Another school year is drawing to a close — so if you have young children, they’re one year closer to the day when they head off to college. And both you and your children need to prepare for that day. Your kids can do so by developing good study habits. As for you, it’s never too soon to start preparing for the high costs of higher education.
Just how costly is college? According to the College Board’s figures for the 2012-13 academic year, the average cost for one year at an in-state four-year public school is $22,261; for a private school, the comparable expense is $43,289. And if college costs continue rising faster than the general inflation rate, these figures will increase substantially in the years ahead.
It probably doesn’t show up on your calendar, but May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month. And you might agree that such a month is useful, when you consider the following:
It’s the same pretty much every year — the sun stays out longer, temperatures warm just a tad, and we get a chance to put our hands in the soil in those warm beds on the south side of our house.
But it’s just a tease. True gardening, and truly fresh, homegrown greens, are still a long way off for most of us, even those with a greenhouse.
So this year, I gave microgreens a try, and they made me a believer. Microgreens, like their name implies, are greens that are grown just beyond the very first stage of budding. You can grow all sorts of things as microgreens, and the flavors are fascinating. Peas, for example, beets, and itty-bitty basil and mustard greens are all wonderful. I find it amazing that the greens that eventually go on to produce something like a pod of peas actually taste like peas as a tiny sprout. As someone who was subjected to traditional sprouts as a child, microgreens are a whole new dimension, and a welcome option for those who are thirsty for greens long before Alaska’s soil is willing to produce them.
Summer isn’t here yet, but it’s getting close. And for many people, the arrival of summer means it’s time for swimming at the local pool or lake. If you’re just a casual swimmer, you probably don’t have to adjust your diet before jumping in. But that’s not the case with competitive swimmers, who must constantly watch what they eat and drink, particularly in the days and hours preceding their races. While you may not ever have to concern yourself with your 400-meter individual medley “splits,” you can learn a lot from swimmers’ consumption patterns — particularly if you’re an investor.
On Arbor Day, which we celebrate this week, people across the country plant trees. Of course, trees provide us with many benefits, including beauty, fruit and oxygen, as well as protection against land erosion. But the act of planting and nurturing trees can also guide our behavior in other areas of life — such as investing.
First of all, consider the vision and patience exhibited by tree growers when they plant their saplings. As an investor, you, too, need this type of perseverance and long-term outlook. When you invest, you should be focused on the long term yet be prepared for the inevitable short-term market downturns. How long is “long term”? Many investors hold quality investments for decades. It’s a long process, but the potential growth you seek will need this time.
Next week, we observe Earth Day. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day has grown into an international movement whose goal is to raise awareness of the need to take action to sustain a healthy, sustainable environment. You can do your part through recycling and other measures, but you can also apply some of the lessons of Earth Day to your financial situation — and, in particular, to your approach to investing.
Give these ideas some thought:
Life is full of ups and downs — and the financial markets are no different. As an investor, you’re no doubt happy to see the “ups” — but the “downs” can seem like a real downer. Isn’t there any way to help smooth out the volatility in your investment portfolio?
First of all, to cope with volatility, it’s helpful to know what causes it — and there can be many causes. Computers that make trades in milliseconds, based on mathematical models, are sometimes blamed for intraday volatility, but large price swings can also occur following the release of government economic reports, such as those dealing with unemployment and housing starts. Global events, such as the European economic malaise, can also send the financial markets into a tizzy.
You probably aren’t too worried about it, but April is Stress Awareness Month. Each year, the Health Resource Network sponsors this “month” to inform people about the dangers of stress and to share successful coping strategies. Obviously, it’s important to reduce stress in all walks of life — including your investment activities. How can you cut down on the various stresses associated with investing?
Here are a few possible “stress-busters”:
If you own a business, you may well follow a “do it now” philosophy — which is, of course, necessary to keep things running smoothly. Still, you also need to think about tomorrow — which means you’ll want to take action on your own retirement and business succession plans.
Fortunately, you’ve got some attractive options in these areas. For example, you could choose a retirement plan that offers at least two key advantages: potential tax-deferred earnings and a wide array of investment options. Plus, some retirement plans allow you to make tax-deductible contributions.
In selecting a retirement plan, you’ll need to consider several factors, including the size of your business and the number of employees. If your business has no full-time employees other than yourself and your spouse, you may consider a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan or an owner-only 401(k), sometimes known as an individual or solo 401(k). Or, if your goal is to contribute as much as possible, you may want to consider an owner-only defined benefit plan.
Three years ago, I heard through the grapevine that a friend had built an inexpensive quonset-hut like structure to grow things in out of PVC struggling to grow things on a windy spot on Diamond Ridge, I was all ears. A tour followed, and I was sold on the hoophouse idea. Within a few months, I had dug down four feet into the snow to construct my first venture into plasticulture.
Up on the ridge, we still have a lot of snow, but down in the lower elevations, the ground is appearing, and with it, the opportunity to improve your growing potential exponentially with relatively little investment. While metal-framed, gigantic high tunnels are springing up all over town, you don’t have to dive into that world to see huge benefits to your gardening world. A little pipe and plastic is all it takes.