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.

The Aging Eye Program Recap

Thank you to Joan Micucci, Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist from Matossian Eye Associates for a very informative session on our eyes as they age.  She covered different aspects of 3 common eye-related problems: cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.  While none of these issues can be prevented, early detection can help limit severe damage and preserve your eyesight as you age.

Cataracts are the most common cause of reversible vision loss and often manifest in older people.  Cataracts are caused by a clouding of the natural clear lens and oftentimes compared to frosty or fogged windows.  Some symptoms of cataracts include glare (especially at night), decrease in color vision, and adjusting your daily life to deal with blurry or tinted vision.  Generally, cataracts are associated with age, but diabetes, previous eye injury or surgery, or prolonged steroid use cause cause cataracts to form earlier in life.  Cataracts are removed through a simple outpatient surgery that involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with an intraocular lens.  While there are different lens types available, it is common for people to need basic reading glasses after the surgery.

Glaucoma is a more serious issue that can cause blindness if left untreated.  It is also the leading cause of blindness in the United States.  Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve in which fluid builds up and causes pressure or “cupping” of the optic disc.  While family history is the primary risk for glaucoma, age, hypertension, sleep apnea, migraines, and prolonged steroid use.  Glaucoma is most commonly treated with eye drops to control the pressure, but cold laser surgery or the implant of a stent during cataract surgery cause also help promote the flow of fluid away from the optic nerve and reduce pressure.  Unfortunately, glaucoma can not be cured and constant management of the pressure is required.

Macular degeneration occurs when the macular tissue deteriorates.  While people who suffer from macular degeneration lose their center vision, their peripheral vision often remains intact.  This is caused by yellow deposits called drusen that form in the macular tissue.  Risk factors include age, race (especially Caucasian women), family history, smoking, obesity, and heart disease.  While 90% of macular degeneration cases are consider dry and develop slowly, a more rapid and severe form called wet occurs due to leaking blood vessels.  Wet degeneration is most commonly treated with injections, while dry degeneration is primarily treated by Omega-3 nutritional supplements, such as fish oil.

As with many medical conditions, early detection is key so please visit your eye-care provider regularly.  For more information, please visit Matossian Eye Associates at https://www.matossianeye.com/ or contact them at info@matossianeye.com.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/The-Aging-Eye.pdf.  For a copy of the handout, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/The-Aging-Eye-Handout.pdf.

Nutrition for Weight Management Made Simple Program Recap

Weight loss is a resolution we all too often give up on.  It takes time, effort, and discipline, but it very manageable once you figure out your specific goals and set yourself up for success.  John Wojciechowski, a certified strength and conditioning coach as well as founder of Metabolic Functional Fitness, shared some helpful and simple tips to help along your weight loss journey as well as maintain a healthy weight.

Energy balance is an important component for understanding what is body weight and how it functions.  Everything we do and consume affects our energy balance and ultimately our weight.  Weight is primarily determined by the quantity rather than the quality of the energy (food) we consume.

When we consume food, we are consuming calories, which is the body’s energy source.  Our body weight is a direct reflection of the balance between calories burned and calories consumed.  The more excess calories we intake, the more fat we develop, regardless of where those calories come from.  To loose weight, you need to create a caloric deficit through a combination of eating less and moving more.  Therefore, it is important to measure, track, and adjust the quantity of food you eat to ensure proper weight loss and maintenance.

The food we eat has a significant impact on how our body functions and whether we gain or loose weight.  Macronutrients are responsible for providing the fuel we need to survive, which include proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.  Vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, while important to our overall health, do no provide any caloric energy the body needs to survive.

Proteins contain 4 calories per gram and important to build and repair tissues.  Also, proteins are made up amino acids, of which there are 9 essentials ones our bodies need to survive.  Whether you get your essential amino acids from a singular complete protein source or a variety of incomplete protein sources, the goal should be to consume all the essential amino acids for a healthy body.  It is recommended that you intake between 0.4 – 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.

Fats, while often considered the enemy of a health diet, are very important to your body as they help with hormone production and provide your body with energy.  Fats contain 9 calories per gram and fit into 2 basic types – Saturated and Unsaturated.  It is recommended to avoid trans-fats found in processed packaged foods as they do not have the same benefits from naturally occurring fats.  It is recommended that fats make up between 20 – 50% of your total daily calories.

Carbohydrates’ main purpose is provide your body with energy by releasing glucose once they are digested.  Carbs contain 4 calories per gram and are classified into 3 types – Monosaccharides, Disaccharides, and Polysaccharides.  While carbs are not required for survival, they provide a good source of energy and it is recommended that cards make up between 45 – 65% of your daily calories.

So now that you understand more about the basics of calories and how they relate to different types of foods, what should be your calorie requirements?  There is no simple answer as your daily caloric requirement is a moving target that changes with time and different conditions.  For example, your metabolism is flexible and adaptable, so as you age or your body is exposed to prolonged calorie restriction, your metabolism will slow down and therefore affect the amount of calories you burn.

There are many different equations out there that provide an estimate of calculating your calorie requirements.  Generally speaking, use the following equations to determine how many calories you should intake based on your weigh goals:

  • Weight loss = BW (body weight) X 10 – 12
  • Maintenance = BW X 14 – 16
  • Weight Gain = BW X 18 – 20

John also shared his 3 tips for fat loss:

  1. Create a calorie deficit – start with a caloric intake of BW X 12
  2. Aim for a macronutrient ratio of 40/30/30 – Carbs, Protein, Fat
  3. Start resistance training 3 times per week for 45 min – 1 hour

Some other considerations to consider include:

  • Plan for 3 – 6 evenly spaced meals per day and prep your meals in advance
  • You can eat almost anything you want as long as you are measuring, tracking, and adjusting your calories
  • You cannot diet forever, so plan out some breaks
  • Weight loss is not linear so you must be patient

If you have further questions about managing your weight, please contact John at jwcscs@hotmail.com. For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Nutrition-for-Weigh-Management.pdf.

Understanding Credit Program Recap

Credit plays a critical role in many of our lives, allowing us to afford cards, homes, and even college education.  It is used as a gauge of financial responsibility that can influence where you live and even where you work.  By understanding the basics of credit, you can more easily master this financial necessity and get yourself out a debt or plan for a better financial future.

Credit is borrowed money that you can use to purchase goods and services when you need them.  You get credit from a credit grantor, whom you agree to pay back the amount you spent, plus any applicable finance charges, at an agreed-upon time.

There are 4 types of credit:

  1. Charge cards/accounts
  2. Revolving credit – credit cards, equity loans
  3. Installment credit – mortgage, student loan, car loan
  4. Service contracts – cable, utilities

Credit in and of itself is neither good or bad; it is how you utilize it that can have positive or negative impacts on your financial well-being.  Credit can be a convenient way of purchasing items, especially expensive items, without the need for cash.  However, credit is a loan and you will be paying more for that purchase in the long run.  Also, because of the convenience, it is easy to overspend with the appropriate means to pay back the loan effectively.

All of your credit information is compiled into a credit report by 3 different credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.  Your credit report is made up of:

  • identifying information (name, address, social security number)
  • Job history (where and how long)
  • Creditors; payment history (name of creditor and how long credit has been open)
  • Legal actions (liens, collections, foreclosures, bankruptcy)
  • Inquiries you initiated (where personally or by a creditor with your permission)

You are entitled to a free credit report every year from each of the 3 reporting agencies so it is best practice to request your report from a different agency every 4 months to ensure your credit report is accurate.  If there is an error with your report, you can dispute the error in writing to the credit agency.  The agency is required to investigate your dispute within 30 or automatically remove the disputed item from your credit report.

Credit reports and credit scores are often mistakenly assumed to be the same thing, but they are very different and focus on different aspects of your credit situation.  The most common credit score is the FICO score which is used by Experian.  Each credit reporting agency has its own scores and ways of calculating them.  As a general rule of thumb, you credit score is made up of:

  • Payment history – 35%
  • Accounts owned – 30%
  • Length of credit history – 15%
  • New credit – 10%
  • Credit mix – 10%

Your credit score is often utilized by creditors to determine interested rates while your credit report can be used to determine pre-qualified or pre-approval amounts.  Lenders, landlords, insurance companies, and even employers can all look at your credit score.  Generally, a credit score of 700 or higher is considered good.  There is a new movement to include other information for consideration in your credit score, especially for those with little or no credit history, including payment history for service contracts as well as length of address history.

There are many different ways to establish credit:

  • Open a checking or savings account with a credit union
  • Put utilities/rent/mortgage in your name
  • Get a local department store or gas card
  • Have a co-signer for a small personal loan
  • Apply for a secured credit card

While your credit report and score are major components that creditors consider, they also look at the 3 C’s of Credit:

  1. Character – From your credit history, a lender may decide you possess the honesty and reliability to repay a debt
  2. Capital – A lender will want to know if you have valuable assets such as real estate, personal property, investments, or savings with which to repay debt if income is unavailable
  3. Capacity – Refers to your ability to repay the debt.  The lender will look to see if you have been working regularly in an occupation that is likely to provide enough income to support your credit use

So how to you maintain good credit?

  • Create a spending plan and live within it
  • Pay your bills on time, all of the time
  • Have some credit, but not too much
  • Have a mixture of credit types
  • Keep credit card balances low
  • Use caution when closing accounts
  • Be aware of your debt-to-income ratios
  • Contact lenders if you fall behind on payments

For more information about managing your credit or to discuss your personal credit situation, please reach out to the Credit Union of New Jersey for a consultation.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Understanding-Credit-Compressed.pdf.  For a copy of the handouts, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Understanding-Credit-Handouts.pdf.

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Program Recap

Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia-related conditions are a growing concern as more and more people are being diagnosed and suffering the effects of these incurable illnesses.  Alzheimer’s Disease affects each person differently and it can be difficult to spot the signs of the disease in the early stages.  However, by knowing and recognizing the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, we can be better positioned to deal with symptoms and seek help to lessen or delay the effects of the disease.  Nicolette Vasco from the Alzheimer’s Association shared these 10 warning signs we should all be on the look-out for:

  1. Memory Loss that disrupts daily life – Forgetting names, dates, or why we came into a room happens to all of us, but within time, we usually remember what we forgot.  However, forgetting important dates, names, or events such as a child’s name or when someone was married, may be indicative of dementia.  It is also important to look out for repeatedly asking the same questions or a sudden introduction of memory aids (reminder notes) to assist in tasks that were formerly managed with ease, such as how to start a dishwasher.
  2. Challenges in planning or problem solving -While we all make mistakes balancing a checkbook or get distracted in the middle of doing something, we usually can fix those issues.  However, having trouble repeatedly following basic instructions, such as following a recipe, or taking a long time to complete basic tasks may indicate in a change in cognitive function.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks – While we all occasionally need help with new technologies or finding new locations, difficulty with completing familiar tasks or finding familiar locations can be an indication of Alzheimer’s.  For example, forgetting where a person’s church is located or forgetting the rules of favorite game can be a sign of more significant cognitive problems.
  4. Confusion with time or place – We all experience forgetting what day it is, but we are able to figure out the correct day quickly.  Someone suffering from dementia can lose track of time, both short term and long term, or where they are and how they got there.  A common occurrence is the ability to remember decades old information, but unable to remember what they ate for breakfast that day or who they saw a week ago at bingo.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spacial relationships – While visual deterioration is common with getting older, people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have difficultly perceiving things visually rather than simply seeing them.  This can manifest in having difficulty with balance while walking because their depth perception or peripheral vision is impaired or they may have trouble judging distance when trying to step into a bathtub.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing – While we all have difficulties finding the right word, someone suffering from early stages of Alzheimer’s may start showing problems joining or following a conversation.  They may repeat themselves, struggle with vocabulary, or stop in the middle of conversation and be unsure as to how to continue.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps – While we all misplace things, we are usually able to retrace our steps and figure out where something is or why we put it there.  Someone suffering from dementia will not only forget where they placed something, but also be unable to retrace their steps.  They will have difficultly remembering what they did in the lead up to or after placing an object and may even start accusing others of stealing or moving items.
  8. Decreased or poor judgement – We all make mistakes from time to time, but someone suffering from dementia may start using poor judgement with money, like following through with scam phone calls, or neglect personal grooming and cleanliness.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities – There are times where we all want to skip a family event.  However, someone with Alzheimer’s may start to completely remove themselves from any social situation because they are unable to recognize people or hold conversations.  They may also stop engaging in favorite activities or organizations because they forget how to properly play a game or do some sort of activity.
  10. Changes in mood and personality – As we get older, we often settle into a routine and may get frustrated if that routine is disrupted. However, people suffering from dementia can take this to the extreme where any slight deviation from a routine can cause them to act out aggressively (verbally or physically) because they are unfamiliar with a new place or order of events.  Additionally, someone may become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious at simple things that would not normally bother someone.

Someone suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s does not have to exhibit all 10 warning signs.  Each person will experience different difficulties and changes so it is important to pay attention to any odd shift in behavior or practices.  Consult with others who interact with the person to see if they notice the same or different things you do and if necessary, seek out medical help from psychologist, geriatrician, or neurologist for further evaluation.  If you suspect someone is suffering from memory related concerns resulting from any form of dementia, follow these 10 steps:

  1. What changes in memory, thinking, or behavior do you see?
  2. What else is going on in that person’s life?
  3. Learn about the signs and benefits of early diagnosis.
  4. Has anyone else noticed the change(s)?
  5. Who should have the conversation to discuss concerns?
  6. What is the best time and place to have the conversation?
  7. What will you or the person having the conversation say?
  8. Offer to go with the person to the doctor.
  9. If needed, have multiple conversations.
  10. Turn to the Alzheimer’s Association for information and support.

For more information about Alzheimer’s, including support groups, care, or early detection, please visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s website or call their hotline 24/7 at 1-800-272-3900.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/assets/10WarningSignsofAlzheimersPresentation.pdf.  For a copy of the Memory Test Handout, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Memory-Test-Handout.pdf.

How to Manage Debt Program Recap

Debt is a problem many people struggle with and if left unresolved, can easily spiral out-of-control.  While some debt is a part of life nowadays, effectively managing your debt can provide great benefits should you need to finance a car or are looking to purchase a house.  The Credit Union of New Jersey has some tips for managing your debt and help you achieve financial independence.

What is debt?  Debt is money that you have borrowed with the agreement to pay it back in full, oftentimes with interest.  Some common types of debt are mortgages, car loans, personal loans, or credit cards.  Debt is often organized into different categories:

  • Secured debt – debt associated with some sort of collateral that can be taken back for failure to repay the debt (car loan, mortgage)
  • Unsecured debt – debt without any collateral (credit cards or personal loans)
  • Installment credit – debt where repayment terms and amounts are fixed (mortgage, student loans)
  • Revolving credit – debt where repayment amounts may vary depending on amount of debt (credit cards, cash advances)
  • Fixed interest rates – interest rate does not change over the life of the debt (car loan, mortgage)
  • Variable interest rates – interest rate can change depending on size of the debt or a failure to pay debt on time (credit cards, payday loans)

While debt is scary, not all debt is bad.  Debt has a large impact on your Credit Score, which many places use to determine finance options for important purchases such as apartments, homes, cars, and furniture.  Good debt or debt that directly affects your overall net worth or helps generate you value, such as a mortgage, are positive things to have and will help boost your Credit Score.  A higher Credit Score can help you secure low or no interest payments for loans and may allow you to qualify for higher loan amounts.  Bad debt does not help you generate value and oftentimes is associated with credit card purchases for expendable items with no longer term value, such as gas, food, or utilities.  For example, if you pay a $100 electric bill on a credit card rather than a debit card, you may be paying $120, $150, or even $200 for that same bill once interest accrues.

You can find out more about all of the debts you have through your credit report.  A credit report is a record of all your credit-related activities from three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Transunion, and Experian.  It lists any credit-card accounts or loans you have, their balances, and how regularly you make your payments.  It also shows if any actions from creditors has been taken against you.  Similar to your credit report is your Credit Score.  Your Credit Score is made up of the following information:

  • 35% Payment History
  • 30% Amount Owed
  • 15% Length of Credit History
  • 10% New Credit
  • 10% Credit Mix

So what are the warning signs for having too much debt?

  • Spending more than you earn
  • Making the minimum payments on credit cards or having maxed out credit cards
  • Unsure about what you owe
  • Arguing with your family or loved one about money
  • Debt to income ratio is more than 36%
  • You have no emergency funds (3-6 months income)
  • Little or no retirement savings
  • Credit card balance exceeds 10% of income

If you have too much debt, what can you do to change your financial situation?  First and foremost, you have to make a plan.  Sit down and write out a budget, including your monthly income and expenditures.  This will help you visualize where you are spending money on unnecessary things, such as a $5 coffee every morning or eating out multiple times in a week.  Once you can identify areas where you can save money, put that money away, such as in a savings account, so that it can grow, or apply it to one of your debts to pay it off quicker.

You should also call any loan companies and request lower interest rates.  As long as you are able to pay something, credit card companies are required to work with you.  You may even be able to settle your debt for less, but that often comes at a price; you must report the remaining debt as income on your taxes.  You should also seek professional assistance from a financial counselor who can help you in all aspects of your financial life.  They can help fight with loan companies and help build you a responsible budget to get you out of debt.

Another way to help get out of debt is to increase your income.  Whether it is selling items from a personal hobby or unused items around the house, downsizing a car or home, or getting a part time job, being able to increase your income, if not to pay down the debt, but at least to provide more financial security is important.  Additionally, set SMART financial goals for yourself – Specific, Measurable, Adjustable, Realistic, Time-Oriented.  Lastly, never give up; oftentimes people give up too early on their efforts to become debt free.  It will not be easy or fast, so remain committed to your financial plan and reward will be more freedom with your money.

If you have any questions about your personal financial situation, you can reach out to the Credit Union of New Jersey for a free financial assessment.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/How-to-Manage-Debt.pdf.  For a copy of financial worksheets, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/How-to-Manage-Debt.pdf.

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.