Friday, August 31, 2012

5 Questions to Ask the Financial Aide Office As You Head Back to School

by Nicole Callahan, Reposted from

Time to hang up the bathing suits and hit the books: It’s back-to-school season!

For many of you, it’s probably been months since you’ve completed the FAFSA or submitted your school’s financial aid application. Have you checked in with the financial aid office to make sure they have everything they need to disburse your financial aid? If not, here are some questions you should ask:
  • What do I need to do to finalize my award? Each school has a different process for awarding and disbursing financial aid. If it has been a while since you contacted the financial aid office, stop by or give them a call.  Often times, there are requirements you must meet before your financial aid can be paid out. Maybe you need to sign a Master Promissory Note or complete Entrance Counseling? Check with your school’s financial aid office as soon as possible so that you can be sure you receive your financial aid on time.
  • What academic requirements do I need to maintain in order to receive financial aid? In general, you need to make satisfactory academic progress. Each school has a satisfactory academic progress policy for financial aid purposes; check your school’s website or ask someone at your financial aid office to find out what the requirements are.
  • What are the terms of any loans offered? If you were offered student loans as part of your financial aid package, it is important that you understand the terms of those loans. Remember, a student loan is just like any other loan. It’s borrowed money that will have to be repaid with interest. Do you know what your interest rate is or when you are supposed to begin repayment? If not, ask. To help you keep track, try out our new Financial Aid Counseling Tool (FACT).
  • Where can I find a work-study job? Federal Work-Study provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. Federal Work-Study is unique in that it is a type of financial aid that is not applied directly to your school costs. Instead, you earn the money as you work.  In order to earn the money that has been allocated to you, you’ll need to find a work-study job. Talk to the financial aid office to find out what types of federal work-study jobs are available for students at your school.
  • How and when will I receive my financial aid payments? The million-dollar question. Every school has a different process for disbursing financial aid. You can probably find the answer on your school’s financial aid website, but if not, contact the financial aid office and they should be able to help you out.
Nicole Callahan is a new media specialist in ED’s office of Federal Student Aid 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

College Freshmen: The Do's and Don'ts of Homesickness

By Noel Rozny, Reposted from

I remember the day I moved to college. My parents drove me to campus and helped me unpack all of my boxes. Then they left. I thought everything was hunky dory, I went to bed, and I woke up with a raging case of homesickness.

Sound familiar?

Every college freshman is going to go through bouts of homesickness, even if they don’t admit it. But the way you choose to handle it can either help the problem or make it a million times worse.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to help you power through your homesickness.

Do: Call Home
There’s no reason to suffer in silence! If you’re feeling homesick, reach out to the people you’re missing – your Mom, your Dad, your brother, or your best friend. You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel just by hearing their voices and finding out what they’re up to.

Don’t: Be On the Phone for Hours
A 15 minute “pick me up” conversation is one thing—it’s another to spend hours upon hours on the phone with friends and family from home. While you’re reaching out to old friends and family, you’re missing out on all the fun opportunities going on during orientation (and a lots of chances to make new friends). So put the phone down and get involved!

Do: Be Honest About How You Feel
I know – it seems really uncool to admit that you’re homesick. But trust me – you’re not alone. Everyone feels homesick at some point in their freshman year. After all, moving away from your parent’s and learning to live on your own is one of the biggest life changes you’ll go through. So be honest about how you feel—stuffing your emotions will only make them worse. Open up to your roommates and other new friends about what’s going on—you may just find they’re feeling the same way, and that you can be a support system for one another.

Don’t: Spend Every Day in Tears
You should absolutely talk about the way you feel and reach out to those around you when you’re homesick. But at the same time, if you’re crying every day and missing out on activities and your classes because you’re so upset, that may be the sign of a bigger problem. If the homesickness is truly overwhelming, speak to a mental health professional who can help you get a handle on things. Most campuses have mental health services for students, and that can be a great place to start.

Do: Indulge Yourself
Sometimes you’re going to be homesick, and it’s going to suck. When those moments rear their heads, indulge in something that provides comfort and makes you feel better. Maybe this is watching your favorite movie, taking a walk in the park, or buying yourself a small treat. Those little perks, especially if they’re inexpensive, are a great way to get through the first few weeks of college when you’re missing home the most.

Don’t: Overdo It
When you’re a freshman and you have freedom for the first time in your life, it can be tempting to go a little crazy, especially if you’re feeling down. Don’t let your homesickness drive you to mistakes you’ll have to pay for later, like binge-eating pint after pint of Ben & Jerry’s or maxing out your credit cards on a shoe shopping spree.

Do: Plan Visits
Having a visit planned during the first semester can alleviate homesickness because you’ll know exactly when you’ll be reuniting with your loved ones (and getting a dose of your favorite hometown pizza). As the homesickness subsides, you’ll find you made need to make fewer and fewer trips home.

Don’t: Go Home Every Weekend
If you go home every weekend, especially your first few weeks of school, you’ll miss out on some of the best events of the year and a chance to bond with hallmates and classmates. Instead, try to plan visits when others will be going home too, like fall and Thanksgiving break. Moving away to college can be sort of like ripping of a band-aid; the faster you can power through it, the faster the homesickness will subside.

Above all else, be patient with yourself if you’re feeling homesick. Even if the sadness seems completely overwhelming in the beginning, it does subside as you get settled into your new routine. Before you know it, you may even find yourself dreading the end of the semester because you don’t want to say goodbye to all of your new friends.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Financial Planning Fundamentals

by Renee Hanson, Private Wealth Advisor

If you’re interested in working with a financial advisor to develop a financial strategy, you may be wondering what the process involves. Typically, good financial planning includes the following steps:

·         Goal setting. Your financial advisor will ask you questions to help you identify your financial needs and dreams for the future. For example:

  • When you envision your future, what’s next for you?
  • Where do you see yourself living?
  • What lifestyle goals are important to you?
  • Do you want to help provide for your children’s education?
  • How do you envision your retirement?
  • Do you want help to reduce the effect of taxes on your assets?

·         Fact-finding. After identifying your goals, you’ll need to assess your current financial situation. This involves gathering financial documents and account statements to determine where you stand. Your financial advisor can help you sift through this information to create a clear picture of where you stand.

·         Plan creation. After reviewing your financial documents, your financial advisor will work with you to establish a course of action to help you get from where you are to where you want to go. Your financial strategy may cover some or all of the following information, depending on your situation:

  • Your needs, goals and values
  • Current assets and liabilities
  • Investment portfolio recommendations
  • Retirement plan
  • Insurance audit and needs analysis
  • Estate planning analysis
  • Product recommendations and action items

·         Strategy implementation. After reviewing your strategy and consulting with your financial, tax and legal professionals on any necessary details, you’ll work with your financial advisor to implement it. This may include:

  • Establishing a regular savings program
  • Adjusting insurance coverage to meet current needs
  • Purchasing appropriate investment products
  • Repositioning assets
  • Setting up tax-efficient ways to transfer wealth

·         Regular reviews. After implementing your strategy, you should plan to meet regularly with your financial advisor to review your portfolio and ensure that it is up to date. Also, be sure to contact your financial advisor when you experience a life-changing event, such as a marriage, birth, death, disability or divorce, to ensure that your strategy and beneficiary designations are updated to reflect your wishes.


Renée A. Hanson, CFP®, CEP®, CDFA™, CFS, is a private wealth advisor with Hanson, Ayala & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Her passion is in helping women achieve their dreams and financial goals, regardless of life’s many obstacles. Renée is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of AZ, CA, CO, GA, IA, IL, MI, MN, MT, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, SC, TX, VA, WA, WI. Please visit: to learn more.

Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC. Some products and services may not be available in all jurisdictions or to all clients.

© 2011 Ameriprise Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Navigating a Personal Crisis at Work

By Anna Runyan.  Reposted from

Normally, I am that reliable co-worker you can always count on—the one who never calls in sick. But that all changed a year ago, with a first trimester miscarriage, the loss of my aunt who I was extremely close to, and another miscarriage where I had to have surgery.

This rollercoaster of unfortunate events could have knocked me down, made me not want to get out of bed, and affected my performance at work. But instead, I chose to stay positive and do everything I could to keep going, especially at the office.

I hope that you will never have to deal with a personal crisis, but if you do, here are three things that helped me move from my bed to my desk—and get the best assessment ratings that I’ve ever received at work.

1. Don’t Worry About Work When You’re Picking Up the Pieces

After my first miscarriage, I headed right back to work and didn’t give myself enough time to grieve and heal. I consumed myself with my job, and I used it as a way to not deal with what had happened.
But this was the wrong approach. A few months later, the grief hit me even harder because I had never dealt with my emotions in the first place. Work became extremely tough, and it seemed like little issues that I could normally handle were making me over emotional. I was fragile, but no one around me knew what was really going on.

After my second miscarriage, I knew I needed more time off to take care of myself. So I took a week off and worked from home for another week. This allowed me to handle my emotions earlier, instead of using work as a crutch to avoid the feelings that I needed to go through (and then eventually falling apart later). My entry back to work after my second miscarriage was a whole lot easier because I took more time off for myself.

2. Be Honest With Your Co-Workers

Initially, I didn’t want to tell anyone I worked with what I was going through. I thought about just saying I was sick for a week. But I knew that was so unlike me that it needed a better explanation.

I realized that, when I opened up and let everyone know what I was going through, they were able to understand better. They were happy to pick up my workload right away, and they didn’t expect me to be doing anything. Because they were so supportive, I could really focus on myself. On the other hand, if I had just said I was sick, I would have been worried about work my entire time off.

If you don’t feel like you can talk to your manager about what you are going through, ask your friends or family to help you. After my first miscarriage, my husband called my manager and let her know what was going on. My boss then contacted my co-workers and clients so no one expected me to be answering emails or phone calls. Even if you have a ton of work piling up (like I did), you’ll likely find that your manager and co-workers will be more than willing to pick up the pieces.

3. Don’t Miss Out on Your Benefits

I worked for the same company for six years and never understood my benefits. I realized later than I would have liked to know that my company offered some amazing benefits, including free confidential counseling and research programs.

Look in to the programs that are available to you, and don’t hesitate to take advantage of them. Even though counseling isn’t talked about much, it’s not something to be afraid of, and it doesn’t mean you are weak (or crazy). Counseling was a huge part of helping me get back to normal so that I could complete my work assignments and better manage my work relationships during the difficult times.

My company benefits also covered medical research programs—I could have someone complete a research report about a medical condition I had and email it to me. This information was so helpful, and it would have taken me weeks to do by myself.

It’s tough to make that first step and to ask someone else for help, but I promise, you’ll be so glad you did. If I hadn’t made that choice to put myself first, I wouldn’t have been able to perform well at work and continue to do the things that I love to do everyday (like helping young professionals find jobs on my blog).

Above all, remember that you are not alone in your struggles and that there are ways to deal with your personal issues and still perform fabulously at work. As hard as things may seem, don’t give up, and don’t deal with your crisis alone.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Menopause is the New Puberty

by Ellen Dolgen

If you’re in your 40s or 50s and you have kids in the house, you’re probably familiar with what I like to call "dueling hormones." I’ve also seen this referred to as a "hormone house" or, my favorite, "mother nature’s practical joke."

This is that ever-so-special time when Mom is going through perimenopause and menopause, and her kids are going through puberty, all under the same roof. Who just had a meltdown and locked themselves in their bedroom? Was it daughter, son, or Mom? With all these hormonal fluctuations happening at once, things can get more than a little hectic!

Fortunately, amidst the chaos (which will often peak during the holidays or other high-stress times like the start of a new school year), there is a real opportunity to take these challenges and turn them into a time of growth and connection. Often, the anger or outbreaks that come with hormonal fluctuations are really just an overflow or projection of the same anger and frustration that we might harbor against ourselves. Working on yourself and your own personal growth, knowing your body to be prepared for perimenopause and menopause will help ease the super tense dynamics that can develop with the people closest to you.

One of the most difficult aspects of puberty for a parent to deal with is the oh so common communication shutdown. Many kids just stop talking to their parents. They don’t want to hear anything from you, and they don’t want to share anything with you! Your teenager is trying to find his or her own independence and confidence, so this kind of pushback is common and normal at this age. However, when you’re going through perimenopause and menopause, and you’re already feeling emotionally shaky yourself, it can be hard not to take this radio silence personally.

In a recent article, psychologist Bruce Fischer spoke of how to deal with the opposite side of silence, outbursts. For everyone in the family, "the first step is learning to recognize when you're being emotionally over the top. … The moms are just worn out, and you have this collision of issues. When [your children] are in those intense emotional states, either leave them alone or just listen until they de-escalate. Ignore the content, which can often be illogical. Focus on what they're feeling, and remember that kids at this age sometimes need to win a conflict, or at least tie." (To read the full article, see the resource section below.)

When communication shuts down completely, everyone suffers, so it is important to keep talking. Let them know that you love them, you care, and you are here for them if they need you, all the while respecting their journey towards independence. The best way to begin this process is to remind yourself that it isn’t about you. Try not to personalize their silence and outbreaks. Remind yourself that just as you are going through your own hormonal roller coaster and life-changing experiences, so are your kids. The difference is this is their first time at the hormone thrill park. Your kids may not have a perspective on what’s happening, but you have a life-so-far wealth of experience to share with them.

You’re the parent, so you can be the first to give. Share your own challenges openly, so they know what you’re going through. This gives them an opportunity to relate to you, even if they don’t want to show it. In
Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness, there’s a Shmirshky Daily Symptoms Chart on pages 168-69 to help women identify and track menopause symptoms. Many women have found that going through the chart with their teens can help open up the conversation about what they’re both experiencing. Chances are, you and your teen can relate about sleepless nights and mood swings.
You may feel like an alien has swooped down and taken over your dear, sweet child, but remember, they may be looking at you with the same thoughts! Of course, every household is different, and it may take some tweaking to customize this loving approach to fit your own unique family structure. The more we educate and empower our self and our loved ones, the happier and more compassionate the whole house will be. Ignore those rolling eyes—make eye contact and talk it out!

Remember: Reaching out is IN. Suffering in silence is OUT! Additional resources: Warning: Extra hormones in the house, by Kristin Tillotson, Star Tribune
Menopause and Puberty: A Deadly Combination, by Vanessa Van Petten,

 Great resources to share with your kids:
o Boys and Puberty, o Talking to your daughter about puberty, o Girls and Puberty, o Boyz Zone, What is puberty for boys?,

About Ellen Dolgen

Ellen Sarver Dolgen is the author of
Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness—a cut-to-the-chase book on perimenopause and menopause that's filled with crucial information, helpful guides, and hilarious and heartfelt stories. Known for her humor, compassion, and sassy personality, E has appeared on numerous television and radio broadcasts, including: the Rachael Ray Show, The Doctors, Oprah Radio, Playboy Radio, "Tell Me More" on NPR, Doctor Radio, and dozens of other regional and national media outlets. She appears monthly as a menopause and women's wellness guest on KSWB Fox 5 Morning News San Diego and is a regular guest on the popular radio show, "Broadminded," on Sirius XM Radio (Stars XM 107). E is also one of the first regular contributors to debut on the Huffington Post’s latest site, Huff/Post50. When E isn’t promoting women’s health and wellness, she’s busy trying her best not to eat all the ice cream in the freezer.

For more from Ellen, visit

Friday, August 24, 2012

Storycorps : Highlighting an Inspirational Blog

Sharing our humanity, building connections between people, and teaching the value of listening – check out  to read the stories of our American lives.

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.

Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 40,000 interviews from nearly 80,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to our weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition and on our Listen pages.

We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, strengthen and build the connections between people, teach the value of listening, and weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that every life matters. At the same time, we will create an invaluable archive of American voices and wisdom for future generations.

In the coming years we will build StoryCorps into an enduring institution that will touch the lives of every American family.

Go to to find out more, read some amazing stories, or even record your own story.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Cost of Returning to School : Is it Worth It?

Some things to think about before deciding whether it makes financial sense to go back school
by Dawn Antestenis, Fresh Start

School has always been expensive but in current times the cost of college tuition seems to go up substantially year on year.  In fact in the past 10 years the cost of studying a professional program has increased by 60%!  Add to this the fact that there are no guarantees there will be a job at the end of all your hard work and you are left with a big question.  Does it make financial sense to go back to School?

Luckily there are a few key questions that you can consider which will help you in making this important decision.

Why do you want to go back to school?

It is important to remember that money is not necessarily your only or indeed driving reason for returning to school. 

Make a list of all the reasons you would like to return…maybe you feel bored within your current profession and are looking for a more fulfilling profession...maybe you have grown and developed new skills within your current job and are now at a point where you are ready to take the next step but you need a professional qualification…or maybe you are just simply looking to earn more. 

Whatever the reason having a clearer understanding of why you want to return to school can help you make the final decision if returning to school is right for you.

How much debt are you willing to get into? 

This is all about return on your investment.  You will need to consider:

·        What will you be studying?  Remember that the return on your investment will be different depending on what you study – some professions like engineering are likely to give you a higher return on your investment than nursing.

·        How much will the program of study cost?

·        What are the hidden costs?  Don’t forget to detail costs such as living expenses; travel; interest on loans.  And remember while you are at school you may not be able to contribute to your retirement fund or and savings funds you might have set up.

·        How many years will you be studying?  In simple terms the longer you study the less time you are able to earn.  You can cut costs by choosing a shorter program or studying part-time.

·        What is your salary going to be?  Do your research.  A rule of thumb used by many is to never take on more debt than the basic starting salary you expect to earn.

·        What are the job prospects? You want to get a job at the end of all this so do some research into current trends.

Once you have answers to the questions above you will be in a better position to know whether your increased earning potential at the end of study will balance out the cost.

It is very important to consider how much debt you are willing to get into and how long you want to be paying it back.  You don’t want to start studying only to find the financial burden is too great, be forced to drop out, and be left with no qualification and a lot of debt.

Are there ways you can cut the cost?

It is worth researching potential ways to reduce the cost.

Perhaps you could choose a shorter program of study cutting your time studying from 2 to 1 year?  Or maybe there is an option to study part time which will allow you to continue to earn some money? 

It is also worth looking into scholarships and discounts for alumni.

Ask a lot of questions to see if there is an option that could save you money and reduce your debt.

Good luck!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Overcoming the Fear of Returning to School

by Gabrielle Loomis

Are you fearful about returning to school or continuing your education?

Read on for 3 steps to transform your Fear into Fuel for your

Have you ever found yourself being really excited about an
opportunity, such as a new job or going back to school only to find that
excitement eventually drops into fear? Are you wanting to make some
significant change in your life, but your fears hold you back?
When fear shows up in our lives, many of us believe it is showing us
that we’ve made the wrong decision or chosen the wrong path. We
allow our fears to shake our confidence, doubt our intuition and create
inner turmoil.

This week as I contemplated a big decision to move to a different part
of town, I was reminded of the enormous potential fear has to keep us
stuck. Of course, that’s not really what fear is trying to do. It’s not
trying to keep you stuck in a job or career or relationships that’s
unfulfilling, it’s trying to keep you safe. We all have a very primitive,
albeit powerful, part of our brain which is programmed for safety. And
anytime something appears to be threatening to our physical or
emotional well being, it triggers a process to stop us in our tracks, stay
put and play it safe.

Even though we have evolved eons since our primitive ancestors,
certain parts of the brain have not and so our brain is still protecting us
as if we’re running from wild animals on a daily basis! And the thing
that most people don’t realize is that this is also true of thoughts and
emotions. When we contemplate things such as going back to school,
it triggers this response inside that says “Oh no, what if...”. So with
this as the backdrop, the first step to transforming your fear into fuel is

Expect Fear

That’s right, expect it! Fear will never go away. You will never not
have any fear whatsoever. Athletes, people in the public eye and
other experts in their field will tell you that they still feel fear when they
take the stage for instance. Fear is a normal part of our nervous
system so rather than decide that because you have fear, something
is wrong or this might not be the right decision, expect fear to show
up. It actually has something really important to share with you. Are
you ready to know what that is?

That’s the second step:

Acknowledge Fear

When fear shows up it is information. It’s letting you know that there is
something inside of you that needs attention. Some part of you is not
feeling safe and is most likely telling yourself really unpleasant things
such as “I know I’m not smart enough”, “I can’t handle this”, “I’m not
good enough”, “I’m too old” and the list goes on and on! So now is the
time to be very inquisitive about what is going on inside the magical
place that is you and ask yourself questions such as:
     “What am I most afraid of about going back to school?”
     “What do I believe is true about myself?”

What you will most likely find if you take the time to explore, is a whole
bunch of limiting thoughts and beliefs about yourself which mostly
stem from past experience.

If you’ve ever failed at something or felt rejected or not smart enough,
this is the time when that will come back to you. And you’ll remember
it as if it happened yesterday! You can begin by reminding yourself
that this isn’t the 3rd grade when so and so teacher embarrassed you
in front of class or whatever that painful experience might have been.
This is also a really good time to practice some of the amazing
clearing and healing techniques such as EFT, or LifeLine.

Once you have acknowledged and begun to deal with the fears of the
past, it frees you up to be fully in the present which leads to the next

Embrace Fear

Now you can begin to decipher fear in terms of the present moment.
And what you will probably find is that there are things you need to do
-action steps that you need to take to prepare yourself for life after
your big decision. So you might ask yourself:

How do I need to grow myself in order to go back to school?
In what ways can I better prepare myself?
What would need to change in order for me to make this decision?

Maybe you need to create more space in your schedule or take an
introductory course to get back into the swing of things or release
some of your responsibilities so you have time to invest in yourself.
This is where you get real clear on what needs to happen in order for
you to be successful and then create a plan of action.

These three steps are how you transform Fear into Fuel for your

This is the formula I have used in my own life personally to make a
radical transformation. I went from years of struggling with jobs I
disliked and feeling unhappy to today, where I get to share my gifts
and talents with you and other women as a way to empower your
brilliance. If you would like to learn more about my journey or how you
can be supported through my programs, products and personal
coaching, please visit

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More Tips on How to School Shop on a Budget

by Diane McLelland
It’s that time of year once again…the kids are getting restless, the days are seemingly a bit shorter, and you’re more than ready to get back to some ‘normalcy’, whatever that may be in your household. It’s back to school time!
There are school supplies to buy, backpacks, new shoes, perhaps a few new outfits. Where can you find the best deals for back-to-school shopping?
First, shop early. Many schools have already begun in various parts of the country. Be a savvy shopper by watching the newspaper circulars for ‘Back to School’ deals. Nearly every ‘big box’ store such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Target have fantastic deals on everything you’ll need to prepare your child or yourself for returning to school.
Shop online, or at least search where to shop and get the best deals- online. EBay and Craigslist can be good choices for larger purchases such as computers or musical instruments. Of course, exercise caution and be mindful of security when shopping online or if purchasing from a private party. The website offers information on which stores offer cash back (by shopping online), current coupons, and also allows you to view the individual stores’ circulars for that week. You may also provide your email address to gain access to the featured printable coupons.
Don’t’ forget your local ‘dollar’ stores, Goodwill, re-sale shops, consignment shops, and also watch for deep discounts at the chain department stores. Some people mistakenly think that all the merchandise is overpriced; often this is true; however, shop during sales blitzes and clip coupons, and you could end up purchasing quality merchandise for much less than you think. Some states even offer back-to-school tax exempt weekends. State’s sales taxes vary, so check online to see if your state offers this.
Garage sales are popular at back-to-school time; moms are cleaning out kids’ closets to make room for new or seasonal items, and perhaps you can find that backpack, pair of gently worn athletic shoes, or perhaps even score a computer if you’re lucky!
And, here’s a ‘no-brainer’! According to the website , “Shop your house before going to the store. Find out what you can reuse. Backpacks, calculators, rulers, scissors and binders are all items that can last more than one year.”
Textbooks can be found at textbook exchange stores, online ( is a website I would recommend) or at the college or university’s bookstore, and I strongly suggest purchasing books early if you’re heading to college. The ‘early bird’ gets the used and more affordable books, and as I’ve learned from experience- there can be a 50-75% savings by purchasing used collegiate level textbooks. I recently was pleasantly surprised to learn that my two college aged sons were virtually able to trade books for their upcoming respective classes, saving perhaps one hundred or more dollars. Now, that was what I call ‘a huge bargain’ and definitely ‘in the budget’!
So, welcome cooler temperatures, sweater weather, and happy back-to-school shopping!
About the Author:
Diane has been called fashionista from a young age, acquiring her love of fashion after enrolling in Sears Charm School as a young girl. After earning her degree in fashion merchandising & business she gained experience by appearing in movies, commercials and magazine layouts. She also worked as a flight attendant for 15 years and wrote for a well-known travel publication. Diane currently works with students to provide career advisement and loves to act as a personal shopper on the weekends for her friends and family.

Monday, August 20, 2012

What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

Quick and easy tips to find the right job for you

By Amy Michalenko, Career Expert, Fresh Start Women’s Foundation, Phoenix, AZ

I can’t begin to tell you how many women I work with on a weekly basis that are in the latter part of their career and have realized that their current profession does not fulfill them.  They are good at what they do but; they do not enjoy their work.  Surprisingly, some of these women are thankful that they have finally been laid off from the job that they never had the heart to leave.  All too often I hear those words: “I don’t think I know what I want to be when I grow up”. 
What I have found is that few people consider the right factors when making career decisions.  Most will make decisions about their career direction with 3 main factors in mind: money, ease of finding the position and whether or not the career is in a growing industry.  In reality, they have neglected to consider the most important factor: who they are.  Personality is something that develops very early on in life and studies show that it will never really change drastically beyond the age of 18-21.  Certainly, the salary and whether or not the position is in a growing industry are important but personality should always be considered first.  As we know, the medical industry is still thriving, there’s a wealth of opportunities and potential to make money.  However, what I know about myself tells me that no matter how much someone pays me or how in-demand those jobs are, I will never enjoy or be good at this profession.  I hate the sight of blood and hospitals scare me.  I can’t even watch a medical show on TV without cringing!  I also know that when I think about what I want to do with my career, I first have to examine who I am.   
Whether you are beginning a job search, considering a career change, attempting to choose the right educational program or trying to figure out what you what to be when you grow up, use the following tips to help determine your exciting new career direction.   
Make your passion part of your work – Each of us has something we are passionate about; the key is figuring out how you can incorporate that into your career.  Maybe you love animals and feel strongly about animal rights yet your college degree is in marketing.  Some easy career transitions or options could be doing community outreach or public relations for a local animal shelter or the Humane Society.  Maybe you love the arts and your degree is in finance.  Your experience and passion could translate into a job as a fundraiser for an arts foundation or even grant writing.  Infusing your passion into the environment and mission of what you do each day, can create a more fulfilling and successful career. 
Why am I here? – Have you ever found yourself sitting at your desk wondering why you are even doing what you are doing?  How did you get where you are today?  Sometimes life can move so quickly that we forget to regularly assess where we are going.  Take time every so often to make sure that you are getting as much out of your job as you are putting in and that the work environment is right for you.  Do you understand the importance of your position and what it means to your company?  Are you continuing to learn and grow in your current position?  Do you feel accomplished at the end of the day?  If you can’t satisfactorily answer these questions then it is likely that you are not receiving the career fulfillment you desire. 
There is a big difference between “CAN DO” and “WANT TO DO” – Most people confuse these two statements or even use them interchangeably.  However when it comes to your career they are vastly different.  Just because you can do something and even do it well does not mean that you want to or even enjoy doing it.  For example, you may be able to cook a great meal for a dinner party but does that mean you should be a chef?  When considering a career think about the day-to-day work tasks and skills required.  Perhaps make a list of things that you enjoy – if the majority of skills required are not on your “want to do” list then it is time to re-evaluate.  
Consider your past jobs – A previous job can be one of the best indicators of what your future work should be and what positions you should avoid.  Think back to any position you’ve had – whether an entry-level retail job that got you through school or your first professional position, then ask yourself the following questions: Which job did I love?  What did I get to do each day that was exciting or fulfilling?  What was I really good at?  When did I feel most accomplished?  Past experiences are the best things to learn from, so use work history to help direct you on your next career path.    
Keep your eye on the prize – Before you can effectively job search you must have a clear understanding of what position you will be seeking.  What is your ultimate goal?  Without direction it is easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of postings, companies and opportunities out there.  It will be difficult to effectively sell or package yourself on a resume without knowing how to “tailor” your skills and experience.  Before starting any job search, you must first determine where you want to be when it is all over.  Otherwise, you may get distracted and end up in a position or company that won’t get you to where you want to be professionally.
Get Feedback – Sometimes the best information can come from those who are on the outside looking in.  Ask your friends, co-workers, professors, supervisors, classmates, and family what they see as your strengths or even what they feel you might be good at.  They may see abilities or potential in you that you never noticed.    
The answer to the question of “what do I want to be when I grow up” can be difficult and most certainly can change over the course of your life.  If you ask yourself the important questions of “who am I and what makes me happy?” you too can find the career success and fulfillment you desire.   

Friday, August 17, 2012

Participation Nation : Highlighting an Inspirational Blog

by Dawn Antestenis, Fresh Start

Today we are highlighting Participation Nation, an inspirational NPR (National Public Radio) blog hosted by Linton Weeks and Tanya Ballard Brown.

Filled with a collection of stories about the good things Americans are doing to make their community a better place, this blog is well worth a read if you are looking for inspiration, a good story, and incredible examples of how we can all help our communities through getting more involved.

A great example of some of the work highlighted in the blog is the story of My Sister's Circle below:

Heather Harvison and the mentors of My Sister's Circle change girls' lives.

Heather's search 12 years ago for an opportunity to volunteer at a Baltimore elementary school resulted in the founding of My Sister's Circle, a mentoring group for girls from impoverished Baltimore neighborhoods.

In that time, the group has paired 120 girls entering middle school with women who commit seven years to mentoring them, and who truly bring these children into their own lives. More than 90 percent of our girls have gone to college, and this year, we celebrated the college graduations of two girls from our first group of fifth-graders. 

So why not check out Partcipation Nation and get inspired!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cash Reserves: Build it Up

By Renee Hanson, Private Wealth Advisor
As a general rule of thumb, your cash reserves — the amount you put aside in case of an emergency or a job loss — should equal six months of your living expenses. Having adequate cash reserves will not only give you greater financial stability if something goes wrong, it will also give you added peace of mind.
If you don’t have enough discretionary income to build up your cash reserves, you may have other opportunities to free up extra dollars. Here are a few ideas to consider:
·         Refinance your mortgage. With mortgage rates remaining at historically low levels, now may be a good time for you to refinance your home loan. If you qualify and can lock in at a lower interest rate, you can use the savings to build up your cash reserves. To determine if refinancing makes sense for your financial situation, use an online calculator or consult a reputable mortgage professional.
·         Set aside your raise or bonus. The next time you receive a salary increase or a bonus, don’t spend it. Save it. Put the additional dollars from your paycheck into a money market account until you’ve reached your savings goal. Afterward, consider investing those dollars in the market to help you save for retirement or other future goals.
·         Take the bus or carpool. If you typically make the daily commute alone in your own vehicle, price out the public transportation options in your area. Typically, public transportation is significantly less expensive than driving, fueling and maintaining your own vehicle. Or consider starting a carpool so that you can share expenses.
·         Review your federal income-tax withholding. Make sure that your federal withholding is appropriate for your income and family size. Having too much money withheld from every paycheck means that Uncle Sam gets to use your money throughout the year instead of you.
·         Shop around for lower insurance rates. The next time your auto and home insurance policies are up for renewal, shop around for better rates. The savings could be substantial, giving you another way to increase your cash reserves.

Renée A. Hanson, CFP®, CEP®, CDFA™, CFS, is a private wealth advisor with Hanson, Ayala & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Her passion is in helping women achieve their dreams and financial goals, regardless of life’s many obstacles. Renée is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of AZ, CA, CO, GA, IA, IL, MI, MN, MT, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, SC, TX, VA, WA, WI. Please visit: to learn more.

Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC. Some products and services may not be available in all jurisdictions or to all clients.

© 2011 Ameriprise Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Stress Busting Tips

by Dawn Antestenis, Fresh Start Women's Foundation
Stress can affect all of us, making day to day activities and demands harder to cope with.  We become more and more exhausted, tense and irritable and others can begin to find it hard to be around us. Feelings of being overwhelmed are common and at times it feels like we may never regain control. 
When we are feeling this way it is important to remind ourselves that stress is normal, and that everyone can feel stressed.  Think about the circumstances that are causing the stress and remember it is natural to be affected by big life events, overwhelming demands at work, or the day to day pressures of family.

Through accepting the reasons for feeling stressed it becomes easier to focus on steps to take to minimize your stress levels and to learn to cope with feeling stressed.

What works for each person is different but the list below is a great starting point when you are considering ways to minimize stress in your life:

Consider Small Changes

There may be some things that you cannot change about the circumstances that are causing you to feel stressed, but there may well be small changes you can make that will make a big impact for you.  If you are overwhelmed at work can you prioritize your workload, discuss time management, get support from your supervisor, work less hours?


Relaxation is an important part of relieving tense muscles and calming your mind.  Massage, deep breathing, and listening to the relaxing sounds of a waterfall while sitting quietly can all be helpful.  Try something today to help you relax. 

Take Time Out  For You

Try to take some time out of your busy day to do something just for you.  Treat yourself to something you enjoy!


Get Moving

Physical movement and exercise can boost your mood, self-esteem and body image, improve sleep and reduce reactions to stress.  Know yourself and don’t overdo it – start with a 10 minute walk around your neighborhood and see how you feel!

Get Some Sleep
If you are finding it hard to get a good nights sleep try sticking to a routine of going to sleep at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every day.  Avoid drinking a lot late at night, and spend some time ensuring your bed is comfortable and your room is not too hot, cold, or noisy.

Talk to someone about how your feeling - a good friend, your supervisor at work, family.  You may be surprised to discover that others are feeling the same way as you, and that those around you are there to support you.

Start a New Hobby

This can be a great way to get you out and about, get moving, and meet new people.  A new interest can also be a great distraction from how you are feeling and promotes a healthy work / life balance.

In Your Own Time

Try to pace yourself and tackle one thing at a time. Be realistic about what you expect of yourself. Learn to say ‘no’ to other people, some of the time at least. Set aside time for yourself to do what you enjoy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back To School Shopping : Top Tips to Save $

by Dawn Antestenis, Expert in Frugal Living at Fresh Start Women's Foundation

Back to School shopping is expensive – it’s official!

It is estimated that back to school shopping makes retailers $70 billion every year.

So what does that cost the average family?  It may be more than you think!

The National Retail Federation estimates that the average family will spend about $688 on School Supplies in 2012. While shoppers online will spend even more, averaging closer to $900 on school supplies for their children this year.

Thankfully there are some top tips that should help you save $ this year.

Tip 1:  Check what you already have against the List

We all dread that ever expanding list of essential school supplies and clothes required for our kids as they head back to school.  But maybe it isn’t as overwhelming as it first seems.  Start out by checking the list against what you already have.  Maybe a brand new calculator isn’t required.  With clothes a quick check through their closet may reveal clothes from last year that still fit and are in great shape.  Mix and match these with some new clothes and you’ve already saved $$$$.

Tip 2:  Chat with other parents

Everyone is in the same boat so have a chat with other parents to find out what deals they have already found and learn from their mistakes. 

Tip 3:  Avoid last minute shopping

It may be that you have no choice but if you can, avoid last minute shopping.  With high demand for supplies at this time of year it may be that when you get to the store items are out of stock and all the deals are gone.  If you are met by empty shelves on a last minute run to the stores then try online.

Tip 4:  Get Thrifty

It’s not just fashionable it’s sensible to get thrifty!  Garage sales, Goodwill, and kids resale boutiques are great resources for stocking up on clothes for the new school year.  If you have never checked out thrift stores for clothes trust me and visit your local kids resale boutique - you will be amazed at the quality and excellent condition of what you find there and you will save $$$$.

Tip 5:  Shop Year Round

If you can, always have a look out for excellent deals on supplies and clothes throughout the year.  This way you can make the most out of sales, coupons etc. at big stores like Staples and OfficeMax.  Also shopping year round spreads the cost and avoids a big bill at this time of year!

Good luck!

Monday, August 13, 2012

How to Deal With An Empty Nest

Dr Ellen Diana, Ph.D., Psychologist & Author of the Charge Up Your Life Series
 When your last child leaves the nest it’s a time for celebration, although it may not feel that way. Whether your child leaves for college, a job out of town, a home of their own, or marriage, each of these transitions is significant for you as well. Each one means that you have helped your child to acquire the skills to be independent. You are to be congratulated!

It’s emotionally wrenching, however, not to see the child you loved and cared for on a daily basis. It leaves a hole in your life that can be challenging to fill. Change can be energizing or stressful depending on how you deal with it. In the case of an empty nest, this change involves the loss of a role you played every day, being a hands-on mother. It’s tempting just to fill in the time and find new things to do; however, a major life change such as this requires more.  It’s necessary to, first, recognize that you are involved in a major life change, and then view this life change from three perspectives: the past, the present, and the future.

Review the past
•    Consider the changes that have come about in your life by being a parent.
•    How has this child changed you personally since coming into your life?
•    What did you give up to become a parent? How have you benefitted?
•    What will you miss about having this child in your daily life?
•    Allow yourself to mourn the loss of daily contact with this child. Remember.

Focus on the present
•    What are your fears? That you are no longer needed? That you have lost a major role in your life? Identify the stressors around this event and consider whether each one is accurate.
•    Take a status check on your life goals. What have you accomplished? What goals are left to pursue? Do you still want these goals? Have others taken their place?
•    Make a list of the projects you’ve put off but now have time for. This list could include small things like cleaning out your closets as well as taking a computer class, retraining for a change in career, or getting a makeover.
•    How can you celebrate this change in a very personal way? Decide on something very meaningful for you.
•    Communicate with your network of family, friends and colleagues. Seek emotional support.

Anticipate the future
•    Think positive by considering the Big Picture of this change. You’re moving into a new stage of your life where you have more time to focus on you. What will you do?
•    Recognize this change as an opportunity to nurture yourself Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, and Spiritually. Explore your options.
•    Plan how to enrich your other relationships. Plan regular get-togethers with friends. Find a new activity to enjoy with your spouse or rekindle interest in one you used to enjoy together.
•    Find ways to stay in touch with this child such as regular phone calls or emails if they are out of town or time together if they will be living nearby.

Working through these three steps can help you to gain clarity on how this change is affecting you. Reviewing the past in order to learn from it, as well as to celebrate it, can be enlightening since we often live our lives unconsciously, unaware of how small but significant changes are taking place every day of our lives. Focusing on the present helps you to become aware of your stock of resources and coping skills, as well as interests and goals. Planning for the future puts your life on a hopeful, positive course, which reduces fears and sadness. Recognize that this transition is a time to acquire new meaning in your life. Enjoy and celebrate the opportunities for growth and positive change.

About the Author:
Ellen Diana is a licensed psychologist, co-author of the Charge up Your Life Book Series and certified school psychologist with 30 years’ experience working with children, adults, couples, and families in schools and in private practice in Phoenix, Arizona. She has published a number of articles in scholarly journals on psychology and education, and co-authored five self-help books in the Charge Up Your Life series. Helping women to evolve into their best selves through personal growth and self-awareness is a passion of hers. Ellen raised three successful children as a single parent and so has special interests in mentoring other women in transition and helping parents to raise resilient children. Contact Ellen at or through her website

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Dressing for an Interview on a Hot Summer Day

By Diane McLelland, Our Resident Fashionista

 Summertime…ahhh! It’s hot, sticky, and humid. You’ve got an interview, and you’re expected to be on your absolute A-game, looking polished and professional. How then, do you avoid looking as though you just came through a car wash with the windows rolled down?

Here are some tips to try to help you look as fresh as a daisy for that all important interview!

Wear cotton blend fabrics if at all possible. I know…a suit is the best possible choice for an interview, and most suits are made of wool, polyester, or a blend that usually doesn’t offer superb breathability. Opt for a sleeveless blouse to wear under a blazer so that you can be sleeveless up until the time you enter the building. Carry your blazer, and slip it on prior to entering the building. A cotton blend sleeveless button down blouse would work nicely, just as a sleeveless dress by itself is acceptable, provided it is professional, and preferably a solid darker color. According to  “Moisture and heat are the perfect storm for fabrics like cotton, linen and silk. Look for separates with a touch of Lycra. Even if it's only 3 percent Lycra, it should keep the wrinkles at bay.” If you choose to wear a dress or skirt, hosiery is still a must (yes, even in the extreme heat!); stick to a neutral or ‘nude’ color that complements your own skin tone. You’re most likely going from an air-conditioned car or bus to an air-conditioned office, so the few moments you’ll be enduring hosiery shouldn’t be unbearable. It’s tempting to slip on those strappy sandals since summertime is upon us, but a professional look calls for pumps or a sling back pump. In my book, that’s as strappy as it gets! If you should find yourself interviewing for, say, a construction position, and the foreman asks that you dress a certain way for safety measures, by all means, abide by those instructions. You can still dress professionally, and yet project a polished image.

Keep make-up and colognes to a minimum. Try using a powder over your foundation (if you normally wear it); it will keep you looking fresh longer than a liquid by itself. A powder eye shadow and blush (use a lighter than normal touch) will work better in hot and humid climates; creams have a tendency to crease and don’t usually last as long. And, using a (neutral) lip liner with your lipstick or gloss helps to prevent lipstick from bleeding. You can even apply a bit of your foundation or concealer to your lips before applying lipstick to help keep lipstick and gloss on your lips. It really does help, but be sure to blend! Easy does it on colognes and fragrances; they can be an irritant to those who suffer from allergies and asthma.
Hair should be off your face. Long hair should be pulled back in a low ponytail or a neat bun, not only for a professional look, but also to avoid that ‘stringy’ look. A little hairspray helps to hold stray hairs in place during humid weather.

Leave your designer ‘It’ bag at home. Instead, carry a small solid colored (preferably black or navy) purse and a briefcase. The bags with large logos, hardware, and bling are fun, but do not impart a professional look. Or, a good idea is to bring a portfolio with room for your keys, essential IDs, and of course, your resume. You may not need to bring a purse at all. You’ll want to avoid fumbling with multiple straps and bags while you’re shaking hands with your potential new employer!

Avoid rushing. If driving, allow plenty of time to park (ensure, too, that you have change for meters if necessary), ride the elevator, and find the building or suite number, especially if you’re not familiar with the surroundings. And, remember to arrive at least 10 minutes early so that you’re not running, causing your face to flush, and your make-up to run. Tuck several tissues in your bag or briefcase to blot any perspiration. Don’t forget to bring along an umbrella- you don’t want your professional look to get ‘rained out’!

So, no matter what the temperature, walk in boldly with confidence, looking fresh as a daisy!

About the Author:
Diane has been called fashionista from a young age, acquiring her love of fashion after enrolling in Sears Charm School as a young girl. After earning her degree in fashion merchandising & business she gained experience by appearing in movies, commercials and magazine layouts. She also worked as a flight attendant for 15 years and wrote for a well-known travel publication. Diane currently works with students to provide career advisement and loves to act as a personal shopper on the weekends for her friends and family.