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5 Things You Should Know About Personal Finance

5 Things You Should Know About Personal Finance

    Money.  Oh money.  It makes the world go ’round.  It’s one of the biggest reasons for divorce.  It either frees us or enslaves us.  It is the commodity of all commodities.  And yet, as much as many of us make, most of us know so little about how it works.  I blame our parents.  They should have known.  They should have taught us.  Well, either way, I’m about to give you a quick crash course in cash money 101, and how personal finances should work.  Buckle up and enjoy the ride.  Hopefully you’ll be enlightened.

    1. How a credit card works

    Credit cards are an interesting commodity.  They can either work for you or against you, depending on how much you know about them and how smart you are with them.  The biggest problem with credit cards, though, is that we gain access to them before we know enough about them.  Your parents should have taught you how they work, but sadly, many adults don’t even know exactly how they work.  This article should help.  Read it.  Then read it again.

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    2. How to create a budget

    Budgeting is something that people either love or hate to do.  Personally I hate it.  But I keep a general budget because it’s important to know where my money is going.  A friend of mine knows where every dollar he spends goes.  I’d rather divide my money into 2 different accounts, business and pleasure.  I give myself an “allowance” to do whatever I want with monthly, and the rest stays in my “business” account for bills and other living expenses.  Need a crash course on building a budget?  Check this out.

    3. The time value of money

    The time value of money is a simple principal to understand:  basically it states that any amount of money is worth more today than the same amount of money in the future due to it’s earning potential.  This means that if you have $100 to invest today, it’s worth more than $100 a year from now, because it could be gaining value through investments for a year.  Let’s assume you average 9% on your investments… Your $100 today will be worth $109 in a year, whereas getting $100 a year from now is only worth about $91, due to the value of money lost in the year.

    This is very important when you consider the next point…

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    4. Start investing early

    Take a look at this chart.  Basically what it states is that when Saver B starts investing earlier on in life, the time value of his money allows for gaining potential so much greater that even though Saver A invested more than 4 times the amount of Saver B, Saver B has gained more than $400k more than Saver A by retirement.

    Moral of the story?  If you start investing now, you’ll have much more than if you wait till you make more money, even if you invested more in the years to come.

    5. Let your money work for you

    We were all taught that it is important to gain a good education and to learn valuable skills to enter the job force and start a good career.  But here’s what few of us have learned:  more important than having a good job is learning how to make your money work for you.  Consider this: if you can save $500k, and you average 10% on your investment portfolio, you will gain $50k annually without doing anything other than having the money.  $2 million will earn you $200k per year (earning 10%).  $10 million will earn $1 million per year.  The more you invest, the more you’ll make, without lifting a finger (well, other than managing your money, of course).

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    Sure it’s important to have a good job.  But it’s even more important to be investing your money, no matter how much you’re making.  If the goal is financial security and freedom, it doesn’t take rocket science; just a little discipline and sacrifice early on.  And what you’ll gain is so much more than what you could buy today.

    One last note:  $1 at age 18 can’t get you more than a coke, or maybe a dollar menu burger.  But $1 at age 18 is worth $54 at age 60 (assuming 10% again).  Keep that in mind the next time you stop at Starbucks.  Your cup of joe is actually taking more than $150 out of your retirement fund.

    Spend wisely.

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    Photo Credit: aresauburn

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    Ibrahim Husain

    Ibrahim is a management analyst who writes about communication tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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