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The most dynamic way to chart and track your goal progress

(FINANCE NEWS) Research has indicated that of those surveyed, only 8% of us fully complete our goals, although half of us do make some progress towards reaching them. So, what holds us back?

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What is holding you back?

It’s almost the new year, and in the spirit of self-reflection it’s time for new personal and professional goals! And, if you’re like most of us, those goals will be something we’re fully invested in, for a brief while anyway, and yet, we won’t reach them. Research has indicated that of those surveyed, only 8% of us fully complete our goals, although half of us do make some progress towards reaching them. So, what holds us back?

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How are you approaching your goals?

Making change is never easy, and for some of us, our goals are ones that we’re not personally invested in, but they’re the ones in which we think we “ought” to be pursuing. Personal investment in change is a crucial component to our success in creating new patterns of behavior or working through to achieve accomplishments. If we really don’t care, even though we think that others feel we should, change isn’t going to last for long. For other goals though, it’s not because we don’t care passionately about them, but that they’re so lofty that knowing exactly how close we are to completing them becomes overwhelming and we get lost along the way. Our passion isn’t in question, but our approach is.

Trent Hamm, writing at The Simple Dollar, identified a way of achieving goals that worked for him in his approach to personal finance, and which can work for all of us in any area.

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“I like to envision giant goals like this as squares on a piece of graph paper…I’d take a piece of graph paper…and I’d simply mark out one of those squares every time I did something that saved $10 and I put that $10 aside in an account somewhere,” Hamm wrote. “Whenever that account earned $10 in interest or dividends or growth, I’d add another square… Maybe your goal is even bigger…that’s okay. It’s still just made up of little steps and little squares.”

Little steps and little squares

When focusing on your goals, identify the steps that have to occur in order for that goal to be accomplished.

Start at the beginning in your thinking, and resist the temptation to label any step as too small.

For example, let’s say your goal is to go to graduate school to pursue an additional degree or certificate to expand your knowledge base. It may seem oversimplified, but an initial step might be as easy as talking to your significant partner or your family about your decision, or perhaps you need to start by making a phone call or sending an email to the registrar’s office to begin the application.

Just keep swimming

For some of us, in our minds, we’ve already moved past these initial steps, thinking about financial aid, the scheduling of courses, or the work-school-life balance changes that may be coming soon. We’d be right to think about these considerations, as they do play a part in us reaching our goal, but by focusing on the smallest of initial concrete steps, and doing them in a timely fashion, we get the sense of motion necessary to begin to feel accomplished.

By making a visualization of these small steps, we see our progress towards reaching the ultimate goal, and can find comfort when things don’t seem to be going well. We’ve been successful in the past, and although we might be having difficulty at the moment, we can expect to be successful again in the future; the important thing is not to stop trying to accomplish the goal.

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An example of this is the work being done in goal setting with students in K-12 public and charter schools around the nation. Work is being done with students to help them understand the importance of goal setting for themselves, whether the goal is academic, behavioral, or social. Students identify goals that are important to them and which are aligned with them being successful in school, as they define success. Goals are broken down through the use of the SMART format; goals are specific and framed by times for completion of the overall goal (as well as individual action steps), and progress towards goals can be measured. Additionally, goals are both achievable and realistic.

Achievable and realistic

Some struggle with this last concept that goals must be achievable and realistic. Think of it this way: for a non-runner to say that they were going to set a goal to place in the top three in the Boston Marathon, there’d be a lot that would stand in their way as they moved towards that goal. It doesn’t mean that a penultimate goal might not be to run in the Boston Marathon and to place in the top three, but it means that a better goal would be set for a more immediate reward along the way and would help them transition from a non-runner to a marathon winner.

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Students track their progress towards their goals visually and have regular goal-setting meetings with their teacher or counselor to review performance, identify barriers to progress and brainstorm solutions, and to celebrate wins as they happen. We can’t assume that students grow up knowing how to do this, just like we can’t assume that, as adults, we’re any more talented at it.

As we are all works in progress, let’s follow in the words of Whitman by celebrating ourselves and singing ourselves. Identify the goals that are important to you, down to their most discrete steps. Clearly provide yourself a timeline for completing them, and place a visual reminder of your success in that step in front of you to keep your progress going.

#SettingGoals

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master’s degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

Business Finance

Easy tax calculator for freelancers that tend to wing it

(FINANCE NEWS) This tax calculator gives you an idea of what you should be holding back so tax day isn’t such a big surprise this time.

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The freelance checks are rolling and your income is adding up fast. Score!

Not so fast.

Your freelance checks are not taxed individually, but that doesn’t mean your income is tax-free. Whether you’re a full-time freelancer, part-timer, or just work on contract projects here and there, it’s important to know how much of your freelance income needs to go towards your tax bill.

As 2017 comes to a close, it’s a great time to review your project income and get an idea of what you may owe once taxes come due. Better to get a general idea now and start saving (if you haven’t already), than be blindsided when you fill out your tax forms.

To get a general idea of what you’ll owe, free tools such as The Freelance Project Tax Calculator can be helpful. This calculator, which is a collaboration between CPAs at Atribus Solutions and Sail, can be downloaded via email after submitting a request on the Sail website.

It’s compatible with Google Sheets and Excel, too, so use whichever spreadsheet program you prefer.

Whether you are completely self-employed or freelancing on the side, the Freelance Project Tax Calculator can help you determine the amount you should be saving for taxes. You’ll just have to share some general information about your filing status, location and projected income. It can also take project costs into account, allowing you to more accurately calculate net profit after deductions – and a good way to keep every aspect of each project organized.

If you are a freelancing newbie, toying with this calculator can also help you establish rates that allow your net income to be at the level you want (or need) it to be.

Now, keep in mind that this calculator provides rough estimates to get you started. If you want a more concrete number or in-depth financial advice, it’s time to find an accountant. But it never hurts to start planning ahead for tax expenses, and this tool can help you do just that.

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Business Finance

Should research papers remain behind a paywall or be fully accessible?

(FINANCE) Paywalls restrict 65% of research papers, but some argue it’s for good reasons. Others say the walls should come down.

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Paywalled research papers might be the current business model, but scientific research should be available to all, not just those who can pay for it.

In academia, published papers are part of the tenure process. You not only have to do research, publish papers, and hope that your work is cited in other research to get promoted.

Despite the notion that this research needs to be available to everyone, much of it is still behind a paywall. Josh Nicholson and Alberto Pepe estimated that about 65 percent of all cited papers are behind a paywall. Why is this important? They say it is because “some of the world’s most important scientific research is inaccessible from the majority of the world.”

A case for paywalls:
Publishing is big business. It takes a staff to manage a journal that publishes research. Essentially, someone has to pay. Most journals have chosen to charge the reader, because the alternative, charging the scientist for publication, is not a viable business model.

Publications that charge for access are generally considered more prestigious in academic circles. Thus, it’s safe to assume that the best research is published in paywalled journals. In my research for this article, I did learn that taxpayer-funded research through the NIH was supposed to be accessible to the public one year after it was published.

A case for open access:
Nicholson and Pepe averaged the cost of the paywalls at $32.33 for one access point. That is way too costly for a graduate student or an average individual (or journalist whose boss refuses to pay).

One key reason the internet was developed was to share research between scientists. Although universities often buy subscriptions to paywalled journals, most research is not accessible to the average person some four decades later. It’s been argued that research should be made public to hold scientists and the government accountable. Published research should be promptly and broadly disseminated, according to a policy statement made by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Can the business model hold up?
The tide is slowly changing, but most say that it’s not quick enough. Some experts believe that the scientific publishing process is not a business model that can withstand the changing culture. I’m sympathetic to the publishers, but I’d like to see more scientific research available to individuals at a price point that makes sense.

It’s going to take a shift in attitude at many levels to see change. Scientists need to utilize open access journals. Universities need to change policies. Publishing journals need to look at their business model. The generation that wants change is not in a position to make that change, but in a few years, they may be.

We can only hope that they find a new process to allow everyone access.

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Business Finance

Square tests buying and selling bitcoin inside its payment app

(FINANCE NEWS) Cryptocurrency lovers rejoice, you can now buy, sell, and store bitcoin in your Square wallet.

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Recently, Square rolled out a special new feature to select users, allowing them to store bitcoin in-app. Square Cash started moving away from immediate transactions when the company released Cash Drawer in February of 2016, allowing users to stash currency in a digital wallet for later use.

Now, Square has dubbed some of its Cash users chosen ones, giving them the ability to buy, sell, and store bitcoin. Unlike Cash Drawer, users do not yet have the option to send bitcoin to others.

Those with the new feature can simply swipe right from the Cash Card page to buy and sell bitcoin – the screen also compares the current price of bitcoin against the U.S. dollar with a handy graph.

A Square spokesperson noted, “We’re exploring how Square can make this experience faster and easier, and have rolled out this feature to a small number of Cash app customers. We believe cryptocurrency can greatly impact the ability of individuals to participate in the global financial system and we’re excited to learn more here.”

Bitcoin is the most popular kid in school right now when it comes to rise in popularity. In January, the currency was valued at $1000 per unit, but is now flirting with the $10,000 milestone. Users that opted in to the new feature rejoiced on Twitter, making this a marketing plus for CEO Jack Dorsey who also heads Square.

However, not everyone is so optimistic.

This Monday, BTIG analyst Mark Palmer expressed concerns about Square Cash adding the bitcoin feature, noting it adds an unnecessary risk to users. Palmer downgraded Square from Neutral to Sell, setting a $30 target for the stock.

Other investors aren’t so keen on the volatile cryptocurrency making its way into Square. Mark Tepper, CEO of Strategic Wealth Partners, said in the long run, Square won’t be able to support bitcoin. “Square has a good track record of losing money, and there’s just no clear path to profitability in the near future,” Tepper noted on CNBC.

Despite these concerns, this cryptocurrency remains wildly popular. And Jack Dorsey has just made it significantly easier to people to purchase the cryptocurrency. Of course, investing in an unregulated market is risky, so if you’re one of the few with Square’s new bitcoin feature, proceed with caution. But also feel free to brag that you’re a chosen one.

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