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8 Crucial Financial Moves To Make In Your 30’s

8 Crucial Financial Moves To Make In Your 30’s

Your 20’s were fun, maybe too fun.  Now that the dust has settled and you’re part of the real world, here are eight crucial financial moves you must make this decade:

1.  Invest in Yourself

This is the time to separate from the pack.  Spend some of that hard earned money wisely to gain the advanced education, industry certification or specialized job skills necessary to make yourself more qualified, more marketable and ultimately indispensible.

Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce 2011 study found workers with Graduate Degrees make as much as $35,000 more in the same field as their counterparts with only Bachelor’s Degrees (http://cew.georgetown.edu/whatsitworth).

Just because that diploma hangs on your office wall doesn’t mean you’re done learning.  Do what your colleagues won’t do and spend the extra money and time to collect more arrows in your quiver.

2.  Establish an Emergency Fund

Human nature seeks immediate gratification.  True financial security and success comes from training yourself to delay that gratification until a future date.  Having an emergency account for those unexpected expenses keeps you from borrowing and gives you invaluable peace of mind.

This can be a daunting task so start your emergency fund with small amounts at a time.  Make your morning coffee at home four days a week and splurge only on Friday.  Nix all those cable channels you never watch.  Skip the lunches out every day and bring food from home.

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Now put these savings into a new account labeled “Emergency Savings.”  You’re less likely to pull funds from this account frivolously when you’re constantly reminded that it’s for emergencies only.

3.  Stick to a Budget

It’s not sexy but a little self-control and discipline will make your 40’s and 50’s much more enjoyable.  Add kids, school costs, summer camps, etc. and the cushy lifestyle of your 20’s will be a distant memory.  Prepare for this in advance by understanding where your money goes and what you can do to keep more of it.

Setting a budget is more an exercise in discipline more so than tracking every single penny.  There are tons of budget software programs and expense tracking sites out there.  My personal favorite is Mint (www.mint.com). An old saying that rings true to this day says “First we make our habits, then our habits make us.”

4.  Maximize Retirement Savings

If your workplace offers a matching 401k or similar program, you’re a fool to give up free money.  Take advantage of this gift.

Once you’ve contributed enough to get the match and you have an Emergency Fund established, you should consider diverting more towards your retirement accounts.  In traditional 401k, IRA and similar retirement accounts, your investments grow tax deferred until you take income during retirement.  Ask your investment professional about where your money is being invested and pay attention to fees.  You don’t need to be an expert but you need to take responsibility and understand what’s going on — this is your retirement after all.

There are hundreds of calculators you can test but suffice it to say that waiting until you’re 40 to start these retirement savings will leave you at a terrible disadvantage.  Albert Einstein was spot on when he pegged Compound Interest as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

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5.  Manage Financial Risks

Forget about that fancy car you’re driving, the purse collection and your “priceless” vinyl collection.  Your single most valuable asset is your future earnings potential – your ability to make money.

You insure that car, those records and you’d have a conniption if something happened to your handbag.  So why not protect yourself in the same way?

Review your disability and life insurance protection for the sake of your current or future family.  Often times the coverage offered through employee benefits may not be sufficient.  Take a few minutes to complete a disability or life insurance needs analysis and see for yourself (http://www.lifehappens.org/insurance-overview/life-insurance/calculate-your-needs/).

6.  Take Control of Your Credit Cards

This one is simple.  Not easy, but simple.

Carrying credit card balances forces you to pay high interest rates, which, in turn, creates even higher credit card balances.  Break this vicious cycle and use credit cards only when absolutely necessary.

Don’t misunderstand me.  Credit cards serve a very useful purpose but they should be treated as a tool, not the tool.  I speak from experience in saying it’s easy to swipe the card and not think about the consequences.  Do that enough in your 30’s and you can kiss retirement goodbye.

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7.  Understand Good Debt and Bad Debt

In your 30’s, assume debt with extreme caution.  If you’re like most of us 30 somethings, you still have some cleanup from your 20’s to address — don’t make the problem any worse.

Taking on Debt for a quality home purchase, higher education or similar future-focused asset may be wise.  Borrowing money at high interest rates for a new car, those designer shades or for your dream vacation almost never makes financial sense.  The real danger is that these short-term decisions are often the more fun and offer instant gratification but leave you reeling afterwards (see #7 above).

General Rule:

Good Debt = used as leverage towards improved value long term

Bad Debt = used in lieu of cash savings you don’t have to buy something you can’t afford whose value will never be greater than at the time of purchase

8.  Give Back

This may seem crazy or even impossible given the constraints of your everyday life.  Trust me when I say you’ll get more in return than you can ever imagine by giving to those in need.

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Make a regular donation to your favorite local charity.  Don’t have one?  Use a resource like Charity Navigator (http://www.charitynavigator.org) to find a cause near and dear.

If money is tight, consider volunteering your time or your expertise to and organization in need.  Public Relations?  Graphic Designer?  Appliance Technician?  All charities, nonprofits and organizations for the greater good need these services just like any other business.

Arthur Ashe famously said “From what we get we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”

 

Everyone lives a different life and should take their own personal circumstances, careers and families into consideration before making any significant financial decisions — in your 30’s or at any other time.  Consider meeting with a financial professional who may be able to help shape good money habits in this crucial decade.

Featured photo credit: Gratisography via gratisography.com

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Last Updated on July 4, 2019

25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless.

Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent free online education awaits on the following 25 sites.

1. Coursera

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    Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

    Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education, and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

    Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups.

    2. Khan Academy

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      Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

      Among the more well known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly useable, which may make it easier to keep learning goals.

      3. Open Culture Online Courses

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        If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos and podcasts from universities around the world. The site features a lot of material found only on universities private sites, all in easy to browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses, without having to visit and search each university’s own site.

        Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales and many state universities around the United States. A very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

        4. Udemy 

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          Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

          Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top quality content. This is another site however, that mixes free and paid content.

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          5. Academic Earth

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            Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources, and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

            Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

            6. edX

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              Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics.

              7. Alison

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                Unlike the previous sites on this lists, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

                It’s a great option if users need certification for their learning as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

                8. iTunesU Free Courses

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                  A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod, or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

                  Desktop users can access  iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

                  Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos, and paid content.

                  ITunesU does include courses on a pretty wide scope of topics, but does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

                  9. Stanford Online

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                    Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

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                    Stanford Online is a great site for high quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school.

                    10. Harvard Extension

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                      Like Stanford Online, Harvard Extension features free online education courses from Harvard only. This is another excellent source for top notch course material, though the course variety is less rich than multi-school sites.

                      Additionally, Harvard Extension allows you to search for courses by professional certificate. This makes it much easier if your online education goal includes certification.

                      11. Open Yale Courses

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                        Open Yale Courses echoes Harvard Extension and Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses, but learn better by watching than by reading.

                        12. UC Berkeley Class Central

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                          Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

                          13. MIT OpenCourseWare

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                            Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, plus includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

                            14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

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                              Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list, however, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics. But for the topics that are covered impressive, in-depth material is available.

                              15. Codecademy

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                                Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

                                The courses at Codecademy are well written and easy to follow and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, plus organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

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                                16. Code

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                                  Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

                                  In addition to kid friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics and Javascript.

                                  Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

                                  17. University of London Podcasts

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                                    The podcast page on the University of London website is another great source for free education. While the courses are limited to podcasts, the site features podcasts from it’s own campus, as well as eleven universities in and around London. This gives learners a wide base of topics and lectures, but still ensures in-depth material.

                                    18. University of Oxford Podcasts

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                                      Similar to the University of London, the University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

                                      The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. Another good site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

                                      19. BBC Podcasts

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                                        For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly, and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

                                        Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

                                        20. TED-Ed

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                                          Another great destination for more general learning is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all encompassing, motivational web series, comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

                                          Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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                                          21. LessonPaths

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                                            LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

                                            22. Memrise

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                                              Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

                                              Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

                                              23. National Geographic Kids

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                                                The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keeps kids interested on this site.

                                                National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

                                                24. Fun Brain

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                                                  Fun Brain is another good option for kids who want to learn online, but focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

                                                  Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

                                                  25. Whyville

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                                                    Similar to the sites for kids free online education is Whyville a destination for preteen online learning. The site includes a variety of social features, with a focus on learning materials geared for young teens.

                                                    Whyville also mixes in educational games, to make the site a well rounded option for kids too old for simple games, but too young for heavy reading based material.

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                                                    Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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