Financial Advice for New Education Professionals – May 2018

Financial Advice for New Education Professionals – May 2018

New professionals in education have a number of financial factors against them. Student loan debt can take away a lot of financial momentum before professional careers even get started. The average debt for an undergraduate is “$37,172 in student loans, a $20,000 increase from 13 years ago”, according to Additionally, reports that “One-quarter of graduate students borrow nearly $100,000, and another 1 in 10 borrow more than $150,000.”

It is important to get personal finance right really in a career. Simple mistakes with debt can lead to extreme costs over a longer time frame. For example, in addition to student loan debt, new professionals face things like credit card debt, car loans, car leasing, and other lifestyle temptations. With average interest rates at 13.56% (, credit card debt can add up and, over the average time, lead to high balances that can take a long time to pay off.

There are simple steps that can be a huge help over a long time period. For example, being smart with retirement accounts and matching contributions could lead to some money. Specifically, 100 invested with 100 added per month for 30 years at an average interest rate of 6%, which is a conservative estimate of long-term rates of return based on’s review of the S&P 500, can lead to $95,444.17. Of course, as salary increases over a working life, contributions should go up and lead to even greater compounding.

There are lots of mistakes that new professionals make. Luckily, there is good advice all available. US News has a great list available at

One that I like and recommend for his simplicity and straightforwardness is Dave Ramsey. He has helped a lot of people, and his program is great in its simplicity and clarity. You can learn more about the specifics of his program at

In my work with new professionals in education, I have learned some things I would like those graduating now to do (and not do) a few simple things.


  1. Create and use a budget
  2. Build up an emergency fund
  3. Contribute to your retirement account, at least enough to get any available employer matches


  1. Get further into debt
  2. Buying more care than you need (also leasing a car)
  3. Using debt to finance lifestyle

Why three each?… Simple, easy to remember, and there are more things one can bo (of course) but these are what I see at foundational. Once these basics are handled, new professionals can move on to other financial goals.


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Writing About Challenges of 30 Day Sprint – May 2018

Writing about Challenges of 30 Day Sprint – May 2018

Since May 10, I have been working on a 30 day challenge that includes writing 250 words per day. I have produced some writing and I am looking forward to producing more. However, there have been challenges with this project. As of this writing, I am 12 days in and have missed three days.

When it is going well, I do the work first thing, during a “designated writing time” like so many writers say is necessary to write a lot. The days that I have missed have been due to a lack of discipline on my part, specifically with using the scheduled time, which was initially planned for 7-8 am every day.

Trouble with sticking to things on a daily basis is something I have struggled with for a whole. Over the past several years, perhaps 3-4, I have been more actively working on improving myself . Now, at times, feeling the discipline muscles building some strength. They are not getting exercised every day but, things like this 30 sprint/challenge are helping.

During this challenge, I have experienced a little bit of thinking that I do not have anything interesting to say or having challenges with thinking my idea is “not good enough”. Yet, I have also experienced (even within the confines of the project) the power of drafting and editing. Sometimes writing, when it first comes out is messy, spelled wrong, disorganized, etc. But, it can clean up well with editing and proofing.

Remembering the the practice and discipline of the daily writing is helpful to the improvement of the quality. Additionally, the generation of content is good for juicing the related parts of the brain. Stimulating the mind and getting the content created in the real world leads to more idea generation and a better understanding of the material for me.

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30-Day Sprints – Round 1, Writing

Over the past several months, I have been thinking about improving my skills in several areas and having learned about 30-day sprints as a way to improve, I have decided that I might as well start now.  This blog post is my public commitment to 30 days of writing.  I will write at least 250 words per day.  I will not publish or share the writing every day but I will be keeping track and posting word count.

For the 250 words, I am not striving for polished and perfect words, just 250 words about whatever I am thinking about.  Since I am in the final stages of dissertation editing, I will count any writing I have to do for that.  For when I encounter some self-resistance about “not wanting to write” or having writers-block, I will write about that.

To help with this sprint, future sprints, and developing the discipline muscles, I will do this at a scheduled time every day, between 7-8am.  All the cool kids use dedicated time, Paul J. Silvia’s book How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing has some great recommendations and ideas.

For those who are interested in 30-day sprints for personal development, here is a resource that seems like good a good place to get information:

Here we go!  If you have done anything like this, or want to join the sprinting, let me know, it would be fun to have companions on the journey.

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Hidden Curriculiums

Every school, college, and university has a formal curriculum.  Perhaps they even have several, one for each program, major, etc.  The academic curriculums are (hopefully) designed intentionally, with reasons for each item included and what items are excluded.  Curriculums communicate what we value as educational institutions.

A critical part of any educational community is its culture.  How is that built and maintained?  It seems to me that there is not as often as purposeful a building of that as there is of the academic curriculums.  Why not?  When we select what to include in the schedule, where we spend resources, what behavior we allow and encourage, we are creating a curriculum. But, are we building it on purpose?

Even when we do things intentionally, there is a secondary curriculum, a hidden curriculum.  Why not evaluate it and make it explicit?  What are we valuing?  What are we teaching?

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Never Forget? We always do – Book Review for “I Can’t Save You But I’ll Die Trying”: The American Fire Culture by Burton Clark

Never Forget? We always do – Book Review for  I Can’t Save You But I’ll Die Trying: The American Fire Culture by Burton Clark


Firefighters have to die, right? Isn’t it part of the job?

Dr. Burton Clark, EdD, EFO has been arguing in his new book (and for decades) that this is not true.  In his book, I Can’t Save You But I’ll Die Trying: The American Fire Culture, he challenges us all – firefighters, officers, chiefs, public officials, public safety people, etc. – to change our perceptions about fire deaths, specifically to not call a civilian death an act of God and not to think of a firefighter death as part of the job.

If you believe that the answer to the questions above is “Yes” then the follow-up is, how many deaths are acceptable?  Can you answer that question with a number more than zero and feel good about it?  Would you give a number greater than zero to the public? What about to the loved ones of firefighters? What about preventable deaths?  How many preventable deaths are acceptable?  

Based on our behavior as a collective fire culture and based on the data, we are saying that preventable deaths are acceptable.  Fire service line of duty deaths (LODDs) have not decreased over the past 30 years.  Arguably, worse than the number of LODDs is the way we are killing firefighters.  As Clark points out, we are not killing firefighters in new ways (p. 46).  We are dying the same ways we used to, with a majority being preventable deaths.

Look at the chart below, showing firefighter deaths by cause and injury.  Ask yourself, which of these are preventable?  This chart is from the NFPA website (

Firefighter deaths by cause and nature of injury

Cause of Injury Fatalities Percentage
Overexertion/stress/medical 29 42%
Crashes 17 25%
Fell 7 10%
Struck by object 4 6%
Fatal assault 3 6%
Structural collapse 3 4%
Lost inside 1 1%
Caught underwater/diving 1 1%
Exposure to fumes 1 1%
Alcohol overdose 1 1%
Total 69 100%
Nature of Injury Fatalities Percentage
Sudden cardiac death 26 38%
Internal trauma 26 38%
Asphyxiation or smoke inhalation 6 9%
Gunshot 4 6%
Crushing injuries 2 3%
Stroke 1 1%
Embolism 1 1%
Burns 1 1%
Drowning 1 1%
Alcohol overdose 1 1%
Total 69 100%

Source: Firefighter Fatalities in the United States, Rita F. Fahy, Paul R. LeBlanc, Joseph L. Molis, NFPA, June 2017 and previous reports in the series.

Updated 6/17

The culture of the fire service has a dogma that LODDs are part of the job.  This is dangerous,  erroneous, irresponsible, and is dishonorable.  In public safety in general, and in the police/fire services, we honor our fallen with stirring memorial services and make bold and inspiring claims to Never Forget.  But, we do.  We forget to take care of our fitness, to wear our seatbelts, to wear SCBA, to train when and how to call maydays.

So, what do we need to do?  We need to be courageous, we are THE BRAVEST, after all.  Let’s act like it.  We need to work on the culture, specifically around safety. As with many complex challenges in the work, we need leadership – formal and informal.

We need Chiefs, Officers, Driver/Engineers and other supervisors to step up and lead through training, accountability, advocacy, and learning.  We also (almost more importantly) need individual firefighters to lead themselves and each other.  One of the things that impacted me the most reading Clark’s book, is the call for bravery and leadership at all levels.

In any industry and as competent people, we must continue to learn.  We must learn from others, for ourselves, and for the fallen.  Remember, we Never Forget.  Learning can and should be casual and formal.  All types are important if learning is to actually happen and change people for the better.  This book, I Can’t Save You But I’ll Die Trying: The American Fire Culture, Clark is trying to get us to learn.  Anyone who has met Dr. Clark knows he will not give up on this, and neither should the rest of us.

Read this book, and ask yourself, what can I change today to make sure everyone does go home?


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Using an Admin or Executive Assistant

Executive/Personal Assistants (EAs) save their bosses time, and as we have all heard before, time is money. EAs can make enormous contributions to productivity at all levels of an organization by:

  • Ensuring that meetings begin on time with prep material delivered in advance
  • Optimizing travel schedules and enable remote decision making, keeping projects on track
  • Serving as sounding boards
  • Conducting corporate research
  • Funneling busy administrative tasks away from managers who can then, in turn, use their time more wisely
  • Serving as crucial resource during the acclimation period for new hires

In an effort to cut costs and reduce headcount, many companies have significantly reduced their executive assistant staff even for highly paid middle and upper managers. But a good business should use a structure in which work is delegated to the lowest-cost employee who can do it well; too often there is too much administrative work to do and not enough assistants to do it.

Managers can capitalize on an executive assistant by thinking wisely about which tasks can be taken on by the assistant, establishing a trusting relationship as opposed to that of a micromanager, and employing effective communication. While answering emails is a basic assistant task, more assistants these days are taking on more supervisory roles; they are managing information flow, dealing with basic financial management, attending meetings in place of their bosses, serving as the face of the company, and doing more planning and organizing. When a manager exhibits trust in his or her assistant, they will gain a higher return. In turn, great assistants look for ways to stretch and improve their skills, taking extra time to learn, for instance, more about the functions of the particular company and new technologies.

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Emergency Notifications, Texting, and the FCC

Special thanks to for publishing this on their site as well –  

Since 1990, federal law has required colleges and universities to have a notification system for emergencies such as natural disasters, active shooters, bomb threats and more.  K-12 schools are also required to develop emergency alerting protocols.  Campuses send out critical information through multiple fronts, such as text alerts, broadcast emails, institution homepages, apps, and Twitter.

The Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 prompted campuses across the country to strengthen their notification systems. There have been a number of campus crisis over the years that have affirmed the need for these systems.  There are a number of best practices campuses should follow in implementation and ongoing maintenance of their systems:

  • Consolidate emergency notification delivery methods into a single activation portal- a provider of emergency communications solutions can help.
  • Use several technologies; no one method of communication will reach everyone. However, choose the delivery methods most appropriate for the situation- don’t use the all-or-nothing approach to issuing alerts.
  • Determine ahead of time the situations when you will activate your emergency notification system.
  • Incorporate adequate logical security measures to protect your SMS alert database.
  • Train several people to send out notifications, but also determine who has authority to issue alerts- there shouldn’t be too many decision makers.
  • Collaborate with and consider sharing emergency notification providers with local, off-campus emergency services.
  • Market your mass notification program, and educate the campus community on how the system is used, what to expect and what to do during an emergency.
  • Automate your database; tie in student enrollment and human resource databases, automatically scan for students and employees no longer associated with the school.
  • As with any parts of an institution’s emergency management and campus safety plan, it is important to test it throughout the year and various circumstances.  

Text messaging is the most effective way to reach students, families, faculty, and staff. With an opt-in approach, students must voluntarily sign up for alerts, while with opt-out, students are automatically signed up but can choose to opt-out.


When schools automatically enroll everyone in the systems and provide them with an opt-out opportunity, significantly more people remain enrolled in the system. Most emergency managers and campus safety officials recommend automatically enrolling the whole community.  

FCC regulations, federal law, and court rulings ( do allow for emergency texts and calls without prior consent from individuals.  

Required or automatic enrollment should only be used for emergency messages and not for routine messages, event reminders, etc.  Institutions must be careful to avoid “alert fatigue,” which occurs when a system is overused. If people on campus receive alerts too often, they stop seeing them as urgent and may not take the proper action when needed.

Campuses need to find a balance between using it for advisories and emergency notifications. If your campus needs any help with emergency management and campus safety work, please be in touch.  

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