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Taking the Stress out of Holiday Spending

The holidays are upon us! This means you’ll be spending more time with the ones you love AND more money. From Black Friday to holiday December sales, buying during the season of giving has never been easier or more appealing. Once January comes around your generous giving may turn into gifting regret.

To keep your bank account happy during the season of holiday shopping, here are our top tips and tricks!

1.     Plan ahead

-       The holiday season has always been a time for joy, family, great food and, of course, anxiety. Like many Americans, you may find yourself struggling to find the perfect gift for the most important people in your life. During the year, you may come up with a great idea that you can wrap up and use in December, but by the time holiday sales are starting, you may not remember what genius gift idea you had! A trick to combat this brain baffle is to create a list (in a notebook or even on your phone) or, create a secret Pinterest board. By identifying gift ideas early, you can keep an eye on prices to get the best deal.

2.     Structured Spending

-       As the pressure for generosity becomes a detrimental evil on your bank account, it’s essential to determine your income, expenses, and your financial goals. Don’t feel obligated to spend more than you should just because it’s the giving season. If you haven’t, create a monthly budget for November and December. Determine what expenses you will have coming up and look at the income you will have left over after you’ve paid your bills. Then, for the most important part, actually stick to the spending limits that you give yourself. You’ll thank yourself in the New Year.

3.     Don’t Settle

-       Put away the scissors and the Sunday coupons, there’s a new app called Honey which automatically finds and applies coupon codes while you shop online. While this won’t replace other online retailers that can beat one site’s pricing, it can help to save a few dollars for the next item on your gift list.

Prepare the Bank: College is Coming

Did you know: In 2016, students who were starting their first four years of college paid 28% MORE for college than the undergrads a decade ago did and 65% more than students did 20 years ago? Student loans account for the second highest consumer debt category, which is why it’s crucial for high school grads to consider how a student loan will impact them after graduating college.

In 2016, the average student loan was $37,172, the following year the average student loan debt for those graduating in 2017 was $39,400. A Junior Achievement (JA) survey revealed over half of high school juniors (52%) admitted they didn’t know the cost of college tuition and only 59% of high school seniors had $5,000 saved for college.

Before going in to a financial panic, here are some resources to prepare yourself or your teen for life after college:

Cost Breakdown

Wouldn’t it be great to know the breakdown costs of achieving your goals and dreams?

Now you can with JA Build Your Future! Not only is this app FREE, but it also provides teens with a roadmap from choosing a career to calculating the cost of reaching career milestones. 

Career Discovery

Not every 18-year-old high school grad knows what career path to go down, which is why JA My Way is a great tool! From a personality quiz to job matches, teens explore what they can do now to prepare for tomorrow!

Nurturing STEM Interests

Interested in a career that involves science, technology, engineering or math? You’ll want to check out JA Assembling Your Career.

Once there is a game plan for what career interests you or your teen, it’s necessary to start your financial planning. Here are some ways you can get financial assistance without taking out a student loan:

Fill Out Your FAFSA

Most of us have heard of FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), but what is it? FAFSA is an annual form that is submitted by a current or prospective college student residing in the USA for financial aid for federal grants, work-study, and loans. Various factors determine whether a student is eligible to receive financial assistance, including adjusted gross income, IRA deductions and payments, and many more. Click here for a list of what’s considered by FAFSA. As some states and universities distribute financial aid on a “first-come, first-serve basis,” it’s essential to get your forms turned in ASAP. Check out FAFSA FAQ here!

       Start Saving

The more you save, the less you will have to worry about down the road. All you need to do is start a savings account for your anticipated college expenses. Every little bit you can put away into this account will help.

Look for Scholarships

Scholarships are a great way to help fund your college education. Depending on the scholarship specifics, candidates may be chosen based on elements like GPA or a specific interest. To explore scholarship options, click here!

 

Building Financial Wellness in Teens

You work out for your physical wellness, you eat right to maintain internal wellness but what are you doing to improve your financial welfare? By definition, financial wellness is the ability and understanding of successfully managing financial expenses. This concept revolves around the sense of feeling financially secure and free in the present day and future. Those who have achieved financial wellness are typically healthier, more focused and are even more productive in their everyday work.

A Stress in America poll conducted by the American Psychological Association found more than 6-in-10 (62%) Americans felt money is a significant source of stress in their lives. Yet, when we think about the moment financial stress typically began, you may remember back to when sticking to your financial goals you bought your first car or when you were determining how to pay for college or trade school. Whatever your initial topic of money concern was, it was probably in your high school years.

During the summer of 2018, Cengage conducted a survey examining the impact of “financial sickness” in college students. Their research found 85 percent of current or former students felt high financial stress when it came to affording required class materials, compared to the 88 percent of students who were stressed to pay for tuition. With the majority of Americans and college students feeling a sense of financial illness, what are possible prescriptions?

Creating a strong financial foundation

A quick course in financial education is not enough to change an individual’s money management. The core of financial wellness is a sense of “well-being,” feeling that you have a strong enough financial foundation to execute the actual financial behaviors that necessary to reduce primary money stressors.

Financial Goals

In 2018’s Teens & Retirement survey, Junior Achievement (JA) revealed more than two-thirds (69%) of teens know little or nothing about financial planning. In fact, 30 percent of those ages 13 – 18 reported that they felt $5,000 or less was enough to retire on. These findings highlight the importance of establishing short-term and long-term goals at a young age to jump-start financial thinking. As financial wellness not only looks at today but what lies ahead, it’s crucial for youth to work towards a goal. Goals create accountability, as well as a reason to continue persevering through challenges that one might face in the future they also reinforce an individual’s budgeting plan.

Financial Attitudes

In the same 2018 JA survey, almost half (46%) of teens reported that they are not confident in their ability to plan for retirement. Financial attitude translates to how one feels about money that impacts their spending. The way an individual understands what is a need or a want directly impacts their behavior, for example. To beat the bad financial bug, take time to look over your monthly finances, determine if what you are spending money on is beneficial or a deterrent from your goals. The sooner you can identify unnecessary spending, the faster you can reach your future money-milestones.

Tools & Resources for Financial Wellness

Help your teen start planning for life after high school graduation with JA Build Your Future®!

Not sure what career to pursue after high school? Find out with JA My Way

Filling the Skilled-Workers Gap

Is a question that is top-of-mind for many high schoolers —what will I do once I graduate? For many, it has become the norm to take a loan out to continue one’s education for another four years at a college with the hope of landing a good-paying job. Yet recent data show that employers are struggling to find qualified workers to fill a record 6.7 million job openings. These are occupations that may not require a four-year degree, but require skills that can be obtained at a community college, trade school, or even on the job.

What Industries are in Labor Shortages?

Industry Insider has identified five “sectors” that are experiencing severe labor shortages. These industries include construction, retail trade, accommodation & food services, manufacturing and healthcare & social assistance. Within the healthcare and social assistance realm, there was an average of 1 million job openings a month during 2018, followed by 739,000 job openings a month within the accommodation and food service industry.

Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, stated, “Business’ number one problem is finding qualified workers. At the current pace of job growth, if sustained, this problem is set to get much worse… These labor shortages will only intensify across all industries and company sizes.”

What are industries doing to fill job openings?

As employers are struggling to fill openings, economists are predicting that businesses will have to start doing more to entice workers. Discussions around pay raises, trainings, and other incentives have been identified as some of the investments companies will have to make in order to bring in workers to fill job positions. In fact, some industries are finding themselves increasing the pay for skilled employees just to keep from losing them to competitors. Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors, commented, “Pressure is building for employers, and both hard data and anecdotal reports indicate that wage pressures are building…With the economy still humming, employers are able to justify stronger wage increases to retain or attract talent…”

Promising Industries for Today’s Youth

A Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce study conducted in 2017 found that between 1991 and 2015 “Good jobs in non-manufacturing blue-collar industries, such as construction and transportation, increased in 38 states…” Careers in construction show promise as there are nearly 3.5 million people who have construction jobs in the U.S. paying an average salary of $59,000 a year.

The Federal Reserve has identified that in 2016, nearly half (42%) of graduates borrowed money to pay for college. Once graduating college, the average student loan debt owed was between $20,000 to $25,000. Those interested in skilled labor out of high school typically do not experience much student debt and will have a more robust resume with four years of work experience than their college-bound classmates.

Is Your Future in Skilled Labor?

Junior Achievement (JA) realizes the struggle the many teens have when making career decisions. JA Job Shadow® offers students a unique opportunity to visit a professional work environment, including those in skilled trades, and gain insights into how to find and keep a fulfilling career. To learn more, visit  JA Job Shadow

Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?

 

There has always been a debate about whether entrepreneurship was based on nature or nurture. While it depends on your view, here is how JA sees it…

Entrepreneurial Driving Factors

Think of the entrepreneurial mindset like “Thunder and Lightning.” The internal drive is the thunder, but personal experiences equate to the lightning of the implementation of a business idea. Together they assist to create the perfect business storm. Without the personal characteristics to launch a person into experiences that they will learn from, they will cease to develop into an entrepreneur.

Timothy Faley of the entrepreneurial institute at Michigan’s Ross School of Business explains it perfectly when he says, “A good idea is not enough. You need to know how to transform a good idea into a good business.” Education and experiences harness the drive one possesses to turn their business idea into reality. One is not born with business knowledge, including making a business plan, seeking investors, or strategizing the placement of a product or service. All of these elements are learned through experience. The way one generates an idea and is pushed to make it into a real-life concept comes from something that one internally holds true.

Characteristics

After thorough research, five general characteristics are shared among successful entrepreneurs.

1.Risk-taking

2.Innovation / Forward Thinking / Persistence

3.Open-minded / Optimistic / Confidence

4.Leadership / Hands-on

5.Passionate / Positive

 

It’s the combination of personality traits and personal experiences that influences whether or not someone feels prepared to undertake an endeavor like starting a business. Entrepreneurs hold personality traits that assist in the success of their business. Through experiences, an entrepreneur grows and develops to (comfortably) take risks, utilize innovative thinking, and employ sound leadership skills. The intrinsic variables assist in the development of experience becoming a perfect storm, such as launching a successful business.

 

Teaching Today’s Youth the Mindset to Make Their Storm

Junior Achievement offers programming from K-12 exploring concepts of financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship. The younger a child experiences concepts of entrepreneurship, the more likely he or she will be inclined to try to start a business later in life. In particular, JA Be Entrepreneurial® introduces high school students to the elements of a practical business plan and then challenges them to start an entrepreneurial venture while they are still in school.

 

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