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.

Civil Service Exam Test Books

The New Jersey State Library provides library service for all New Jersey state government employees. While we provide reference services and materials to help state employees perform their day-to-day duties, we also provide assistance for state employees and the general public who are interested in civil service jobs. We have a Test Book collection that focuses primarily on civil service exams, but we also have information on other tests, such as the Postal Exam, SAT/GRE, and the Police Officer Exam.

It is important to point out that the NJ Civil Service Commission, who is responsible for posting civil service jobs and administering any tests, only provides a small selection of Orientation Guides, primarily for Public Safety titles, and does not make old copies of tests available.  As a result, we use a national publishing company, the National Learning Corporation, to provide test preparation materials for civil service exams.  The NLC test books are used across the country, so there is not always an exact match to the positions within the state government of NJ.  However, we do our best to provide the closest match.

Currently, we have over 1,000 books within our Test Book Collection, located on Level 4.  We have a wide variety of test books including popular titles such as Investigator, Administrative Assistant, or Social Worker.  We also have books specifically for the Supervisory Test Battery and Management Test Battery.   Additionally, a limited number of Test Books are available electronically for free for registered authorized users, including state employees and Thomas Edison State University (TESU) students, staff, and mentors.  You can access our eBook collection via eLibraryNJ.  Authorized users needing a State Library access card should complete the appropriate online registration form.

As always, please contact the Reference Desk with help finding the right test book for you at refdesk@njstatelib.org or 609-278-2640 ext. 103.

The Financial Side of College Graduation Program Recap

Thank you to Samantha Benson from the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority for her presentation on what life looks like after graduation in terms of student loans and the costs of graduation school.  The most important thing regarding you or your children’s finances after graduation is to make sure you understand all the details of any loans.  Some loans have a grace period (such as 6 months for Federal Stafford Loans) before any money needs to be paid back.  Consolidation is an option many people take to reduce their monthly payments and interest rate, but it may extend the life of the loan to 30 years and prevent you from over-paying on the loan.  Repayment options (federal loans) include:

  • Standard
    • 10 years
    • Highest payment, but lowest total amount
    • will be auto enrolled after school if no other choice is selected during Exit Interview
  • Graduated
    • 10 years
    • Payments start off low, but increase roughly every 2 years
  • Extended
    • About 25 years
    • Payments are lower, but life of the loan is greatly extended, requiring more to be paid back
    • Must have at least $30,000 in student loan debt
  • Income-Based
    • 20-25 years of qualified payments, then rest is forgiven
    • 10-15% of discretionary income
  • Income Contingent
    • 25 years, then loan is forgiven
    • 20% of discretionary income OR amount if loan was for 12 years, whichever is lesser
    • Payment is calculated each year based your AGI (and spouse’s if married), family size, and amount of loans
  • Pay as you Earn
    • 20 years, then loan is forgiven
    • capped at 10% of discretionary income
  • Revised Pay as you Earn
    • 25 years, then loan is forgiven
    • Payment is calculated each year based your AGI (and spouse’s if married)
    • Payments may be higher than Standard repayment

If a loan is forgiven, the remaining balance MUST BE declared as income on your federal taxes for that year!

There are also federal and state loan forgiveness programs that will forgive your student loan debt if you meet certain requirements, such as work in qualified public service job for 10 years.  For more information

For more information on repaying Federal Direct/Stafford loans, please visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans.  For more information on managing your loans after school and preparing for the job market, please visit https://www.mappingyourfuture.org/planyourcareer/.  For a wide variety of information on repaying student loans, please visit http://www.hesaa.org/Pages/PayOnline.aspx.

You can also view a sample Repayment Plan Summary at https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Repayment-Plan-Summary.pdf.

Retirement Planning for PERS and TPAF Members Webinar Summary

There are many aspects of the retirement process, which could affect when you receive your pension, how much you receive, and whether you are eligible for any other benefits.  A summary of the Retirement Planning for PERS and TPAF Members webinar is below.  You can also download a copy of the Retirement Planning Guidebook for more information.

To see a full description of all topics, available seminar/webinar dates and/or locations, or to register, please visit their registration page at: www.nj.gov/treasury/pensions/member‐training.shtml.

If you have any questions regarding retirement or the information from the webinar, please contact the Division of Pensions and Benefits at pensions.nj@treas.nj.gov (please allow 10-14 business days for a response) or 609-292-7524.  You can also view their Guidebook series at https://www.state.nj.us/treasury/pensions/member-guidebooks.shtml.

  • Retirement basics
    • Your pension tier will determine your eligibility based on both years of service and your age
    • You can find a breakdown of the pension tiers at https://www.state.nj.us/treasury/pensions/retirement-estimate-calculators.shtml.
    • You must apply for retirement through MBOS
    • Your Retirement Date will always be the FIRST of the month
    • Your Termination Date MUST be before your Retirement Date
    • Recommended to file 4-6 moths before Retirement Date
  • Types and Eligibility
    • Service Retirement
      • Based on your age according to your tier
        • Tier 1 or 2 – 60 years
        • Tier 3 or 4 – 62 years
        • Tier 5 – 65 years
      • You do not need to meet any minimum years of service
      • For payment calculation, see the Retirement Estimate Calculator
    • Early Retirement
      • Based on years of service according to your Tier
      • A reduction will be applied based on your age and pension Tier
        • Tier 1 – 3% per year under age 55
        • Tier 2 – 3% per year under age 55 AND 1% per year under age 60
        • Tiers 3/4 – 3% per year under age 55 AND 1% per year under age 62
        • Tier 5 – 3% per year under age 65
      • Reductions will be calculated down to to the month
    • Deferred Retirement
      • You must be vested (minimum 10 years of service), but less than amount for early retirement according to your Tier
      • You must be younger than retirement age based on your Tier
      • No reduction based on age
      • Must file before you reach your Retirement Age according to your Tier
    • Veteran Retirement
      • Must have 25 years of service and be age 55 OR 20 years of service and age 60
      • If under 35 years of service, formula is 54.5% of the highest 12 consecutive months of base salary
        • must have contributed to pension in all 12 months
      • If 35 years of service or more, formula is Years of Service/55 X Highest 12 Consecutive Months of Salary
    • Disability Retirement
      • Only available for Tiers 1-3
      • Ordinary
        • 10 years of NJ service
        • totally and permanently disabled
        • Unable to carry out duties of your job
        • 43.6% X Final Average Salary
      • Accidental
        • Active member of the pension
        • Totally and permanently disabled
        • Must be as a result of performing job duties
        • Apply within 5 years of the accident
        • 72.7% X Base Salary at Time of Accident
  • Pension Options
    • General Information
      • Must select 1 Option when you submit Retirement Application
      • All options provide lifetime payment to member – 1 payment per month
      • Some options are irrevocable once pension is Due and Payable (30 days after Retirement Day or Pension Board approves retirement, whichever is longer)
      • Pension payment is 1 month behind
    • Maximum Option
      • Highest payable benefit only to member
        • Benefits payable upon death (Last Check Benefit)
          • your last month’s payment OR balance of unrecovered contributions
            • Takes 2-3 years to recover all of your contributions
          • Beneficiary can include individuals, charities, estate, or trust
          • Spouse/partner will be notified of no survivor benefit when you retire
          • Beneficiary WILL NOT receive any further payments
    • A, B, C, D Options
      • These options allow for some level of survivor benefits, but your monthly benefit is reduced
      • Reduction is based on the age difference between you and your beneficiary and the Option you select
        • A = 100% of your benefit, B = 75%, C = 5-%, D = 25%
      • Beneficiary cannot be changed after retirement date
      • If your beneficiary dies before you, your allowance will increase to your maximum amount
    • Option 1
      • A reserve amount is set aside for your beneficiary
      • Member receives a reduced payment amount for life, which is matched by beneficiary for duration of the reserve
      • Once reserve runs out (generally 8-11 years), beneficiary stops receiving any payment
      • If you die before reserve is depleted, beneficiary gets the balance
      • You can designate multiple beneficiaries and change them after you retire
    • Options 2 and 3
      • Choose 1 beneficiary for lifetime benefits
      • Option 2 = 100%, Option 3 = 5-%
      • Member receives a reduced payment that does not change if beneficiary dies
      • Reduction is based on age difference between member and beneficiary as well as Option choice
    • Option 4
      • Beneficiary receives a specified amount upon member’s death you designate on Retirement Application
      • Benefit cannot exceed member’s monthly benefit
      • Reduction is based on a calculation using member age and beneficiary(ies) age
  • Purchasing Service Credit
    • Members can purchase service credit in 2 categories
    • Shared credit, where member only pays for their half of the payment
      • Temporary/substitute service, former membership, leave of absence, uncredited service, out-of-state service
    • Full credit, where member pays their half and employers half of payment
      • Military service, U.S. Government including Postal Service, local retirement system
    • Payment is based on age and member’s highest salary
  • Life Insurance in Retirement
    • Must be qualified and covered by Group Life Insurance while active employee
    • Must have 10 years of service or less if disabled
    • No-cost benefit is paid to named beneficiary upon death
    • Restricted to Tier 1-3 only
      • For a chart of payments, see page 15 of Handout
    • Group Life Insurance Conversion
      • Can convert Group Life Insurance coverage of active employee when member retires, but member is responsible for paying all costs that were once covered by employer
    • You can have multiple beneficiaries as both a Primary and Contingent
      • Does not have to be an individual
      • If you want to list a minor:
        • nominate a Formal Trustee for the minor OR
        • payment will be withheld until minor is 18 or there is a court-ordered Guardian of Property assigned to the minor
  • Taxes and Deductions
    • Your pension is subject to Federal Income Tax for the duration of payments
    • Your pension is subject to NJ State Income Tax once the amount of employee contributions has been recovered
      • This only applies if you live in NJ after retirement
    • The NJ Division of Pensions and Benefits does not withhold state income state for other states; you are responsible for any tax payments
  • Possible Deductions on Pension
    • Federal Income Tax
    • NJ State Income Tax
    • Health Benefits
    • Dental
    • Pension Loan
      • You can take an existing Pension Loan into retirement, but you cannot borrow any more money against your pension
    • Tax Liens
    • Court-ordered Deductions
  • Health Benefits
    • You will receive a letter in the mail before your retirement, outlining your possible costs
    • If you wish to enroll, you must prove your age by sending acceptable original documents via the Postal Service
    • Eligible Dependents
      • Spouse/partner
      • Children until age 26
      • Overage dependents if they are disabled
    • 2 carriers – Aetna or Horizon
    • Prescription plan through Optum Rx
    • 6 Dental Plans
    • Costs depend on your employer (local government, state, or local education unit)
    • Medicare Parts A and B
      • If you are already on the state sponsored health plan in retirement, you must take Medicare once you are able – 65 years of age or receive Social Security Disability for 24 continuous months
      • Must provide a copy of your Medicare Card and call to enroll
      • Once Medicare enrollment has been proved, you will automatically be enrolled in Part D (prescription)
    • You can change your plan anytime as long as you have been with the same plan for 12 months
    • If you terminate your state sponsored health insurance in retirement at any time, you will not be re-instated.
    • If you decide to waive coverage at time of retirement, you can re-enroll within 60 days of losing your current coverage
  • Dental Benefits
    • Must be enrolled in the State Health Benefits Plan
    • One time enrollment
    • Does not cover orthodontics

Exploring Languages with Pronunciator Program Recap

Pronunciator is a robust, web-based language learning program that is available through the New Jersey State Library for authorized users (New Jersey state employees and students/staff of Thomas Edison State University).  It offers courses in 87 languages, which can be learned in any of 50 native languages.

It offers different learning modes, from structured Learning Guides designed to take you through the beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses to an unstructured and customizable format, allowing the user to explore the language through Postcards, film, poetry, and more.  You can also customize your learning course based on a specific topic (food, politics, finance) or your occupation (childcare, secretary, or teacher).

Interactive pronunciation drills and voice comparison analysis allow the user to perfect their speech and study the language in a deeper context.  Grammar guides are available as well.  Additionally, some languages offer an 8-week travel prep course that will teach you essential words and phrases for traveling abroad.

You can access Pronunciator from our Database List; you will need to enter your library barcode number first and then create a free account using any email address you wish.  For a copy of the powerpoint, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Exploring-Languages-Pronunciator.pdf.

Understanding Your Pension Benefits for State Employees Webinar Summary

Below is a summary of the Division of Pensions and Benefits webinar “Understanding Your Pension Benefits for State Employees”.  The presentation was not recorded and the slides have not be released for viewing.  If you have any specific questions about your account, or need further clarification on the information covered in the webinar, please contact the Division of Pension and Benefits at pensions.nj@treas.nj.gov (please allow 10-14 business days for a response) or 609-292-7524.

  • Pension Basics
    • Defined Benefit Plan (401a), which provides lifetime benefit
    • Combination of contributions and service credit based on time served in public sector
    •  Contributions
      • Member contributes 7.5% of base salary
      • Employer contributes unspecified amount into general pension fund, not your specific account
      • Investment returns
    • Pay periods equal the amount of service time
      • Bi-weekly paid employees – 261 pay periods = 10 years/651 pay periods = 25 years/782 pay periods = 30 years
      • Monthly paid employees – 120 pay periods = 10 years/300 pay periods = 25 years/360 pay periods = 30 years
    • Once you accrue 10 years of service, you are considered Vesting, which means you cannot collect your pension until you reach your minimum age – only if you leave/are terminated before your eligibility based on your tiers
    • If you decide to collect before your eligible, you will receive a reduced amount over your lifetime
  • Pension Tiers
    • Tier 1
      • Employment start before July 1, 2007
      • Must be age 60 or have 25 years of service to collect
    • Tier 2
      • Employment start July 1, 2007 – November 1, 2008
      • Must be age 60 or have 25 years of service to collect
    • Tier 3
      • Employment start November 2, 2008 – May 20, 2010
      • Must be age 62 or have 25 years of service to collect
    • Tier 4
      • Employment start May 21, 2010 – June 27, 2011
      • Must be age 62 and have 25 years of service to collect
    • Tier 5
      • Employment start June 28, 2011 or later
      • Must be age 65 and have 30 years of service to collect
  • Pension Calculation
    • Tier 1-3
      • Years of service/55 X (Last 3 years salary average OR Highest 3 years salary average) = Gross average payment
    • Tier 4-5
      • Years of service/60 X (Last 5 years salary average OR Highest 5 years salary average) = Gross average payment
  • Life Insurance
    • There are 2 different types of life insurance
    • Non-contributory
      • Paid by employer
      • Pays out 1.5x your base salary
    • Contributory
      • Paid by employee at 0.5% of your base salary
      • Pays out 1.5x your base salary
    • Designate beneficiaries through MBOS
      • Primary and Contingent beneficiaries
      • Contingent beneficiary only gets payout if all Primary are dead
      • Cannot pay out to minor unless:
        • Formal Trustee
        • Hold in escrow account until minor turns 18
  • Purchasing Service Credit
    • If you would like to purchase service credit, process takes 3-4 months
    • Shared Cost Time
      • You must pay for a portion of the costs
      • Includes temporary time off, leave of absence, and uncredited service
    • Full Cost Time
      • Member must pay for all of the costs
      • Includes military service, federal time
      • Will not count towards health benefits, but will for salary
    • Cost of Purchase
      • Highest salary X age factor = cost of one year
    • Payment Options
      • Lump sum
      • Payroll deductions
      • Rollover from another retirement plan
      • Combination
      • Must be paid in full by retirement date
  • Pension Loans
    • Must have 3 years of posted service
    • Borrow 2 times per calendar year
    • Borrow up to half of contribution, not to exceed $50,000
    • Interest rate is 7.75 % and there is a $15.00 administrative fee
    • Repayment
      • minimum payment is never less than your pension contribution
      • Cannot exceed 5 years
      • Payment through payroll deductions
      • Cannot exceed 25% of base salary – usually matters if multiple loans are out

Diving Deeper into Genetic Genealogy Program Recap

A big thanks to professional genealogist Melissa Johnson for unraveling some of the mysteries surrounding genetic genealogy.  Using genetics as a tool for genealogical research is an ever-expanding field and Melissa did a wonderful job of explaining the many facets of the field for amateur and professional genealogists alike.  One of the most common questions is determining which DNA test will yield the best information and as with many answers, the simple answer is “it depends”.  Let’s cover the 3 types of DNA testing:

  • Y-Chromosome Testing
    • Tests the Y-chromosome that is only passed down through the male line
    • Mutations can occur which can help identify how closely related 2 Y-chromosome DNA matches are likely to be
    • Only shows that there is a male relation, but will not pinpoint which male it is (ex. brothers)
    • SNP Test (single nucleotide polymorphism)
      • designed to help identify deep ancestry and haplogroup
    • STR Test (short tandem repeat)
      • examines a specific number of markers (11, 37, 67, or 111)
      • Testing 37 or more markers is best for genealogical research
      • Family Tree DNA’s test shows non-matching STR markers, known as the “genetic distance”
        • Genetic distance of 2 or more may indicate common ancestor for 2 people is much farther back, outside of a genealogical time frame
    • Designed to answer a specific question, such as “Are Person A and Person B brothers”, rather than “fishing” for potential DNA matches
  • Mitochondrial Testing
    • We all have DNA from the mother’s side and this test looks at that DNA; however, this DNA can only be passed on by female children
    • As with the Y-chromosome testing, results will only show a female relation, but will not pinpoint which female it is (ex. sisters)
    • mt Full Sequence test is best for genealogy, while mtDNA Plus only tests 2 regions and is best for determining a haplogroup
    • Designed to answer a specific questions, such as “Are Person A and Person B sisters”, rather than “fishing” for potential DNA matches
  • Autosomal Testing
    • Most common type of test that looks at 22 of 23 chromosome pairs (excluding gender)
    • Shows patterns in our DNA that we have inherited from our ancestors, usually within the past 6 generations
      • A 50/50 split of DNA from mother and father rarely occurs
    • The test measures the amount of centimorgans that we have in common with other people, which will roughly determine their potential relation to us
    • This type of test is best if we are just trying to “fish” to see who we might be related to

With many DNA tests come a breakdown of our ethnicity.  These breakdowns will vary for each testing company, based on the sample DNA from populations determined to be native to different areas of the world.  These tests have little impact on actual genealogy and should not be used to focus your genealogical research or serve as the main answer to any genealogical question.

Genetic testing, even for genealogy purposes, poses some ethical questions to consider.  Some tests will also look for potential health-related risks that may make some people uneasy.  Additionally, testing other’s DNA may lead to hidden truths about their parents or ancestry that might pose a challenge, such as learning a parent had an affair.  Determining what people are willing to test for and what they want to know is important to consider when venturing into genetic testing.  Additionally, if you are going to be uploading results or posting information based off of someone else’s DNA results, please get their consent to do so.

If you have questions about DNA tests, genetic genealogy, or general genealogy, please contact Melissa Johnson at mjohnson@johnsongenealogyservices.com.  You can download a copy of the handout at Diving Deeper into Genetic Genealogy Handout.  Also, please visit our Genealogy Research Guide for many helpful tips and resources!

Career Connections Presents – Top Notch Resumes 2 Program Recap

Thank you to all of the participants who joined us for Career Connections Presents – Top Notch Resumes 2.  Your resume is your opportunity to make a statement and lasting impression on the person or committee hiring for a specific position.  Here are some tips to help ensure your resume highlights your qualifications and skills:

  1.  While a chronological resume is the most widely recognized format since it emphasizes work history, a functional resume is great for recent graduates or career changes since it focuses on your skills and overall achievements rather than work history.
  2. Read through the job description and take note of all of the keywords.  Include as many of these keywords in your resume to show that meet or exceed the requirements of the job.  Also, many job applications are online and therefore first screened by a computer; including keywords from the job description will help ensure that computer does not dismiss your application.
  3. Make sure that a majority of our skills, relevant work experience, and keywords are within the first three-quarters of the first page of your resume.  You want to grab the attention of the person reading the resume right away since hiring managers tend to spend very little scanning each resume at the beginning of the process.

Top Notch Resumes 2 also touched on cover letters and references, which can be equally as important as your resume.  Follow this tips to maximize your impact on the person reading your credentials:

  1. Make sure your heading on all of your application materials is consistent.  If you papers get lost or mixed with others’ applications, it will be easily identifiable.  Also, this demonstrates your attention to detail and that you are organized.
  2. Your cover letter should not be a copy of your resume.  Refer to the job title in your cover letter and express interest in the position.  Demonstrate your ability to do the job in a few sentences, focusing on achievements and skills while also including those keywords from the job description.
  3. A cover letter should never be more than 1 page.
  4. Always provide professional references when asked, unless specifically instructed to provide personal references.

For more information on resume building as well as interview skills, finding the right career, and more, visit New Jersey Career Connections powered by the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Living with Alzheimer’s for Caregivers – Late Stage Program Recap

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia and can slowly strip away a person’s independence and place a significant strain on loved ones, especially those who are responsible for that person’s care.  Often the most difficult time is during the late stage of the disease, which can incapacitate a person, forcing them to rely on 24-hour care.  Nicolette Vasco, from the Alzheimer’s Association Greater New Jersey Chapter, shared some powerful information to help caregivers as they try to navigate the difficult course that is Alzheimer’s during the late stage.

Symptoms of late stage Alzheimer’s include:

  • an increase in memory impairment
  • experiencing the world through the senses
  • language becomes more basic
  • incontinence
  • increased dependence on caregivers
  • diminishing physical abilities

Care during the late stage should be all-encompassing and incorporate physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of care.  This will often depend on the person’s individual needs as well as identifying the positive and negative triggers for that person.  Additionally, greater stress can be placed on the caregiver due to greater dependence or responsibility for making medical decisions so it is imperative that the caregiver makes time for his/herself to ensure that they remain healthy and able to give the best care possible.

Communication generally becomes more difficult, including more non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and body language.  It is important for caregivers to start to recognize these changes and be aware of how their non-verbal communications may be impacting their loved one.  For example, folding your arms may communicate that you are angry or upset with your loved one, even though that is not your intention.  Additionally, touching often becomes the most intimate way to communicate and can serve as a way to uplift the spirits of your loved one.  Meaningful activities like being outdoors or listening to their favorite music may be great ways to reach your loved one and demonstrate you care, even if you are unable to verbally communicate.

There are many other issues that caregivers will have to address during the late stage, including eating, moving, and using the bathroom.  Eating can become more difficult or the person may loose the ability to taste certain foods, making them less likely to eat.  It is recommended to work with a nutritionist to ensure your loved one is getting the proper nutrients in the forms that may be easiest to ingest.  Moving, including sitting and standing, may require more attention on the caregivers part to escort a loved one around, or they may need to start using a walker or wheelchair, significantly limiting their mobility.

There are many other medical symptoms that may become more pronounced during the late state, especially if someone is moving less.  Bed sores or pressure sores may start to develop because a person’s nerves are not communicating a need to change position or the person may be physically unable to move.  Additionally, the disease may start to cause hallucinations or delusions, requiring more monitoring by a caregiver.  As a result, it is important to consistently monitor the person’s care, especially as it relates to pain management, breathing, and changes in sleep patterns.

With all of the changes that may happen during the late stage, it may be necessary to shift the burden of care from a family member or friend to a professional, in the form of a home health aid or a 24/7 care facility.  If a move is necessary, it is important to involve other people close to the loved one to determine which option is best.  Visiting multiple facilities and dropping by for walk-in tours will help get a better understanding of the options that work best for your individual situation.  Additionally, decorating a room to make it seem more like home may help them adjust to their new environment quicker and with less anger or resentment.

For more information about Alzheimer’s Disease, including tips and resources, please visit www.alz.org or call their 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900.  You can find a copy of Part 1 of the presentation at https://www.njstatelib.org/assets/AlzheimersCaregiversLateStagePart1.pdf and Part 2 at https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Alzheimers-Caregivers-Late-Stage-Part-2.pdf.

Grow Your Own Veggies Program Recap

Thank you to Mike Gliddon from the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County for passing along his vegetable gardening knowledge.  Mike has been a Master Gardener for 10 years, but has been growing vegetables for over 40 years, both in the United States and England.  There are many factors to take into consideration when deciding what and where to plant.  Follow these tips to ensure a healthy plants and a bountiful harvest:

  • Where to plant
    • Fruiting vegetables need a minimum of 8 hours of sun per day
    • Root vegetables need a minimum of 6 hours of sun per day
    • Leafy vegetables need a minimum of 4 hours of sun per day
    • Make sure there is a water source nearby and no competition for sun or water from trees or shrubs
    • Make sure the ground is level, there is good drainage, and the soil is fertile
    • Beneficial to create a layout of your garden during the winter months to ensure you have enough space and are able to conserve space and grow everything you want
      • make sure to include space between and within rows as well as the planting dates, as recommended on seed packets or plant labels
  • What to plant
    • Plant what you like to eat and in the quantity you will eat
    • Go for high producers such as tomatoes, lettuce, squash
    • Difference between cold season (peas, kale) and warm season (peppers, tomatoes) vegetables
    • Stage of plant growth
      • seeds grown indoors
        • make sure to acclimate to outdoor temperatures over 2 week period before planting
        • allow for a wide variety not found in stores, but much more work
        • 16 hours of artificial light = 8 hours of sunlight
      • purchased transplants
        • have a very limited variety, but are easy
        • plant same depth as in pot, but tomatoes can be planted deeper
        • plant on cloudy day or early/late on sunny day to minimize shock
        • mark planting row with twine to ensure row is straight
      • direct seeding
        • easy to do, but take alot of early care, such as watering
        • Cover with fine soil
        • mark planting row with twine to ensure row is straight
        • label the rows
  • When to plant
    • Frost free date for Mercer County is May 8th
    • 4-6 weeks before May 8th
      • very hardy seeds such as lettuce, onion, peas
      • very hard transplants such as broccoli, cabbage, rhubarb
    • 2-4 weeks before May 8th
      • hard seeds such as beets, carrots, onion sets, radishes
      • hard transplants such as brussels sprouts, collards, horseradish
    • May 8th, weather dependant
      • not cold hardy seeds, such as soybeans, squash, corn
      • not cold hardy transplants such as tomatoes
    • 1 week + after May 8th, weather dependant
      • hot weather seeds such as cucumber, pumpkin, melon
      • hot weather transplants such as peppers, eggplant, tomatoes
    • Late June/Early July
      • seeds such as broccoli, carrots, parsnip
    • Summer
      • seeds such as beans, cabbage, squash
      • transplants such as broccoli, cauliflower
  • Soil Preparation
    • Soil is the basis for successful gardening to maintaining a health soil is important
    • Add organic matter, such as compost, annually to improve the quality, including:
      • compacted clay soil
      • freely draining poor sandy soil
      • heavily cropped soil
    • Test your soil for nutrients and pH
      • pH should be between 6-6.5
    • Green manure is a great, sustainable way to enrich soil
      • For example, plant clover at the end of the season and then till it in early spring
    • Crop rotation is also important to ensure nutrients are not drained from a specific area of your garden
      • You should rotate crops by their type every year in 3 year increments
      • Cruciferous crops = cabbage broccoli, kate
      • Solanaceous crops = pepper, tomato, potato
      • Cucurbits = cucumber, squash
      • Allium = onions
      • Legumes = beans, peas
      • Root = parsnips, carrots
      • Zea = corn
  • Maintenance
    • Mulching is valuable as it helps conserve soil moisture, reduce weed growth, and reduce disease problems
    • Consistently weed, especially for young plants to ensure proper nutrient absorption
    • Thin finely sown seeds with garden scissors or shears
    • Staking and tying taller plants such as tomatoes and beans to ensure healthy growth

For more information on vegetable, general gardening, and upcoming events, please visit the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County at https://mgofmc.org/ or call their Help Line at 609-989-6853.  To browse the Fact Sheets for a variety of gardening topics, please visit https://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/subcategory.php?cat=1001&sub=1001 and scroll down until you get to the sheets starting with “FS”.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Grow-Your-Own-Veggies-Presentation.pdf.

Small Business Administration Resources and Services Program Recap

Thank you to Erika Pearson for a very informational presentation on the mission and resources of the Small Business Administration.  Created to help foster the growth of small businesses, the SBA offers a wide range of services, including indirect funding, Lender Match, counseling and training, and disaster assistance on rare occasions.

The SBA’s Learning Center, https://www.sba.gov/learning-center, offers 64 FREE training programs, including Buying a Business, Finding and Attracting Investors, and Savings Plans for Small Businesses.  You can also find free/low cost training from local partners at https://www.sba.gov/NJ.

The SBA also partners with many local and state organizations to provide a wealth of resources for small businesses and their owners.  Local partners affiliates include Small Business Development Center and Counselors to America’s Small Business (SCORE).

Perhaps the most important aspect of the SBA are their loans.  SBA loans are not direct loans to the recipient, but rather a guarantee for a traditional lender, such as a bank, where the SBA provides the funding to the lender, which is then extended to the borrower.  In short, you apply to the lender, the SBA guarantees the lender of repaying the loan, then the lender approves the loan and gives you the money.

SBA loans help reduce the lender’s risk if the borrower has an aspect that is considered too risky, such as:

  • unstable cash flow or fear of repayment issues
  • insufficient collateral
  • seeking non-standard repayment terms
  • startups

Lenders generally look for the 5 “C”s:

  • Character
    • your background, education, and experience
    • Feasible Business Plan is critical
    • credit history, both personal and business
  • Capacity
    • Cash flow/business plan
    • can you repay?
    • will you show a profit?
    • is that profit sustainable?
  • Collateral
    • Tangible assets
    • property
    • equipment
    • Inventory
    • Collateral can be personal or business related
  • Capital
    • personal investment in the business
    • grants or gifts to fund business
    • how you are investing any profits
  • Conditions
    • Purpose of the loan
    • Amount requested
    • Length of loan
      • Working capital = 3 – 5 years
      • Furniture, fixtures, and equipment = useful life of the items
      • real estate = up to 25 years
    • Local economic climate of industry

In order to qualify for an SBA loan,  the borrower must be:

  • for profit
  • independently owned
  • legal resident
  • meet SBA size requirement

Disqualifiers include:

  • ineligible for financing
  • non-profit
  • money used to buy and sell real estate
  • pyramid sales
  • defaulted on federal government debt
  • probation, parole, or pending criminal charges

SBA Loans Programs

  • 7(a)
    • Maximum of $5 million
    • Fixed interest rate, but rate is negotiable
      • Less than 7 years = Prime + 2.25%
      • Greater than or equal to 7 years = Prime + 2.75%
    • Uses include working capital, inventory, line of credit, expansion/renovation, land, equipment/fixtures, or refinance debt for compelling reasons
    • Fees
      • Only on guaranteed portion of loan
      • Less than 1 year = 0.25%
      • Greater than or equal to 1 year
        • up to $150k = 2%
        • $150k – $700k = 3 %
        • $700k – $5m = 3. % + 3.75% per million
      • If in a HUB Zone, less than or equal to $150k = 0.06667%
      • Fees can be rolled into total loan and no prepayment penalty if less than 15 years
  • SBA Express
    • line of credit up to 10 years
    • Up to $350k = 50% guarantee by SBA
    • Rates
      • $50k or less = Prime + 6.5%
      • Greater than $50k = Prime + 4.5%
  • MICRO Loan
    • Maximum of $50k
    • No fees
    • Maximum of 6 year repayment
    • No real estate
    • Mandatory FREE pre and post loan counseling
  •  504 Loan
    • Primarily for real estate
    • Maximum of $5 million
    • Contribution breakdown
      • 50% of loan from the lender
      • 40% sold in secondary market
      • 10% put forward by borrower

If you have any questions about the SBA or any of the available loans, please reach out to Erika Pearson at 973-645-6160 or erika.pearson@sba.gov.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SBA-Resources-and-Services.pdf.

Understanding Social Security Program Recap

A big thanks to Britany Enelow from the Credit Union of New Jersey for a very informative presentation demystifying the basics of Social Security.  There are many different components to Social Security and deciding when to collect and how to file can have a significant impact on amount of money you can receive.  Some of the major topics covered include:

  • Social Security Basics
    • Social Security was created by an act of Congress so there are no guarantees that the problem will last from year to year
    • Social Security is calculated partly off the number of “Credits” you earn
      • 1 credit is equal to 3 months of working
      • In order to be eligible to collect Social Security, you must a minimum of 40 credits, or 10 years of work
      • You stop earning credits at age 70, so if you decide to keep working, you will not be paying anymore into social security and it will not enhance your benefits anymore
    • To receive all of our Social Security benefits, you must wait until your Full Retirement Age, which is based on the year you were born
      • 1943-1954 – age 66
      • 1960 and later – age 70
      • For years in-between, add 2 months to 66 for every year above 1954
      • If you file before your Full Retirement Age, you will receive reduced benefits for the rest of your life
    • Primary Insurance Amount or PIA
      • PIA is your monthly benefit amount at your Full Retirement Age
      • If you file after your Full Retirement Age, you will receive more than your PIA
    • After you file, you have 12 months to make and changes to your filing status
  • Types of Benefits
    • Spousal Benefits
      • You can collect Social Security Benefits for your spouse whether you are still married, widowed, or divorced
      • You can only collect Spousal Benefits if your spouse is retired or deceased
      • If you claim Spousal Benefits, the amount is equal to half the amount of your spouse’s benefit, minus the amount of your benefit
        • For example, if Spouse A receives $2,000 and Spouse B receives $500, the Spousal Benefits for Spouse B would be $500.
      • If you are divorced, you can collect only if:
        • You were married to that spouse for at least 10 years
        • You are unmarried
        • At least age 62
        • Your benefits are less than the spouse
      • If you are widowed:
        • You can collect at your Full Retirement Age, but the amount will depend on whose benefits are higher
        • You can collected a reduced amount starting at age 60
        • You can collect at age 50 if the surviving spouse is disabled or there is a dependent child
          • Once the child is no longer a dependent, the benefits stop until you refile at age 60 or Full Retirement Age
  • Working After Collecting
    • There are no penalties for collecting Social Security and working if you are past the Full Retirement Age
    • From age 62 – year of Full Retirement Age, they will withhold $1 for every $2 you earn, if you earn above $17,640
    • During the year of your Full Retirement Age, they will withhold $` for every $3 you earn, if you earn above $46,920
  • Important Considerations
    • Pension/Government Pension Offset Plan
      • Some pension programs have an Offset Plan, which means that the amount you receive from your pension will reduce the amount you will collect from social security

Please visit the Social Security Administration’s website, https://www.ssa.gov/, to learn more or to sign up for an account to track your Social Security Benefits.  If you have specific questions about Social Security, the presentation, or would like to discuss your personal financial situation, please reach out to Britany Enelow, Financial Advisor, Credit Union of New Jersey, at 609-538-4061 ext. 2056 or benelow@cunj.org.

Money Matters Program Recap

Thank you to everyone who attend our kick-off event for Money Smart Week 2019, entitled Money Matters.  One of the first steps to financial security is planning and following through on a personal spending plan or budget.  Budgeting in about choices; choosing how to make money and choosing how to spend money.  Money Matters, a financial workshop created by the FDIC, teaches how to do just that.

The first step in the planning process is to set financial goals, which include:

  • Identify and write down your financial goals, such as retirement, buying a house, or sending children to college
  • Organize your financial goals based on the time frame you would like to complete them in
    • Short-term (less than 1 year), medium-term (1 – 3 years, and long-term (5 years or more)
  • Educate yourself by talking with a financial representative or by reading books or magazines.  Then you can identify small, measurable steps to achieve your goals.
  • Evaluate your progress monthly, quarterly, or yearly to see if you have met your goals or can identify ways to improve reaching your goals

A great way to help understand your current financial situation and what goals are reasonable, is to create a spending plan.  A spending plan is a step-by-step plan for meeting expenses in a given time period and determining what extra money you have at the end of each month.  A spending plan should include:

  • All sources of income, including the dates income is received
    • income includes wages, social security, retirement, government assistance, and child support
  • All of your expenses including due dates, which generally fall into two categories:
    • Fixed expenses do not change from month to month, such as rent, car loans, student loans, child support payments
    • Flexible expenses can vary from month to month, such as utilities, credit card payments, food, gas, and other personal expenses
  • The total amount of income and expenses subtracted from each other to see how much money is left over, that can be put away in savings account, a rainy day fund, or pay off outstanding debt
  • You can create a spending plan using a spreadsheet software or by listing all of the information on a calendar
  • If the traditional ways of creating a spending plan don’t work for you, you can try these options:
    • Expense Envelop System – useful if you pay bills in cash
      • Make an envelope with for each monthly expense by writing the name of the expense, the amount due, and the due date
      • Pay the bills right away so you are not tempted to spend the money
    • Budget Box System
      • A box or folder with dividers, with one divider for each day of the month
      • Whenever you receive a bill or know of an expense, but the bill or a reminder behind the divider of the due date
      • As you receive income, pay your bills in order as soon as possible to ensure all of your bills are paid

While we would like to always have a surplus of money, that might not always be the case.  Should you run into a situation where your expenses are greater than your income, consider the following:

  • Pay your necessary household expenses first, such as rent, mortgage, food, and utilities
    • Some utility companies have programs to lower your bill if you qualify
  • Prioritize your bills by thinking about the health and safety of your family
  • Seek assistance to help cover other expenses, such as credit counseling, government assistance programs, or loan deferments

For more information about personal finances and goal setting, you can talk to a representative from your bank or credit union, or visit MyMoney.gov.  For a copy of the presentation, CLICK HERE.  You can find a spending plan template HERE.