Posts Tagged ‘money’

Here at F4Y:TB, we tend to focus more on avoiding financial mishaps. That is by design. I believe that my energies are best spent helping young people learn the skills and gain the tools needed to avoid as many financial setbacks as possible. Because of the time I’ve spent in the financial field, I don’t have a cautionary tale about when I hit the bottom or how I clawed my way to where I am financially. My personal money story is much like the majority of people’s. If you are looking for the other kind of narrative, there are many awesome bloggers out there who fit the bill. What I provide is professional advice, accurate information, catchy music, gratuitous pictures of excessively cute animals, and hopefully a laugh here and there, all while trying to make sure you don’t make the mistakes that get so many others in trouble.

All that being said, it happens to many people every day. Maybe you made the colossal error of trying to with the credit arbitrage game and missed a payment because you forgot about it. Maybe you “won” that thing from e-bay that you don’t really need, but you kinda thought it might be cool so you bid on it just for fun but not really. Or maybe you lost a job, or got sick, or worst of all, you just got unlucky. Whatever happened, you are now financially screwed and all the “spend less than you earn” just isn’t helping right now! So what do you do?

Whatever happened, you are now financially screwed, and all the “spend less than you earn” just isn’t helping right now!

First, don’t panic! Chances are that you are already panicking, so your first goal is to stop panicking. When you panic, you are more likely to make a wrong choice that makes things worse than if you face your problems calmly, with reason rather than emotion. While we’re at it, are you really in as bad a situation as you initially thought, or did you panic and things are bad, but not yet drastic?

Second, if you find yourself in a worst case scenario position, you have to do some serious assessment to see where things went wrong. Some PF guys will say it doesn’t matter where things went wrong, you are trying to fix that they went wrong. I get the impulse, but this is a short-sighted way of looking at things, and chances are good that you will wind up back to doing wherever it is you are trying to stop. Instead, look at where things started to unravel. What happened? What changed? Was it something you did or had control over, or was this something that was going to happen, and nothing you could do would stop it? Honesty is key here. Lying to yourself won’t work. You’ll know you’re lying, and you are only delaying your ability to help yourself out of a serious problem.

Third, STOP! Whatever happened to put you in bad shape, if your actions or inaction contributed to your current situation, stop doing whatever it was that you were doing. At this point I’m not saying to do the opposite, all I’m saying is to stop what you are doing.

Next, look at your alternatives. A lot. Most people, when drowning, will reach for anything to pull them back to the surface. If you are actually in the water, that’s just fine, but if you are drowning in debt, or in some other financial issue, most people find that the rope they thought they were reaching for was actually a thick chain connected to an anchor that will pull them even further under. You are already in a f%*#ed-up situation. Waiting a day or two to finally get yourself to break a very difficult cycle won’t do much more damage. It will do significantly less than some of the impulse decisions many people make to get themselves out of a mess. Do the research in to all your options, not just the ones that seem easiest or quickest or even least painful. Sometimes, suffering through something is a viable option, and sometimes even the best option ultimately.

Finally, communicate! I get that financial problems can be embarrassing. This is something that seems so simple that you should be able to breeze through it. It isn’t. And even if it were, whenever a crisis hits, communication is the key to surviving it, even if you can deal with things on your own. Find people who know their own stuff and communicate with them. I’m not saying to ask them to bail you out; in fact I’m specifically saying you shouldn’t ask people to bail you out of financial problems. When you do, you put that person in an awkward position which will affect your relationship. Look, if someone can help you and wants to help you, they’ll make the offer all on their own, without you asking for it. Be careful who you choose to communicate with, however. You want to confide in people who are a) worthy of your confidence, b) successfully away from the type of situation you are experiencing, and c) willing to be a shoulder to lean on. If you can find one of those people, you are in great shape.

We’ve all heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that is true almost all the time. Sometimes all the prevention in the world just isn’t enough and you need to find a cure. Keep in mind that finance is not a simple thing, that success is not simple, and that fixing your situation probably won’t be simple either. There is a reason that medicine tastes like it does.

If you find yourself truly falling financially, there isn’t a whole lot that is funny or witty.  Take a second to step back and regain your perspective and realize that there is a song this awesome exists.  Enjoy

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I was talking with a co-worker the other day about teaching kids about money. She mentioned that she had problems getting her child to save money. In her experience, getting her child to save worked only when she and her child would fight. Her child wouldn’t save on its own, money given was almost instantly money spent, and her child had even lied to her about how much money her child would earn or be given. She was frustrated that she, a teacher, wasn’t able to teach her children the importance of smart money management. So she threw the question at me:
 

How do I make my kids save money?
 

Before we get to the answer, let’s look at what we are dealing with. First, let me say that I’m not talking about EVERY person in EVERY situation, but many people in this particular situation. If this isn’t you, congratulations! You are ahead of many of your friends. If this is you, don’t feel too bad about it, most of your friends who deny that this is them are lying to themselves anyway.

Any parent will tell you that you can’t make your child do anything. They’ll tell you stories going back in their children’s history about toilet training (or housebreaking, as I like to think of it- not a breeder), or getting their children to eat the right foods, or even about sleep patterns. These parents, after fighting for almost half a decade just to get their children to the point where they can function at school, often give up trying to teach about money and hope their children will pick up money skills somewhere else.

Then we send our children off to school where many teachers do their absolute best to get their charges to learn the absolute basics needed to move on to the next level. This is where I currently come into the picture. Let me give you a little picture of what kids are dealing with today.

Kids are given a worksheet for “Cornell Notes” that is pre-printed with much of the information they need to know already filled in.
The rest of the notes are displayed on an overhead projector with the teacher telling kids “Write down where your notes say subtopic that calls for random bullet point>.”

In English and History classes, kids are no longer required to READ FROM THE BOOK!! That was so big it deserved two exclamation points. When many parents were in school, you had to read from the book. Now, textbook publishers include .mp3 files or cd’s with all the reading so a teacher can just play the file and the kids just sit and read.

In many districts and schools, teachers are required to teach a specified list of topics by the state, leaving little to no room for financial topics.
Many teachers would love to teach many different topics. For several reasons, whether it’s about money, time, experience of the teacher in different skill-sets, or whatever else, we too often run out of time with your children before we run out of mandated education topics.

At the end of the 12 years of mandated education, we are lucky if we did our job and created an adult that is ready to function in society at large, hold down a job, and maybe even move on to higher education (if we’re lucky)!
 

Still not hearing solutions, Stanton!

This is where it gets a little more difficult. The key to making financial education for kids easy is catching them when they are young. My friend had a kid that was a little older, so she has to come up with other solutions. Here are a few. Some are going to be more difficult than others, and some are going to seem too far outside of your parenting philosophy. Hey! I’ve never claimed to have the only answers. If you have something that works better, or even something different that also works, feel free to chime-in in the comments.

Don’t give them a choice!  Remember that you are the parent, and should be able to set the rules for how money is handled in your house. If teaching your children to save for long-term goals is important to you, then your children are going to save for the long-term, because they won’t know that there is another option. If tithing is important, then your child will tithe because that is all they will know. If they start fighting you, trying to avoid your priorities, or making your life difficult, take whatever money they might have and put it in a savings account for when they are mature enough to follow the rules.

Start as early as possible!  The earlier you start your children down the path of learning financial responsibility, the harder it will be to break the habits you instill in them.

Reinforcement, reinforcement, reinforcement!  Both positive and negative reinforcement has their places here. Let’s say you do the three piggy-bank thing that is the current flavor of the month when it comes to teaching young people about money. When your child puts money in each bank accordingly, without being prompted, make a big deal out of it! Tell them how proud you are that they are becoming more mature and responsible. Kids have a need to please adults. On the flip side, when they do something inappropriate with their money, there has to be a consequence. If your child raids their “bicycle” savings account to buy a Selena Gomez poster, you need to temporarily take away their ability to access that money and maybe even the poster until they have replaced the money.

Communicate openly and honestly!  Talk with your children about the importance of learning to manage their finances. Make sure you keep the conversation at a level that their individual development can handle, but make sure you communicate. Be honest with them about difficulties you might have had or setbacks you might have had in the past and your desire to make sure they don’t repeat your mistakes. Also communicate the feelings you have had when you have experienced success with money issues. Finally, talk to your children about the way they might meet financial challenges, and work your way through the hypothetical. You want to make your children comfortable about talking with you about financial issues so they will still feel comfortable when they are older and might need your advice.

Feed their curiosity, even if it isn’t as deep as you want it to be!  Expose your children to as many possible views on money management as you feel comfortable exposing them to. Find blogs like this one, or others that you might read, and read them with your children. Make it a thing. For example, I post on Fridays. I do this so people have a whole weekend to peruse my posts and not interfere with their weekday schedule. Maybe you and your children can read and discuss my latest post on Saturday, over breakfast. You spend some great quality time with your kid, they get to learn something, and you both have something in common to discuss. Warning! Sometimes the language here gets a little saucy. I try to keep it PG-13, but every once in a while it gets worse. I try to let you know when that is going to happen ahead of time, sometimes what I consider PG-13 and what you might consider could be different.

While we’re at it, find a book by someone who can teach your kids about finance and have a “book club” within your family.  Find times to read and discuss the book.  If I might make a suggestion as to which book…,

  

Whatever you do, don’t give in to the frustration that comes with trying to teach some kids anything!  I get it.  It’s frustrating, but once they get it, everything is magical!  Teach them well (sounds like an intro to a song!)  Enjoy!

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Pop Quiz:

Question:    How do you get a giraffe into a refrigerator?

Question:    How do you get an elephant into a refrigerator?

Question:    The Lion King is hosting an animal conference where all the animals attend, except one. Which one doesn’t attend?

Question:    There is a river you must cross, but it is used by crocodiles. You have no boat. How do you get across?

Now, I’ve heard this as a really dumb, bad joke, and also as an ice-breaker for training. I’ve used these questions when hiring employees, but not necessarily in the way they are intended. Most people get most of these questions wrong, but we’ll get to that part later on.

The other day, as I was doing dishes, I noticed that the floor was really wet in front of the sink. After initially thinking F4Y: The Wife spilled water all over the floor (which she didn’t), I looked under the sink and noticed the cabinet floor was also soaked. To be fair, the sink wasn’t leaking profusely, but there was a steady drip when I would run water. There are words that grown-ups use when they are frustrated, and then there are words that the immature or the uncreative use. I used all of those words and I made up a few new words. I had some problems.

1.    I needed to call a plumber to fix my sink.

2.    I needed to talk to my landlord because technically fixing this problem is his problem.

3.    I still had a sink full of dishes that needed to be washed.

4.    I hated my house because there is always something wrong.

5.    I didn’t want to talk to my landlord because I knew he’d say something that might make me explode and move out (which would be really stupid considering how long we’ve been there, how reasonable the rent really is, and how the house has some good things going for it like a really large yard for entertaining).

The teacher in me wanted to look at this as I would any other word problem, but I couldn’t see how being able to figure out the markup on a sweater or how to calculate the area of a trapezoid would be helpful here.

The dude in me wanted to set the place on fire and blame a faulty wire, but then I’d have a whole new set of problems, including finding a new place to live and paying alimony on a teacher’s salary because I destroyed my wife’s sofa.

The Personal Finance guy in me decided on fixing the most important problem that I had the power to fix right then. My problem was that water was dripping on my floor. This was something I could change immediately. I took an aluminum pan and put it under the pipe that was leaking so I could finish the dishes without doing further damage to the floor.

So stupid it’s simple.

So simple it’s stupid.

Too often, I read stories about readers who are just drowning in problems dealing with their finances. My heart breaks for them. I try to give the help and advice that I can, and I know my friends in the PF world do the same. But sometimes, and I’m guilty of this too, we tend to over-think the solution or lose focus on the real problem. In fact, I bet many of you reading this initially thought that I should call my landlord first. Great advice, but it wouldn’t have solved anything immediately. I still had a sink full of dishes that needed to be done, and I still had a pipe that was dripping on my floor. Some people might have suggested calling the plumber first. That still wouldn’t have solved my most immediate problem immediately.

So when you read stories, or hear from your friends or family members, and they ask you for some advice, remind them to stick to the most important problem that they can solve at that time, and put off dealing with problems that you can’t solve, or problems that the solutions won’t solve your problem.

Back to our animal friends:

I’m going to give you the answers and the reasoning behind each. Again, this sounds trite and a little silly, but if you actually listen to the rationale, and try to put it in practice with other questions, you’ll find that many problems wind up being much simpler to solve than you initially thought.

Answer One:        You open the door, put the giraffe in, and close the door.

This question tests to see if you do simple tasks in a complicated way.

Answer Two:        You open the door, take the giraffe out, put the elephant in, and close the door.

You probably said, “Open the door, put the elephant in, and close the door.” Sounds good, but you have to deal with the giraffe in the last question. This question checks to see whether you are able to think through the consequences of previous actions.

Answer Three:    The elephant. You put him in the refrigerator earlier, remember?

This question tests your memory.

Answer Four:        You jump in the river and swim across; perfectly safe because the crocodiles are at the Lion King’s meeting.

This question tests to see if you learn from earlier mistakes. You over-thought the other questions already; hopefully you figured it out by the last questions.

When talking about elephants, there is only one song that fits in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!

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Much to the chagrin of kids everywhere, schools across the country are dusting off marker-boards, straightening out rows of scissors and rulers, and setting up disgustingly saccharine displays with scalloped, corrugated, border trim depicting ancient blackboards and apples. Parents are flocking to discount stores to buy paper and notebooks, malls to buy the newest fashion for their little models, and electronic stores to buy data sticks, tablet pc’s and the newest “i-device” from Apple.

As much fun as all that is, and I personally love the smell of new school supplies, what students need, almost more than new shoes with lights and skate-wheels in them, are strong study skills. I’m all for studying and study skills, but I think a lot of adults need them just as much when it comes to personal finances as their kids do. The following is a list of skills that will work just as well for students of history and math as they will for people looking increase their own financial literacy.  Advice for students is in red, while advice for personal finance is in blue. 

1. Tape a copy of study guides for classes somewhere that you will see it often. Maybe the inside of your locker, or even to the cover of the book for that class. Also put up copies near your computer at home, or in other places that you are sure to see them. Doing this helps you to study without making it a chore. You have the ability to read a few lines while you are doing normal, everyday things. Repetition of information is the best way to learn it.

1. Keep pictures of things that you want to have near your modes of spending. Saving up for a new motorcycle? Wrap a picture of your dream bike around your credit card. Want to be out of debt completely, try keeping a copy of your latest credit card statement, with the balance owed circled in red where you can see it. Don’t think of it as shaming yourself into not spending, but think of it as providing a visual incentive to make better spending choices.

2. Make an appointment to study. With soccer practice, football games, church meetings and whatever else goes on in life, (like ditching all that stuff to hang out at the mall with the hot person you want to be seen with by everyone but your parents), it’s easy to forget to make time for actual studying. Make an appointment so you make sure you have time to study. Of course, that’s only half the battle. The other half is for you to actually meet your appointment.

2. Just like students, you need to make an appointment to reconcile your statements, plan your budgets, and pay your bills. Mrs. Finance For Youth has a schedule where she wakes up on Saturday morning, boots up the computer, makes a cup of coffee, and proceeds to pay any bills that came in during the week, reconcile any spending that we have done, and makes plans for the next week (like writing rent checks to be delivered on time, or checks to the gardener, or even allowances for herself and yours truly). Having a set time takes away a lot of stress and uncertainty because she can focus what is truly important and not worry about it again throughout the rest of the week.

3. Start your study sessions with your most difficult subject first. When I was in school, there were some classes that came easy to me. Like almost anything but math. It made no sense to start by studying for P.E. (which basically meant playing outside anyways), or even English (which I was really good at for some reason), when I had a subject that was so much more difficult and therefore demanded more time from me. I never learned this trick in school, but I do suggest you start with that hard class and use studying for your favorite classes as a reward later on.

3. Start paying that ugliest bill first. Maybe it’s the one with the highest balance, or maybe it’s the one with the highest interest rate. It might even be the one you are furthest behind in paying. Whichever it is, try to knock it out first, so that you can see easier bills in the future.

4. This one should be a no-brainer, but show up to school every day. All the studying in the world is only going to get you so far. When you show up to class, you will get information that might not be in the study material. You also get the benefit of learning the information that the teacher is going to test you on. Personally, I frequently use the phrase, “So, if you see a question on the test that says…,” which I follow by giving the students the answer that I’m looking for.

4. Show up to work! In general, you get paid when and only when you work. Some people have time off for vacation for which they get paid, and sometimes you are just too sick to be any good, but for the most part, work=pay! Think long term. Maybe you can get away with not being at work every day right now, but when you are looking for that promotion, your boss will take your attendance into consideration. It may be that the difference between you and another employee is that you are known to show up to work and the other person is known to slack off.

5. Don’t try to cram! Okay, we’ve all done it, but it almost never works out well. Instead of pulling one all-nighter on Sunday, just before a huge test, block out an hour or two every day to study throughout the week. Doing so will increase the likelihood that you will retain important information, cause less harmful stress to your body and health, and ultimately put you in a more relaxed state where success is more attainable.

5. People sometimes try to cram personal finance knowledge too. It doesn’t work here either. If you are already in debt up to your ass (assuming you own livestock), or higher, you aren’t going to get out of it instantly. Set out a plan that allows you to survive, but that still attacks the problem. You need to give yourself space to be able to succeed, but you need to also build in room for the occasional, inevitable setback. What happens too often is that people try to cram in “smart” financial decisions to such an extent that they are bound to give up and fail.

For many parents, this is the first year that they are dealing with the whole school thing. For others, back to school just means another haircut and a picture of your little one standing outside the front door, dressed and ready to go to school. Try instead to share some great strategies with your children on how to be successful, whether by my tips above, or others that you might know from other places. Let them know that you are also going to start something new and exciting to help the family. Make school and personal finances whole family events where you all share the journey and the rewards. Your kid gets good reports for a month and you pay off one credit card bill? Go for a round of miniature golf or something that the whole family can enjoy!

Nothing says back to school like this video.  Enjoy!

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In every parent‘s life there comes a time when they need to sit their child down and have a serious talk about life. Some parents make a big deal and production about it, buying visual aids and showing their kids the tools that they use. Other parents pretend that this isn’t happening, or at least that it isn’t happening yet, all the time realizing that they are risking their children having to learn the facts from people who don’t have their best interests in mind, or even worse, from the streets.

Of course the above holds true for many sensitive and difficult subjects, but only one can truly rise to the level of being called “THE TALK”. We’re talking about finances here.

Earlier, at the beginning of summer, we discussed some choices about how to handle the idea of allowances for kids. You can read about them HERE, HERE, or even HERE. Some parents thought that this was the end of the story, and not something way closer to the beginning. The truth is, your kids are going to need to learn how best to handle serious issues like the smart use of credit, planning for the future, making and sticking to budgets, and even how to deal with life when your plans blow up on you. This is when it can get a little messy for parents and their children alike. Hopefully I can give you a few tips to make this less difficult on everyone.

You really can be too young: Many of the bloggers out there and some of the “gurus” will tell you that your kids are never too young to learn about these issues. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’m all for teaching kids about money issues in ways that are age and developmentally appropriate. I could try to talk to my 6-year-old nephew about the finer points of an interest-only mortgage, but I’m sure he’s more interested in seeing what his nostrils look like when you shine a flashlight through them (That may not be strictly true, but I always get a kick from the flashlight thing). You should stick to basics that you can deliver in small enough chunks that they can understand, but with just enough detail that you don’t lose them. If you just can’t help yourself and you absolutely need to talk about topics that are probably over their head, the best way is by teasing the more advanced topics in the course of the more basic (and appropriate) lessons.

A little mystery is better than total disclosure: Remember the first time you heard, saw, heard about, learned, or discovered that your parents had sex (that is if your parents have had sex, unlike my parents, who never have and never will, thankyouverymuch)? Yeah, you don’t want to put your kids through that when it comes to money issues. Some parents might struggle to keep their finances healthy. Having kids, in and of itself, is an expensive proposition, but by no means the only reason parents might not want to divulge too much. Maybe they made some bad choices, maybe life got a little hairy, but the kidlets don’t need all the details. If you want to purge your soul, see your clergy, a psychologist, a bartender, or whoever, but don’t burden your kids with too much detail into your own finances.

Try to let your kids guide the direction of the conversation: Just like the other “talk”, one area where parents frequently screw up is by misunderstanding the questions that their children may have. A kid might ask where babies come from, and a parent will start the conversation with, “Well, sometimes Daddies make special drinks for Mommies that help Mommies get sleepy…,” when all the kid wants to hear is “from the hospital”. No kid wants to hear the first story. No adult wants to hear that (with the exception of some members of the local police, but that is another story altogether.) Kids have an amazing ability to communicate to adults what they are ready to grasp. Sadly, adults generally suck at interpreting what the kids are saying. My best advice here is to ask a lot of questions about what kids are curious about or need help understanding. Give them a broad, basic answer, followed by some more questioning to see if that helps to answer their questions, and then a more detailed response. Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.

Showing is better than telling: Kids get lectured at enough at school. I personally make sure of that. They learn very early on how to tune out when they feel another lecture coming on. Try to avoid adding to the lectures they will have to sit through by developing activities that will help them see what happens. There are games on the internet that can be used in a pinch, but these are generic, and might not be the best fit for your child. Of course, this will mean that you have to be engaged with your child, but most parents who are planning on teaching them about personal finance are probably already pretty well engaged already.

And finally,

Be prepared: Before you get to the point where you need to have “the talk”, be prepared with the accurate information and some ideas about how you would answer questions. This means you might need to invest a little time and a little money on reading materials. You’re reading Finance For Youth: The Blog
already, so that is a good start! Another place where you will get good information that is definitely not over someone’s head is by reading my book, Finance For Youth: The Book, available through www.finance4youth.com. Am I saying that my stuff is the only stuff you should read? Absolutely! However, I know that would be incredibly unlikely, so I suggest that you supplement F4Y products with products from your second favorite personal finance person.

Having “the talk” is going to be strange. There is no way around it, but it doesn’t have to be so uncomfortable that you postpone it until it is too late. Remember, postponing leads to your kids needing your money long after they should be on the way to creating their own lives, and nobody wants that.  Also remember that if you get stuck having to give the talk, and it gets awkward, you can always just tell your spouse that your kid ate the pie!

 

 

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Note from Wil: This is a post from Matthew Kuehlhorn, “America‘s Mentor for Teens”. Matthew has made several awesome contributions to the discussion here at F4Y, and I would like to share some of his work to help get your mind working.

I like to include the writings and opinions of as many people as I can. If you want to
contribute to
Finance For Youth: The Blog, send me an email: wil@finance4youth.com

  • “Money does not grow on trees.”
  • “Money is the root of evil.”
  • “Cold, hard cash.”
  • “Money is hard to come by.”

Are any of these sayings you hear or tell yourself? What do they really mean to you?

Understanding our beliefs about money affects the ways we spend money and the ways we earn money. We can choose to believe anything—so why would we make it difficult?

Think of it this way:. If I thought that money were the root of all evil, and then all of a sudden I had a windfall of money land in my lap, what would I think about myself? Might I be evil? And if I were evil, would I then keep the money around or would I get rid of it to ensure that I were not evil?

I would probably get rid of it.

Beliefs can cause us to form poor spending habits. For me, I have been an emotional spender, and I used to tell myself that it did not really matter because I would always make more money. While this is true–I do always make more money–I really do not want to have to make more. So my thoughts and habits must change.

I now tell myself everything matters. And it does! The tiniest actions make huge waves in our lives. Having adopted this belief I now do not spend money spontaneously, and this allows me to save more. When I earn money, I am very thankful and appreciative for it. No longer is the money simply passing by. It is very important, and because I have a respect for it, it comes back!

Here is a practice for you. Fill in the blanks:

Money is _________________

Money is _________________

Money is _________________

Wealth is _________________

Rich people are ___________________

Rich people are ___________________

Are your answers negative or positive? Will your beliefs support earning and managing money well, or do they push money and success away from you?

I guarantee if you think rich people are greedy, you will not allow yourself to become rich. It is a law. And you can change your beliefs to gain the success you want.

How will you think differently about money and finances?

 

Matthew Kuehlhorn is America’s Mentor for Teens. He teaches the “Rules of the Road: Business, Finance, Life” to teenagers who want to gain the “keys” to their life.

He has created the Relationship Building System for Teens which is delivered in a 144-page illustrated novel titled, Bully, and he invites you to take advantage of incredible pricing and additional offers at his site www.RulesoftheRoadforTeens.com.


 

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I love my job. I really do. Even though I’ve worked with some of the most demanding, annoying, pain-in-the-ass co-workers, even though I’ve been physically attacked, had my heart broken by seeing some of what I have to see on a daily basis, even though I’ve frequently had to walk into a room with absolutely no preparation and very little idea of what exactly was expected of me, I love my job. Three years ago, I couldn’t say that. Five years ago, I couldn’t say that. Now I can, but not then.

I used to get burned out at work. I’d get to a certain place within the company, I’d figure out everything within the company that I needed to know in order to be effective, and I’d get bored. Sometimes being really good at my job would backfire on me and my bosses would start piling work on me that I couldn’t handle. Again and again it would happen, and when it did, I generally would get fired within the year. Eventually, I read somewhere in some book that I needed to find mentors that would help me to survive being burned out.

I tried to find a mentor, I really did. The problem was that everybody I looked to as a mentor looked at me with suspicion. I don’t know whether they thought I was playing a joke on them, or if they believed I was somehow plotting to screw them out of their job. Point is, my choices of mentors didn’t really help me to survive burn-out. It wasn’t until I had my own employees that I realized that burn-out is a terminal condition, for which there is no cure.

So, are you completely screwed?

Nope!

While it’s true that once you get burned-out, there really is little you can do to undo it (not in every case, but the majority of time), there are some things you can do to avoid burn-out.

Take your vacations: Most companies allow their full-time employees to take time off every year. Many young people (yep, I was guilty of this too) don’t take this time. They make excuses.

“I don’t need time off.”

“I’m too young to need a vacation.”

“I can’t afford to take the time off.”

“I have too much to do.”

“Blah, blah blah.”

There are a ton of other excuses as well. All of them are BS! First, if you like your job and the people you work with, you need to make sure that you are bringing in your best self to work. That means taking a few days when the opportunities present themselves. Second, the company was doing just fine before you got there, they will survive a few days without you. JUST DON’T OVERDO IT!

Leave work at work: As a teacher, I am frequently called upon to do work for school at home. I do what I need to do, but I make sure I leave as much time as possible for me to have some kind of life. Besides, when you are too attached to work, your personal relationships will suffer, which will stress you out at work, which leads to…,? You got it- burn-out!

Manage your finances: If you are a normal, you work for one major reason. You need to pay your bills and survive. If you get yourself way out of whack financially, you are going to get frustrated that your job just isn’t cutting it anymore. Once that happens, burn-out comes quickly after questions like:

“Why can’t I make enough money to catch up?”

“How come I never have any money to do anything?”

“Other people don’t go through this, why me?”

If you are being financially responsible, saving when you can, spending when you should, and are not stressed out about money you don’t have, you aren’t stressing about what your job isn’t providing for you.

Stay healthy: Much like poor financial health will affect your job performance, poor physical health will make you have to work harder to achieve the same results. Harder work for which you will NOT be paid extra. If you are working harder, but making the same amount of money, your stress level and your propensity for burn-out will increase.

Have fun! Tied to several of these things, is the basic need to have fun. I teach, Monday through Friday. When I’m healthy, I also go to a gym and work out regularly for fun. On weekends, I visit with family and play RockBand with my in-laws- for fun! I firmly believe that being able to do something that allows me to burn off some steam where I don’t have to think about work allows me to go to work ready to work and ready to avoid burn-out.

Take a nap: Along the lines of staying healthy, stay rested. Make sure you are getting enough sleep so that you aren’t tired during your work day, and try to limit exertion late at night before you go to work. Of course, some exertion is fun, relaxing, and totally worth it, so use your best judgment here.

So, before you get to the point where you are burnt out, try one or more of these ideas, or if you know of some ideas that work as well or better, let us know. Like any other terminal disease, burn-out can be prevented. Take this holiday weekend, if you are able, and start getting to the point where you are able to relax and avoid getting burnt out altogether.

Of course, there is a stage that comes before burn-out, as our friends from Foreigner can tell you.  Enjoy!

 

 


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