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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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goal handwriting pen paper promotion

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

How to survive a recession in the modern economy

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Advice about surviving a recession is common these days, but its intended audience can leave a large gap in application.

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recession squeeze

There’s no question of whether or not we’re in a recession right now, and while some may debate the severity of this recession in comparison to the last major one, there are undoubtedly some parallels–something Next Avenue’s Elizabeth White highlights in her advice on planning for the next few months (or years).

Among White’s musings are actionable strategies that involve forecasting for future layoffs, anticipating age discrimination, and swallowing one’s ego in regards to labor worth and government benefits like unemployment.

White isn’t wrong. It’s exceptionally important to plan for the future as much as possible–even when that plan undergoes major paradigm shifts a few times a week, at best–and if you can reduce your spending at all, that’s a pretty major part of your planning that doesn’t necessarily have to be subjected to those weekly changes.

However, White also approaches the issue of a recession from an angle that assumes a few things about the audience–that they’re middle-aged, relatively established in their occupation, and about to be unemployed for years at a time. These are, of course, completely reasonable assumptions to make…but they don’t apply to a pretty large subset of the current workforce.

We’d like to look at a different angle, one from which everything is a gig, unemployment benefits aren’t guaranteed, and long-term savings are a laughable concept at best.

White’s advice vis-a-vis spending is spot-on–cancelling literally everything you can to avoid recurring charges, pausing all non-essential memberships (yes, that includes Netflix), and downgrading your phone plan–it’s something that transcends generational boundaries.

In fact, it’s even more important for this generation than White’s because of how frail our savings accounts really are. This means that some of White’s advice–i.e., plan for being unemployed for years–isn’t really feasible for a lot of us.

It means that taking literally any job, benefit, handout, or circumstantial support that we can find is mandatory, regardless of setbacks. It means that White’s point of “getting off the throne” isn’t extreme enough–the throne needs to be abolished entirely, and survival mode needs to be implemented immediately.

We’re not a generation that’s flying all over the place for work, investing in real estate because it’s there, and taking an appropriate amount of paid time off because we can; we’re a generation of scrappy, gig economy-based, paycheck-to-paycheck-living, student debt-encumbered individuals who were, are, and will continue to be woefully unprepared for the parameters of a post-COVID world.

If you’re preparing to be unemployed, you’re recently unemployed, or you even think you might undergo unemployment at some point in your life, start scrapping your expenses and adopt as many healthy habits as possible. Anything goes.

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Business Finance

Clyde helps smaller brands to offer product protection programs

(BUSINESS FINANCE) For small brands that sell not-so-little items, Clyde is a big deal! Now you can offer product protection normally reserved for the big brands.

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product protection

For small businesses seeking to adapt to their new or growing online presence, Clyde, a platform allowing small business consumers to receive extended warranties and protection on purchases may be the answer.

Due to the current pandemic, online retailers have reported on average, a 200% increase in digital sales. Online commerce is only expected to continue its growth with 52% of consumers suggesting they will not return to in-store shopping, post COVID-19. With online shopping in demand, stolen packages, damaged products, and lost goods are also surging.

If you’re ordering from a superstore like Amazon, Target, or Walmart, chances are your items are protected and will be quickly replaced upon a discovery of any of the above issues. However, for smaller companies, protection on consumer goods is usually not offered, not because smaller companies don’t want to give their customers this option, but because finding insurance for small businesses is hard.

Clyde, a company working to provide product protection programs to small retailers through the navigation and connection to insurance companies, intends to change that. Clyde gives small businesses or as their CEO, Brandon Gell, would say, “everybody that’s not Amazon and Walmart,” the opportunity to provide their customers with individual product protection or an extended warranty contract that can be purchased at checkout.

Clyde also provides the retailer with a portion of the insurance profit, serving as an incentive for smaller companies who usually get left out of this profitable market. Product protection is responsible for a whopping $50 billion market, so getting in on the game is key. The company also provides sellers with critical data analytics, product performance statistics, that otherwise would not be obtainable to smaller companies.

Not only is Clyde protecting consumer purchases, but its mantra acts in the best interest of smaller companies normally left out of big commerce perks. The company’s dedication to provide smaller businesses with access to revenue and its consumers with product protection at a time where the demand is higher than ever may allow this company to flourish.

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Business Finance

Will cash still be king after COVID-19?

(EDITORIAL) Physical cash has been a preferred mode of payment for many, but will COVID-19 push us to a cashless future at an even faster rate?

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No more Cash

Say goodbye to the almighty dollar, at least the paper version. Cashless is where it’s at, and COVID-19 is at least partially to thank–or blame, depending on your perspective.

Let’s face it, we were already headed that direction. Apps like Venmo, PayPal, and Apple Pay have made cashless transactions painless enough that even stubborn luddites were beginning to migrate to these convenient payment methods. Then COVID-19 hit the world and suddenly, handling cash is a potential danger.

In 2020, the era of COVID-19, the thought of all the possible contaminants traveling around on an old dollar bill makes most of us cringe. Keep your nasty sock money, boob money, and even your pocket money to yourself, sir or madam, because I’ll have none of it! Nobody knows or wants to know where your money has been. We like the idea of taking your money, sure, but not the idea of actually touching it…ewww, David. Just ewww.

There is no hard evidence that cash can transmit COVID-19 from one person to the other, but perception is a powerful agent for changing our behavior. It seems plausible, considering the alarming rate this awful disease is moving through the world. Nobody has proven it can’t move with money.

There was a time when cash was king. Everyone took cash; everyone preferred it. Of course, credit cards have been around forever, but they’ve always been just as problematic as they are convenient. Like GrubHub and similar third party food delivery apps, banks end up charging both the business and the consumer with credit cards. It’s a trap. Cash cut out the (greedy) middle man.

Plus, paying with a credit card could be a pain. Try paying a taxi driver with a credit card prior to, oh, about 2014 when Uber hit the scene big time. Most drivers refused to take cash, because credit cards take a percentage off the top. Enter rideshare companies like Uber. Then in walks Square. Next PayPal, Venmo, and Apple Pay enter the scene. Suddenly, cabbies would like you to know they now take alternate forms of payment, and with a smile.

It’s good in a way, but it may end up hurting small businesses even more in the long run. The harsh reality of this current moment is that you shouldn’t be handling cash. No less an authority than the CDC recommends contactless forms of payment whenever possible. However, those cabbies weren’t wrong.

The banking industry has been pushing for a reduced reliance on cash since the 1950s, when they came up with the idea of credit cards. It was a stroke of evil genius to come up with more ways to expedite our lifelong journey into crushing debt.

The financial titans are very, very good at what they do, at the expense of all the rest of us. The New York Times reported on the trend, noting:

“In Britain alone, retailers paid 1.3 billion pounds (about $1.7 billion) in third-party fees in 2018, up £70 million from the year before, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Payment and processing companies such as PayPal (whose stock is up about 55 percent this year) and Adyen, based in the Netherlands (up 72 percent), also stand to gain.”

All kinds of banking-related industries stand to benefit as well. Maybe we’ll go back to spending physical cash one day, but I don’t think there’s any hurry. Fewer old grandpas are hiding their cash in their proverbial mattresses, and the younger, most tech-savvy generation seems perfectly content to use their smart phones for everything.

We get it. Convenience plus cleanliness is a sweet combo. If only cashless payments weren’t such a racket.

If this trend towards a cashless future continues, future travelers may not experience what it’s like to fumble with foreign currency, to smile and shrug and hand over a handful of bills because they have no idea how many baht, pesos, or rand those snacks are. They may not experience the realization that other countries’ bills come in different shapes and sizes, and may not come home with the most affordable souvenirs (coins and bills).

We shall see what the future holds. Odds are, it may not be cash money, at least in the U.S. I hope the cashless movement makes room for everyone to participate without being penalized. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, people. We need to find more ways to ease the path for people, not callously profit off of them.

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