within their state can include tax deductions, matching grant and scholarship opportunities, protection from creditors, and even exemption from financial aid debt.

The 529 Plan is offered in two different forms. There is a prepaid plan, sometimes also called a guaranteed savings plan, which allows you to purchase tuition ahead of time, based on the current calculations of what the tuition of a specific university is. It is then paid out when the beneficiary of the policy attends a college or university.

There are also savings plans, which are based around the market performance of an underlying investment. These investments are generally comprised of mutual funds. Forty-eight states, plus the District of Columbia, offer the 529 savings plan. Usually, savings plans become more conservative, the older the beneficiary gets. There are also options for risk-based investments, which allows underlying investments to remain in the same fund, no matter what the age of the ultimate recipient.

The 529 college savings plans are an excellent way for parents, grandparents, or legal guardians to ensure that their young loved ones will be able to afford to go to the very best colleges and receive the very best degrees. It allows children the opportunity to follow their dreams, like before they are capable of reaching them. They are ideal plans for adults who want to provide college funds for their children but are unsure or unable to go about it in the way the movies have always told them they should. The 529 plans are realistic and affordable investments, designed to ensure a child’s future successes.

So as you contemplate whether or not you will start your family, keep in mind of these expenses but also know that there are vehicles available to make the ride smoother (pun intended)

Ash Exantus aka Ash Cash is one of the nation’s top personal finance experts. Dubbed as the Financial Motivator, he uses a culturally responsive approach in teaching financial literacy. He is the Head of Financial Education at BankMobile and Editor-in-Chief at Paradigm Money. The views and opinions expressed are those of Ash Cash and not the views of BankMobile and/or its affiliates.

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HP to Slash up to 9,000 Jobs + How to Make Yourself Employable

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Computer giant HP says it will cut up to 9,000 jobs, or 16% of its workforce, through firings and voluntary early retirement amid difficulty with its printing business. The California-based company said the layoffs are part of a restructuring plan that will save the company $1 billion by the end of 2022. The move, which is meant “to cut costs and boost sales growth,” said Bloomberg, comes as the company’s CEO of four years is stepping down. Dion Weisler will be replaced by HP executive Enrique Lores.

What if your job is making cuts? How do you become more employable? According to The Wall Street Journal, employers are becoming less picky, dropping skill and degree requirements to attract a larger pool of job candidates — especially in cities with the lowest levels of unemployment, such as Dallas or Louisville. The report states that an extra 1 million jobs were opened up to candidates last year with “no experience necessary.” But how do you go about getting yourself ready and employable in order to make the power switch? The following are five tips:

1. Be Proactive

Instead of waiting around to see who is hiring or simply just looking at job boards, look around, and make inquiries. What kind of job are you looking for? What environment are you interested in working in? Are there competitors to your current employer? Do you have an ideal place you want to work? All of these questions will allow you to determine who you should be reaching out to and how you should approach it. Being proactive can help show employers that you are the kind of person that takes the initiative.

2. Use Social Media

In today’s day and age, there isn’t a potential employer who will not search for you on social media when the time comes. Because of this, it is important that you start to build a strong profile online. Doing this can increase your chances of making that employment power switch and land the job of your dreams. LinkedIn is your best friend professionally, so make sure your profile is up-to-date. Many recruitment agencies use LinkedIn as a prospecting tool, so this may also help increase your visibility.

3. Have Unwavering Belief in Your Abilities

Right now, as we speak, there is someone living out their best life because they just believed in themselves, and conversely, there are people who have the skills and ability, but because of their lack of belief in themselves, they are not living up to their full potential. Be the former! Stop allowing yourself to be your biggest obstacle. Have an unwavering belief in your abilities, and even if a job says no, understand that it is their loss, not yours. Any employer would be privileged to have you on their team. Know that and believe in that fact as you step out to find your perfect employer match.

4. Keep Learn New Things

Never become so complacent with where you are right now that you don’t do what you need to do to maintain or increase your value in the marketplace. Even if you have been working in the same job or field for a few years, make sure you are engaging yourself in self-development on a regular basis. This may include developing in areas that have nothing to do with your current position but understand that the more you know, the more opportunities you allow to open up for you. There are many online courses that you can take or even certificate programs that can significantly increase your value.

5. Shake Hands & Kiss Babies

Lastly, make sure you become a master networker. The saying that “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is so accurate. The only twist to that is, “Who you know will get you in the door, but what you know will keep you there.” Your network is your net-worth. Make sure you are networking in the industry or profession that you are interested in. You will realize how small the world is and may be able to connect with the hiring manager directly, or even make such a good impression that the opportunities start pouring in re-actively. Either way, your ability to make a good impression and be around the right people may help you land your dream job.

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The Holiday Shopping Season is Looking Merry and Bright for Retailers + 11 Ways to Save During the Holiday Season

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According to a new survey, with shoppers expected to spend 5% more than last year. The increase in spending does not mean more crowds, though. About 53% of holiday purchases will be made online, with 20% being bought on mobile devices. The shift could affect shopping holidays like Black Friday, with half of consumers planning to make their purchases that day online.

The holiday season is not yet upon us, but retailers are gearing up so that means significantly more spending—and more potential to encounter financial trouble. Because of the emotional play many retailers use to get you to buy from their stores, it’s important to be overly vigilant with your spending during this time. Below are 11 ways you can save (instead of spend) during the holiday season.

1. Decide how much you can spend and make a plan.

Many people don’t like to use the word “budget” because it seems restrictive. However, creating a holiday budget or “making a plan,” as we’ll call it here for all intents and purposes, is imperative during the holiday season. By making a plan, you’re avoiding overspending and essentially telling your money what to do—rather than allowing it to be in control.

2. Open a holiday spending account.

Using your main checking account to do your holiday shopping is one of the biggest mistakes you can make during the holidays. Doing so allows you to tap into money allocated for other important things like bills and groceries. By opening a separate checking account for holiday spending, you’ll help yourself stay on budget. And once the money is gone, you have a clear stop on holiday shopping. Make sure it’s a free checking account, opening an account that charges fees would defeat the purpose of doing so.

3. Account for splurges.

Let’s be honest: you’re going to splurge this month. A dress for your office Christmas party? A sale at your favorite retail store? The jeans you’ve been eyeing for months are suddenly 40 percent off? We could go on and on, but you get the drift. Set aside a dollar amount that you’re willing to spend on yourself this month. Knowing how much you can afford will keep you from being swept up by “can’t-miss” deals.

4. Cut back on expenses.

Cutting back on expenses during the holiday season—or even before—will give you more money to allocate towards the holidays. Small changes like cutting your cable (you’ll be visiting family and friends most of the month anyway!) or avoiding takeout meals will save extra cash and make a big difference in your budget.

5. Track your spending.

Using a spending log is essential this time of year. Gifts aren’t the only thing affecting your budget—more social occasions means more spending. From extra Ubers to hostess gifts, your expenses can add up quick. This usually forces people to make decisions that they may not want to make, like tapping into credit or using money that is not allocated for holiday shopping. Using a spending log will keep your spending in check.

6. Narrow down your list.

It’s easy to get caught up in the fun of the season and want to gift something to everyone you’re close to. Let us remind you (as corny as it sounds) that presents are not what the holiday season is about. Take a look at your holiday list and be honest about what you can afford. It’s not fun, but your loved ones don’t want you hindering your financial future for them.

7. Set gift-giving expectations.

Setting gift-giving expectations is really important: If your love ones assume you’re going to spend a lot of money on them, they may feel obligated to do the same in return. Having a conversation early on about gift limits will allow both parties to avoid overspending, not to mention it will sidestep any ensuing embarrassment or guilt that comes with one party not giving an equally as lavish gift.

8. Take advantage of store offers and coupons.

Taking advantage of store offers and coupons should be a given, but you’d be surprised at how many people pay full price for things during the holiday season. Many people feel like they are competing against other shoppers to get the best gifts, so they don’t spend the necessary time finding the best deals. Don’t believe the hype! Make a shopping plan for each individual on your list. Research where you can find the best deals on the product and then sign up for company email lists. Follow sales and make purchases at the right time. Ordering presents in advance (or price shopping with ample time) not only assures that you get the best deals, but also that you don’t spend excess cash on things like rush shipping.

9. Be creative.

Being creative is about understanding that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg in order to show your love ones you care. There are many people who are more appreciative of the thought that goes into a handcrafted gift than a purchased item from a big box store. Being thoughtful can have a lasting and more memorable effect than breaking the bank. Spending quality time with an elderly relative, helping a friend clean her home the day after a big party, or offering to babysit for a couple are just a few ideas.

10. Reduce decoration costs.

You may feel inclined to go all out when it comes to decorations, but if you’re crafty enough, you can save a lot of money by creating your own. If you really love holiday decor, wait until the season is over and purchase for next year. Prices for decorations are inflated during the holidays, so buying them during the off-season can save you a lot of money.

11. Remember the reason for the season.

We cannot repeat this enough: remember the reason for the season. The holiday season is not all about gift giving. Sometimes your presence is better than your present! The holiday season is about family and friends, and should be cherished in that way.

Do you have a holiday season savings hack that you swear by? ‘Tis the season to share!

11 Ways to Save During the Holiday Season was originally published on TheEverygirl.com.

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MBA Programs Are Suffering + Alternative Ways to Get a Leg up in Corporate America

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MBA programs fall on hard times: Full-time MBA programs in the U.S. are seeing marked declines in applications, according to The Financial Times. Every single one of the FT’s top 10 U.S. business schools have seen a dip in applications over the past two years, with Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and Duke’s Fuqua seeing double-digit declines of 22.5% and 14.6%, respectively. A tight job market may be keeping would-be applicants from leaving the world of full-time employment. And visa restrictions and trade tensions with China are not helping matters, the FT suggests. In recent years, business schools have come to rely on an influx of foreign students, particularly from China and India.

So what is the path of upward mobility in Corporate American? For those who enjoy corporate life and envision future success in it, there are reasonable alternatives to getting an MBA. Thanks to Investopedia they have given up an Alternative Guide to a MBA:

Alternatives to an MBA

When it comes to finding alternatives to obtaining an advanced business degree, ask yourself these basic questions:

  • What is your dream organization or company looking for?
  • What skill sets are critical to succeeding in the organization?
  • Is spending time and money on business school the only way to acquire these skills?
  • What work experiences, training, and exposure can help you develop these skills?

Companies look for employees who add value to the organization—that is, employees who have the drive to work quickly and accurately, provide unique insights and who can manage and lead teams aligned with organizational goals. Let’s look at a few development opportunities that can help you acquire these coveted skills without returning to full-time studies.

Leadership-Development Programs

Larger companies often have management or leadership-development programs tailored toward young professionals that display high potential. These programs can be in specific functions, such as engineering, finance, and accounting or can be general programs for future senior managers of the organization. Professionals are often rotated around various jobs and responsibilities every six months or so in order to provide exposure to different aspects of the business.

For instance, a new financial analyst entering the program can be placed for a few months in departments such as audit, treasury, mergers, and acquisitions, financial planning or investor relations. Having gone through such exposure can make the analyst a candidate for manager, controller, or CFO down the road.

Professionals who undergo these types of programs will have gained hands-on, paid experience in different aspects of the company as opposed to merely a theoretical approach to the function they would get in business school.

(See also: Top Job-Search Mistakes For Finance Grads.)

Change Your Work to a Different Function

A professional can dive right in and gain experience in a certain field. An accountant who wants to transition into marketing can network and look for opportunities in the marketing department of his or her company or join a marketing services firm. Yes, this can work.

Attitude and a successful track record are often the deciding factors in whether an applicant is selected for the job. An accountant with a solid history of success and strong references can be favored for such a position—if they properly communicate the reasons for the employment change. This can give an advantage over a former accountant with an MBA who has taken a few marketing classes.

Two years’ worth of experience in a certain function can be highly valuable, as one learns the intricacies and critical success factors in that field. A classroom does not provide the level of insight or the industry relationships you will need to succeed in the field.

(See also: Six Steps To Successfully Switching Financial Careers.)

Certifications

Moving up to management requires leading and managing teams and ensuring organizational goals are achieved. Managerial responsibilities also include financial planning and the handling of budgets and forecasts. Depending on which part of the organization you would like to transition to, you can prepare for a variety of designations to prepare yourself for added responsibilities and skill sets. There are certifications that are related to finance and accounting, including:

Other certifications that are more consulting-related include Six Sigma Black Belt (for process optimization), Project Management Professional, and Certified Information Systems Analyst, among others. There are a wide variety of certifications out there in virtually any field of business.

Obtaining these allows you to remain employed, and successfully passing all the requirements and exams will show others your competence in the specific field of interest. An MBA, on the other hand, may be too general to convey particular expertise in an area.

Besides, there are companies out there that will gladly pay for you to obtain these certifications. Imagine that: They’ll pay for you to become stronger in your field—for you to earn a higher income and future promotions. Now there’s a good deal.

Training for Professionals

Universities offer a variety of development programs for managers and executives that allow professionals to undertake training courses on-site during evenings and weekends. Some companies pay for such training if it directly tied to one’s job.

An MBA forces you to cover a variety of required topics, whether you want to or not. Executive programs and extension classes, on the other hand, allow you to target areas in which you would like to improve, allowing you to tailor learning according to your needs. These programs are typically structured so that participants must fulfill course requirements and can cover a wide variety of business topics, including:

  • Negotiation skills
  • Leadership
  • Public speaking
  • Strategy
  • Marketing

Alternatively, there are various for-profit training centers that allow you to hone certain skills. For instance, finance professionals can undergo training in valuation or in accounting. You can remain employed while enhancing your skills, and some companies provide reimbursement upon satisfactory completion of requirements.

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