Doctoral Workspace: Creating Your Study Space

If you are determined to complete your doctorate, you are likely determined to make it work in whatever space you have, right? So, let’s hop to it and make it work for you, future doctor with that future doctoral workspace!

It is challenging, too, when you are an adult student and you are balancing life as a student with life as a spouse, parent, career person, and more.  This affects your space.  It may be that your office is also the kid’s playroom.  Sometimes, finances put us in that situation, but that does not mean that we cannot make the most of it, right?


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Keep in mind that unless you are wealthy beyond your wildest dreams, your space in your home is not necessarily ideal.  And, even if you are that wealthy, likely there is something else that is wrong with your life (as in, boredom?).  You see, life isn’t perfect and the sooner we realize that and how to look at our cup as half-full, the better off we will be in general.  But, then you can visit PositivePersistence.com for more articles on the positive thinking way of life ๐Ÿ™‚


Time for your workplace to inspire you! Ready?
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The Mindful Mindset

There are two key aspects that we want to focus on, in today’s discussion, when it comes to our doctoral workspace as a doctoral candidate (and beyond):

  1. Does it make us happy, content, and able to focus on what we need to get done?
  2. Are we able to do it with what we have, again, keeping focused on what is important (including family and finances)?

With those two questions at the back of our mind and yet in the forefront of our thinking, we can move forward with our strategies. From there, we can flesh out our plan for our cozy study area, keeping in mind that there is no reason that it cannot evolve as time, circumstances, and even money resources possibly change in the future.

Another aspect that may change, especially in light of today’s economy, is that many of us may find ourselves working from home and if not the entrepreneurial approach, it is possible that we bring work home with us. It is also possible that we take on additional contracts, in addition to our day job out of financial necessity or even out of boredom and need for activity. Then, there are the boards that may nominate us to participate, the volunteer work, the church or community involvement projects, and the list can go on from there. So, you see, this may not just be an educational expansion and place to study, it may become much more than that. But, in the interest of keeping it simple, we will start with that place to study… that doctoral workspace.




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Strategy 1:  Define Your Objectives

One of the best (and easiest) places to start is to define what your objectives are, or what the purpose is, for this study area. Likely, this will be easy because it probably relates to the idea of … studying.

There may be other purposes, as well. For example, if you are an entrepreneur there may be home office needs in addition to studying. There may be other aspects of a work-from-home type scenario like a combination sewing room for the wedding dress seamstress or a workshop for the part-time carpenter.

Granted, both of those scenarios, as well as the work-from-a-home-office scenario add a level of complication, especially when it is something other than an office approach (i.e. requiring a space for a sewing machine for the seamstress or a band saw for the carpenter or a keyboard or guitar stand for the musician … and the list goes on from there).


Be inspired! Yes, workspaces can help create that glow... ๐Ÿ™‚
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In spite of the potential for the complex, let’s keep it more simplified and stick with the objective of studying for our purposes in this article. But, as you can see, the process of addressing objectives (and purposes) is one that is important when it comes to planning an area, in this case, for the studying for your doctorate. It is also an important first step for many other endeavors in life (as anyone studying for their doctorate likely already knows and has probably written about in a research paper or two).

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Strategy 2a:  Identify the Creative Options (Like Time-Sharing Your Kids’ Playroom)

Maybe your space is limited but one of your rooms is not being used 24/7. I mean, not that we have to have a room be used 24/7 but if we look at our home as a sort of spatial distribution, we can assess whether or not it is being utilized.

Let’s say that your son or daughter goes to preschool every other day for six hours. Maybe you are working from home and need that six hours for your study (or work) time. It is especially helpful when your young child is off having fun. I mean, you have someone watching out for your child for safety and needs being met and he or she is likely having fun playing with his or her pals. And, it is quiet!

So, how about this? How about you use your child’s playroom for your office? I know. In this world of mine, mine, mine, that may seem foreign. I mean, isn’t that your child’s room? Or, is it? If you are wealthier than you deserve to be then yes, maybe you have a home where your child can have a playroom for every color of the rainbow. But, you are trying to do the best for your family. You and/or your spouse or partner are working on covering the bills (paying for that playroom!) and putting food on the table. It isn’t about entitlement and yet it is about ensuring that you are not studying for your biology test under the table with Fido while your kid’s playroom goes empty and unused (where it could be functioning as that doctoral workspace, at least for a moment or two).

I’m not suggesting you commandeer the playroom (unless that is what you desire to do) but rather, multi-task the room. There are many different ways to do that. You could get creative with the furniture, like a hideaway desk that can hide away from view when not in use. The type of furniture will depend on your son or daughter, as far as trust issues (not playing with daddy or mommy’s laptop) as well as safety issues (not having a monitor fall on your child). Likely, the more secure you can make things, both safety and security-wise, the better.

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Strategy 2b:  Build a Reward System Into the Mix (Like Logic Play or TV Time as a Reward)

Maybe, as a part of Strategy 2, you want to figure out a reward system. That could apply to you as well as the other person (or people) sharing the space. Maybe something like, if all of the studying is done, there is extra TV time. That could go for your child or mommy/daddy getting schoolwork done. And, that space? It could still be shared, like the person not doing the studying (i.e. benefitting from the reward) could watch from their favorite comfy chair with headphones. And, these positions could be swapped. BTW – it is amazing how much studying you can bribe yourself into getting done if it is your time for the fun chair and headphones!

I have this chair and love it! Not only is it a reward but a lot of studying gets done, comfortably, while sitting in it!
  • Ergonomic Design: Strong metal frame designed to help promote a comfortable seated position, keeping you comfy after long hours of game or work...   *Bullet quoted from amazon.
  • Multi-Function: Armrest and seat-height adjustable...   *Bullet quoted from amazon.
  • High-quality material...   *Bullet quoted from amazon.
  • Game and Office: Gtracing gaming chair is an ideal seat of choice for working, studying and gaming.   *Bullet quoted from amazon.


[amazonlargeimage1][amazonlargeimage2]Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) Wireless Headphones, Noise Cancelling, with Alexa voice control – Black. I have always been personally pleased with my Bose headphones and their speakers, too![amazonlargeimage3]


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Strategy 3:  Create Your Library or Writing Area in Another Place

I wish I had a picture of it but my grandfather, who had the largest private library in Canada at the time that he died, had the most creative methods of making something out of nothing when it came to studying. Yes, I probably inherited the studying “gene” from him and the “loving” gene from my other grandfather!

But, the picture I wished I had taken? He converted what used to be a window that led to the outside, to a bookcase. He then converted the outside patio to a closed-in study and built floor-to-ceiling bookshelves there, too. Since the patio was “outside” (originally), the floor-to-ceiling ended up being two-story. They were small stories, for the era when the house was built, but a huge library for that small house! What it taught me is that if you set your mind to it, you can create it, even a doctoral workspace and ongoing study space!

Fortunately, we do not have to be carpenters or architects (though that probably helps) and we can use stores like IKEA and Amazon to help us get furniture that will allow us to convert existing space into other uses, whether it is Strategy 2 with the shared space or converting a space like my grandfather did, or adding to a space, like the kitchen.

Oh, and I included the picture, above, with the interesting decorative taste and couch color, etc., on purpose. Why? I wanted to illustrate that not only can you let your creative juices flow when it comes to your doctoral workspace but that you can also work within the constraints that may be presented to you. So, even if it is the living room with the pink couch, you may still be able to carve out a space for your laptop and a pen and paper (do people still use those?). With so much available online, like research libraries and Kindle ebooks, and with so much available by way of laptops and iPads, etc., less space is needed for the desk and we can allow our creativity to drive (or float) our boat.

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Strategy 4:  Consider Extending Your Office to Include the Local Cafe

Another option is to take your laptop and maybe some textbooks and study at your local Cafe (i.e. Starbucks). Years ago (ok, decades ago) it used to be an oddity and you may have received looks. But, fortunately now it is somewhat normal behavior. Hopefully, with it being considered mainstream, you will have fewer people staring at you.

Granted, I wouldn’t necessarily take everything I owned with me. For example, I’d keep it simple and probably only take my laptop, headphones, my university textbooks on Kindle or online, but that is me, keeping it simple. Also, I don’t like to irritate the cafe owners by making it look like I am moving in and all for the “price” of a water.

Out of common courtesy, please consider paying for the equivalent in food/drink. You don’t want to irritate people, do you? Figure out the amount of time and try to compensate them accordingly in your order. For example, if you are going to occupy a table for six hours, realize that that is six hours that are not being used by another client who may have paid them. It isn’t a competition, but we may want to consider human decency.

Not wanting to spend the money on the coffee at the Cafe? Consider Strategies 2 and 3 and possibly use your kitchen and purchase your own Cappuccino maker for the reward at the kitchen table while you study. See, now you’re thinking!

[amazonlargeimage1][amazonlargeimage2]Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker, Silver[amazonlargeimage3]


No, I didn’t set out to include any Amazon links in this article but as I expounded on this topic, I couldn’t help but look around my own office and quite a bit of it was purchased at Amazon (or is it “on” Amazon?). So, I found those items that I have been using and wanted to share them with you, along with the positive and the negative (with hopes that you can avoid negative experiences, eh?). Obviously, I can’t make guarantees, but it helps if someone has tried it, right?

And, speaking of which, the Mr. Coffee Barista Cappuccino machine, above, is not something that I have tried but I have tried similar. And, I would be remiss if I didn’t share an honest assessment of those machines. In my experience, the machines that have fewer features last for years whereas the fancier machines may be more fun, but tend to last less than a year.

A couple of Sidebar thoughts for you… First, I have a series on small kitchen appliances on another site and maybe I can elaborate on some of these devices there. The series is still a work-in-progress, so stay tuned. ๐Ÿ™‚

The other idea relates directly to this whole fancy coffee thing. That is, that the following is the appliance that has been working wonderfully in my home office, for years, without issue. Again, I can’t make guarantees (I’m not the manufacturer, nor affiliated, and only a user and an Amazon affiliate) but I have had personal luck with this thing >>

[amazonlargeimage1][amazonlargeimage2]Keurig K15 Single Serve Compact K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker, Chili Red (Certified Refurbished)[amazonlargeimage3]


I know this one says “refurbished” and I don’t know what to tell you about that except that this is the model that I have been using and it is the one that has not broken and has served me well. In comparison, the fancy dancy ones break. Every last one of them, it seems. These more “mechanical” models (like the refurbished one shown above) seem to stand the test of time, only from my own personal experience. And, what do I mean by “mechanical?” That means the appliances that have more moving parts and less digital “fanciness” (i.e. touch screen functionality).

Strategy 5:  Incorporate Office Time at the Office (i.e. During Lunchbreaks)

I worked at this one place where they had this sort of undeveloped lounge. It was a room with a sort of counter area that was up against the window where you could look out at the lights of Los Angeles (beautiful sight! And, you can tell I was working late into the night, eh?). I say “undeveloped” because I think the room had a couple of tables and not much for lighting and that was about it. It was a part of the company’s leased area but it was as if no one knew about this room.

I say all this to say that that room worked well for studying during a lunch break at work. I had my own office and I loved my office but two things happened when I tried to study in my office, even during a designated break:

  1. I would become distracted and start working, which meant no studying; and
  2. Others would see me and no offense, but wouldn’t really care whether I was on break or not. As a result, they interrupted my studying – no blame, just stating what happens when you have a corporate office.

I suppose it depends on the company and the circumstances. I take that back. It most definitely depends on the company and/or circumstances. For example, I wonder if an hourly employee has an easier time of designating that a particular time slot is their time for studying. In contrast, as a salaried manager, it felt like all of my time belonged to the company. That designation was on me and not a blame thing for the company. But, as a result, it was difficult for me to separate myself from company duties long enough to study. That is where that little undeveloped room seemed to be handy.


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In contrast, at another place where I worked years before that, I had a desk and there was the common lunchroom. In the lunchroom, there was always the television running and I am not one who can concentrate on a doctoral research paper with a soap opera running in the background, so studying didn’t happen there, either.

And, another place with a television? There was one company that had a really comfortable lounge area for the lunch room. I tried to take my break a couple of hours after other people so I could go in there and study. Oh, I didn’t require others to be quiet or anything but it seemed that others had the idea of afternoon TV shows and would come in just after I laid out my laptop and books (yes, non-Kindle at that time). No problem and I could pack up and go back to work but it was as if I felt like I had to schedule days to use the lunchroom. And, what are you going to do, insist that others were not allowed to watch the television? Ok, so personally I would watch streaming on my laptop with my headphones but… The circumstances demonstrated that it was easier to just work until I was finished (salaried or not) and do the studying at home.

When it comes to studying while at the office, take advantage of opportunities that present themselves (like my undeveloped quiet room). Also, if there are not opportunities, realize that that is the way the cookie crumbles and do not become upset with yourself or others (i.e. the example of the soap opera marathon in the lunchroom). And, by all means, when I say take advantage I do not mean dishonestly but do realize a blessing when it comes your way (and realize when maybe there are none to be had at that moment).

Now Is the Time to Study (In Summary)

So, now we have some approaches and strategies that we can use to get that studying done. Some may apply to all circumstances, like the first one, with identifying the objectives. Others may be combined, like the multi-use and time-shared rooms with reward systems (for you and for family members). But, any way you cut it, realize that life changes. It marches onward and you have the world as your oyster, able to move with the flow and create the creative.

Now, off to that studying, eh? Seriously! ๐Ÿ™‚

Why DoctorateJourney.com and What is It All About Anyway?

Pursuing and accomplishing my Masters was like breathing. In comparison to the Doctorate, it was like rolling over, waking up for the day, and saying, “Oh, I have my Masters!”

So, you can imagine that if you are pursuing your Masters or have completed it and found it to be difficult, that it is likely that pursuing your doctorate will be that much more difficult.

Understanding our Strengths and Weaknesses

All of us have areas that are easy for us and other areas that are not so easy.

I find the pursuance of graduate degrees easy when it comes to writing the research papers. My husband says that he swore he would never marry anyone that intelligent and that it was irritating to others who had difficulty writing. I am trying to be more understanding of people like my husband.

 


 


Have you been a bit lost in your business (or personal life)? Fortunately, Deborah is an I/O Psychology Expert (soon to have her doctorate in the same field!).

So, with that in mind, go sign up for the no-obligation 15 min consultation to get the ball rolling today!

 


 

But, that doesn’t mean that this is as smooth as silk. No, the physical drain is immense and that is my personal challenge. I wouldn’t have thought that there could be a physical drain associated with a graduate degree, but there is. From what I have heard, there is a “hazing” attached to the pursuance of the doctorate and that those who survive it, whether it is mental, emotional, physical, or intellectual will deserve their doctorate and those who do not will not attain their doctorate.

So, DoctorateJourney.com was born. I imagine that others struggle as well. I don’t personally believe in the hazing approach… not for any degree. But, until we can change that part of education, I want to be helpful in any way that I can.

 


 


[bookninja_workbookDesignLab]

 


 

Maybe, I can help by sharing writing or research tips. This is not for the purpose of being condescending and highlighting differences in skills. Absolutely not!

DoctorateJourney.com is intended to say, “Hey, I understand that you may be feeling overwhelmed. You are not alone.” Then, secondarily, it is here to provide some help (hopefully).

So, if you are on that journey (or even if you are not), come join us as we travel it together! All are welcome!

 


 


You may also listen at Deborah E, Jazz Singer

 


 

Many of us who have had that label attached to us have received it somewhat reluctantly and the commonality is that we take in information, rather than blurting out information randomly (no offense).

And, it doesn’t matter if it is a living creature or even an inanimate object, like computers, servers, and technology. The same concept applies and it works generally the same way.



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So, whether it is a “Horse Whisperer” like the character of Amy that Amber Marshall plays on Heartland, or my case, with servers, it is a matter of taking in information in a caring manner and using that information to “treat your patient.”

It just happens to be that in my case, it is servers. But, I still listen to what it is that the servers are saying and use that to gently bring the servers back online. It has worked every time. I can literally say that I have had 100% success.



Have you been a bit lost in your business (or personal life)? Fortunately, Deborah is an I/O Psychology Expert (soon to have her doctorate in the same field!).

So, with that in mind, go sign up for the no-obligation 15 min consultation to get the ball rolling today!


But… there is no room for egotism or narcissistic attitudes. If you are only thinking of yourself and how you can show off being a “Whisperer,” it doesn’t work. Why? Because you are spending more time thinking of yourself and your own output rather than actually taking in the information that is needed in your situation.

That is why the label is generally something that is not sought and rather, bestowed because it is all about serving (no pun intended) rather than showing off for an audience.

Understanding Good Debt Versus Bad Debt

Did you realize that there was such a thing as “good debt?” Maybe you did and forgot or choose to set the thought aside. I mean, who wants to be in debt at all, right?

Well, there is such a thing as good debt and bad debt. It has a lot to do with the interest rate.


Did you know there is such a thing as good debt and bad debt? It has a lot to do with the interest rate.
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It is important to sit down and figure out these differences. Fortunately, we are here to help you with that task.

Non-consumer loans versus consumer loans.

First of all, it is the non-consumer loans that are defined as what would be good debt. However, in contrast, it is the consumer debts that are considered bad debt.

So, the next question is what would be defined as non-consumer loans and what would be defined as consumer debts?

Here are some characteristics of non-consumer loans, to help you identify them:

  • lower interest rates than their counterpart consumer debts;
  • collateral that has the opportunity to gain value, like a house (mortgage)
  • tax advantages of some sort (not required, but if it exists, that helps to define the type of debt).
Investment and Mortgage

Now that we have an idea of what would be a non-consumer debt, or a good debt, as in a house mortgage or land investment, etc., we can look at what a bad debt is.

Now, in contrast, here are some of the things that help to identify bad debt (consumer loans; debts):

  • high-interest rates
  • an absence of some sort of collateral or investment
  • no tax advantages of any sort

Now, looking at the lists, that helps us to be able to categorize whether a debt is a good debt or a bad debt.

Even with these definitions and differentiation, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t do something like using a high-interest credit card (bad debt) to invest in a property that is increasing in value (good debt). However, in that case, you need to be sure you put a plan in place to pay off the credit card (bad debt) and maybe even consider a loan that uses the land investment as collateral (good debt).

The Effects of Bad Debt on Good Debt

Keep in mind that if you are looking to make an investment (good debt), as an example, a lender may look to see how much bad debt you have. In fact, this is very likely. This will be compared to things like your credit score, your income, and therefore your ability to have money left over to pay the payments for the good debt after taking care of your bad debt every month.

This is the way the world goes around when it comes to debt and debt analysis. This is how decisions are made when it comes to future loans, etc. (good debt).

The Pitfall of Bad Debt

It is so easy to fall into the pit of bad debt. Getting a credit card and being able to go out and spend and spend is so tempting and many people fall into that pit.

There are also the cases where people get credit cards because they have lost their job or they are underemployed and they are looking to temporarily pay their bills. That may be nobler than spending on frivolous items, but it is still bad debt, unfortunately.

Now, let’s take a moment to look at good debt, in the context of bad debt. As we mentioned above, when attempting to obtain a loan for a house (good debt), that bad debt comes into play. It is unusual for people to have the cash on hand when it comes to a house or car loan and so that is why it is important to understand bad debt and how that may affect good debt.

It isn’t that one would recommend that someone have good debt, but it is recommended that you have investments that earn you more than what you pay and that generally involves good debt.




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Surprising Good Debts

Student loans are killers. These days, it is sometimes difficult to find a job that pays enough to pay off the student loan. But, student loans are considered good debt.

For example, one way to help differentiate between good debt and bad debt (beyond our lists above) is to ask yourself if it is debt owed to individual companies (like credit cards) or the government (like school loans).

Granted, it isn’t always the case (hence, not in our list), but it does help in differentiating between the two, in some of these surprising cases.

Surprising “Other Category”

Here is another surprising one for you.

If you are going for your good debt house mortgage and the banker is evaluating your situation and turns you down and you are not quite sure why, since you have been responsible with your bad debt credit cards, look again.

It may be that the banker is evaluating what is called your debt service ratio (DSR) and that is a calculation of the general household debt and how that compares to the total income that is coming into that same household.

Now, that doesn’t sound like bad debt (and it isn’t) and it doesn’t necessarily sound fair but look at it from the banker’s point of view…

If you are upside down, between your household bills, car payments, etc., he or she may not be able to quantify your ability to make a payment on a good debt.

So, good debt or not, it is something that needs to be managed or at least known about in the big picture, eh?

BTW – the DSR doesn’t take the good debt (like if you already have a mortgage payment) into consideration. Instead, that is handled by another ratio, called the financial obligations ratio (FOR)… Just FYI (for your information). ๐Ÿ™‚

Creating Your Household Budget

Consider Budgeting

Ok, you probably already do this… budget, that is.

Did you know that even a sort of mental concept of how much money you should spend where is considered a budget? So, you may be budgeting without even knowing it, with handling it in your brain.

If so, pat yourself on the back!

But, speaking from experience, it is easier to manage some of these fun things mentioned above, with a more defined, written-down, budget.

There is cool software out there that will help you do just that. Even though I love Quickbooks (for business and I use it often!) my favorite tool for budgeting the household is its sister product, Quicken.

[amazonlargeimage1][amazonlargeimage2]Quicken 2018 (Mac/PC)[amazonlargeimage3]

Software like Quicken walks you through the process to figure out how much you should spend on your food budget, utilities, mortgage, etc. It categorizes it for you so that when you spend money (and log it in the software) it will let you know how much of your budget you have left or if you have overspent.

Now, I’m not saying all this to try to sell the software. I am truly being honest with my personal experience. What helped me is that I set how much money I wanted (or needed) to spend in each category. I mean, it isn’t like you can change your utility bills, or can you? Then, Quicken would calculate automatically if I had budgeted so much that it was more than the income.

What were some options? I could use the heat less, to lower the gas bill (yes, I get cold even in California, in the winter months). If I budget well, I can allocate more money to bring down the credit card debt, helping to lower the bad debt.

See where I’m going with this?

You can do it, too. Even if you calculate it with a spreadsheet, you can figure out the percentages of money that can be spent where. Hopefully, you can even carve out some fun money ๐Ÿ™‚

Tips for a Journey Toward Financial Freedom

So, what is financial freedom?

That may be a personal definition. Well, really it is. To some people, it is paying off the mortgage on their house. I’m already there, owning the house 100%. So, my definition of financial freedom is a bit different than others.

Also, we are all human. Just because someone doesn’t have a mortgage or a car payment or two doesn’t mean that they don’t have other things on their list.

Maybe their perspective on financial freedom has to do with putting in a swimming pool (yes, been there and done that, too) or taking four world trip cruises per year.

So, what is the definition of financial freedom for you?



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Pay yourself first in every paycheck, if possible. For example, put money toward some sort of investment, which can even be an investment home.

It isn’t always possible to pay yourself first and that is ok. Our economy took a huge hit in 2008 and we are not entirely recovered. So, in this day and age, it is good if you can simply pay your mortgage or rent and also your utilities and minimum on the bad debt.

But, if you get a raise or a tax refund, think about the option to move forward. Also, use that budgeting software to see if you can eek out some money for an investment (or even savings).

If you eat one less Big Mac, do you have a couple of dollars to put toward moving yourself forward in savings or better yet, investment?

Also, if you find the type of investment that pays you back a percentage, you have a bit more income… See where we are going with that? Hmm… percolating…

Don’t forget to research some tax benefits that may be out there. For example, if you have kids, definitely look into the child tax credit and see if you qualify for earned income benefits on your taxes.

If you are able to put aside money in a savings account, you can use that money in case of an emergency instead of the credit card, raising the bad debt.

Also, that savings account may save you in the unfortunate and untimely event of a loss of income. If you have saved up enough, it may help you until you can return to the normal amount of income.

[amazonlargeimage1][amazonlargeimage2]First Time Investor: Grow and Protect Your Money (How To Invest)[amazonlargeimage3]

I was looking for this incredible book that I read twenty years ago. It changed my life. It was a bit disorganized and not well-known, but it didn’t matter. The content was life-changing, especially for me at the time.

I wasn’t able to find that book. (It helps if you remember the name of the book!) But, I found the Kindle book above for about $3 and some decent reviews. I think I’ll pick it up for myself!

Remember, it is better to purchase a lower-priced house than the higher-priced. You can often find your dream house in the financial range that will benefit you in the long run, with careful research.

What We Have Learned

Ok, we’ve done a lot of chatting about good debt, bad debt, tips, etc. Now, we need to ensure we understand it. And, after the understanding, apply it.

Tips for Understanding:

  1. Read this article again ๐Ÿ™‚
  2. Research on the internet.
  3. Read qualified books on the subject.
  4. Use qualified software to help you in your understanding and application.
  5. If you have the resources, consult a professional (be sure to check references, first).

Did you know? When talking about bad debt, like consumer debt, as in a credit card, you have an APR (annual percentage rate). Ok, you probably knew that. But, did you know that often times the rate is calculated by what level of risk the lender is taking in providing it to you, with an assumption that you may fail in paying it back to them? So, if you got a credit card easily, that is not a sign that you are in a good spot, financially. It just means that the lender calculated the risk.

Also, another thing… The interest on non-consumer, good debt, like a mortgage, is often tax-deductible, whereas bad debt interest is not.

Also, APR can run around 30%. That is 1/3 of what you are paying on your credit card and you keep paying it. By the time you are done, you have paid for the original item or service many times over and again and again.

A better rule of thumb is to only use the credit card for the amount that you could pay in cash. Try to pay it off before it incurs interest. For example, some lenders, like PayPal, offer six months without interest. That is the time period when you should pay off whatever you spend with that credit.

It is time to get a hold of your finances and move toward financial freedom. You can do it… one step at a time.



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Why ServerWhisperer.me?

Even though I understand hardware and the hardware aspect of networking (you know, setting up routers), I am a systems and software person.




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To date, there has not been a system problem that I have not solved. Even when serving as IT Manager, taking over for the CTO and still filling my former shoes, at a high profile financial company in Los Angeles (which will remain anonymous for now), there was not a server I could not fix. And, believe me, there were some serious “not well” older servers left in my care. When the Exchange server went down after a contractor misconfigured it, Microsoft Corporate said it was not salvageable and that all data was lost. There were no “how to” or tutorials online anywhere. But, I came up with a strategy that saved the server and all of the data.

Why was I successful? It is server whispering.

Ok, excuse me while I step away to be ill.

Seriously, I am not here to brag (even though it sounds like it) and I don’t like the term “whispering.” But, it fits…

Hence, this site. More later, eh?

Debt Reduction Begs Debt Understanding

There is actually a balance to debt. We don’t want to have too much debt, especially if it buries you and you are unable to pay back the money you owe. When you are unable to pay your debts, you are on the edge of buried in debt, if not already buried. We actually need to put a plan in order prior to that point but certainly at the time of being buried.

Life is not comfortable when we have reached the point of buried in debt

Buried in Debt

When you get to a point of being buried in debt, it is possible that your credit score is affected. The lowered credit score can affect your ability to make major purchases such as buying a home or even a car.

Keeping It Balanced

On the flip side, no credit is almost as bad as bad credit. So, it is important to at least have some debt.

It is important to understand how debt works and to have strategies in place. Ensure that you create debt (to raise your credit score) but always have money available to pay off that debt.

Also, if you are not in the position described, don’t beat yourself up, simply use the strategies below to dig your way out of the quandary you may find yourself in with debt.

While it is true that you need to have some debt, credit card debt is not the most optimal way to build credit. This is because you can actually use all of the available credit on your credit card (maxing the card) and then pay the minimum. For creditors, this does not prove that you are balanced when it comes to debt management.

Another sign of approaching being buried financially is when you start to have trouble paying your bills.

Ideally, you have your finances balanced to a point where you can survive (at least initially) if a job is lost or a medical or financial crisis hits.

It is very important to address your financial situation right away, with steady strategic methodology than hiding your head in the sand like an ostrich.

Another option is bankruptcy if you have become extremely buried in debt. If you have the experiences described above, like the job loss or medical situations, possibly bankruptcy is an option.

Don’t forget that you have the opportunity to rebuild your credit after you get yourself out of debt.

The process of managing your money will help you to build the self-discipline that is necessary to remain financially balanced. This also includes attempting to deter yourself away from the tempting loan and credit card offers that may come your way.

Sometimes debt collectors can really begin to harass you. While there may be a debt that is owed, there are laws protecting you in debt situations. You will want to ensure that you know these protective laws and your rights as a consumer.

For example, debt collectors cannot:

  • harass you or become abusive on the phone;
  • call you incessently;
  • call you at work or while you are sleeping in the middle of the night.

You do not have to tolerate behavior that violates your rights as a consumer.

Some steps that you can take, to protect yourself in this situation include the following:

  1. Ask for the debt information in writing (and save this in case you need it for court or arbitration);
  2. Ensure that you receive the written notice within five days and be sure to file it (and all written communications) where it is protected (i.e. from spilled coffee, etc.) and easy to retrieve;
  3. If there is any discrepancy in the written notice, challenge it within 30 days;
  4. Record any conversations you have with the collector and keep in mind that in some states you do not have to inform them that they are being recorded so be sure to research the law on that.

Also, keep any receipts of payments and record any activity (i.e. logging in a notebook or on the computer) so that you have access to it if needed. Send any mail by certified mail.

Keep the voicemails of any call messages left for you by the debt collector.

Keep in mind that your rights as a consumer also means that the collector cannot disclose your information to 3rd parties. They cannot misrepresent themselves as attorneys or representatives of law enforcement or credit buureaus. If they do threaten you and you are able to catch this in a recording, you can use this to your advantage in your efforts to protect your consumer rights.

They cannot attempt to use old-school tacts like threatening you with debtors’ prison (which no longer exists) or threatening to take your house or seize other assets. That type of forfeiture comes by way of banks, sheriffs, etc. and not the debt collector on the other end of the phone line (unless it really is the sheriff you are speaking to or it has something to do with liens on your house, etc., which is another discussion).

Attempt to negotiate with debt collectors. A little-known fact (to consumers) but known to those who work as collectors are that often there is a low-end rate at which they can negotiate. No matter how tough the collector sounds on the phone, be tough and go for that low end. They are usually happy to get something on the dollar rather than nothing, so negotiate!

If you think you are paying a little more than what you anticipated in the negotiation, attempt to get the collector to remove the unfortunate instance from your credit report, which often they are able to do. Or, negotiate to not add the instance to your credit report (affecting your credit score). Get the negotiated deal in writing and don’t forget to record the phone call if at all possible.

If you do find that you are financially buried, the first step is to identify what has you buried. Sometimes laying it out with a spreadsheet is a helpful way to handle it.

Understanding Debt

The first step we need to take is to attempt to understand debt and debt management.

National Debt Relief Statistics

It is helpful to search for the current national debt statistics. I’d include them here but they change and so checking to see what those statistics are is more helpful. Understanding those statistics helps you to put your situation in perspective.

Statistics is a favorite pastime of mine. As it relates to debt definition, in terms of statistics.

Debt Reduction Strategies

The following are some age-old common strategies for debt management as well as some unique or out-of-the-box strategies. You may want to use a combination of strategies or pick one (or two).

After understanding debt, understanding the strategies available to you is the next phase of the complete picture. This complete picture of understanding debt is your foundation for moving forward in financial freedom (eventually). Remember, nothing happens overnight, but a slow steady approach, sticking to your goals, will get you there.

Slow and Steady

Strategy 1: Debt Consolidation

Debt Consolidation is a phrase we often hear even before understanding what it is or how to accomplish it. It is not unusual, especially in an economics class in high school, to hear the term even before one has acquired anything that would require a type of debt reduction service.

Among options for debt reduction are things like debt consolidation loans and soliciting the help of debt reduction companies to help with things like strategizing those debt relief programs.

Strategy 2: Credit Card Strategies

There are many different strategies that can be put in place to help manage credit card debt. The following are some ideas for you.

Credit Card Debt

There are many people who need debt relief help, and that tends to pool around the area of credit card debt and the need for credit card debt reduction tips.

Strategy 3: Reduce Spending

Go through your budget and find ways to reduce how much money is spent.

Strategy 4: Debt Programs

insert here

Available Programs

There are programs available to assist with debt reduction. But, one should be cautious and ensure that they have done the due diligence to examine the program(s). I have always managed my own financial situation and that of my family (being that it is a personal area of expertise and experience). Because of that, I may know quite a bit about finances, but would not be in a position to recommend any specific programs. So, as an example, if one were considering Freedom Debt Relief, reviews would be in order. Using a Google search to accommodate the research is a great place to start.

Strategy 5: Income Generating Options




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Even within income-generating options, there are improvements that we can make in our skill set. For example, maybe we need to improve our marketing of our freelancing business, helping to ensure that our pages generate traffic and that we are easily found online.



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In Summary

In summary, we want to ensure that we are balanced in our debt, so that our credit score has the opportunity to improve. However, we don’t want to become buried, when it comes to debt. So, in summary, it is balance without becoming buried.

Financial Calculation of Child Support After a Divorce

When it comes to the financial end of things, child custody and child support are among the top topics that will be addressed during any divorce. Courts look out aggressively for the best interests of children and whether or not their needs will be met after the divorce. It’s a complex and emotional issue that has an enormous impact on the quality of life of the children. Ideally, both parents care very much about the well-being of their children and want the best arrangements for them after divorce. Divorce has a direct impact on the lives of children, just like it does in the lives of parents.

One of the first questions a person will likely ask themselves while going through a divorce is (1) How much child support they will be able to get, or (2) How much child support they will have to pay.

Even if you are the receiving party and you think you are the most selfless person and want an amicable divorce, you still have needs and if you are the one raising the child(ren) sometimes those needs are much more than expected, especially as children grow up and have needs that cost more.

The above question swings in both directions, depending on whether or not it’s coming from the non-custodial or custodial parent. An example of attorneys who look out for your needs includes the Tampa divorce attorneys who will ultimately advise either parent on what they believe payments should be in the case. And then those lawyers will go to court and argue before a judge, with a judge ultimately deciding if both parents can’t reach some kind of agreement about child support.

There are a lot of questions to ask during this phase of any divorce. For example, who has primary custody? Is it joint custody? What is the income of the custodial or non-custodial parent? In many states, the only thing that will matter is the income of the non-custodial parent. (Sad, because you are probably wondering how you are going to come up with things like monthly budget template and other financial tools just to pay the bills!)

So, in looking at this situation, we realize that the courts may be looking at the financial situation of the custodial parent. In some states, there is an income model that looks at the income of both parents and the number of children that are involved. In other states, the courts look at the percentage of income that should be shared among the number of children from the marriage.

Courts often have great discretion over how much child support is awarded after a divorce, so there is always the idea that you need a good lawyer to argue on your behalf when you go to court about this matter. And, there may be other financial planning issues with the divorce, like the splitting of the house and house assets. After all, the well-being of the children is what is ultimately most important in all of these matters, so it’s best to go into court with a qualified lawyer at your side who can fight for what matters for you and especially your children. That’s what it’s really all about with this situation, right?


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Even as news cycles usher in financial news that topples itself before it rolls off the page, bitcoin still has an air of mystery to those who were not classified as members of the group of early adopters. This is especially true within the context of holiday shopping and consumer interest. And yet, bitcoin is so much more than the sum of its parts or a simple definition involving consumer interest.

A deeper analysis provides an articulation similar to a qualitative methodology in a psychology research paper.  The qualitative methodology provides a description or definition of that which is studied, in this case encompassing the financial industry.

Starting with the Definitions Inherent in Bitcoin History

In order to properly understand all of the terminologies that fit into the broad category of cryptocurrency, there needs to be a trip back in history. Fortunately, it is a very short history and it shares commonalities with other facets of a shared industry.

Back when ATMs (automated teller machines) came on the banking scene, they were all the rage. Now a person was able to obtain cash during non-banking hours.  ATMs released the tethers that bound them to banks and long bank waiting lines. It did not take very long for ATMs to become commonplace and existing as if they had always been a part of the personal (and business) banking scene.

To some extent, it may be said that fintech began, even then, at the inception of the ATMs. Yet, the word, ‘fintech’ has its own history and evolution of definition. For more on fintech, read this interesting bit of fintech history.

Fintech, like it sounds, represents financial technology, at least to an extent. It would be similar to the way that a carpenter would view his tool belt or a concierge doctor would view his medical bag. Fintech represents the technological financial tools necessary (or at least desired) for managing a modern banking presence.

In its simplest form, fintech would involve using a computer, internet connection, and the ability to move money between accounts, even at different institutions. PayPal is representative of all that is modern in the area of fintech and yet there is more to be discovered than even what PayPal represents.

But, fintech is more than that, representing a required stage on which a cryptocurrency dance takes place.

Wealth Management and the Wealth Industry

Wealth management, as it sounds, is the management of wealth.  It isn’t as if the stockbrokers on Wall Street (or their counterparts in Century City, California) hang shingles that say “poverty management.”  As if predicting the future, the idea behind the management of wealth is also the growth of wealth.  In doing so, there is the investment portfolio, the stock market analysts, and whomever is found to do it best (resulting in the largest net worth and the most impressive wealth jumps).  Hollywood Hills joins with Beverly Hills to stare down the cocktail parties produced as a behest of the stock market directives of Wall Street.

While the wealth marches forward on both coasts of the United States and now around the globe, thanks to the inception of such wealth opportunities as cryptocurrency, there are the stodgy, proven methods of investment portfolios of the past.  There are also the bygone stories of the Great Depression and the not too far distant Madoff Madness.  The world was ready to listen, to partake in what might be new and might make a larger jump into super-wealthdom.

The culture was ready for it.  The culture was ready for something.

Weaving the Future into the Present

Explaining what bitcoin is, is almost as difficult as explaining ATM to those who lived in the 19th century.

A visualization of something like a blockchain might include a picture along the lines of an abacus laden DNA strand building upon itself, into the near and yet far off future.  The picture helps but does not define the bitcoin or blockchain.

Bitcoin is like virtual money, existing in the cloud as if it doesn’t exist and yet not existing to a point where it is used more and more in virtual transactions.  It is a contradiction and yet an intriguing mystery.  Bitcoin offers freedoms from the known.  It presents questions, as well.  Bitcoin lends itself to the mystique of the Swiss bank account concept.

The Simplicity of Two Aspects

Two aspects of definition that help to label the understanding of bitcoin in its simplicity are the following:

  1. Exchanging bitcoin demonstrates bitcoin value.  If no one accepts bitcoin as payment for products or services rendered, bitcoin has no value as virtual money.  Value is reverse-engineered.  It provides an algorithm that defines cryptocurrency value.
  2. The second part of this equation is the ability to assess how many bitcoin are in possession.  While bitcoin is anonymous and it is virtual money, it would be too easy (or too difficult) for people to make up an amount of bitcoin that is owned without some sort of proof that it is owned.  Even virtual money, unless it is on a game board, needs to have a backing that supports its existence or everyone on earth could make themselves billionaire bitcoin owners and there would be no value in any exchange.  This is where blockchain comes into the picture (again).
blockchain

The BlockChain Bank Statement

When opening the mail and specifically the bank statement, a consumer (or business owner) may desire to follow his or her banking activities line by line to see the incoming and outgoing money trails.  Similarly, there are the inroads and outroads, the incoming and outgoing of bitcoin.  Since it is cryptocurrency, involving a language of cryptography, it still requires some sort of proof, as mentioned above, of its existence and acquisitions and spending.  That is where blockchain enters in as a sort of bitcoin bank statement but in cryptographic terms.  It is proof of bitcoin acquisition and spending.  The blockchain is like the DNA strand of the bitcoin transaction chain.

Hitting the News As It Happens…

In the news, companies are helping to bring about the best of both worlds, that of the financial world that has evolved into something that is understood and managed and that of the new cryptocurrency that promises growth opportunities in wealth and wealth management.

Everyone has an opinion, including Cyril Fazel, in this Forbes guest article discussing the ICO 2.0 and history repeating itself, “dot com style.”  Keep in mind that history does repeat itself and even paper money has its gold-based counterpart.  So, with all of these new (and old) technologies, where do you see cryptocurrency going in the next year?  So, can you see what companies are doing when they attempt to bring some level of normalization, without destruction of what is new and exciting?  And, are you going to be a part of the next generation of cryptocurrency investors yourself?

The Business Continuity Plan is highly important for any business.

Basically, it is the plan that helps direct the steps that should be taken in cases of business disruption, which can be manmade (i.e. a riot) or natural (i.e. an earthquake).

Even in the cases of manmade or natural, it could be events that cause a disruption, but in a good way. For example, the CEO having a baby may be a disruptive even to the business, even though it is a very joyful event. Did you know that when that is the case (the example of a baby being born) that whatever plan takes place to cover the CEO who is away from the office having a baby, is the business continuity plan (BCP)? So, possibly the VP of the company takes over in that case. That means that the company had a BCP that covered the birth of the CEO’s baby. Yes, it is that simple (and that complicated).

How Complicated is the BCP?

It is great if the BCP is comprehensive, but it is expected to evolve with your business. At the very least, you should review your BCP annually, to ensure that it meets all of your business needs and that you are in a place where you can still carry it out, should that be needed.

Once a year, meet together with your board of directors (or consultants) and go through your BCP in a meeting. Identify any areas where there need to be changes made. If possible, you should test your BCP, in a “mock disaster,” but it can also be walked through virtually.

In a nutshell, you want a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) that describes the steps that need to be taken to return your business to a functioning level. ย So, you need to make a list of those items that epitomize the functioning of the business.

Deborah’s BCP “Cherry Pie” Example

Let’s say that you run a bakery that is known for their cherry pies. ย 

You are not limited to cherry pies, but that is what people think of when your brand is mentioned. If that is the case, cherry pies (and the continual process of producing them) is very important!

Question 1: What product or service is my company known for the most?

If you are known for one item, like cherry pies, it is likely that more damage is done to your business if that item is unavailable for a week or so than if a few other pastries are temporarily unavailable. Also, if that item becomes unavailable, it opens up an opportunity for the competition to take your place.

Question 2: What product or service could be taken over by my competitor if I didn’t offer it for a week?

Now, go through all of your products and/or services (online and offline) and figure out which ones are essential and which ones can be temporarily be removed from the list. ย You may want to create a third category of the “maybes.” Those are the products or services which should be included in the “absolutely” list (like the cherry pie) but could be sacrificed if required.

Question 3: What is needed in order to produce the “absolutely” items or services? What is needed in order to continue to produce those cherry pies during a business disruption?

In the case of the cherry pies, you may need the baker (or someone able to follow a recipe accurately) and an oven, to name the least. Granted, I don’t want to discredit the amount of expertise in making the perfect cherry pie, so more than likely there is much more to this list than meets the eye. The idea here is to list whatever is essential and try to remove as much as possible from your list without sacrificing your business.

Question 4: What steps, using the items I listed in Question 3, are needed in order to product or service the “Cherry Pie” list?

Write out the step-by-step process of accomplishing the goal of delivering those products and services (even including whom to call, what to say, etc.).

Completion of Deborah’s BCP Exercise

There, you did it! It was that easy!

Ideally, you have done this using a Word document, or something similar. Save it with a date code to the name of the file (don’t rely on the date of the file itself). Then, update your responses, as they change (or as things come to mind). You likely have two files. One is the exercise we went through in this post and the other is your BCP, which is actually the answer to question four ๐Ÿ™‚

So many times, when we are thinking about technology, social media, and modern day access to creative (and technological) innovations, we think of some of the common industries and their related businesses. In the case of this blog, it is often in the context of financial institutions.

As the “News Spotter” for this blog, I was in search of other industries and took a look at the region of Texas, and specifically the city of San Antonio. My objective was to choose a different industry than that which would be the first to come to mind and so I chose the liquor store industry, an industry that is not necessarily often covered in this context, but which deserves the deeper look, just like any other industry. This is especially true because it has different needs and requirements, and yet similarities to other industries. This is all the more reason to take that deeper look. And, that is what I do, as a part of my role as the News Spotter.


 

When it comes to running a liquor store, there is much more that one needs to worry about than just keeping the shelves stocked and occasionally obtaining, in this case, the liquor license San Antonio TX requires. Of course, this varies according to whatever city (or state) requirements surround the licensing of the liquor store and that is a very important step that needs to be followed and adhered to on an annual basis (or whatever the government requires).

Indeed, on top of these basic requirements to keep a business running, a business owner needs to ensure that he or she is securing their store and driving new business to that location.

Just like any other company, liquor store owners can benefit from using technology to their advantage. If the liquor store owner wants to improve their store (and success), then following these technology tips may be helpful for these liquor store owners.

This News Spotter is happy to slip into the role of technologist and social media expert to share these tips.

Use Cutting Edge Technology To Ensure the Store’s Safety

It’s a sad fact of life that liquor stores are frequent targets of burglars and thieves. This is why the right security measures are essential in this industry. Aside from an actual physical guard, a camera system is the best security measure for liquor stores. This enables the liquor store owner to visually document everything that occurs in their store.

There are other technology innovations that can help the owner to keep their store secure. For example, silent alarms that alert authorities in the event of a burglary can be life-saving should the business ever be targeted. Considering how far technology has come, it is critical that owners have these excellent security measures in place at their business locations.

Social Media For Promotion

Many liquor store owners do not put a lot of time and energy into promoting their business. This is a mistake, even if they are in a prime location. Using social media to promote their business can help to bring in new clientele and raise the visibility of their business in their local area, in this case, San Antonio.

All liquor store owners should operate Facebook and Twitter accounts where they promote specials, deals, and discounts. This is also a great way to talk directly to the consumers, which can help to positively influence the marketing efforts down the road.

Liquor store owners should definitely use technology to their advantage. Not only can one use technology to keep their business secure, but it can also be used (as in social media) to market their store and attract new customers. Liquor store owners would be wise to stay on top of new tech trends that could benefit them.