Author Archives: Andrew Dauphinee

About Andrew Dauphinee

Education and learning are passions of mine. Lifelong learning is a core part of who I am and I strive to pass that desire for information on to everyone I meet. As the Instruction and Outreach Librarian, it is my goal to provide quality, informative, and relevant programming to meet the diverse needs of our patrons. Please contact me regarding programming at adauphinee@njstatelib.org.

Autism NJ Resources and Services Program Recap

Thank you to Dr. Suzanne Buchanan, Executive Director of Autism NJ, for speaking about how Autism NJ serves the Autism community through a wide variety of ways and initiatives.  Founded in 1965, Autism NJ has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of those effected by Autism Spectrum Disorder, including children, parents, and caregivers.  Autism NJ is one of the leading Autism groups in the state leads the way to lifelong individualized services provided with skill and compassion.  New Jersey has the highest rate of Autism in the country, 1 in 34 children, which can be attributed to Autism NJ and other groups’ efforts to help professionals better identify and diagnosis children at younger ages.

Autism NJ aims to serve the greater Autism community through 4 service pillars:

  • Awareness
  • Information
  • Training
  • Public Policy

Autism NJ constantly collaborates with community groups such as libraries, religious organizations, and service organizations to spread the word about Autism as well as share resources and services available to those affected by the condition.  They offer a Helpline, 1-800-4AUTISM, which serves more than 2,000 people per year.  Additionally, their website, https://www.autismnj.org, provides a wealth of information.

One of the most impactful services they provide are referral lists for a wide variety of services, including legal and financial services, medical care, governmental services, and education-related services.  Additionally, they will work with parents and caregivers to identify the individual needs of someone with Autism to better identify the types of care and services that person needs.  For a membership fee, they will review IEPs (Individual Education Plans) to ensure that those plans are in accordance with federal, state, and local policies.

Autism NJ approaches their information sharing mission from the evidenced-based intervention perspective, which means that they will only recommend what has been proven effective for the greatest number of people with Autism.  While there are many claims circulating about causes and treatments for all aspects of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Autism NJ only focuses on those that are backed by sound science and substantiated results, ensuring that they are providing the best information for their constituents.

Autism NJ is constantly working with state lawmakers to ensure the needs of people diagnosed with Autism as well as their support structure are recognized and addressed through state law.  They have been influential in the passage of the Statewide Transition Plan, Medicaid Fee-for-Service, and increasing the insurance age cap from 21 to 26.  Autism NJ focuses is public policy initiatives in 4 areas:

  • Funding
  • Fee-for-Service Transition
  • Workforce Development
  • Severe Challenging Behavior.

If you would like more information about how Autism NJ can better serve you, someone you know, or your community, please visit their website, https://www.autismnj.org, or contact them at information@autismnj.org or 1-800-4AUTISM.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Autism-NJ-Resources-and-Services.pdf.

Interview Tips and Tricks Program Recap

The interview is the final stage to finally getting that new or dream job.  Your resume impressed, now it’s your chance to convince them that you are the best person for the job.  However, the interview process can be daunting and it’s important to be confident and well-spoken.  The following tips will help you build your interview skills and are applicable to any interview situation, from a preliminary phone interview to a formal panel interview.

First and foremost, it is important to prepare for your interview through a variety of ways.  You should have an understanding of your career goals so that you can effectively communicate them to others.  Also, be prepared to discuss everything in your resume and cover letter because you never know what questions will be asked of you.  Before the interview, look up some common interview questions and practice how you would answer.  Practicing your answers allows you to come up with appropriate responses and remain confident throughout the interview.  Check to make sure your social media presence is clean and appropriate as some employers may look to see what you are posting before deciding whether to extend an interview.  Avoid embarrassing or compromising pictures and stay away from public posts on controversial topics, such as politics or religion.

One of the most overlooked aspects of preparing for an interview is to research the company or organization.  By understanding more of the company’s values or goals, you can tailor your interview answer to align with them and find important information that you may want to ask about in the interview.  Look for mission statements, press releases, or strategic plans on their website or check out Glassdoor or LinkedIn for more information you can use to better inform your answers and career decisions.

Some of the most popular interview questions you should be familiar with are:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses
  • Where do you see yourself in ___ years
  • Tell me about a time when…

Being prepared to answer these questions with thoughtful and appropriate responses will set a positive tone for the interview process and demonstrate your confidence in your own abilities.  Let’s take a look at 2 methods to help us answer the different types of interview questions we may encounter.

The SHARP Method is designed to help you craft answers to more general or information questions, such as tell me about yourself or what are your strengths/weaknesses.   SHARP stands for:

S – Specific
H – Honest
A – Appropriate
R – Relevant
P – Positive

When asked about yourself, use the SHARP method to discuss your previous position(s) that are applicable to the field or career, talk about specific duties or accomplishments, and avoid negative critiques of former employers or supervisors.

For more situational questions that ask you how you handled a situation or need to elaborate on a specific outcome, use the SOAR Method.  SOAR stands for:

S – Situation
O – Obstacle
A – Action
R – Result

Clearly identifying each of these components in your response will demonstrate your ability to identify problems, weigh your options, and come to a reasonable solution to the obstacle.  These questions are designed to test your critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and are a great way to bring in experiences from other jobs that may not be related to the career or job your are currently in or applying for.  There are no “right” answers to these questions, so use positive examples from your past that highlight your qualifications.

It is important to point out that there are questions that employers are NOT allowed to ask you.  These relate to:

  • Martial status
  • Race, religion, national origin
  • Sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation
  • Disability or pregnancy
  • Current or previous salary/benefits (NJ specific)

If an interviewer attempts to ask you any of these questions, politely decline to answer and shift the focus back onto the job and your qualifications as a candidate.  Additionally, you should not ask about salary in the interview unless it is disclosed by the interviewer.  If you wish to know the salary of a position, you can inquire with the HR department, which may disclose that information, or check Glassdoor, through which current and former employees may post their salary and other useful information about the employer.

To obtain a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Interview-Tips-and-Tricks.pdf.

 

Planning for Retirement Program Recap

One of the biggest financial considerations for anyone is retirement.  When do I retire? How much money will I need?  Where should I put my money?  These are some common questions as it relates to retirement, but you don’t need to be a financial expert to start planning.  Britany Enelow, Financial Advisor from the Credit Union of New Jersey shared the following information to help you on the pathway to retirement.

First and foremost, there are some broad considerations regarding retirement you should think about.  What does retirement look like for you?  When are you going to start retirement and how long will it last?  What sources of income do you need in order to live comfortably in retirement?  By having a clearer picture of what you want your retirement to be, including where you are going to live, you will have a better understanding of how you should start preparing financially for retirement.

Once you have a picture of our retirement, you need to start building a retirement strategy.  When determining how you are going to prepare for retirement, you should plan to have enough funds to last 20-30 years while in retirement.  The assets in your portfolio should be spread out between Growth, Access, and Predicable Income:

  • Growth – assets that continue to grow while in retirement, such as stocks.  Goal is ensure that your money outpaces inflation.
  • Access – liquid money that you can use immediately for emergencies or unexpected expenses, such as a savings account
  • Predictable Income – used to cover necessary expenses, regardless of how the market is doing, such as Social Security, Pension, Annuity, part-time employment

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual expenditures for persons aged 65 and older are:

  • Housing and utilities – 34%
  • Transportation – 15%
  • Health Care – 15%
  • Food – 13%
  • Entertainment – 5%
  • Other – 18%

By preparing a budget using the assets in your portfolio, as well as your current expenditures, you can more definitely determine how much money you would need in retirement to survive.  This includes determining the sources of income that you will rely on to meet those expenditures.  Possible sources of income include Social Security, 401k, IRA, investments, pensions, or deferred compensation.  Once you identify all of your income sources, organize them into Predictable and Variable incomes to better determine how much money you will have easily accessible to pay for your necessary expenses as well as plan for non-essential costs that add to your quality of life.  Use the 4-Box Strategy, shown below, to better visual your incomes and expenses and determine what works best for you.

Once you have done all the planning, its time to start building your Nest Egg.  As you approach retirement, your asset allocation should become more conservative, relying less on stocks and high-risk ventures and more one safer options, such as bonds.  In an ideal world, you want your Nest Egg to be 15x your annual income.  The reason for such a high number is to ensure that your annual growth from the investment, about 5%, will equal 75% of your pre-retirement salary, which should be enough to pay for your necessary expenses.  For example, for someone making $75,000 a year, their Nest Egg should be around $1.125 million.  5% of that Nest Egg equals $56,250, which is equal to 75% of their $75,000 annual income.  This will help insure that you will not run out of money in retirement and allow you to have some monetary legacy to pass on after your death.

Unfortunately, retirement planning and funding are not without risk.  With modern medicine, people are living longer which means that you might outlive your retirement funding.  Therefore, it is critical to plan for at least 20 years of retirement when determining how much money you will need.  Another risk is inflation, which means that the money you have today will not be worth the same amount in the future.  Therefore, it is important to have some of your money in growth-focused assets to ensure that your money keeps up or outpaces inflation.  Healthcare expenses are rising quickly and can easily consume a majority, if not all of your retirement spending.  For example, the median yearly cost for a home health aid is about $50,000; it is higher if you live in NJ.  Lastly, withdrawing money too soon or too often can have a devastating impact on your future finances, which you may never be able to recover from.

For more information on retirement planning or investing, please contact Britany Enelow at benelow@cunj.org or 609-538-4061 ext. 2056.  For a copy of the handout, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Planning-for-Retirement.pdf.

 

Persist and Prevail: African American Family Achievements Program Recap

Thank you to Muriel Roberts and Barbara Polk Riley for sharing their family histories in honor of National Family History Month.  African American lineages can be difficult to trace further than a few generations and thanks to Muriel and Barbara, there are some tricks that may help people when searching for ancestors who were or came from former slaves.

A unique aspect to both of their families was the propensity to refer to people, especially males, by their middle names.  As a result, they ran into many roadblocks by searching for their ancestors, thinking that the name relatives called them was their first name when actually it was their middle name.  Oftentimes, names can be confirmed by checking vital records (birth, marriage, and death), which is why it is so important to obtain these documents when starting research on any ancestor.  They can confirm or reveal important information that can be used to identify other relatives, locations, and time periods with certainty.

Muriel Roberts was able to find a wealth of information through a little known source, the Works Progress Administration’s Slave Narratives, published between 1936-1938.  During the Great Depression, the Roosevelt Administration commissioned writers to produce books and documents on a wide variety of topics, one of which was to record interviews of former slaves.  Comprising of roughly 3,500 interviews, the Slave Narratives can provide a wealth of first-hand knowledge that can greatly influence one’s research into their African American lineage.  While the interviews were only 1-2 pages long, they contain important information such as names, both family and owners, locations, including during and after slavery, and occupations.  These narratives can be a major breakthrough and a hidden treasure trove for anyone researching slave ancestry.

It is also important to consider DNA testing when dealing with African American ancestry.  In some cases, a person’s ancestors may have been the offspring of a white owner and African slave.  This may be revealed through matches in a person’s DNA which can lead to more avenues for one to look, including wills that may confirm the presence of a slave ancestor.

Anyone who can prove ancestry to a slave can join the lineage society of the Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage.  As a lineage society, there are stringent requirements regarding what documents are needed to prove direct ancestry, but the society has many resources available to its members that can help further along genealogical research.

Picturing Your Research: Finding, Procuring, and Preserving Images

There is an old saying that pictures are worth a thousand words.  While this may be up for debate, what is true is that a photo is worth nothing if it is destroyed.  Many of us have family photos that we consider precious and want to pass down, but we must first preserve those images.  Michelle Novak, a professional genealogist, shared some of her secrets for not only preserving family photos, but also ways to find and procure photos that have genealogical relevance.

Photos bring life and reality to one’s genealogy.  They not only show us how an individual or location appeared at a given period of time, but also tell us more about the life they lived.  Most of the time, photos are passed down within the family, but there are other sources from which one can find personal or relevant photos to augment one’s collection or inform their research.  National repositories such as the Library of Congress, National Archives II, or Historic Aerials as great places to check, as well as local organizations such as the NJ State Archives or local historical societies.  While they may not have named individuals associated with a picture, they may have location-specific pictures that can include former properties, places of employment, or public gatherings in which a family member may appear.  Additionally, photo sharing sites such as FamilySearch or Facebook Groups are a great way to exchange photos that extended family or unknown familial connections may have.

Before we discuss how to preserve images, it is important to point out that all photos are copyrighted material.  The copyright holder of a photograph is the individual who took the picture, not the subject of the photograph.  According to U.S. copyright law, a photograph becomes public domain 70 years after the death of the copyright holder.  However, this only applies if you plan on using the images for any commercial or reproduction purposes, which includes sharing it on public sites such as Facebook.  Additionally, it is important to think about the wishes of the subject/subjects of the photograph before sharing it; is this something that they would want others to see?  One tool to help track down the origin of an image, such as one that was used as a feature image on a genealogy blog, is Google Reverse Image Search.  You can upload the file and Google will attempt to track down all of the sources where the image is found online.

So now that we have all of our photographs, how do we keep them safe?  First and foremost, all photographs will age and degrade, regardless of how we store them or try to preserve them.  However, limiting their exposure to light and storing them in archival sleeves will certainly help slow any degradation.  Sleeves that have a PAT Passed designation are certified to be of the highest archival quality.  Additionally, storing certain photos in a freezer will help slow down any degradation.

The easiest and best way to “preserve” a photograph is to make a digital scan.  Scanners are considerably cheaper than 10 years ago and have such high resolution capabilities that you can make very good copies of your photos.  Additionally, scanning photographs will allow you to enlarge small photographs to see in greater detail.  Standard flatbed scanners are the best when dealing with photographs and you should avoid All-in-One machines as their scanning software and capabilities are much worse when dealing with the details of a photograph.  Michelle’s mantra is “do it once and do it well”, which means scan your photographs using the highest resolution you can.  The minimum recommended resolution is 600 ppi (pixels per inch), with most modern scanners being able to capture images in 2,400 or 3,600 ppi.  Additionally, you can purchase flatbed scanners that will also create positive images of slides and negatives.

Once you have your photos scanned, it is important to come up with a file-naming convention that will allow you to easily identify any photograph.  Having a photo named grandma.jpg tells you very little about the photo; please see page 5 of the handout for examples of how to name your files in more detail.  Also, you can use photo-editing programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, to extend the canvas of the photo to include important information, including image location, date, subject of the photo, or whatever else you feel is important to know about the image.

For more information about finding and preserving your photos, please take a look at the handout, https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Picturing-Your-Research.pdf, or contact Michelle Novak at mnovakdesign@me.com.

Investment Basics Program Recap

Thank you to Britany Enelow, Financial Advisor from the Credit Union of New Jersey, for discussing the basics of investing from which anyone can start planning for their future.  While all investing carries some risk for the potential of some or all loss of money, being able to understand the different investment types, will help you to minimize your risks and work more effectively with a financial advisor.

So why should you invest?  Investing allows you to grow your money to meet your financial goals, such as retirement or college.  Money has purchasing power, both actual and potential.  Investing allows you to potentially increase the potential purchasing power by growing a set amount of money into more money that hopefully surprises the rate of inflation, netting you more actual purchasing power in the future.

Before investing, it is important to determine what your financial goals are and what your risk tolerance is.  All investing comes with some amount of risk so being able to determine how aggressive you want to be with your money will determine how you should invest it.  Generally, as we get older, we become more conservative in our risk tolerance because it becomes more difficult to replace any lost money.  This transition will affect your portfolio and the makeup of your investments.  It is also important to diversify your investments to help mitigate any potential losses.  By putting your money in a variety of investment types, you are better able to withstand market fluctuations and rebound quicker from downturns in the economy.

There are many different investments you can put your money into and each one will have a different level of risk as well as return.  Generally, the greater the return, the higher the risk so it is important to understand the different investment types on how they can best serve your financial goals.

One of the most popular investment choices are stocks.  When you buy stocks, you are buying into some ownership of that company.  When the company does well, you do well, but the reverse is true.  Stocks tend to have higher returns, thus more risk.  However, over the long-term, stocks tend to provide a positive return on your investment.  There are different types of stocks:

  • Income stocks – these stocks pay dividends to their shareholders and tend to be in less volatile industries, such as energy, finance, and natural resources.
  • Growth stocks – these stocks tend to invest all of their profits back into the business so you are relying on the success of the company to deliver a higher stock price which you can then sell to make money.  These stocks tend to have a higher risk than income stocks.
  • Value stocks – these stocks tend to be undervalued by the market even though the company’s performance may indicate otherwise.  These are bought low and then sold when the market positively adjusts to the success of the company.

Another type of investment are bonds.  Bonds are issued by a company or government entity to raise money for a project or activity.  When you buy a bond, you are essentially becoming a creditor to the bond issuer and they promise to may you interest on your bond for the life of the loan.  Generally, there is a minimum amount you must commit in order to purchase a bond.  These are generally safer than stocks because the borrowing entity agrees to pay back the amount with interest, but also have lower rates of return.  There are different types of bonds:

  • Corporate bond – issued by private and public corporations and generally issued in blocks of $1,000.  You are paid interest as the bond matures.  If the company declares bankruptcy, bondholder claims may be given preference over other creditors.
  • Municipal bond – issued by state, city, or other local governmental entity, but you do not receive any interest payments until the bond has matured.  However, oftentimes the interest earned is exempt from federal, state, and local taxes.
  • Treasury bond – issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury on behalf of the federal government.  These are generally seen as risk-free, but often have the lowest yield of any bonds.

Mutual funds are a great way to diversify your money within a single investment.  When you invest in a mutual fund, your money is pooled with other investors that is managed by a professional money manager who will charge of fee for managing that fund, generally 1%.  Each mutual fund has a stated purpose and goal, which the money manager is required to follow.  These funds can be spread out across one or more investment types, essentially trying to hedge as many bets as possible to maximize returns while mitigating risk.  However, depending on the fees, they may lower or eliminate your rate of return and if other investors in the fund decide to sell and pull their money out, the entire fund will suffer, including yourself.

When investing, please remember DAD:

  • D – Determine your financial goals and risk tolerance
  • A – Allocate your money to best meet those goals and in your risk comfort zone
  • D – Diversify your assets to help mitigate the risks inherent is all forms of investments

If you have any questions, please reach out to Britany Eneloy at 609-538-4061 ext. 2056 or benelow@cunj.org  For a copy of the handout, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Investment-Basics.pdf.

Using Online Polish Archives for Genealogical Research Program Recap

Researching Polish ancestry can be a difficult endeavor that requires patience and knowing where to look.  Dr. Elana Broch, Assistant Population Research Librarian and amateur genealogist, has done years of research on her Polish lineage, even visiting Poland to try and find primary documents to answer her family history.

One of the most important things to recognize about Polish ancestry is Polish history.  Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Poland as a country often did not exist.  Parts were under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ukraine, Germany, and Russia.  Therefore, depending on the time period, document languages and location names may have changed depending on who was in power.  Additionally, if you are looking for Jewish ancestry, family and town names may be Jewish or Yiddish, adding yet another layer to deciphering someone’s lineage.  JewishGen has a wonderful Communities Database that is worth looking at even if you did not have Jewish Ancestry.  The database maps the location names over time so you can better understand where records may be and in what languages.  Additionally, Poland was a crossroads of conflict in World War 1 and 2 so many records were destroyed, leaving gaps in civil registration collections and vital records.

On the bright side, the Mormon Church, responsible for Ancestry.com (subscription) and FamilySearch (free) have digitized countless Polish related records during their mission trips so some (but not all) records are available through those sites.  It is highly recommended to check Ancestry and FamilySearch first to see what information and records you can find on your Polish ancestors before moving forward.  The best place to find information would be the United States and specific state censuses, which during the later half of the 19th century and forward, list places of birth and all of the names within a household, rather than just the head of household.  This information can be critical in tracing a relative back in Poland, but remember, that if the place of birth was listed as Russia or Germany, they may have actually been living within the borders of present-day Poland.

If you have exhausted these resources and are looking to find records in Poland, be aware that there are multiple archival institutions and locations, depending on what you are looking to find.  Also, you will need to write to the specific archive or employ a professional genealogist in Poland to obtain the records as a vast majority of their records (outside of those digitized on Ancestry.com or FamilySearch) are not digitized.  The Central Archives of Historical Records (AGAD), are the official repository for materials that are no longer under Polish privacy restrictions.  This includes birth records that are over 100 years old and marriage and death records over 80 years old.  Additionally, the AGAD contains information from Ukraine.  The Civil Registry Office (Urząd Stanu Cywilnego) contains vital records that are still protected under their privacy laws.  There are many regional archives where most records are currently housed, which is why it is critical to determine the location an ancestor lived to accurately determine which region or district archives to contact.  Lastly, there are local parish or archdiocesan archives that will contain important genealogical records such as baptism and marriage records.

The Polish Archives does have a searchable website that comprises of 4 different databases, however all of the information is in Polish, which means you will need to use a translation service such as Google Translate or a browser extension that can translate the page for you.  While some of the filters and headings are in English, all of the collection titles, descriptions, and notes are all in Polish.

It is highly recommended to check out the FamilySearch Wiki on Poland Genealogy to help determine what records to look for and where to find those records.  For more information on the presentation or help with Polish genealogy, please contact Elana Broch at ebroch@princeton.edu.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/assets/PolishArchivesPresentation.pdf.

Lifelong Financial Education Program Recap

Our financial situations are constantly changing, whether we get a new job or raise, pay off a debt, or adjust how much we are putting away in savings.  Additionally, the financial environment, such as interest rates or stock values are constantly in flux.  As a result, it is important to continually evaluate and manage our finances.  Dayana Moya from Lifelong Investments LLC shared information and tips related to 3 important areas of personal finances: cash flow management, investment strategies, and life insurance.

Cash flow management takes a look at your entire financial picture to help you better understand where your money is coming from and invested so you can make sound financial decisions, such as monthly payments for a car or mortgage or how to save your money, such as a savings account, bonds, or stocks.  The Financial Formula provides a visual guide to different places money can be stored or taken from in terms of risk vs. potential returns.  Cash alternatives like CDs or savings accounts are at the bottom because they have very little risk but also very little potential return.  Determining where you are comfortable putting your money will determine what type of future incomes you can expect, helping you better understand your current and future financial situation.

Additionally, everyone should have some amount of money put away in savings, which can be as simple as putting away $20 a paycheck into a separate account.  It is recommended you have enough in your savings to replace 3-6 months of income, a portion for emergency situations such as unexpected medical bills, and any planned expenses such as a vacation or a down payment on a car.  By continuously evaluating your finances, you can better estimate how much money you should have saved and use any extra to contribute to a retirement account or life insurance premiums.

Investing can be very complicated and it is going to be different for every person based on their financial goals as well as their risk tolerance.  Below are 5 smart investment strategies to consider:

  1. Don’t time the market – In an ideal world, everyone would buy stocks when the price is low and sell when it is high,  but more often than not, people do the opposite as they try to figure out where the market is going.  It is very difficult to predict what will happen in the market so do not rush into decisions to try and make a quick buck.
  2. Asset Allocation – 91.5% of financial performance rests with asset allocation.  By strategically placing your money in different assets, you can better ensure profitable investments and insulate yourself from financial losses during financial crises.
  3. Investment Selection – It is important when selecting investments to look at the long-term performance for all options you are considering.  Depending on the year, some investments (stocks, bonds, cash alternatives) may perform better, but not as well as others over the long term.  By focusing on long-term performance and calculations, you can better determine which investments will bring you the best returns with the right amount of risk.
  4. Dollar-Cost Averaging – It is important to track your investments over time to determine if you are making money, especially in relation to stocks.  If you buy a stock over a certain period and the price rises, you will own less shares, but the average price per share will be greater than the average cost you spent on each share.  The opposite is true if the price falls, even slightly so averaging the dollar-cost will help you better understand when to sell in order to ensure you do not loose any money.
  5. Rebalance Your Portfolio – Essentially, you are repeating strategies 2 – 4 at regular intervals to ensure that your money is being allocated effectively with the maximum amount of return.  Whether it is your investments or your personal budget, it is important to reevaluate your financial situation to make sure you are in a comfortable place and are able to achieve your goals.

Life insurance is often thought of as an obligation, but in reality, it can be an opportunity to provide your loved ones with financial security, at a financial advantage.  First and foremost, you should conduct a Detailed Needs Analysis to determine the benefit payout of a policy.  By assessing and quantifying your short and long term financial needs and obligations and deducting any liquid assets, you can figure out how much money would be needed for financial security after your passing.  This will help you determine what type of life insurance would be best for your unique situation.

Term life insurance has a designated time-frame, 10 years for example, in which any benefit will be paid out.  Generally, the premiums are lower and the benefit payout is less than permanent life insurance.  There are different types of permanent life insurance, all remain in effect until your deaths as long as the premiums are paid:

  • Whole – The policy has a cash value from which you can withdraw that is tax-deferred
  • Universal – Allows for flexible premiums which creates adjustable benefits based off those premiums.  This still has a cash value that is tax-deferred
  • Variable – Allows for flexible premiums and additionally premiums above a set minimum can be designated into investment subaccounts.  The benefits, however, are variable.

If you have any questions on the information covered in the presentation, please contact Dayana Moya at 973-317-2831 or dayana@lifelonginvestments.com.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/assets/LifelongFinacialEducation.pdf.  For a copy of the handouts, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Lifelong-Financial-Education-Handout.pdf.

Financial Aid Information Session Program Recap

Thank you to Samantha Benson from the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) for her presentation on essential financial aid information for students and parents as they prepare for college.  Paying for college, especially the financial aid process, can be a complex and daunting aspect of the college admission process.  However, Samantha broke down many aspects of the different sources of funding as well as the process to apply for aid into manageable and easily digestible nuggets of information.

Sources of financial aid include the federal government, state of New Jersey, the individual college or university, or other outside organizations such as churches or community organizations.  Any of these sources may make available one of more of the following types of financial aid – grants (free money), scholarships (free money), loans (must be repaid, often with interest), or employment opportunities.

At the federal level, there are grants and loans available to students and their parents.  Pell, SEOG, and TEACH grants are available in differing amounts and are generally awarded based on need.  The federal government also provides all students with loan options, called the Federal Direct Loan Program.  Split between subsidized (no interest accrual while in school and need based) and unsubsidized, undergraduate students can borrow up to a specified maximum amount each year, which increases based on your current year in school.  The maximum for a freshman student is $3,500 subsidized and $2,000 unsubsidized. Graduate students can borrow up to and exceed the entire cost of a school years expenses.  Interest rates will change from year to year, but the current interest rate for 2019 is 4.53% and a 1.062% origination fee.

The state offers a wide variety of grants, scholarships and loans, most of which are administered by HESAA.  TAG is a need-based grant for NJ residents who attend an institution in New Jersey and are enrolled full-time in a qualifying degree program.  Additionally, there is a part-time TAG grant that is specifically for students enrolled in a community college.  There is also the Educational Opportunity Fund that is designed for educationally and economically disadvantaged students as well as the Governor’s Urban Scholarship, designed for disadvantaged students living in 1 of 13 designated areas and attending an institution in New Jersey.

The NJ STARS scholarship is designed for students who ranked in the top 15% of their high school class and are attending community college full time.  NJ STARS II is designed for those students in NJ STARS who move on to a 4-year state or private institution in New Jersey as a full-time student and have a family taxable income of less than $250,000.  Another state scholarship is NJ GIVS, specifically for women and minorities who enroll in a community college or technical school while pursuing a certificate or degree in a construction-related field.  Lastly, the Community College Opportunity Grant offers free tuition and fees at a community college for a student who’s household Adjusted Gross Income is less than $65,000.

If you are looking for additional funding after all grants and scholarships,  New Jersey does offer NJCLASS loans, designed to cover the rest of the costs of college not covered by other means.  Your interest rate is based off of the term of the loan, which can be 10, 15 or 20 years.  Each option has a 3% origination fee and interest rates ranging from 3.99 – 6.50% as of 2019.

In order to be eligible for most of these, as well as all institutional financial aid, the student must complete the FASFA each year.  The FASFA is free and designed to take a snapshot of the student and their household’s financial status in order to better determine eligibility for financial aid, mainly need-based aid.  Available October 1st of every year for the following school year, the FASFA does allow you to import your tax information from the IRS as long as you have filed for that year, your return has not been amended, and you did not file “married, filing separately”.   In addition to the FASFA, the student and a parent will need to register for a FSA ID in order to electronically sign the FASFA.  The earlier you fill out the FASFA, the better and it is a good rule to complete all of your forms and documentation by the earliest date based on the dates listed by each school the student wishes to attend.

Components of the FASFA include:

  • student demographics
  • student income and assets
  • student dependency status
  • parent demographics
  • parent(s) income and assets
  • household size
  • federal means tested benefits

If you are applying for any state-based grants, scholarships, or loans, you will need to file a New Jersey Alternative Financial Aid Application through NJFAMS.

For more information on any of the financial aid options listed above or help navigating the process, please contact Samantha Benson at sbenson@hesaa.org or 609-588-3300 ext. 1403.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/FInancial-Aid-Information-Session.pdf.

Resume Tips and Tricks Program Recap

Your resume is your brand and it is important that your resume effectively communicates the most relevant information possible related to the position you are applying for.  Your resume is a living and breathing document and it should change for each position you apply for as well as every time you learn a new skill, take on additional responsibilities, or complete a major project.

There are three types of resumes:

  1. Chronological – This is the most common type of resume and focuses on your work history.  It is used to emphasize continuous employment as well as highlight the major duties and accomplishments for each job.  You should use this format if you are applying for a job in your current field or if your experiences and skills are intimately linked.
  2. Functional – The least common format, yet it does have its purpose, especially if you are transitioning careers or have long gaps in your employment history.  This format emphasizes the skills and knowledge you learned throughout our education/work/volunteering, including job/field specific skills (software) and soft/transferable skills (communication, problem solving).  Use this format if the profession or job cares more about your skill set rather than strictly work experience.
  3. Hybrid – A more popular format, it allows you to combine the best elements of your skill set and work history, allowing you to showcase how your skills were used in your job duties/responsibilities.  Additionally, you can include any professional experience such as coursework and volunteering within a Professional Experience section, focusing on relevant experience rather than just all of your past employment.  This format allows for much more flexibility and customization which can be useful when applying to multiple jobs, especially across different fields.

Once you have your general resume written, it is important to tailor it to each specific job you apply for.  It is recommended to go through the job description and highlight keywords, skills, and other important requirements, including numerical qualifiers – years of experience, number of people supervised, etc.  Once you have finished this, go back to your resume and see how much of your resume matches what is in the job description.  The more overlap you have, the more likely your resume will pass through the Application Tracking System many organizations use to filter out electronic applications.  You may need to rewrite major portions of your resume, especially your job duties and responsibilities, to better reflect what is stated in the job description, but the extra will pay off with a more professional and better targeted resume that will impress.

Some other general tips include:

  • Keep your resume to 1 page, 2 at most if everything is related to the requirements of the job
  • Use san serif fonts, such as Courier, Times New Roman, or Helvitica – these fonts are easier on the eyes and allow Applicant Tracking Systems to more accurately pull information from your resume
  • Keep font sizes between 10 – 12, except for major headings which can be up to 14
  • Adjust your margins as needed to fit all of your information on 1 page, but be aware that some programs will not print out anything beyond the standard .5 inch margins
  • While graphic resumes are eye-catching and allow you to express yourself in bold and impressive ways, there is a higher chance that they will be unreadable or significantly altered if opened in a different software program or uploaded to an Applicant Tracking System.

You can download a copy of the presentation at https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Resume.pdf.  You can download a copy of the handouts at https://www.njstatelib.org/assets/ResumeHandouts.pdf.

Time Management Program Recap

Many of us struggle to effectively manage our time at work or at home.  From family commitments, to errands, to project deadlines, time slowly takes over everything we do.  But how much of our time is being spent effectively?  We all have been guilty of procrastination, yet being able to manage our time efficiently, will help make sure we have enough time for our needs and wants, while also promoting a healthier you, both mentally and physically.

Some general tips for better time management include:

  • 7-8 hours of sleep – getting adequate sleep will help ensure your mind remains focused and you are less likely to have bouts of tiredness during the day
  • Keep a daily planner – this will help ensure you set aside the right amount of time for your tasks and even help you plan in advance.  It is also a written record of your commitments and will help hold yourself accountable for finishing them
  • Tackle difficult tasks when you are fresh and alert – if you are not 100% focused on the task at hand, you are more likely to make mistakes or miss things, that can cause you to spend more time correcting things later
  • Take breaks when beginning to fade – attention spans vary, so it is important to take appropriate breaks to give you mind some time to recharge
  • Physical exercise – by staying physical, you are training your body to endure longer periods of activity
  • Delegate – you do not have to do everything yourself and learning how to delegate can help free up time to complete important tasks
  • Set aside me time – it is important to take time for yourself and engage in activities you enjoy

Prioritizing your time is a great way for you to better manage your time and help visualize what you should concentrate your efforts on.  When prioritizing, be aware of deadlines and prioritize each day, week, and month in terms of projects, task difficulty, and importance.  Additionally, set goals, meet them, and then reward yourself to help get yourself motivated.

Being disciplined is also a great way to manage to your time.  Discipline involves overcoming procrastination, setting a schedule and sticking to it, and learning when to say “No”.  Oftentimes, we put others’ needs before our own, allowing them to take up more and more of our time.  Learning how to say “No” to others, whether it is a sign on a cubicle, shutting your office door, or scheduling a set time for communication with others can help you remained focused on your own tasks and limit outside distractions.

Project management is essentially based around time management and ensuring all elements of the project are completed as scheduled.  Here are some tips for project management from the time management perspective:

  • Define scope – make sure the project scope is well defined to ensure appropriate tasks and deadlines
  • Determine all available resources – spending time to identify and research all of the resources you need in the beginning will prevent you from stalling and wasting more time to obtain other resources that were not properly planned for
  • Timeline – make sure you create a timeline to hold others and yourself accountable.  Gantt charts are a great way to assign tasks and responsibilities, enshrine deadlines, and hold everyone in the project accountable
  • Document everything – Make sure to document everything so that if something needs to be revisited or there is a problem, it is easier to backtrack and spend less time trying to figure out who or what was responsible
  • Keep communication open – By having open and constant communication, it is easier to identify and solve current or potential problems, saving time in the long-run while also ensuring everyone is on the same page, preventing you from having to spend time repeating yourself or spending more time trying to correct issues related to misunderstandings of goals or responsibilities

Lastly, it is important to create goals as an essential part of effective time management.  Having goals forces you to budget your time appropriately to meet those goals.  However, just having goals is not enough.  Make sure your goals are SMART:

Specific – broad goals can be overwhelming and may allow for more distractions while you try to complete many different aspects of the goal without ever fully completing anything
Measurable – Goals that have some quantitative aspect that you can pinpoint are much easier to achieve and allow you to track progress and work towards an ultimate end
Attainable – Your goals should have have some aspect that is actually attainable and you can take away once you have completed your goal
Relevant – Make sure your goals are relevant to your wants and needs, which helps serve as intrinsic motivation

Shining a Light on Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in All Levels of New Jersey Government Program Recap

A big thanks to Nicole Acchione and Rich O’Brien from the Office of the State Comptroller, Investigations Division, for speaking about the mission of the agency and how it works tirelessly to ensure public funds are spent properly and public figures act ethically.  The Office of the State Comptroller is a relatively new state agency, created under Governor Corzine in 2007 and expanded in 2010 under Governor Christie, replacing the Office of Inspector General and Office of the Medicaid Inspector General.  The State Comptroller is appointed by the Governor for a 6 year term and reports directly to the Governor, even though the agency is in the Department of Treasury.

The mission statement of the OSC is:

To promote integrity and transparency at all levels of New Jersey government by auditing government finances, examining the efficiency of government programs, investigating misconduct by government officers, scrutinizing the legality of government contracts and recovering improperly expended Medicaid funds.

The OSC has authority to investigate the state executive branch, private organizations who receive state or federal funding (if being administered by a state agency), local and municipal governments, public institutions of higher education, and school districts; this is roughly 12,000 different entities throughout the state.  Among it’s responsibilities are:

  • Audit and assess expenditures and performance of any of the above groups or individuals in those groups
  • Review pending and current government contracts for financial and legal compliance
  • Investigate and uncover misconduct, waste and abuse
  • Investigate fraud,waste and abuse in the Medicaid program

In order to carry out it’s mandates, the OSC is divided into 4 Divisions:

  • Audit Division – responsible for conducting audits and reviewing the performance of the executive branch of state government, public institutions of higher education, independent state authorities, local governments and school districts. In addition to performing audits, the Audit Division is tasked with performing follow up reviews to track the implementation of recommendations made by the office.
  • Investigations Division – works to detect and uncover fraud, waste and misconduct involving the management of public funds and the performance of government officers, employees and programs
  • Procurement Division – reviews the legality of public contracts involving school districts, counties, municipalities, state agencies, state authorities, local authorities and public institutions of higher education
  • Medicaid Fraud Division – works to improve both the efficiency and integrity of the New Jersey Medicaid, FamilyCare, and Charity Care programs by investigating, detecting and preventing Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse.

The Investigations Division several tools it can use that mirror the Judiciary, including:

  • Conduct interviews, surveillance, and site inspections
  • Subpoena for testimony or document requests
  • Use government databases

While the OSC cannot take any legal action to bring a criminal or civil case against any individual or organization, it can use it’s finding to recommend to state and federal prosecutors that there is actionable evidence of wrongdoing that may warrant further investigation by the judicial branch.  Furthermore, OSC findings can also recommend that state or local lawmakers revisit existing laws or policies to correct any issues uncovered during an OSC investigation.

There are multiple ways the OSC can receive complaints that may eventually turn into an investigation.  First and foremost, the OSC relies on tips and information from the public.  Additionally, news media or public reports can prompt the OSC to conduct an investigation or an inquiry into the matter.  The OSC also takes referrals from other government units.  Lastly, the OSC also conducts proactive investigations, such as monitoring the Federal Disaster Relief Appropriations Act funds for Hurricane Sandy.

If you would like a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/State-Comptroller-Presentation.pdf.

If you suspect any waste, fraud, or abuse, please call the Government Waste and Mismanagement Hotline at 1-855-OSC-TIPS (672-8477) or file an online complaint at https://www.nj.gov/comptroller/divisions/investigations/complaint.html.  All information is completely confidential.  If you would like to read any of the Reports from the Investigations Division, please visit https://nj.gov/comptroller/divisions/investigations/reports/approved/investigation_archives.html.  If you would like to contact Nicole or Rich, you can reach them at 609-789-5001 or 609-292-4782 respectively.