5 Tips for Going Back to the Office

Calm, Headspace or Simple Habit. (These are also great when you get home and before you go to bed – anytime, actually.) You might also call a friend or family member and share how you’re feeling. Letting off some steam and expressing yourself helps alleviate some of the pressure that might be building up.

Communicate with Your Team

Making the transition back to the office can be challenging, if not downright tough. To diffuse any misunderstandings, practice transparency with everyone, no matter what their position. If you’re a manager, lay out your expectations so that everyone is on the same page. If you’re an individual contributor, make sure your manager and peers know what you’re working on, your hours, and any out-of-the-office days you have coming up. Many companies are asking employees, initially, to split their time between the office and home, which means that for some a full transition back to the office is yet to come. Regardless, overcommunicating will ensure you don’t miss out on anything important.

We may never return to the days before the pandemic. However, we’re making strides to get back to a place of normalcy and are here to guide you every step of the way.

Sources

Returning To Work In The Office? 5 Tips To Prepare For The Transition

6 Ways to Make Saving Money Fun

Acorns and watch your savings grow. Anytime you buy something, Acorns will round up the total and deposit the difference into a diversified investment portfolio. Talk about easy.

Weather Wednesday Challenge

This is great idea. Every Wednesday,look up the highest temperature in your state and deposit the amount into your savings account. For example, if it’s 100 degrees, deposit $100. If it’s 32 degrees, deposit $32. You’ll probably save more during the summer than the winter, but after 52 weeks, you could’ve socked away several thousand dollars. Pretty sweet.

Kick-a-Bad-Habit Challenge

Do you go to Starbucks every day for your Double Chocolatey Chip Crème Frappuccino with extra whip? How about guzzling those sodas every day? Are you a smoker? Whatever it is that you’d like to cut down on or even stop, this challenge has two great benefits: you’ll not only get healthier, but you will also save money.

The No-Spend Challenge

Start with a weekend (or even a week) and make a vow not to spend any money on anything except bills or other necessities. The idea is to save money by not spending it. It might cause you to be more creative. For instance, do you really need a new dress for that special occasion? Dig a little deeper into your closet instead of buying a new frock. Or maybe you decide to drive less and not put gas in the tank. This way, you’ll either bike or walk to your destination (if doable) and do more fun things at home.

The Pantry Challenge

Look inside your refrigerator and pantry. How much food do you have that you haven’t eaten? What about that spaghetti sauce or sesame oil? As long as the food isn’t expired, it’s your chance to get creative and whip up a new dish or revive an old favorite. This challenge is related to the “No-Spend Challenge,” and again, the intention is to save money by not spending it.

The 365-Day Nickel Challenge

Nickels are currency, too! But seriously, if you can remember to do this (set a timer on your phone), you’ll be rewarded handsomely. Here’s how it works: On day one, deposit 5 cents into a jar. The next day, 10 cents. The next day, 15 cents. And so on. By day 365, the total deposit will be $18.40. At the end of the year, you’ll have saved a whopping $3,339.75. Not bad, huh?

While saving money might feel restrictive, you’re actually planning ahead to be very happy. When you’ve been able to stick to a habit, or in some cases give one up, you’ll see that anything is possible if you just put your mind to it. And that’s a great feeling.

Sources

https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/saving-and-budgeting/articles/money-saving-challenges

7 Ways to Save 10K a Year

TaskRabbit is a great resource to find all kinds of ways to increase your income.

Cut Unnecessary Expenses

Look closely at your expenditures. Decide if you’re really reading that magazine and think about canceling the subscription. Pack a lunch and/or cook in for dinner. Call your internet and cell phone provider to see if they have a better deal. If you want to add an extra $1,000 to your savings each year, all you have to do is cut out $84 a month. This is doable.

Commit to a Budget

Everything that means something requires hard work and commitment. Take an afternoon, put it all down on paper, and promise to live within a dedicated financial scope. Compare your short-term gratification to your long-term financial goal. Imagine how good you’ll feel when you’ve saved $10,000. The power of visualization works.

Track Your Progress

If you’re feeling overwhelmed along the way, it pays to go back and see how far you’ve come – and we’re talking literally see it. Make your milestones visible. Hang a chart in your kitchen and color it in when you make a deposit. Or if you’re more analytical, create a spreadsheet, but keep it on your desktop. Checking this every day will help keep you on point.

Saving for a goal like this can be fun and even exciting. All you have to do is be mindful, make a conscious decision to follow your plan, and your 10k dream will be realized before your know it.

Sources

How To Save $10,000 In A Year (10 Simple Tips)

https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/rates/

3 Best Ways to Save for College

5 Cities Rank as Ideal Locations for Remote Workers

SmartAsset has examined the best cities to work from home in 2021 and evaluated them across seven metrics: percentage of those who worked at home; estimated percentage of those who can work at home; five-year change of percentage of those who worked at home; October 2020 unemployment rate; poverty rate; housing costs as a percentage of earnings; and percentage of residences with two or more bedrooms. Here’s what they learned:

  1. Scottsdale, Arizona. In 2019, Census Bureau data shows that about 18 percent of people worked from home, a 6.7 percent increase from 2014. This sunny city also has the fourth-highest estimated percentage of workforce who can work from home and the third-lowest 2019 poverty rate, which is 6 percent. When you’re not inside at your computer, you can enjoy the desert tranquility of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, restaurants and shops of Old Town Scottsdale, and the largest model train display in North America at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park.
  2. Raleigh, North Carolina. Even before COVID-19, a large percentage of people worked from home here, much like Scottsdale. In 2019, 10.5 percent of the workforce did so remotely, which is the fourth-highest for this metric. Raleigh also ranks in the top quartile for two other metrics: it has the 18th-lowest October 2020 unemployment rate (5.3 percent) and 21st-lowest poverty rate (10.9 percent). Raleigh is known as the “city of oaks,” which makes it a beautiful place to live. Even better, you can celebrate all four seasons and it’s only a few hours from the mountains. Plus, homes are some of the most affordable in the nation.
  3. Plano, Texas. Just north of Dallas, Plano ranks in the top 10 percent for three metrics: percentage of people who worked from home in 2019 (9.6 percent), estimated percentage of people who are able to work from home (35.44 percent) and 2019 poverty rate (7.5 percent). Also, Plano has the 14th-lowest October 2020 unemployment rate, at 5.2 percent. Best thing about Plano: it has all the restaurants, shops and amenities of Dallas without the traffic. And, there are numerous parks for walking, hiking, biking and swimming.
  4. Gilbert, Arizona. This locale ranks as one of the best places to buy an affordable home. In fact, data from the Census Bureau shows that 96.3 percent of apartments and homes in Gilbert have two or more bedrooms, which is the highest percentage for this metric. Additionally, it has a relatively low poverty rate (4.6 percent). Main attractions include bird watching at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, holiday shows at the Hale Centre Theatre, and delicious produce at the Gilbert Farmer’s Market.
  5. St. Petersburg, Florida. As of October 2020, the greater Pinellas County unemployment rate was just 5.2 percent. That’s 1.5 percentage points below the national average. What’s more, the percentage of people working from home grew by 4.6 percent in St. Petersburg from 2014 to 2019, the third-highest increase in the study. If you love sugar-sand beaches, you’re in luck: there are many to fall in love with. But you can also enjoy cultural outings like a visit to the Dali Museum and the Chihuly Collection.

Some of the other best cities for working remotely include Durham and Charlotte, North Carolina; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Austin, Texas; and Fremont, California. These days, working from home is the rule, rather than the exception it was years ago. In these challenging, uncertain times, it’s nice to know there are places you can thrive.

Sources

https://smartasset.com/checking-account/best-cities-to-work-from-home-2021

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g31350-Activities-Scottsdale_Arizona.html

https://www.raleighrealtyhomes.com/blog/moving-to-raleigh.html

Deciding if a Roth IRA Conversion is For You

Why Gratitude is Important During a Pandemic

tipWe’re living in unprecedented, challenging times. If you’re feeling stressed and scared, you’re not alone. However, there is a way to navigate through all of this uncertainty: gratitude. Studies have shown that keeping in mind the things you’re grateful for on a regular basis not only helps you mentally, but also physically, which is something we all need these days.

Gratitude Improves Your Immune System

According to Lisa Aspinwall, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, there’s data to back this up. In one study, researchers compared the immune systems of healthy, first-year law students who were under stress and characterized themselves as optimistic to their more pessimistic classmates. Result: The former maintained a higher number of blood cells, which protect the immune system. Specifically, white blood cells are key players in your immune system and move through blood and tissue looking for foreign invaders (microbes) such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. When they find them, they launch an immediate attack. Tip: The moment you notice that you’re appreciative of something – the sun is shining, the sky is blue, you have clean water to drink – stop and savor. Bask in the experience. 

Gratitude Affects Your Brain

When you’re feeling appreciative, it wires and fires new neural connections to the bliss center and enhances dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters responsible for happiness. Gratitude also reduces fear and anxiety by regulating the stress hormones; and it fosters cognitive restructuring by evoking positive thinking. Tip: When you’re eating, give thanks for the bounty before you. Make mealtimes mindful.

Gratitude Reduces Pain

In the research report, Count Blessings Versus Burdens (2003), patients who kept a gratitude journal reported reduced pain symptoms and were more inclined to work out and cooperate with treatment procedure. A deeper dive revealed that by regulating the level of dopamine, gratitude fills us with more vitality, which reduced the subjective feelings of pain. Tip: Try keeping a journal. If you think you have nothing to be grateful for, think about all the little things you have. You might find that you’re taking for granted certain abilities or privileges you have that others don’t.

Gratitude Affects Sleep

Studies have shown that receiving and displaying simple acts of kindness activates the hypothalamus, and thereby regulates all bodily mechanisms controlled by the hypothalamus, one of which is sleep. The hypothalamic regulation by gratitude helps us get deeper and healthier sleep, naturally. Tip: Hold the door for a stranger. Let someone have that parking space you both came upon. Share that compliment that’s on the tip of your tongue. To give is to receive. You might just rest easier.

Gratitude Gets Rid of Toxic Emotions

The limbic system is the part of the brain that’s responsible for all emotional experiences. It consists of the thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus and cingulate gyrus. Research has shown that the hippocampus and amygdala, the two main sites regulating emotions, memory, and bodily functioning, get activated with feelings of gratitude. Specifically, what we call emotions or feelings are neural activations in the neocortical regions of the brain (Moll et al. 2005). Further, a study conducted on people who were looking for mental health guidance revealed that those who wrote letters of gratitude, in addition to having regular counseling, felt better and recovered sooner. In the other group, people who journaled about their negative feelings felt anxious and depressed. Tip: In addition to journaling, maybe there’s a letter you need to write to someone expressing how you feel, releasing a past hurt. The simple act of writing can be powerful. You don’t even have to send it to feel better.

Right now, when we’re faced with so many unknowns, staying present and giving thanks can do a world of good. Give it a try and see.

Sources

https://www.adventhealth.com/blog/why-gratitude-important-during-coronavirus-pandemic

https://www.webmd.com/women/features/gratitute-health-boost#1

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/immune-system?viewAsPdf=true

https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1#:~:text=It’s%20simply%20writing%20down%20your,and%20improve%20your%20mental%20health.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-the-body/201111/how-gratitude-helps-you-sleep-night

Affordable Lunches for Kids Learning at Home

tipDue to the uncertainty of COVID-19, many schools across America have transitioned to at-home learning. This alone presents a whole new set of challenges for parents, not the least of which is figuring out what to feed your kids for lunch – every single day of the week. While peanut butter and jelly is a reliable standby, here are some cheap, easy alternatives you can whip up in no time.

English Muffin Pizza

Grab some English muffins and top them with pizza sauce or marinara. Either one will work. (Hint: use the store brand because it’s comparable and usually costs less.) If you like, you can even add shredded cheese. Put them in a toaster oven and bake. Now comes the fun part: create a face. Use olives for the nose and eyes. Cut up yellow, red, and green peppers into thin slices to form a mouth and eyebrows. For the extra peppers, use ranch dressing for dipping. This one is fun and healthy!

Lunchables Knockoff

Pre-packaged meals generally cost more. So why not create your own version of this lunch-time favorite and save some money? Buy round, butter crackers with ridges on the edge (like Ritz, but buy the store brand); round, sliced lunch meat; and small, sliced squares of cheese. Place each in the spaces in a plastic divided container. Cut up some fruit (apples, pears, anything you like) and serve. If natural sugar isn’t enough for your little ones, throw in a cookie.

Pita Pockets

You can stuff these full of anything you like. Making tuna salad for a filler is always delish but takes a bit of prep, so for time’s sake, add lunch meat. After that, add lettuce and anything else your child likes. Maybe some tomatoes or cucumbers, then add a condiment, mustard, or mayo. For a side, choose local, seasonal produce. It’s always cheaper than out-of-season choices.

Meat-Free Lunch

Purchasing meat can get expensive, so why not go veggie for a few days? Your DIY lunch kit might include cheese cubes, crackers, cherry (or grape) tomatoes, and green or purple grapes. If you get inspired, cut up apples and bananas into bite-sized portions. Throwing in some nuts for a little extra crunch is always a good idea, too. If you want to make these meals a regular thing, buy reusable, compartmentalized containers like EasyLunchBoxes, affordably priced at $14 for four. You can also buy them on Amazon. Carve out some time on a Saturday afternoon and make these in bulk to save time during your busy week. You might even ask the kids to help!

Ants on a Log

Cut up some celery (the logs). Fill with peanut butter, then sprinkle raisins on top (the ants). Serve with cheese cubes, graham crackers, yogurt, and/or fresh fruit. Kids love this one, especially because of the funny name.

Pancake Lunch

Everyone loves Saturday morning pancakes, so why not serve them for lunch, too? Here’s a thought: prepare a double batch of pancakes, plus bacon and fresh fruit on the weekend; then save half for Monday and pop them in the microwave. This way, you won’t have to prepare them twice. Don’t forget the syrup!

Cottage Cheese and Fruit

This lunch might well be the quickest of all to make. Place two scoops of cottage cheese in a leak-proof container, then add some canned fruit such as peaches, pineapple or mandarin oranges. Crackers (graham or saltines) with a little vat of peanut butter for dipping completes this easy, peasy meal.

We hope that these cost-saving lunches help save time and worry. With all that’s going on, you’ve got enough on your plate!

Sources

https://blog.cheapism.com/easy-school-lunches-14435/#slide=8

Five Ways to Manage Back-to-School Stress

tipIf you’re anxious about sending your children back to school, you’re not alone. In fact, a recent poll from ABC News/Ipsos showed that 45 percent of parents don’t want their kids in the classroom at all. But whether your kids are in school or learning at home, there’s still plenty of worry to go around. How do you cope? Here are a few suggestions from a variety of counselors and mental health professionals that can help.

Express Your Feelings

Noticing the anxiety that’s going on inside is half the battle – then let it out. “I would encourage parents to share this feeling with their partners or other family and friends,” says Michael Consuelos, MD, a senior medical advisor with the mental health management platform NeuroFlow in Philadelphia. Simply releasing what you’re feeling can often take the power of it.

Teach Your Kids How to Navigate

This starts with talking to your kids about what social distancing is, what it looks like, and how to wash their hands thoroughly. Fran Walfish, PsyD, MFT, and a family and relationship psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, Calif., suggests making up real-life situations and getting your kids to “think in advance about what they would say or do to protect themselves while preserving a friendship.” For instance, a friend of your son stands too close to him and asks to borrow a ruler. How should he react? Or your daughter is eating lunch and a friend reaches in and takes a few chips from her Doritos bag. What should she do? You can probably come up with many other scenarios that help your kids figure out the best options for keeping safe.

Have Honest Conversations

Kathleen Rivera, MD, a psychiatrist who specializes in children and adolescents at Nuvance Health in Danbury, Conn., strongly suggests talking with your kids about the situation, no matter how young they are, and asking them how they’re feeling about the changes in their school environment. What things about school do you miss the most? How is this new learning set-up working for you? What are things you don’t miss about school? Claudia Kohner, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and creator of IntroDUCKtion to Very, Very Big Feelings app, says that if you have very young children, give them some colored pencils and a coloring book. Sit down with them and help them create a homemade book that describes the changes in their school setting and reflects their feelings that go along with it. Encouraging imaginative play with dolls and stuffed animals is also a great way to help your kids express what they’re going through.

Practice Self-Care

In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to be kind to yourself – and not judge yourself for failing to cross everything off your to-do list. “You don’t have to do it all,” says Elizabeth Derickson, MSW, LCSW, RPT, a therapist with online therapy provider Talkspace. This is her No. 1 piece of advice for parents who are dealing with back-to-school anxiety. She suggests setting up realistic expectations and acknowledging that there will be both good days and bad days, and allowing yourself “to learn from the bad days, move on and rock those good days.”

Embrace Change

In a few months, the landscape of your life might look radically different than it does today. That’s why being able to adapt to whatever new circumstance presents itself is key. According to Dr. Rivera, “Flexibility is the most important thing in this whole process.” Knowing you have every right to reverse your decisions is OK – and empowering.

Despite the seemingly never-ending stream of worries that inevitably crop up in our new abnormal, remember: the most constant thing in life is change. Things will get better.

Sources

https://www.realsimple.com/health/mind-mood/stress/manage-back-to-school-stress-coronavirus

https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/news/documents/2020-06/topline-abc-coronavirus-wave-12.pdf

Help for People Struggling to Pay Bills

Help for People Struggling to Pay Bills Covid-19The impact of COVID-19 has caused many Americans to suffer hardships, one of which is struggling to make ends meet. But take heart; there are solutions. Here are a few areas in which creditors are working with people to alleviate some of the stress.

Mortgages

Fortunately, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, allows for mortgage forbearance, which if you’re financially compromised because of COVID-19, you can temporarily suspend payments. Also, the Federal Housing Finance Agency is allowing mortgage servicers to permit homeowners to delay payments if the notes are backed federally or by a Government Sponsored Enterprise, which includes Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, FHA, VA or USDA. If you don’t know who services your loan, you can check Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems. If your mortgage isn’t federally backed, ask your lender about your options. If you need more help, contact a Housing and Urban Development approved housing counselor or local legal aid organizations.

Rent

The good news here! The CARES Act also includes a 120-day moratorium on evictions if you rent from a landlord who has a federally backed mortgage. If your landlord doesn’t fall into this category, contact them immediately. If you have any assets to sell, that’s an option. Hop on eBay or Craig’s List. If you have a 401(k), the IRS allows you to make an early hardship withdrawal. When all else fails, contact Just Shelter, an organization that advocates for affordable housing.

Student Loans

More good news! The Department of Education is granting students a payment waiver for at least 60 days with zero percent interest. But you have to do some legwork; it’s not automatic. Call your loan servicers to make sure your loan is eligible. This exception doesn’t apply to private student loans. However, Sallie Mae, one large private lender, said it’s offering suspension of payment for up to three months. Get in touch as soon as possible with whoever holds your loan to start the conversation.

Utility Bills

Some utility providers are refraining from cutting off services for nonpayment, which is a relief. Also, quite a few Internet companies like AT&T and Charter Communications have agreed not to end service for residential or small-business customers who can’t pay their bills. To find out the details and policies from your providers, check their website, or call.

Credit Cards

Major credit card issuers are offering relief to customers who’ve been affected by COVID-19. American Express, for example, is providing assistance through its financial hardship program. But beware of scammers who send out fake emails from said creditors about the virus; they’re trying to steal your personal and financial information and/or infect your computer with malware. If you have doubts about any communication you receive from your financial institution, email, or call. Don’t take any chances.

Right now, life might feel overwhelming. But know this: we’re all in this together. And the upside is that many companies are stepping up to lend a hand.

Sources

https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/16/success/cant-pay-rent-bills-help-coronavirus/index.html

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/coronavirus-tips-advice.html#money

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus/mortgage-and-housing-assistance/mortgage-relief/