You can donate your time as well as your money

(BPT) – Nonprofit organizations depend on monetary donations to keep their operations running and support the communities they serve. Many people, however, want to do more than write a check to local organizations they support, so they become volunteers.

When people choose to donate their time, energy and skills to support a community organization, the impact can be immeasurable. Plus, volunteering allows people to be actively involved in their community without feeling the budget crunch at home.

People don’t always realize what they gain personally when they volunteer, however. In addition to feeling a sense of community and accomplishment, people can also improve their networking skills, connections and professional development as they help others.

“Improving leadership, networking and job skills is important in any field, and doing so through community involvement is a rewarding way to give back,” says Elizabeth K. Warn, senior vice president of community relations at TD Bank. “Volunteering provides the best of both worlds – supporting your local community while developing professional skills that may help you in the future.” Many companies encourage their employees to volunteer, whether on their own time or through work. TD Bank, for example, provides several volunteering opportunities for its employees, including TD Tree Days tree planting events. The bank’s year-round Employee Reading Program encourages employees to help children keep their reading skills sharp by reading to them in schools, libraries and at youth organizations.

In addition to recognizing their employees’ commitment to volunteer service and the financial needs of community organizations, many companies, such as TD Bank, will also provide financial donations to the charities where their employees volunteer. These donations give an extra boost to the organizations and causes that are personally important to employees, are usually based on the number of hours an employee volunteers, and allows a worker who might not otherwise have the financial resources an opportunity to direct funds to his or her favorite charity or organization.”The benefits of volunteering really are limitless,” adds Warn. “Even a few hours each month can help a neighborhood, a family in need, or an organization attain its goals and make a positive, meaningful impact in the community.”

Courtesy of BPT

Marketing on the internet – Sticking to the basics

When marketing on the internet you will likely be exposed to various promotional strategies or techniques that are more dazzling than they are effective. Now there is nothing wrong with trying new marketing tactics in an effort to build your business but never lose sight of the fundamentals. As tempting as it may be to rely upon a tool or technique that ‘offers’ more results for less effort, it is important to keep your eyes open to how effective they may really be.

Always be mindful of the fact that to build your business you will need a quality product, a solid reputation and the ability to connect with customers. Although gadgets and gimmicks may deliver on their promise of less work, they do not always deliver the results. It is up to you to determine if the time you invest is worth the return you are getting.

Here is a quick look at the fundamentals you need to focus on and the reason for the attraction to some of the newer marketing tactics we become exposed to.


1) Exposure

No matter what you are promoting online in order to build your business you need to increase your exposure. get yourself out in front of people There are some nifty software products and marketing tactics that will help your cause but the image you project must be developed and maintained by you!

2) Connecting

In order to convert people into buyers you will need to develop a connection with them There is no substitution for human interaction and this is what it will take, in some manner, to connect with others. Gaining their interest or ‘triggering’ a desire can only be accomplished through some form of interaction. On the internet the written word is the primary channel of communication therefore developing good copy writing skills will be helpful!

3) Trust

Building trust is one of the most important things you can do when working online since it tends to boost the effectiveness of any of the promotional strategies you may use. Trust building is not something you can expect to accomplish with the help of automation or software but instead results from the way you interact with others. Displaying respect or a willingness to be of service to people are great ways to build both trust and solid reputation online.


1) Fast

Our attraction to any new gadgets, tactics or gimmicks when working online stem from the natural desire to improve our performance and with less effort. One of the primary benefits usually touted when any new marketing tactics are presented is the speed and ease with which they work. Who would you not be attracted to that? But sadly, in many cases the product or technique demonstrates an inability to deliver on the promise.

2) Convenient

Another popular benefit used to promote the purchase and/or use of some tactics or gimmicks is their convenience and ease of use. Products or techniques like this normally serve to automate certain time consuming functions but here again, the job they do may not be as thorough as you would want. On the other hand the temptation to build your business on autopilot is hard to resist!

3) Empowering

Simply possessing any type of software or marketing tactics that can ‘speed up’ or ‘automate’ certain functions of your business is an empowering feeling. Of course that feeling does tend to fade as the realization that some of those ‘tools’ are ineffective begins to dawn on you. However, simply having the hope, even for a short period of time, that you can drastically improve your productivity is an uplifting feeling! As any internet marketer will tell you, hope is one the their biggest assets and if they did not have it, they probably would not be seeking success online!

Marketing on the internet offers the use of many gadgets and gimmicks that promise to decrease your efforts while increasing the results! Unfortunately some of these promotional strategies or gimmicks fall flat on their face when put to the test. The allure of many new marketing tactics is the automation and of course the convenience associated with it. It is important however to be mindful of the fundamentals that are required, as discussed above, in order to build your business successfully online. With that being said as you find yourself employing the use of any new gimmicks, gadget, tactics or techniques always monitor their use insofar as effectiveness and bottom line results. If you do not find an improvement in the performance and/or results of your business this is simply a tool you do not need!

By: TJ Philpott

8 Traits of successful real estate investors

Take a few minutes to think about the successful people around you, not only financially, but also those who embody personal success. Consider the characteristics each of them possess and how these characteristics have fueled their achievements in their given field. Over the past several years I have come in contact with quite a few real estate investors, both directly and indirectly, and have recognized many I consider to be very successful. These people have not only started successful real estate businesses, they also seem to have mastered balance in their life, a very difficult goal to achieve. I have identified 8 key traits that these investors display, (not surprisingly, this same list can be applied to the leaders in any field):

The 8 Traits that Successful Real Estate Investors Embody

1) Passion for investing: The time and personal equity that is required to become a successful investor is overwhelming for many people, which is why most people who plan on becoming real estate investors fail. Passion fuels drive and drive fuels action; without action the chance of becoming successful is zilch. Passion provides the boost needed for difficult days and enthusiasm on routine days. In short, without passion, real estate investing is just another job.

2) Discipline in decision-making: I have yet to meet someone I would consider both undisciplined and successful, and doubt I ever will. While discipline may be a difficult trait to define, I find it is often fairly easy to pick out, as disciplined people plan for the future, work diligently in the present, and learn from the past.

3) Understanding core principles: Failure is almost certain if you do not understand the foundational principles of business, real estate, and the specific niche you are engaging in. Long term success requires not only an understanding of buying and selling real estate, or how to be a landlord, but also basic economic principles. Understanding market fluctuations, economic cycles, monetary policy and other facets of economics will ensure you can react intelligently when changes do occur. Learning the basics is not always fun or exciting, but it is critical in achieving long-term success.

4) Integrity in business dealings: Real estate is notorious for attracting people looking for a quick buck at all costs, but if you look at successful investors, their success spans years and is attained through incredibly hard work. While it may seem easier to look for a short cut (and rip someone off in the process), a long real estate career must be built on a solid reputation.

5) Flexibility: Murphy’s Law is alive and well in real estate, and to survive inevitable surprises, market fluctuations and bad deals, you must be flexible enough to adapt your plan as you go. Planning is absolutely critical, but equally so is the ability to quickly decide when it is necessary to deviate from the plan. Successful real estate investors know when they need to re-evaluate their current blueprint and make adjustments to preserve the long-term success of their investments and business.

6) Money management skills: Most small businesses fail due to poor money management. Forecasting, budgeting, and financial planning is becoming a lost art among small business owners, and it can be lethal to your business. This is why understanding the basics of accounting, tax law, cash flow management, debt management, and other financial principles is so important, even if you have a great accountant and book-keeper.

7) A Team of Successful People: You can only take your business so far, and at some point you will be forced to rely on other people. Real estate is a people business and every real estate transaction requires a team of people to close. Once a transaction is complete, even more people are involved so it is important to form and maintain relationships with lenders, attorneys, contractors, agents, accountants and other people who can contribute to the growth of your business.

8) Superior communication skills: You have probably heard it a million times but that is because it is true, being able to effectively communicate with other is vital. How else will you be able to negotiate prices, interview contractors, screen potential tenants, partner with others, and so many other daily tasks? Communication goes beyond face to face discussions too, email and text messaging are ever-growing in the life of most business people, and the occasional written note will never go away, so make sure you hone your writing skills as well as your verbal skills.

All investors can say they are involved in real estate, but very few can say they are among the best. Find those whom you consider to be the best and study their habits and practices. Try to understand where they have been and how their skills helped prop them up during difficult times and propelled them during good times. Figure out which areas you have mastered and which you can improve upon; self-realization will lead to positive changes and others will begin looking to learn from you.

Author: James W. Vermillion III

James W.’s Website:

Managing residential income property: One simple bit of timing can make a world of difference

Having been born and raised in SoCal, doing business there for over three decades, many of the lessons learned in nearly a decade of working in other states have been informative – an understatement if ever there was one. I’ll bet if you’re invested in a midwestern state, the thought of a last quarter vacancy freezes you in your tracks, pun intended. A November vacancy in San Diego is irritating, even a tad worrisome, but it gets filled. Instead of happening in a couple days or weeks, it might be a month. That’s an eternity around these parts. Yet that’s relatively overnight compared to dealing with having to rent up a unit in chillier climates, especially when it’s cold, wet, and holiday season. However, if escrow is closing on your latest acquisition in the winter, or you find yourself taking over units with leases rolling over then, what to do?

As usual – it’s all about planning.

It varies a little from market to market for local reasons, but there’s always a range of months when having leases roll over is preferred. Yeah, I know, Duh. Still, when closing on vacant units this time of year, or when taking over leases expiring now, it’s easy enough to eliminate the problem. Simply give new tenants or tell existing tenants they have a choice. They can sign say, a six month lease, or an 18 month lease. Either way you’ve eliminated the problem. The lease(s) will be timed to expire within the prime leasing season. But what if you own a couple dozen doors or more, maybe a lot more?

Do what builders and developers have been doing forever. Understand your market’s absorption rate. That is, the rate at which it can absorb vacant units – how many at a time? How many units can you or your management firm lease in 30 days? Is it a different figure just one neighborhood over? Maybe, maybe not. It’s almost a matter of sanity maintenance, isn’t it? Even if you’re in a market in which everything rents overnight with a 3 X 5 card on the front yard tree, having to mess with 10 new vacancies simultaneously isn’t any less of a pain. I know, because I’ve seen me do it.

Many members here talk about how they’ve learned to specialize in various markets for their long term investments. Using this method of staggering rollover times is, for most, a practical matter of self defense. By spreading out a bunch of leases over six months, you’ve created for yourself an orderly process in which you haven’t antagonized the local absorption rate. This also aids tremendously, your ability to plan various work projects around vacant units. Getting work done in the winter in potentially extreme weather is to be avoided when possible. By ensuring your vacancies will pop up during the prime rental season, and during reasonably decent weather, you’ve gone a long way towards eliminating logistical pains in the rear, not to mention your bank account. Also (Captain Obvious alert!!), by scheduling any vacancies for the best renting season, you’ve also virtually guaranteed yourself a far greater slice of the tenant pie. You think you don’t want dead of winter vacancies? Tenants aren’t exactly out in droves, looking for their next place right after finishing their second piece of pumpkin pie.

Now’s the perfect time to address this problem. Give your tenants notice that rollover time will mean a shorter or longer term lease. You’ll quickly find out that for the most part, they’ll be grateful for the change.

Author: Jeff Brown

Jeff’s Website:

Simple ways to green your life at home and at work

(BPT) – Reduce, reuse, recycle – it’s the mantra we’ve heard for decades, and it appears Americans are taking the message to heart and making efforts to go green in all aspects of their lives. Whether it’s in their own home or at their place of work, being earth-friendly isn’t just a trend; it’s the new modern way of life.

If you’re looking to make your life a little greener – whether during the nine-to-five or the five-to-nine – consider a few simple ways you can save Mother Earth and feel pretty good about yourself too:

* Watch your water footprint and conserve H2O

Water is an important part of daily life and Americans are lucky to have a reliable supply on hand at the simple flip of the faucet handle. The average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home, according to the EPA. We use even more at work or school. It’s time we take a closer look at our water footprint.

You can reduce your water usage in numerous ways. At home and work, you should use WaterSense-labeled toilets, sinks and showerheads. Because both businesses and homeowners like to save, check out to find rebates for water-wise improvements. Additionally, remember to turn off water when appropriate – such as when you brush your teeth or are rubbing your hands together to generate soap bubbles. Keep showers to 10 minutes or less.

* Look for products that use reclaimed materials

Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash, and recycled and composted almost 87 million tons of this material in 2011, which is equivalent to a 34.7 percent recycling rate, the EPA reports. This rate is pretty impressive, and with waste now being employed as the primary ingredient for things we use every day, this number is likely to rise.

Reclaimed rubber is one such example. Ecore, a rubber flooring company, uses reclaimed rubber tires to make commercial flooring, and has been doing so for more than 25 years. Old, exhausted treads of tractor-trailer tires are ground, screened and separated to remove contaminants – creating a durable flooring option for businesses.

* Go green with your greenery

Being strategic about what plants you use for landscaping at home and work can help you conserve water and reduce maintenance requirements. Use natural vegetation appropriate for the region where you live. Ask your nursery or state’s extension service about shrubs, trees and ground covers that are good alternatives to grass. Native plants quickly adapt to changing climate conditions, so you’ll spend less time trimming and watering.

While you have your green thumb out, consider placing a few houseplants in your office and throughout your home. As part of plants’ natural photosynthesis process, they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which helps to naturally clean the air around us. Some houseplants have even been shown to remove formaldehyde and benzene pollutants from the air. Increase your indoor air quality with a few good greens. Try houseplant varieties like philodendron, spider plants, (chlorophytum comosum) or peace lilies (spathiphyllum).

These are just a few simple ways to green your life at home and at work – so you can make a difference for our earth all day long. Adopting an eco-friendly mindset for you and your family helps ensure the future is bright (and green) for everyone.

Courtesy of BPT

Shape your financial future by checking your credit report and scores

Do you know what’s on your credit report? Do you know your credit scores? If you don’t, you’re not alone, but now is a good time to better understand how they work before you go apply for that loan. By waiting to check your report and scores until you want to buy a car or house, you may discover too late your financial history forces you into strict loan terms with high interest rates, or, worse, disqualify you from getting any loan at all. How can you avoid this situation?

Responsible past credit behavior, a healthy credit score and understanding your debt picture all play crucial roles in achieving your overall financial goals. So reviewing your credit report and knowing your VantageScore credit score and how you compare to others is essential. By reviewing your report, you can verify the information in it, and take actions to correct any item that may require it. If you have any negative marks, now is the time to take action to address those issues and increase your credit score.

Perhaps the biggest misconception about credit scoring is that all the three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian – produce the same score. Although similar, there are many different scoring formulas, so variations can occur.

The three major credit bureaus partnered to develop VantageScore credit score to make credit scores more consistent and predictable across all three credit bureaus.

VantageScore credit scores fall within a range of 501 to 990 and include a letter grade from A to F. the higher your score, the better. Even though new methods provide more consistent formulas, there may still be variations across the three credit bureaus because information on individual credit reports may differ from bureau to bureau. Furthermore, each company is provided updated information from creditors on different days of the month, so an increase or decrease for one might happen on the first day of the month while another may not occur until the 15th.

These differentiators are why it’s important to know all three of your scores, which you can easily get with a paid TransUnion membership. If you find the scores you have are lower than you’d like, there are some key things you can do. Most credit scores are derived by looking at these five attributes. By understanding what makes up these five factors, you can begin to change your behavior to improve your credit scores. 

1. Payment history: A good record of on-time payments will help increase your credit scores. Review your credit reports closely and regularly. Late payments and other negative marks typically remain on your credit reports for up to seven years from the date of first delinquency. If you do find a mistake, take the proper steps to correct it so you can increase your scores.

2. Credit account history: An established credit history makes you a less risky borrower. Keeping old accounts that you have paid off can also help because keep your debt-to-credit ratio more favorable. Think twice before closing old accounts before a loan application.

3. Outstanding debt: High balances in relation to your credit limits can lower your credit score. Aim for balances less than 35 percent of your total available credit. You can determine your debt-to-credit ratio by reviewing your credit report now.

4. Recent inquiries: When a lender or business checks your credit in response to an application, it causes a hard inquiry on your report and may result in a slight ding to your credit score, so apply for new credit in moderation. Remember, viewing your own report and score is counted as a soft inquiry and doesn’t change the score one way or another.

5. Types of credit: A healthy credit profile has a balanced mix of credit accounts and loans. It shows you have paid bills in the past and know how to manage different types of credit obligations. By reviewing your current credit reports and learning what your three scores are, you’ll set yourself up for financial success in the future. Visit for more information.

Courtesy of BPT

​Advice for small businesses poised to hire their first employee

(BPT) – For small-business owners, hiring a first employee is a significant milestone – one that directly affects the company’s growth, future success and culture. Hiring staff means enhancing your business’ ability to grow, but it also presents unique challenges.

From affirming that the person you hire has the credentials to do the job and is the right personality fit for your organization, to ensuring you don’t run afoul of payroll taxes, workers’ compensation and other legal requirements, making that first hire requires a lot of preparation. When you’re getting ready to make that first all-important hire, keep some guidelines in mind:

Understand costs

You hire a first employee to help your business grow, but the costs associated with that growth can be significant. It’s important to weigh carefully the benefits of hiring against the related costs. According to the Small Business Association, these can include:

* Wages and taxes, including unemployment, Medicare and Social Security taxes

* Workers compensation insurance

* Recruiting and training expenses

* Benefits

* Payroll management

* Equipment, including software licenses and data plans, to help an employee do his or her job

Seeking candidates

Finding the right employee for your small business can also be a challenge. While professional hiring services can do the legwork for you, most small-business owners manage the hiring process themselves. You’ll need to consider where to advertise for candidates, what professional requirements you’ll want them to meet, what wage you’ll offer and how you’ll handle the interview process.

“We work with thousands of entrepreneurs and how to set wages is a frequent topic of interest,” says Michael Alter, president and CEO of SurePayroll, Inc., a Paychex company. Alter co-founded SurePayroll, and since then it has grown from a small business of four people to a company that employs more than 200 people. “As payroll providers, we know that wages are set by the market, not the employer. Researching and offering a competitive wage will help you to attract and keep the right candidate.”

Another critical component to consider is fit. A comprehensive pre-employment screening can help you make better hiring decisions. In addition to reviewing candidates’ resumes and references, your screening may include a background check, drug screening, behavioral assessments and skills testing.

Prepare for payroll

No one works for love alone. Your new employee will expect to be paid on time each pay period with the appropriate amount of withholdings taken out of his or her check. Managing payroll, however, can be costly and time-consuming; a small business with 10 or fewer employees may spend up to $2,600 per year on direct labor for payroll, according to SurePayroll. What’s more, if you don’t know or understand tax laws and requirements, you could find your company facing IRS penalties.

In the past, outsourcing payroll wasn’t always a practical option for small businesses with just one or two employees. Today, an online service such as SurePayroll can help small business owners manage their own payroll affordably, accurately and efficiently by paying employees and paying and filing payroll taxes. These services handle all the calculations for paying employees; calculating, paying and filing federal, state and local payroll taxes anywhere in the country; and notifying tax authorities of new hires. Mobile payroll apps also allow owners to run payroll on the go anytime, anywhere. Visit to learn more.

Next steps after hiring

In addition to completing necessary payroll tax forms, benefit enrollment forms and employee information files, you’ll need to complete a New Hire Reporting form that helps state and federal agencies track down parents in regard to child support payments.

You’ll also need to set up a storage system; the IRS requires all companies keep employment tax records for at least four years. Additional post-hiring tasks will include:

* Verifying an employee’s eligibility to work. Federal law requires employers to verify that an employee can legally work in the U.S. You’ll need to complete and submit an Employment Eligibility Verification Form within three days of making a hire.

* Fulfill your obligations under your state’s new hire reporting program. Federal law requires all employers to report all new hires to the state within 20 days of hiring.

* Secure workers’ compensation insurance.

* Establish a bookkeeping system.

Hiring that first employee can be exciting and challenging. Fortunately, with some planning and the help of online tools, you can ensure the hiring process goes smoothly, and each worker who joins your team contributes to your business’ continued growth.

Courtesy of BPT

Think outside the fuse box: Unique energy-saving home improvements

(BPT) – You’ve replaced your home’s old windows with new, Energy Star-rated models, upgraded to electricity-sipping appliances and there’s not a single incandescent light bulb to be found anywhere in your house. You may be wondering what more you can do to further reduce your home energy bills.

When you’ve covered the basic and obvious ways to trim energy use at home, it’s time to start thinking outside the fuse box. Here are three unique home improvements that can help make your house even more energy-efficient.

1. Put a stake through the heart of vampire power – Even when they’re turned off, electrical devices draw power as long as they’re plugged in. “Vampire power” or “standby power” refers to the electricity wasted in this manner. In developed countries, standby power probably accounts for 5 to 10 percent of residential energy use, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Fortunately, vampire power is a relatively easy problem to solve. In many cases, simply unplug the power cord – a great solution for your cellphone charger or the coffee pot. When an appliance gets frequent use, however, constantly unplugging and replugging it may not be convenient. In those situations, a simple home improvement may be in order.

Connect outlets to wall switches that make it easy to turn the device off or on at the outlet. Or, you can plug appliances into a device that, in turn, plugs into the outlet and stops electricity leakage.

2. Add motorized shutters to windows – People add motorized rolling shutters to their homes for a variety of reasons, from enhancing privacy and security by making it harder for burglars to break in through windows, to protection against intense sunshine and hurricane winds. But did you know shutters can also boost your home’s energy efficiency?

In winter, motorized shades or rolling shutters maximize insulation of windows – a significant point of heat loss in many homes. In summer, they can reduce heat gain, help maintain a more comfortable indoor temperature and protect furnishings from damaging UV rays. Automating motorized shutters with a sun sensor, like those available from Somfy Systems, allows you to further improve energy efficiency by raising or lowering shutters throughout the day to fine-tune heat retention.

And, for the truly eco-minded homeowner, Somfy’s new solar powered AutoSun uses solar energy to power the shutter motor – so saving energy doesn’t require you to use electricity. Learn more at

3. Open the door to energy savings – Your home’s front door is the first impression visitors get when they arrive on your doorstep, but it’s also a potential source of heat and energy loss. Replacing an old, inefficient or poorly insulated door with an Energy Star-qualified door can pay off with significant heat retention and energy savings. –

When looking for a replacement door, insulated doors made of fiberglass or steel, filled with an insulating core such as polyurethane foam, are more energy-efficient than traditional wooden doors. Doors should also fit well into the doorframe, and use weather stripping to block drafts.

Doors wear out, lose efficiency and need to be replaced, according to the Residential Energy Services Network. Replace your old front door with an Energy Star-qualified one, and you may qualify for a federal tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of the door, according to

Improving your home’s energy efficiency is the right thing to do – for both the environment and your wallet. With a bit of creativity and the right home improvements, it’s possible to maximize your home’s energy efficiency.

Courtesy of BPT

Singled out: 3 financial tips for Americans going solo

More and more people are choosing to live solo. While there are plenty of resources for home improvement, a new survey shows singles could use some help getting their financial house in order.

Many single workers lack an adequate financial safety net that would protect their income if they were unable to work due to an illness or off-the-job injury, according to The Hartford Benefits For Tomorrow Study, a national survey of 1,000 full-time workers ages 18 to 64.

The annual poll showed only 44 percent of single Americans have disability insurance. This is despite the fact that singles would be hard hit by an unexpected health issue. In fact, 87 percent of single survey participants said they would need to make lifestyle changes to meet expenses if they lost income for three to six months.
“Fifty-nine percent of workers who don’t have disability insurance said they’d rely on their savings or retirement account if they could not work for more than six weeks,” says Mike Fish, vice president of voluntary benefits for The Hartford. “That means singles without paycheck protection are not only putting their current finances – and independence – at risk, but their golden years, too.”

Here are three benefits tips for single Americans:

1. Educate yourself. Many Americans don’t completely understand disability insurance. “May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month. It’s a good time to get up to speed on paycheck protection,” Fish says.

2. Know your risks. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, one in four 20-year-olds will become disabled during their career. “You might think that you don’t need paycheck protection because you won’t have an accident or you don’t engage in unsafe activities,” Fish says. “But, you still could be at risk. Approximately 95 percent of disabilities are caused by illnesses rather than accidents, according to the Council of Disability Awareness.”

3. Get a price check. In The Hartford’s survey, 45 percent of survey participants overestimated the cost of short-term disability insurance by hundreds of dollars; and another 45 percent said they had “no idea” how much the coverage costs.  “It pays for you to check on whether you can get disability insurance at work,” Fish says. “Group disability insurance costs about a dollar a day on average. So, it can be more affordable than depleting your savings.”
Going solo doesn’t mean going it alone when it comes to your finances.

You can find more information about disability insurance at The Hartford’s MyTomorrow website

Courtesy of BPT

Six ways studying abroad can change your life

(BPT) – Many students study abroad each year for only a few months, or even weeks. But the experiences and lessons learned go on to impact them well past that brief time, and the benefits of their travels don’t stop once they return home. Studying abroad isn’t just a chance to explore foreign cities, but a time to grow, learn and expand your connections globally.

Here are a few ways a study abroad experience can change your life:

* It can increase your employability.

Employers are in tune with the benefits of studying abroad, research by Global HR News found. About 75 percent cited study abroad as important when evaluating the resume of a job candidate for an entry-level position.

When Victoria Koutris returned from her semester studying abroad in Sydney, where she interned with the Sydney-Rabbitohs Rugby Club, she scored an internship with the Boston Bruins followed by another with IMG. Now graduated from University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is an assistant account executive at the sports marketing and media agency, Optimum Sports, in New York City.

*It can open up opportunities to work abroad.

Thinking about working abroad after college? The same survey found that 80 percent of human resources executives think study abroad is important when considering a candidate for an overseas job placement. –

“I enjoyed my time abroad so much that I decided to travel some more and I am now a certified English-as-a-foreign-language teacher in Chiang Mai, Thailand,” says Eli Molin, who spent a semester in Florence, Italy. Auburn University graduate, Carlos Olivieri, completed an internship with the Great Wall Club while he studied abroad in Beijing. The same company has since hired him as a full-time-international marketing manager.

* It just might change your worldview.

One of the most valuable lessons one can learn from studying abroad is that there’s a whole world to explore beyond the United States. Once you’ve seen it and lived in it, the rest of the world becomes a lot more tangible. The vast contrasts between home and your study abroad city will strike you as you take in the streets filled with diversity, the air with hundreds of different languages and the walls with art and posters advertising events like Diwali and celebrations of Australia Day.

“The study abroad experience opened up an entirely new world to me, literally, and showed me that there is so much more to life beyond my small town,” says Gareth Leonard, a study abroad alum from SUNY Fredonia in Fredonia, Calif., who spent a semester in London. “Since then, I have lived in Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Guatemala, building relationships, learning Spanish, and adapting to my surroundings.”

* It allows you to explore your individuality and personal development.

Away from the constraints and expectations of home, you’re free not only to explore the world around you but also yourself.

Missouri School of Journalism student Allison Goldberg studied in London. She now knows she can travel even with a serious disease. “Other than having less space in my carry-on bag, my diabetes has not in any way, shape, or form hindered my experience abroad,” Goldberg says.

* Studying abroad can also improve your storytelling abilities.

You’ll have more than enough raw material to work with and being able to illustrate your point with a real life story makes for interesting conversation, and also better answers during an interview. Some students go on to write blogs about their experiences abroad, which is a great way to reflect and also to share your writing skills with the world.

* It expands your global network.

Even if you don’t return to live or work there, the city where you studied abroad will always feel like a home away from home. Once your experience is over, keeping in touch with friends you make on the other side of the world couldn’t be easier thanks to social media. You’ll bump into plenty of others looking to expand their own global networks and that includes locals, people who work abroad, intern abroad, or are simply travelling through. These new connections can also increase your opportunities to travel to new areas you otherwise might not have considered venturing to. It’s also a lot of fun to invite your international friends to stay with you in your hometown so they can see where you live.

If you’re thinking about studying abroad, there’s no better time than now. Learn more at

Courtesy of BPT

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