Monday, September 24, 2012

Start Your Investment Education Today

Reforms taking place in public pension plans for the state of Utah should be regarded as a wakeup call for the rest of the nation. Despite the fact that it is in better fiscal shape than many other states, after the market drop in 2008, Utah found itself with a $6.5 billion funding gap in its pension plan. Knowing they could not meet the state's obligations to its future retirees, officials put reforms into place last year that will affect all new hires.
One reform enacted was to do away with the old defined benefit retirement plan and replace it with a 401(k)-style plan. Although the defined benefit plan will still be available, the state's contributions to that plan will be limited to just 10%, effectively steering investors towards the 401(k) plan. Drastic measures were needed and drastic measures were prudently taken. Look for other states to follow suit.
In recent years, more and more private businesses have switched from defined benefit plans to 401(k)-style plans. The auto-enrollment features on many of these new plans put employees into the stock market right off the bat. With states and municipalities now getting on the 401(k) bandwagon, one thing is certain: more people with no prior knowledge of investing are being thrust into the role of "portfolio manager." Instead of having someone else look after your retirement account, you suddenly have a pressing need to learn how to invest wisely.
The good news is that for the most part, a 401(k) plan offers a lot of advantages over the defined benefit plan, such as:
  1. the ability to "take your plan with you" if you change jobs
  2. the ability to borrow or withdraw money from your plan in case of an emergency
  3. your plan can not have its funds "robbed" by cash-strapped companies in lean times
Ironically the biggest advantage is the one that will scare most of you to death: the ability to manage your own investments. It should be the advantage you embrace.
As a "new" investor, you will have 2 choices when it comes to your retirement account. You can hire a fee-based financial advisor to guide you in making your investment decisions or you can learn how to invest on your own. Either choice, if well-researched and followed through, will produce good results. While hiring a professional advisor may sound like a "no-brainer" to an individual with no investing experience, learning to invest on your own should not be ruled out entirely.
There is no doubt that this changing retirement/investment landscape is going to be a challenge. Most of you working folks barely find enough time to take care of your daily chores. Now you are being told that you must learn to become an investor or at least learn how to hire one!
The truth is, gaining a working knowledge of basic investing principles is not rocket science. It can be boring, but it does not have to be complicated. With the amount of free investment information available today, you decide how steep the learning curve will be. Rest assured, it will not be as steep as you have been led to believe.
Consider this:
  • Chances are you are not a Master Chef, but you probably do a great job of feeding your family each day.
  • You may not be a Certified Mechanic, but you can change your oil, rotate your tires or replace a tail light if needed.
  • Perhaps you do not have a Master's Degree in education, but you are smart enough to help your kids with their school projects.
Likewise you do not have to be a Certified Market Technician to be able invest wisely. All you have to do is get busy. Try not to think of this new task as a "chore," but as an opportunity and a great opportunity at that. This is your money. This is your future. Start taking charge of it today.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Importance of Educating the Masses About Smart Grid

A recent study conducted by Market Strategies International, involving 1,168 participants from across the US, shows that smart grid and smart meters are still lesser known concepts in the country.
The smart grid is basically a network that creates the possibility of saving energy resources. While the debate about safety and accuracy of smart meters, a key component of the smarter grid, is still going on, there may be a bigger area of concern for energy providers interested in transforming the grid.
This area is the knowledge and understanding of the smarter grid and smart meters. This article will specifically be about the US as the facts presented in the following lines are taken from a survey involving only US citizens.
In the survey, those who did not know very much or anything at all about the smart grid made up 79% of the total. Similarly, those who did not know or didn't understand advanced meters constituted 76% of the surveyed.
While lack of awareness about these technologies is an area where utilities may need to pay more attention, the good news for them is that providing knowledge about the technologies resulted in positive feedback for them from the participants.
After receiving an explanation about the smart grid and smart meters, 3/4 of the participants said that these technologies should be implemented on a priority basis in the coming 1-5 years. And 2/3 supported deployment of these technologies by their utilities if the cost was in the $6 to $10 range; however, the results were very not very different at higher or lower costs.
Based on these answers, we can say that educating people about the smart grid will be helpful for utilities in gaining support.
However, the education should cover all aspects of the smarter grid. Instances where smart meter installation was stopped after customer backlash have already occurred in the country.

Monday, September 3, 2012

General News About Associate Degree Programs Online

Associate degrees typically require two years to complete. Earning an associate degree in a specialized area serves as an opportunity to get entry level jobs. Many associate degree programs are available online, supporting you to study whenever and from wherever you want. You can choose an associate of arts degree, associate of applied science degree or associate of science program online, according to your interest and prior schooling.
Online associate degree programs in business and management, aid you to get higher rewarding job options. Online degree programs take less time than a traditional degree program to complete. It trains you in business communications, financial management, marketing, business law and many other related topics. You can choose a specialized field like agricultural business, automotive management, e-business or international business.
If you have an interest in careers in the health industry, online associate degree programs in health science are right for you. You can learn how to manage medical records and health care facilities in the course. If you are interested in physical therapy or personal training, you can choose an associate program in health science with personal training specialization. You can find plenty of job opportunities immediately after earning this degree.
It is always advisable to join an accredited institution, as the associate degree certificates offered by them have higher value. You can also expect quality education. Accreditation is a crucial aspect in online education. It is prudent to check whether the college or university offering online associate programs recruit instructors who have experience in the real world. Some instructors deliver the offline instructions via email. You can listen to them and learn your lessons easily. You can interact with the instructor via email and chat. The advanced technologies used by online institutions aid you to enhance your knowledge in your specialized field. The associate degree certificates awarded by them enjoy great recognition among employers.