Financial Planning for an Uncertain Future

During uncertain times, like we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be hard to know how to plan your financial future. The key is to create a set of financial goals that you can work toward even during uncertain times, and which can help you build a strong foundation for your future financial wellness. Setting goals can be helpful not just for your financial future, but also for lowering your stress because you will be working from a predetermined plan.

Setting Short-Term Goals

When you start setting financial goals, your short-term goals should be focused on making sure that you can get through hardship that may come your way. Short-term goals may include such things as building up an emergency fund and paying down high interest loans or credit cards. Experts usually recommend an emergency fund of at least $1,000.

The key for short-term goals is that they should be achievable within a few months to a year. They should not be more significant or take longer; otherwise, they fall out of the range of short-term goals.

Setting Long-Term Goals

After setting your short-term goals, you should then set your long-term financial goals. Long-term goals should be steps you take to build a strong financial future for yourself in several years and even in a few decades. Long-term goals do not have to achieve anything immediately—they are more focused on benefits down the road. Long-term goals can include saving for retirement, paying off a house, and paying for your kids’ education.

When facing an uncertain future, it may not be possible to put as much toward your long-term goals as you might like. In particular, you need to make sure you can financially survive short-term hardship before prioritizing your long-term goals. There is no point in saving for retirement if you can’t pay your rent.

Understand How Different Scenarios Can Affect Your Goals

Once you have set some short-term and long-term financial goals, you should plan for a few different future scenarios and understand how those scenarios might affect your goals. For example, you could choose to predict what you think a good, neutral, and bad future could look like. Understanding what a bad scenario looks like is especially important when facing an uncertain future because you don’t know exactly what will happen, and you need to be prepared for the worst.

By having a general idea of these scenarios, you can then estimate what each would mean for your financial goals. You may need to adjust your goals depending on the scenario, and this adjustment may help you realize that you need to make some changes to your expectations of your lifestyle and/or your financial future.

One important thing to note: if in a bad future scenario you cannot meet your basic needs (food, rent, etc.), it may indicate that you need to start making changes today to protect your financial future. For example, you may need to try and increase your income or start building up an emergency fund.

Understand All Your Options

Finally, when facing an uncertain future, it is very important for you to understand all your options. This means looking at options that might be unique or temporary. In particular, when facing unprecedented situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, new financial options may be offered to those people affected. For example, relief has been offered on certain expenses like student loan or mortgage payments due to COVID-19.

So, to ensure you understand all your options when facing an uncertain future, you should do thorough research about your situation. This may mean checking online or calling your lenders to see what options they may be able to offer you. Even if your situation is not due to something as global as COVID-19, there still may be several options offered by your lender, which can help you achieve your financial goals and better prepare for the future.

Plan Carefully, but be Flexible

When creating financial goals for an uncertain future, careful planning can be enormously helpful for preparing for any scenario. If you have understood what may happen, you will be much better able to handle the future when it comes to pass.

However, it is also very important to remember that financial goals should change with your situation. The process of setting financial goals and assessing them in a variety of different scenarios is exactly that—a process. You are never really done with this process since as your situation changes, so will these potential future scenarios. Flexibility with your financial goals is key to your success at any time, but especially when your future is uncertain.

Source: Hannah Webb, Contributor to iGrad

Nature of Work and Skills Sought by Employers

Teleworking: Approximately 16% of workers are in alternative employment arrangements today. Freelancing, “gig economy,” contract work, each of these terms describes a trend which will be more prevalent in the future. The internet, smart phones, online file sharing, and new technologies have all made it possible for us to work anywhere and everywhere.

What are additional changes that will impact the future workplace?

  • There are three forces that will influence the world of work in the future; demographic trends, ongoing technological progress and economic globalization of the U.S. economy.
  • The labor force has become smaller except for age 55-plus workers.
  • Employees will have the opportunity to shape their own career paths rather than climbing a “corporate ladder.”
  • The number of manufacturing jobs has dropped while the number of service-related jobs has grown significantly.
  • There’s no such thing as total job security so it’s important to have a backup plan and to continuously improve and broaden your skills.
  • Many jobs being filled now did not exist 20 years ago and it’s expected that in 10 years’ time, 60% of jobs will be entirely new.

Some of the new technologies which are anticipated to affect the workplace:

  • Light peak technology which enables data transfers at up to 100 GB per second
  • Mainstream Artificial Intelligence in average electronic devices that will enable multitasking to rise to new levels
  • Web 3.0 will offer new web-browsing capabilities and experiences

Skills Sough by Employers

These are qualities that employers will seek in the modern employee:

  • Basic soft skills: Advanced cognitive skills, socio-behavioral skills and the ability to adept to changes in communication and new technologies.
  • Self-directed: Now the employees have the ability to work from anywhere at any time, being self-directed is crucial. You must be able to execute on your deliverables whether you are in an office or at home.
  • Focus: In today’s  work environment information bombards employees from every direction which means employees need to become adept at filtering out and focusing on what’s crucial.

Source: Shirley Rowe, owner of Front Rowe Consulting.

Overcoming Generational Barriers in Workplace Communication

Having shared goals but different expectations about how to achieve them is a common theme of workplace disagreements. How does an employer bridge the gap and keep the focus on quality outcomes and high productivity while simultaneously ensuring all employees feel represented within the workplace? It is critical to identify differences between alternative perceptions.

It is important to keep these differences in mind, to promote peace and productivity. Employers should focus on commonalities with these cohorts. Although the order of priorities may change between the generations, most employees value work-life balance, want to be included in decisions and leadership, expect training and development opportunities, strive for work that is challenging and rewarding, are financially motivated.

Work Values

  • Boomer: Stick to the agenda, enjoy and value teamwork and individual accountability.
  • Generation X: Strive for balance, freedom, and flexibility and value process over product.
  • Millennial: Value continuing education, respond well to mentoring, and prefer flattened hierarchy and social opportunities.
  • Generation Z: Expect work to be a central part of their lives, value guidance and reassurance, income-driven, risk-adverse and emphasize safety.

Some effective strategies for managing diverse workplace populations include:

  • interdisciplinary teams that include cross-generational mentoring and allow for all to be represented in decision making
  • individual recognition and promotion based on performance rather than longevity and past experience with incentives that are meaningful to the employees current life stage
  • multi-level feedback and supervision
  • multimodal communication
  • avoid generational biases and ageism
  • present changes in a way that does not seem to favor one group or displace another

Consider the following workplace decision-making process, finalizing project:

  • Boomer: We need to finalize the details of the project. I will schedule a meeting in the conference room sometime this week. Please let me know open times on your schedule.
  • Generation X: What a waste of time! We are just wrapping up the details – can we have a quick conference call instead and can’t we use a Doodle Poll to figure out when we can all meet?
  • Millennial: Why don’t we use Zoom or FaceTime?
  • Generation Z: Can’t this be solved asynchronously, I have a family obligation today. Could we respond in the next 24 hours with a cloud-based survey??

In this conversation, the employees share the same goal. Their communication preferences and the way they manage their time varies. As the conversation evolves, each individual contributes a set of ideas unique to their cohort. Personality conflicts may arise; some may get frustrated, thinking their way is the better method and not understanding why the other do not agree and some way may feel they are not heard and valued when their preferences are unmet. Over time, these disagreements can overcome exaggerated and could be source of further disagreement, contributing to the mood of the overall work environment.

Source: Rebecca Merlenbach, graduate student at Lindenwood University and Dr. Sarah Patterson-Mills, LPC, Program Chair for School Counseling at Lindenwood University.

Grants for Texas Teachers

Texas Education Agency (TEA) publishes grant applications electronically through the eGrants system and on paper. The process an applicant must follow to apply for funds is different for eGrants and paper applications.

  • eGrant Applications: An eGrant is an online grant application that is published through eGrants, TEA’s electronic grants system. The eGrants system stores and makes available all grant-related documents, such as the grant application, general and fiscal guidelines, program guidelines, and any errata notices issued for the grant. eGrant applications must be completed electronically and submitted online.
  • Paper Applications: Applicants must download paper grant applications in Adobe PDF form format from the TEA Grant Opportunities page, then complete the forms on the applicant’s desktop. After the application is complete, the applicant must print, sign, and mail the forms to the TEA Document Control Center.  All grant-related documents, such as the grant application, general and fiscal guidelines, program guidelines, and any errata notices issued for the grant, are listed on the TEA Grants Opportunities page.

Request for Application

The request for application (RFA) describes the grant program as well as the associated guidelines, requirements, and provisions and assurances. The RFA consists of the following parts:

  • General and Fiscal Guidelines: Describes requirements, processes, and guidelines applicable to all TEA-administered grants.
  • Program guidelines: Describes the individual grant program’s goals and requirements.
  • Grant application and instructions: Includes the forms, or schedules, that the applicant must complete and submit to become eligible for grant funding, along with any applicable instructions.
  • Provisions and assurances: Lists the legal obligations the applicant agrees to comply with in accepting grant funds.

The RFA for any grant is available on the grant’s TEA Grant Opportunities page. If the grant is available through eGrants and you are an eligible recipient for the grant, the RFA is also linked to the eGrants homepage.

Formula Grants

The legislation authorizing a formula grant includes a mathematical formula for calculating the amount of grant funds, or the entitlement, that each applicant may receive. TEA uses eGrants to electronically publish the applications for most formula grants. The formula grant applications for a given school year normally open in eGrants during the preceding spring semester.

The three major formula grant programs that TEA administers are authorized by the following pieces of federal legislation:

  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as reauthorized in 2015 by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA).
  • Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of 2006.

Before an eligible applicant can complete an eGrants application, each staff member responsible for completing, submitting, and certifying the application must have a TEA Login (TEAL) account and access to the eGrants system. To request a new TEAL account, go to the TEA Login page and “Request a New User Account.” From the TEAL Accounts menu, request access to the eGrants application. The TEA Login page provides links to the online TEASE account and eGrants request forms.

The application for each eligible applicant includes an estimate of the funding amount (the “planning amount”) that will be available to the applicant. As the school year progresses and the data TEA uses to calculate entitlements becomes available, the planning amount is revised and the “maximum entitlement” is issued.

In addition to the grant application, eGrants includes links to all grant-related documents, including the program guidelines. Those documents are also available on the grant’s TEA Grant Opportunities page.

Discretionary Grants

The legislation authorizing a discretionary grant gives some freedom, or discretion, to the agency administering the grant. The legislation may define certain elements of the grant program, such as population to be served or services to be provided, while leaving the administering agency free to determine other elements, such as eligibility criteria or the amount to be awarded to various grantees.

TEA may award discretionary grants on a competitive or noncompetitive basis.

Competitive Discretionary Grants

TEA awards competitive grant funds to eligible applicants whose applications meet submission requirements and receive the highest scores in the peer review process. The amount of competitive funds awarded to each grantee depends on the number of applicants that are eligible for funding and on the total amount of grant funds available.

The competitive process is strictly defined and monitored to ensure fairness and consistency. For complete information on competitive grants, refer to the General and Fiscal Guidelines, linked to the Guidelines, Provisions and Assurances page of the TEA website.

Noncompetitive Discretionary Grants

Noncompetitive discretionary grants are awarded to a predetermined list of eligible applicants, each of which is allotted a certain amount of grant funding. Applicants may access the grant application through eGrants, as with formula grants, or through the paper application (Microsoft Word files that are linked to the grant’s TEA Grant Opportunities page and that the grantee downloads, completes, prints, then submits on paper). TEA contacts eligible applicants directly to alert them to the availability and amount of noncompetitive grant funding.

Eligible Applicants

The following entities are eligible to apply for formula and discretionary funds:

  • Formula grants are available to independent school districts (ISDs) and open-enrollment charter schools.
  • Discretionary grants may be available to ISDs, open-enrollment charter schools, education service centers, institutions of higher education, and public and private nonprofit organizations, depending on the eligibility criteria defined in the legislation authorizing the grant program or by TEA.

Grant Negotiation

Before TEA awards funding of any type, the agency reviews the grant application for compliance with all grant requirements. It may be necessary for the applicant to update elements of the application to meet requirements. In those cases, TEA provides guidance to the applicant through the process known as grant negotiation.

TEA cannot award funds to an applicant until the grant application is negotiated to approval. If TEA determines during the negotiation process that the application is not eligible to be funded, the agency notifies the applicant of its ineligibility for funding. TEA is not responsible for paying for any expenditure incurred by the applicant.

Grant Award

When TEA and the applicant have negotiated the grant application to approval, TEA awards grant funds by issuing the Notice of Grant Award (NOGA). The NOGA incorporates all parts of the RFA, including the negotiated application, and constitutes the binding agreement between TEA and the applicant.

Allocation Amounts (State and Federal)

TEA administers grants funded by state and federal sources. The Texas Legislature passes legislation to authorize state-funded grants. The US Congress passes legislation to authorize federally funded grants.

Depending on the authorizing legislation, TEA either awards grants on a discretionary basis (discretionary grants) or bases the award on a mathematical formula described in the authorizing statute (formula or entitlement grants).

For discretionary grants, the commissioner of education has the discretion to determine the allocation. The commissioner may also have discretion about who is eligible and how the funds will be awarded.

For formula grants, authorizing statute determines eligibility and the statutory formula determines allocation amounts. Only local educational agencies (LEAs) are eligible to apply for entitlement grants.

Current- and prior-year allocation amounts for each LEA eligible for a state or federal entitlement grant are listed on the Entitlements page of the TEA website.

Amending the Application

The grantee may need to make changes to the grant program described and budgeted in the approved application. Some changes are within the grantee’s power to make without seeking TEA approval. Most changes, however, require the grantee to update, or amend, the approved grant application. All changes that are subject to the amendment process require TEA approval and may require negotiation.

To determine whether a planned change to the grant program requires an amendment to the application, grantees should consult the document When to Amend the Application.

The amendment process is fully described in the Amending the Application section of the General and Fiscal Guidelines.

Source: Texas Education Agency

3 Ways to Connect the Generations in the Workplace

When developing intergenerational connectivity, it is essential to focus on the connecting points that unite generations, rather than dissimilarities.

  1. Mentoring: Mentoring is the collective “how” in work. Organizations strive for mutual support and tolerance with a strong commitment to inclusiveness. In order to accomplish this, companies must train leaders to be better equipped to communicate, mentor, inspire, and authentically care about their employees. Developing a mentoring structure that identifies employee goals, needs, and then setting up support models, such as one-on-one sessions, intergenerational group sessions, and even “speed mentoring” where employees ask questions of the organization’s leaders, will encourage knowledge-sharing relationships. Baby Boomers can pass on the institutional knowledge, Generation X can bring structure and focus, Generation Y provides unique connections and Generation Z support innovation. “Reverse mentoring” can also be very effective, using technology to give younger team members the opportunity to share their skills with more senior colleagues.
  2. Mastering: Mastering is a creative “why” in work. Open communication with customized messaging tailored to individual need provides Generation Y and Generation Z with continuous feedback loops, while annual performance reviews continue for Baby Boomers and Builders. Training managers to develop strong interpersonal and communication skills will ensure an open and inclusive workspace where employees can share. Bringing generations togethers together by conducting awareness sessions provides an opportunity to educate one another about each generation’s history, values, culture, and norms. Developing a sense of purpose beyond profit by putting more emphasis on opportunities for growth, promotions based on competence and honoring social responsibility, creates an environment of ambition, connection and loyalty. Embedding the mission/vision of the organization into each employee’s ambitions provides a connective purpose between generations.
  3. Motivating: Motivating is the connective “what” in work. Each generation has wants and needs based on different ways they value work. Baby Boomers and Builders have less family obligations and may wish to work part-time but still want to be involved in decisions. Individuals from Generation X are the “sandwich generation”, caring both elders and children while paying mortgages and saving for their children’s college and retirement. Generation Y look for the “work to live” balance in their lives. Professional development, however, is a constant request of each generation. The best solution in providing training to a multi-generational workforce isn’t prioritizing but by personalizing the learning. This requires customizing development for each employee to engage them in the material and their growth. Learning tools can be a platform that provides customized pathways to achieve individuals goals or provide necessary training. Technology, in-person training, and experiential opportunities that fit the learning styles of individual employees provide awareness-building a Millennials move into management.

Summary: Organizations thrive leaders focus custom approaches based on how each generation sees the world and how values are shaped by their experience. Those values, in turn, shape their place in the workplace. They key to respect between generations is the recognition of uniqueness in each generations’ talent, potential, expertise and motivation in the multi-generational workplace by creating customized opportunities to collaborate, connect and foster successful relationships.

Source: Linda Sollars, MA, GCDFi, CMCS, President of Creating Purpose, LLC.