How Financially Literate Are You? 3 Things You Should Know About Your Money

Most of us received little guidance or instruction on how to handle money when we were growing up. That’s OK — we can learn now, a little bit at a time. Let’s start with the basics.

How do most of us learn how to use our money wisely and well? When we’re growing up, we’re given special instruction in important subjects — swimming, driving, sex — to arm us with info and keep us from harm.

Yet when it comes to managing our money — an activity that every one of us needs to do, every day — we receive surprisingly little preparation. We’re not taught much about it in school, because education systems leave it to us to learn from our families and friends. However, those people often don’t fill in the gaps because money can be such a loaded or taboo topic.

Natalie Torres-Haddad, who grew up in southern California, saw many people around her struggling with debt and financial instability. She was determined to be the exception, and she purchased her first rental property in her early 20s and earned an MPA in Finance & International Business. In the process, however, she became buried in debt. Only by teaching herself the basics of money — basics that she’d never learned — was she able to steady herself and her finances.

Today she leads workshops and sessions to prevent others from falling into the money pit. (She’s also the author of the self-published Financially Savvy in 20 Minutes ). She’s found that even among the college-educated people she meets, “the majority feel confused and overwhelmed about balancing their income and expenses,” she says. The stats show they’re not alone. A 2015 Ohio State University study reported nearly 70 percent of college graduates in the US say they don’t feel equipped to manage money and deal with their debt.

Not only must we get up to speed on the basics, we also need to start having honest conversations with each other about money, says Torres-Haddad. In the same way we’d tell family and friends that we’re cutting out refined sugar from our diets or practicing yoga to increase our flexibility, we should be open with them about the steps we’re taking to boost our financial health. That way, we can get advice and support. This transparency, she adds, can also make us less susceptible to peer pressure-related spending. How many of us have agreed to a pricey meal or weekend trip because we didn’t want to come clean about our money concerns?

Becoming financially literate does not require a huge time investment. Torres-Haddad believes we can start by dedicating 15 – 20 minutes a day to developing our skills and knowledge by learning new terms and resources. Just like attaining literacy in a foreign language, she says, “it’s an ongoing education.” Here are three things you need to know about your money.

1. Know How Much Money You’re Bringing in Every Month vs. How Much You’re Spending

Most of us can rattle off our salaries in our sleep, but could you do the same for your monthly after-tax income and where you’re spending your money every month? If you can’t, that’s normal. But now is the time to learn your actual take-home pay and your actual expenses (and not just ballpark figures or estimates).

For your income, look at your physical or online pay stubs, and start keeping a record of the after-tax amounts. If you’re a salaried employee, that number should be fairly steady; if you’re not, those numbers will vary.

For your monthly expenses, Torres-Haddad suggests writing down — whether it’s in a physical or online notebook — every single daily purchase (coffee, take-out, Uber, online shopping, etc) you make and every single ongoing payment you make through autopay or credit cards (Netflix, gym membership, car insurance, utilities, etc.).

If you’ve never done this before, you may find this uncomfortable — even painful — but it will force you to face up to your spending habits. It will also make these purchases visible. Often, our regular outlays (such as Netflix, Hulu, etc.) can go unnoticed or unquestioned, and our daily spends — especially if we pay by debit card so the funds are instantly drawn from our bank accounts — can go forgotten. Torres-Haddad calls the latter “runaway spending” — “when the little things that you thought cost only a few dollars actually cost much more” in the long run. Take a daily $5 green smoothie. By making them at home, you could save yourself a few hundred dollars in a month.

After you have a fundamental understanding of income and expenses, you can download an app to help you track these categories; see your bank account, credit-card and loan balances; and organize your purchases into buckets so you can identify areas where you might cut back. Two free apps to try are Mint or Charlie, says Torres-Haddad. But, she cautions, apps can be a little “out of sight, out of mind,” meaning if you need extra help to be aware of your spending, stick with the pen-and-pad (or fingers-and-keyboard) method a while longer.

2. Know Your FICO Score and Your Other Credit Scores

While you don’t need to have a good credit score to be financially literate, you must know what it is. ( Note: Most of the information in this section applies to people living in the US.) In the US, FICO was the first company to offer a three-digit credit-risk score for lenders to use when deciding whether or not to approve a loan or line of credit, a credit limit, and an interest rate. There are three other national credit reporting bureaus — Experian, Equifax and Transunion — which also keep track of all your loans (student, auto, personal, etc.) and your balances and histories for all your credit cards (whether issued by banks, stores or businesses).

However, the FICO score is the one most frequently used when you apply for credit cards, mortgages and most types of loans; rent an apartment; or sign up for utilities. FICO scores range from 300 to 850; 670 and up is seen as a good score and 800 and up is excellent. While the FICO score is calculated with a proprietary algorithm, the primary factors that go into it are your repayment history (do you pay your credit-card bills on time? how late are you?), how much debt you’re carrying on cards and loans, how long you’ve successfully held a credit card or loan for; and whether you’ve managed to hold a mix of different kinds of credit.

Most banks and credit cards offer free access to your FICO score on their mobile apps and websites ( here’s a list of the ones that do). If you don’t use one of these companies, you can also find out how to access your score on FICO’s helpful FAQ, including a chart showing where your score falls between “Poor” and “Exceptional.”

Besides checking your FICO score every year, do an annual check of the reports issued by Experian, Equifax and Transunion. This is so you can verify that they’re correct, make sure no one has opened up a line of credit in your name, and see where you might improve. You are entitled to a free copy of a credit report from each bureau once a year. Beware: Many sites will charge you a fee, so use the federally approved and secure Annual Credit Report site.

If it’s your first time checking or you’re about to make a big purchase (such as a car or a home), Torres-Haddad suggests getting all three reports at once. After that, she recommends spacing them out throughout the year. That way, you can quickly catch any errors, fraud, identity theft or any other actions that could hurt your credit history. Mark your calendar so you know when you can request your next free credit report.

3. Know How Much Credit Card Debt You’re Carrying

Knowing how much credit-card debt you’re carrying — and how quickly it’s increasing due to interest — is critical to your financial literacy. Make a list (on paper or on a computer) of each of your credit cards, their current balances, and their current interest rate. Then, put them in order from highest interest rate to lowest.

In general, says Torres-Haddad, this should be how you should prioritize paying them off, paying as much as you can towards the card with the highest interest rate while paying the minimum on the other cards. Called the “ debt-snowball method,” this was popularized by money expert Dave Ramsey.

If you have any cards that offered a 0% APR as a promotion when you signed up, mark down the date on which the promotional rate expires because that’s when you can expect your debt to accumulate at a high interest rate (20% or more). Try to budget your monthly payments so that this card will have little to no balance when that expiration date arrives.

Believe it or not, having a credit card can be a great thing for a person’s FICO and credit scores — if you use it responsibly. Of course, carrying no debt on your cards is best. Otherwise, Torres-Haddad recommends using no more than 30 percent of your available credit limit. So if you have two credit cards with limits of $6K apiece, totalling $12K in available credit, make sure the total balances you’re carrying do not exceed $4K.

If you’ve managed to pay off a credit card, congratulations. But while you may be tempted to close it, Torres-Haddad advises against it. Why? Closing the account will shrink your total amount of available credit and cause your credit score to dip. Instead, delete the card number from any online shopping accounts, cancel any auto-pays billed to it, and freeze the card in ice. It may sound silly but it means that if you want to use it, you’ll be forced to wait for it to defrost — and forced to take a little time to think about your purchase.

When choosing a new credit card, look for ones that offer incentives — such as travel points or cash back — which could help you and your finances. Torres-Haddad recommends going to nerdwallet.com and bankrate.com to compare credit card offers.

Obviously, these three points represent just a small part of financial literacy. That’s why Torres-Haddad urges people to be patient and to learn gradually. Two books she recommends are Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich!  and Robert T. Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. For those who like to get information through listening, she suggests the “Popcorn Finance” and “Her Dinero Matters” podcasts.

When you can, supplement your research with an in-person workshop, adds Torres-Haddad. “Even going to one financial literacy workshop can have a life-changing effect,” she says. A good time to find free workshops is April, which is Financial Literacy Month in the US. One of the best investments you can make in your life is to educate yourself about money, says Torres-Haddad. “It can really give you a lot of peace of mind.”

By: Erin McReynolds

Source: How Financially Literate Are You? 3 Things You Should Know About Your Money

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10 Smartphone Tips Every iPhone and Android Owner Needs To Know

Some of the most useful smartphone features are hidden away in your settings menu, which means you might not have tried them out yet. To help you get more from your mobile, we’ve rounded up 10 need-to-know tips. Whether you’re using an Apple iPhone or an Android smartphone, you can easily configure your gadget so that it bats away scam texts or helps you reduce your screen time.

If you want to make better use of your phone, have a look at our advice on dealing with distractions, improving usability and keeping your personal information secure. Which? Best Buy mobile phones – if you’re due an upgrade, consult our expert reviews to see which phones have aced our tests Smartphone tips for iOS and Android

1. Silence annoying notifications

If you have lots of different apps installed on your smartphone, it might be beeping and buzzing more often than you’d like. To stop your phone lighting up with notifications every hour of the day, take a trip to settings and decide which app alerts are genuinely important. Turn off notifications on iOS – Go to Settings > Notifications to show the list of apps. Click on each app to turn off notifications and change the alert settings. Turn off notifications on Android – Open the Settings app, go to Apps & notifications > Notifications to take control.

2. Use Do Not Disturb mode for some peace and quiet

With Do Not Disturb turned on, you can temporarily disable notifications at specific times. You can still allow calls from certain numbers even while it’s enabled, or have it turn on automatically when you’re driving. Turn on Do Not Disturb on iOS – Go to Settings > Do Not Disturb and turn on or off and find other settings. Turn on Do Not Disturb on Android – Open Settings, then go to Apps & notifications > Notifications > Advanced. Tap on Do Not Disturb to get started.

3. Cut down on your screen time

With many of us still working from home, it can be hard to mentally switch off after a long day of work. If you’re worried about how much time you’re spending on your phone, you can track your app usage. Parents might also want to use this feature, also known as ‘Digital Wellbeing’, to monitor how often their little one uses their own smartphone. Track screen time on iOS – Go to Settings > Screen Time to see daily and weekly use tallies, time on apps and even set a screen time passcode for children’s devices. Track screen time on Android – Open the Settings app and select Digital Wellbeing to set time limits or use tracking.

4. Adjust screen brightness to protect your eyes in low light

Most modern smartphones now have a feature that can reduce levels of blue light thought to interfere with sleep. If you’re using your smartphone in a dimly lit room, you might want to give it a try. Adjust brightness on iOS – Go to Settings > Display & Brightness to adjust brightness, light and dark screen, background and night-time settings. Adjust brightness on Android – Open the Settings app and tap Display for brightness levels, night settings and adaptive mode that automatically adjusts the screen to your surroundings. If you just want to adjust brightness, pull down the notification shade and slide the bar at the top.

5. Increase text size and strength

If you’re straining your eyes to read from your smartphone screen, you can increase text size in just a couple of taps. Increase text size on iOS – Go to Settings > Display & Brightness and Text Size to adjust the size, turn on Bold Text settings and adjust the display to zoomed, to enlarge text and app display size. Increase text size on Android – Open the Settings app, then select Display to adjust font size.

6. Delete apps and organize apps into folders

Setting aside some time to tidy up your smartphone can make it easier to find your most used apps. We suggest you try a bit of digital housekeeping to remove unused apps (they take up space on your phone) and organise the apps that you’re keeping into labelled folders. Delete apps on iOS – Hold down the app’s icon on your home screen and click Delete App to remove or Edit Home Screen to remove multiple apps, or hold and drag into a folder. Delete apps on Android – Click and hold on an app’s icon and go to App Info > Uninstall.

7. Block unwanted contacts and nuisance calls

Suffering from a constant barrage of phishing texts or spam phone calls? Blocking these numbers is straightforward and it’ll stop you from being tricked into handing over personal information. Block numbers on iOS – Click the Phone app, go to Recent and press the i icon on the right. Scroll down and click Block this Caller. Block numbers on Android – Open the Phone app and select Recent. Hold on the number and from the pop-up menu, choose Block/ Report Spam.

8. Decide which apps can access your location

Location tracking is vital for GPS and mapping, but not every app needs to use it. In fact, if you download an app that requests unusual permissions considering its primary function, that’s a red flag. For example, a calculator app shouldn’t want access to your camera. You can allow an app one-off access to your location later if it needs it. To manage location settings, follow these steps: Location settings on iOS – Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services to toggle GPS, Bluetooth, wi-fi hotspot and mobile tower tracking. For individual apps, select an app and set the permission. Location settings on Android – Open the Settings app and select Location > App permission to review and adjust the permission status for each installed app.

9. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) to protect your online accounts

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is essentially an extra layer of security for your online accounts. It usually means that a unique code is sent to your phone, which you then enter after your password to confirm it’s you. Use two-factor authentication on iOS – Go to Settings and select your name > Password & Security to turn 2FA on or off. Use two-factor authentication on Android – Go to your Google Account settings at myaccount.google.com > Security. Select Google > 2-Step Verification, click On and follow the steps. For more details, see our guide: What is two-factor authentication and should you use it?

10. Make an emergency call

If you haven’t configured your emergency call settings, there’s no time like the present. Doing so means you can quickly contact the emergency services without having to flick through your contacts. Emergency calls on iOS – Go to Settings > Emergency SOS to turn on or off Auto Call. In an emergency, press the sleep/wake button five times to call an emergency number automatically, or after countdown, depending on Auto Call setting. Emergency calls on Android – Hold down the power button and from the menu, click Emergency > Emergency Information to add contacts and any relevant health information.

By Rosalyn Page

Source: 10 smartphone tips every iPhone and Android owner needs to know – Which? News

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Critics:

In mobile phones released since the second half of the 2010s, operational life span commonly is limited by built-in batteries which are not designed interchangeable. The life expectancy of batteries depends on usage intensity of the powered device, where activity (longer usage) and tasks demanding more energy expire the battery earlier.

Lithium-ion and Lithium-polymer batteries, those commonly powering portable electronics, additionally wear down more from fuller charge and deeper discharge cycles, and when unused for an extended amount of time while depleted, where self-discharging may lead to a harmful depth of discharge.

The functional life span of mobile phones may be limited by lack of software update support, such as deprecation of TLS cipher suites by certificate authority with no official patches provided for earlier devices.

See also

7 Ways to Differentiate Instruction Through Assessment – Vicki Davis

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We need to differentiate instruction. Derived from the word “different,” differentiation points to the fact that different ways of teaching can help you reach more children with the knowledge they need to master something. You’ve heard good teachers say it this way when a child is struggling: “Well, let’s try this a different way.”

But with technology, I think we’re forgetting that sometimes assessment can be a form of instruction that is delivered differently. We have ways to teach through assessment, whether or not we take a grade.

Differentiating instruction doesn’t always depend on the face-to-face instructor. We can also merge it with assessment tools in powerful ways that help kids learn on the spot. Remember that you don’t have to take a grade on every assessment. You can assess students as they learn by using formative assessment, which is often a valuable addition to summative assessment that takes place at the conclusion of a unit.

1. Harnessing Artificial Intelligence on Writing

We all know what it’s like to get back that paper we struggled to write and find it covered with comments written in red ink. The red-ink method of assessment has two flaws.

First, when you mark a mistake, marks don’t explain to the writer why it is incorrect. As a teacher, I won’t grade a written document if it hasn’t been spell checked. Many people are notoriously inconsistent about checking grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Additionally, when teachers just mark an error, students may not understand how to correct it and will continue making the same mistake. They need to know why a particular sentence needs a comma in a particular place.

Tools like GrammarlyPro Writing Aid, and the Hemingway App are veritable Swiss army knives to improve written language. In addition to suggested changes, writers can see with a click of a button why something is incorrect and learn from mistakes. As a blogger, I can attest that these tools have improved grammar mistakes that my high school English teacher honestly tried to remove. I guess I never really understood why they were mistakes.

The problem with artificial intelligence is that it only works for humans who acknowledge they need help. For example, my dyslexic son or spelling-challenged husband know that they need the help, and they write better for it. While these AI tools should be easily accessible to improve our own work, we should also be using them as a new way to stop mistakes at the source by teaching students about grammar, punctuation and spelling. In the future, perhaps videos and other tools will partner with AI writing tools to further improve differentiating instruction for writers.

2. Verbal Feedback on Written Work

The second problem with those red-ink corrections is that struggling writers are often struggling readers. These writers are further disadvantaged because the written word has none of the face-and-voice body language that is an essential part of communication. Teacher feedback on content or writing is best delivered verbally in-person or via digital voice/video. Tools like the Read/Write Toolbar from Texthelp or Kaizena let teachers quickly leave voice comments on documents so that students hear feedback as they work. Voice feedback has additional benefits: It’s often much faster for the teacher than handwritten comments, and it can be instantly delivered if you’re using a tool that links with Google Docs. This means that while a teacher might be assessing a paper, he or she can also be differentiating instruction.

3. Providing Opportunities for Rework

However, this mode of adding instruction to assessment only works if students are engaged with the assessment-embedded instruction. This is why I require my students to rework papers and documents where I’ve given verbal instructions.

4. Instant Feedback on Answers

If a teacher has to use fill-in-the-blank or multiple-choice assessments, there is no reason to make students wait to find out if their answers are correct. Fast, accurate feedback is a hallmark of great teaching. Again, we can use an AI tool to speed up grading and feedback with apps like GradeCam and QuickKey, which scan assessments and show students corrections immediately. Instant feedback helps kids learn and remember while content is fresh in their minds. They are being reminded and instructed in a different, immediate way that will help them remember in the future.

5. Embedding Learning, Feedback, and Assessment Into Instruction

Whether a teacher is using video or in-class instruction, the established method of teaching for 30 minutes and stopping for a quiz doesn’t fit with how this generation learns. Rather than wasting valuable instruction time with a handwritten quiz, tools like Edpuzzle will pause videos and ask questions inside the video. Multiple-choice can be graded instantly while still leaving time to ask discussion questions. (You can turn off fast forwarding to ensure that students are getting video content in their viewing time.) Tools like Nearpod and PearDeck allow teachers to embed questions in the instruction. Teachers can instantly bring up a question that requires students to draw a picture. For example, when I was teaching form-factors of computers, I had students draw an example so that we could discuss and reinforce their learning. Students benefit from opportunities to draw and type their answers.

6. Facilitating Inclusive Student Conversations

Using Flipgrid, students can carry on conversations via video, offering another option for student participation by allowing them to have interactions that teachers can easily monitor and responded to. Students are learning differently because they are hearing their classmates respond, and outside guests such as book authors or other resources can participate with a quick answer. Instead of having students pair up for in-class work (where the teacher can’t monitor whether they’re sharing correct information), Flipgrid can involve the whole class or a subset of the class as you discuss and learn things differently.

7. Merging the Real and Online Worlds in Powerful Learning

Using a tool like Metaverse, teachers and students can merge the real world and the virtual world. For example, a teacher can add a QR code (a digital barcode) to questions. When students are struggling, they can scan the barcode. A virtual “helper” will appear on the students’ device to ask questions, show relevant videos or websites, or guide students through other resources to help them understand the content. While this can seem like artificial intelligence, students or teachers must program or create the augmented reality characters. This past year, I had my eighth- and ninth-graders programming in Metaverse. I’ve also seen elementary kids use the tool.

However, some tools like the Merge Cube come with built-in apps that can help kids learn. For example, hold the Merge Cube in your hand and launch Galactic Explorer. You’ll now have a complete solar system to explore. There’s also AnatomyAR+, an app about the human body, and many others that students can manipulate in virtual reality or by looking through their phone screen in augmented reality.

As teachers, differentiating instruction with today’s technology is often a melding of instruction, assessment, and feedback. We can reach more students as we design instruction to more rapidly reach all of our learners and provide feedback in ways that help students learn.

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