Facebook has new tools to prevent unwanted friend requests and messages

Facebook, like every social media platform, has issues with harassment and bullying. In order to prevent certain types of harassment, Facebook is introducing some new features to help prevent unwanted friend requests and messages.

“We’ve heard stories from people who have blocked someone only to encounter the same harasser using a different account,” Facebook Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis wrote on Facebook’s blog. “In order to help prevent those bad encounters, we are building on existing features that prevent fake and inauthentic accounts on Facebook.”

Let’s say you block someone and then that person decides to create another account so they can contact you. With these new tools in place, Facebook is aiming to recognize when someone does that and prevent them from sending a message or friend request to you. Facebook is using signals, like IP addresses, to recognize when someone has created a fake or inauthentic account.

“The person who blocked the original account is in control, and must initiate contact with the new account in order for them to interact normally,” Davis wrote.

Facebook has also released a feature to ignore conversations, which disables notifications from the conversation and moves the conversation into your filtered messages folder.

Once in the filtered messages folder, you can read the conversation without the sender being able to know if you’ve read it. This is currently available for one-on-one messages and will be available for group messages soon, according to the blog post.

Facebook says it has worked with experts in a variety of fields to offer safety resources for people on Facebook. In the blog post, Davis said the company has worked with the National Network to End Domestic Violence and worked to learn more about the experiences of journalists on Facebook.

Earlier this month, Facebook unveiled its own internal policies around harassment and bullying. Facebook also outlined its investigation process in response to reports of harassment or bullying.

Researchers ‘Dismantle’ Mindfulness Intervention To See How Each Component Works

As health interventions based on mindfulness have grown in popularity, some of the field’s leading researchers have become concerned that the evidence base for such practices is not yet robust enough. A new study shows how a rigorous approach to studying mindfulness-based interventions can help ensure that claims are backed by science.

One problem is that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) sometimes blend practices, which makes it difficult to measure how each of those practices affects participants. To address that issue, the researchers took a common intervention for mood disorders — mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)– and created a controlled study that isolated, or dismantled, its two main ingredients. Those include open monitoring (OM) — noticing and acknowledging negative feelings without judgment or an emotional secondary reaction to them; and focused attention (FA) — maintaining focus on or shifting it toward a neutral sensation, such as breathing, to disengage from negative emotions or distractions.

“It has long been hypothesized that focused attention practice improves attentional control while open-monitoring promotes emotional non-reactivity– two aspects of mindfulness thought to contribute its therapeutic effects,” said study lead and corresponding author Willoughby Britton, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. “However, because these two practices are almost always delivered in combination, it is difficult to assess their purported differential effects. By creating separate, validated, single-ingredient training programs for each practice, the current project provides researchers with a tool to test the individual contributions of each component and mechanism to clinical endpoints.”

In the study, the researchers randomized more than 100 individuals with mild-to-severe depression, anxiety and stress to take one of three eight-week courses: one set of classes provided a standardized MBCT that incorporated the typical blend of OM and FA. The two other classes each provided an intervention that employed only OM or only FA. In every other respect — time spent in class, time practicing at home, instructor training and skill, participant characteristics, number of handouts — each class was comparable by design.

At the beginning and end of the classes, the researchers asked the volunteers to answer a variety of standardized questionnaires, including scales that measure their self-reported ability to achieve some of the key skills each practice is assumed to improve. If the researchers saw significant differences between the FA group and the OM group on the skills each was supposed to affect, then there would be evidence that the practices uniquely improve those skills as intervention providers often claim.

Sure enough, the different practices engaged different skills and mechanisms as predicted. The FA-only group, for example, reported much greater improvement in the ability to willfully shift or focus attention than the OM-only group (but not the MBCT group, which also received FA training). Meanwhile, the OM-only group was significantly more improved than the FA-only group (but not the MBCT group) in the skill of being non-reactive to negative thoughts.

“If FA practice promotes attentional control, and OM practice promotes emotional non-reactivity, then end users can alter the amount of each practice to fit their individual needs for each skill,” Britton said. “The study created validated single-practice programs that can be used by other researchers or providers for specific populations or conditions. This is the first step to an evidence-based personalized medicine approach to mindfulness.”

The Science of Behavior Change

Along with co-author and epidemiology associate professor Eric Loucks, director of Brown University’s Mindfulness Center, Britton is part of the five-university Mindfulness Research Collaborative. The collaborative is one of eight teams in the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) Research Network.

The new research will appear in print inae February 2018 special issue of the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy titled “An experimental medicine approach to behavior change: The NIH Science Of Behavior Change (SOBC),” which takes a mechanism-focused approach to studying behavioral interventions.

The Mindfulness Research Collaborative (MRC) consists of 11 mindfulness researchers across five universities, and is one of the eight teams in the SOBC Research Network who are working to advance a mechanism-focused approach to behavioral interventions. The collaborative’s SOBC project “Mindfulness Influences on Self-Regulation: Mental and Physical Health Implications” seeks to identify self-regulation intervention targets that are engaged by MBIs, as well as factors that influence target engagement. The current paper describes the “Dismantling Mindfulness” concurrent clinical trial.

Britton said the SOBC approach can make mindfulness more effective for people who practice it.

“Mindfulness research in general could benefit from employing the SOBC experimental medicine approach,” she said. “Little is known about how MBIs work or how they should be modified to maximize effectiveness. The SOBC experimental medicine approach will not only help MBIs become maximally effective, but also provide essential mechanistic information that will help tailor the intervention and instructor training to specific populations and conditions.”

6 of My Favorite Money Hacks

Life is good in retirement. I’m thrilled to have a net worth of $1,900,000 which enables me to live my life on my own terms. Instead of answering to Mr. Bossman, I wake up and do whatever I want.

On some days, I’ll ride 40 miles into the mountains. On others, I’ll spend hours at the library. Money is a wonderful facilitator. Sometimes, the money even enables questionable purchases like fancy cars and human kites. But I digress…

If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be this:

Never stop learning.

Once you become stuck in your ways, you become an intellectual deadbeat. Don’t do it.

I have enough money so that I no longer have to pay attention to it, but I’ll never stop learning. I discover things about money every week that surprise me and make me a better saver/investor.

Today, I’ll share some of my favorite money hacks with you. I’ll also be sharing questionable underwear choices. Don’t worry, it will all make sense. (Or worry, because there are pictures!)

Money Hack #1: Writing every transaction down

Until recently, I never kept track of my spending. A couple of years ago, I started recording every dollar that went in and out. To state that I was shocked by my spending is an understatement.

Having to answer to a spreadsheet is a powerful behavioral changer. I suggest at least partially automating the tracking which brings me to my next tip:

Money Hack #2: Using a spreadsheet to track your spending

I created a spreadsheet on Google Drive which adds up my spending as I go. Here is my real spreadsheet from April where I blew a load of money on underwear and travel:

Underwear and travel accounted for $2,000! Yikes.

If you don’t like the hassle of a manual spreadsheet, you can also use software like Mint or Personal Capital to track your dollars.

And what do I hear? You want to see what $50 underwear look like? No, I probably shouldn’t… You really want to see? OK, brace yourselves sensitive readers. It was a 3-pack:

At least I’m not wearing them in the picture.

Money Hack #3: Loving Credit Cards

I wade into dangerous territory here. Credit cards are like nukes. Use them responsibly and they do wonderful things. Use them carelessly and:

BOOM!

People ask me questions like this all of the time:

How much should I sacrifice when I’m saving for financial independence? Should I skip vacations?

You don’t have to sacrifice anything. Here is proof:

What does that have to do with anything?

I took that picture on the Eastern Coast of Kauai where I traveled with my family of four. We woke up every morning at dawn to watch the sunrise and frolic in the surf. We’d hike and snorkel in the afternoon. At night, we ate dinner on our patio, listening to the waves roll in.

In case I’m not painting the picture correctly:

It was one of the best weeks of our lives!

And the best part? All four airline tickets set us back less than $200. We were able to do this using credit card points.

Now, travel hacking is a voluminous subject. If you’re not learned in the ways of travel hacking, check out the Travel Miles 101 course (free and great!) or J’s one-on-one interview with Brad. And if you need a card, you may want to check out Mad Fientist’s credit card tool.

But wait! Before you even consider any of this, you must raise your right hand and repeat after me:

I will use credit cards responsibly! I will never, ever carry a balance!

Don’t let credit cards nuke your finances. Do let them take you to Hawaii.

Money Hack #4: Never thinking of purchases in terms of *present* value

Nothing drives me crazier than when I hear someone say this:

My new car is only $25,000.

It isn’t $25,000. Money invested in the markets typically takes less than 10 years to double. Unless you’re close to death, big ticket purchases can set you back hundreds of thousands over the long term. Think long term to fully appreciate the impact of all purchases.

Money Hack #5:  Using Personal Capital

Life is complicated, and so are your finances. Between my 401(k), savings, checking and investments accounts, I have my money in about 3,384 different places. At least it feels that way.

This problem is easily remedied with a Personal Capital account. Personal Capital aggregates all of your accounts into one place. Here is a screen capture from my own Personal Capital dashboard (it’s OK to look, no underwear pics this time):

Best of all, Personal Capital is free. Who doesn’t like free?

Money Hack #6: Studying computers

This one actually came from my grandmother three decades ago. She knew computers were going to be a “thing” and would say this to me every time I saw her:

Study computers!

My grandmother was crazy in a lot of ways, but this was some of the best advice I ever received. There are loads of unfilled computer jobs. And you don’t have to go back to college for a degree. There are boot-camps all over the United States where you can spend under a year studying and come out with a good job. Many will even refund your money if you can’t get a job.

I did this myself – dropping out of pharmacy school to attend an accelerated program. 30 weeks later, I had a great job and never looked back.

And if you’re still unsure about why you should study computers, consider how many folks in the financial independence community had jobs in high tech. Mr. Money Mustache, Mad Fientist, Go Curry Cracker!, ThinkSaveRetire…

What hacks do you have for us?

I’ve barely scratched the surface here. I’d love to hear about some of your favorite financial hacks? What makes you clamp down on your spending? What tools do you use to grow your wealth?

How I Survived Prison And Accidentally Found My Path to Wealth

[Hey guys!! I have SUCH a great post for you today, and one that I am beyond honored to be able to feature as our friend “comes out” here to share his incredible journey with us. If you only read one article today, I hope this one is it. Please pass it on afterwards!]

My goal is to save one reader’s life out there with this story about drugs, death, and the ten-year prison sentence I survived. My name is Billy B. from Wealth Well Done, and this is how I survived prison and accidentally found my path to wealth.

My nightmare began on a summer-school morning in 2002.  I was a normal 21-year-old college student who stumbled to class with a drug hangover.

As I walked home, I called a friend who had partied with me the night before. His roommate answered the phone.

“He’s dead!  He’s dead!”  He yelled, “You have to get out of there now!”

I dropped the phone. I heard his voice yelling at me. “The police are here and they’re looking for you!”

I ran out of my apartment not knowing what to do. The police were already in the hallway looking for me. They stopped me as I tried to walk past them.

I felt their handcuffs slide on my wrists.  I said in shock, “But my friend was OK when he left?”

“You’re in a lot of trouble kid,” they said, as they walked me to their squad car. I remember staring out the window as they drove me to jail. This wasn’t supposed to happen to good kids like us, but it was happening to me.  As I walked into my first jail cell, I broke down and cried into my pillow so the other inmates wouldn’t hear me crying.

Reckless Homicide By Delivery of a Controlled Substance

My friend walked home and died in his sleep that night.  The following day I was arrested and charged with, “Reckless Homicide By Delivery of a Controlled Substance” for the death of my friend.

I sat in jail for a year going through the trial. The police only had to prove that I had provided some of the drugs we used that night, and I had done that. I never meant to harm anyone. We never thought we could die. It was a harsh awakening to what can happen when you choose to make risky, dangerous decisions with your life.

Eventually, for my first time in serious trouble, I was sentenced to ten years in prison for what I thought was just “innocent and fun” partying.

10 Years of Prison

The hardest part about being sentenced to prison was figuring out what I was supposed to do next. Was I supposed to wallow in shame and depression for the rest of my life? Or was it OK for me to forgive myself and fight for a second chance?

I struggled with these questions during my first year of incarceration. I eventually decided that it was OK to forgive myself for the mistakes I’d made. It was an accident; I wasn’t a bad person. I decided to take my future into my own hands, and even though I was going to be in prison for the next ten years, I chose to make fighting for my second chance my next mission and purpose in life.

I stayed sane in a prison by falling in love with writing. Writing daily journals allowed me to mentally escape the concrete-blocks and razor-wire-fences surrounding me. Writing set me free to explore the landscapes in my imagination, and the spiritual forces creating my reality. Rather than being defined by the prison I was in, I let my new self-exploration and self-education define who I was becoming.

I started to dream about becoming a great writer. That dream gave me a challenge to work at every day. I kept very detailed notes about the adventures I experienced in prison. My prison journals now total over 3,000 pages. I publish these journals at my other blog: PurposePages.com. The Purpose Pages tells the story of how I built my character to become the person I am today.

Recapturing My Freedom

On August 21st, 2012, I was finally released from the prison that had held me captive for 3,650 days. (There was no good-time or parole offered in the state of Wisconsin so I had to do every day of the ten years) My loving and supportive friends and family picked me up at the front gates and drove me home to Minnesota where I started my new life.

This is a picture of me the morning I was released:

My transition back into the free-world felt incredible. But it was scary and challenging at the same time. It felt amazing to do anything I wanted, at any time. Even the simple things like cooking my own meal, at a time I decided, were stunningly beautiful. But I also felt like an alien as I adjusted to a new society I hadn’t interacted with in ten years.

I went to prison when I was a 21 year old kid. I was now a 31-year-old man who had forgotten how to do normal things like drive a car, and create an email address.  

The technological advances I encountered were stunning. I hadn’t seen the internet in a decade.  I had never touched a smart phone. I had no concept of what social media was. I had only heard about these things from new inmates arriving to prison to begin their 5, 10, 30 year, or life, sentences. They’d try to explain what had happened in the free world since I’d left, but the concepts were so foreign that I could never fully understand them.

Getting Back On My Feet

As I re-entered the free world, I was faced with the challenge of starting my life over as an adult with no job skills, work-history, or network of people to ask for help.

But rather than being discouraged by the skills I didn’t have, I tried to focus on the skills I did have. While in prison, I had learned to communicate and be friends with every race, economic-class, and personality-type you will find in America.

I had grown up in the white, educated suburbs, so I felt comfortable in these privileged environments. But in prison, I had learned to make the street-smart decisions that determined life or death among minority groups. Another one of my strengths: I didn’t have any fear. After all, what’s left to be afraid of once you’ve survived 10 years in prison? Nothing! I was ready to live!

Six days after being released from prison, I returned to college to finish my senior year. I graduated with a 4.0 GPA. But I knew proving my “classroom intelligence” was the easy part. The hard part was going to prove that I was “street smart” enough to will my dreams into existence once I encountered the challenges in the real world.

I got my first job stacking magazines on shelves at big-box retail stores and I made $9.25 an hour. It wasn’t a lot of money, but I was proud that I had just gotten a job. I continued interviewing for better jobs. At one of these interviews, a business-owner offered me some advice that would change my life:

“I can give you a job.” he said. “But I can see you have natural people and sales skills. You also have the ambition and fearlessness to be an entrepreneur. If you’d like, I can teach you how to start your own business. You can work from home and sell my products, and anything else, you’d like.”

In prison, I spent my time training my mind to spot opportunities. I instantly saw a cool one. So in 2014, I started my first business. I went door-to-door introducing myself to businesses, and I asked them if they could use my company for their branded apparel needs (t-shirts, jackets, hats, etc). I heard a lot of “No’s,” but I started to get some, “Yes’s” too. By the end of my first year, I was amazed that I’d sold $180,000 worth of product. I was now profitable enough that I could start saving money.

Accidentally Building Wealth

I saved every dollar I made in my first two years. I had learned in prison that happiness is not dependent on needing a lot of money. Happiness is found when you have the time to explore the dreams of your soul, and then executing plans to turn those dreams into your reality.

Money didn’t exist in prison, and I loved not having to worry, or think, about it. But I found very quickly that money mattered in the free world. You needed money to live, or you’d quickly be heading back to prison.

That realization motivated me to save $40,000 in my first two years of freedom. In 2013, I met my wife and we had a wedding in my parent’s living room for under $1K. We bought our first house with the remaining $39K we had so we could start our own life together. We continued to save aggressively because I one day dreamed of returning to a life where money didn’t matter. I wanted to spend my life thinking, studying, writing, and developing my own philosophies on what the meaning and purpose of a great life is just like I had done in prison.

My journey to wealth really happened on accident. I was so focused on building my new life, that I didn’t realize that my saving and investing habits were making me rich along the way. I am still amazed that I have only been out of prison for 5 years and I am worth around a quarter-million dollars with holdings in cash, stocks, and real-estate.

The truth is: If I can still fight for my dreams with a smile on my face, after all the crap I’ve been through in life, then anyone can do it if they try hard enough!

This is the day we bought our first investment property:

The Drug Epidemic Is Real

I recently read a New York Times article stating that drug-overdose deaths are the highest they’ve ever been in America. 1-in-3 American’s have a criminal record. All families have felt the nightmare of drug-abuse and incarceration in some way. I realize I can do something about this. I can help fight against this problem.

The first step I am taking to achieve this goal is to publish my first novel, “Spark” at, Wealth Well Done, and give it away for free for a limited time. You can get it here.

I wrote “Spark” with the famous young-adult novelist, Gary Paulsen.  (Author of 180+ books, including, “Hatchet” which sold millions of copies.) Gary heard about me when I was in prison, and once he read my writing he asked to be my friend and writing mentor. I wrote the novel “Spark” as a practice story for him to teach me how to write better. You can imagine how ecstatic I was the day I got a letter from a famous author in my prison cell, asking me to call him at his home to talk about writing! Even though I was in prison, it was one of the best days of my life.

“Spark” is the story of a kid in serious trouble.  He meets a successful businessman who survived his own troubled life in prison. It is a mentoring story about what I would say to my troubled teenage-self if I could meet him today. My dream is to become a great novelist who can inspire people to live more awesome lives.

In conclusion, please share this story. Together we can save at least one person’s life out there. There is a drug and prison epidemic happening in America right now. We can do something about it.

I’ll be responding to all comments below. Contact me with questions and ways I can help. The more we talk about overcoming the prisons we all find ourselves in – whether financial, emotional, or physical prisons – the better we can make this world.

What If You Just Don’t?

I’ve caught myself getting into a nasty habit lately – spitting.

For some reason, any time I’m near water of any kind (sink, bath, shower) my body automatically wants to unload the saliva in my mouth as if I’m in a spitting competition with the world’s feistiest llama.

It’s been going on for a few years now, but yesterday for whatever reason I decided I finally wanted it to stop and had a weird thing happen the second I had the next urge:

I literally told myself – out loud – to just “don’t do it” as if that would magically do the trick. And it worked! It just came out of my mouth without thinking and I haven’t slung spit since!

Of course, 24 hours is way too early to tell if I’m cured or not (and more than likely, it’s only working because the physical act of saying the words out loud prevents me from spitting in the first place – hah), but it reminded me a lot of shopping and how it’s actually pretty easy to just stop that too and start saving if you really wanted to.

As my friend Derek Olsen likes to say (who recently stopped blogging – dang you!), it’s pretty simple figuring out how to save money: just get rid of the “how to” 🙂

Silly, yes, but effective. In order to save money all you have to do is not go out of your way to spend it! A lazy person’s wet dream! In fact, “going out of your way” might even be an understatement.

Here’s a list of what’s actually involved any time you pick up something from a store:

  • first, you need to go out and earn enough money to buy the thing (factoring in 30%+ on top of the purchase price since your paycheck is after-tax)
  • then, you need to research the thing and find out where the best deal and quality is
  • then you need to drive to the place to pick up this best deal/quality thing
  • then you need to find the thing in the store
  • then you have to wait in line to purchase the thing
  • then you need to drive all the way back home to unwrap the thing
  • and then, finally, you get to enjoy the thing!

For 5 minutes…

  • then you have to maintain the thing
  • and then forget about the thing as it transforms to clutter
  • then get annoyed by the thing as it turns to emotional clutter
  • and then, eventually, sell/donate/trash/box up the thing where it’s finally gone from your life forever!

Until you pick up the next thing.

Or, you could have just not bought the thing in the first place and saved the hassle & money 🙂

A simplified breakdown, yes, but something to think about if you’re serious about stacking cash.

What if you just stopped shopping? What would change? How would you feel? What would your bank account look like?

If it’s too much to ponder for the long term, try it out for a day. For the next 24 hours don’t buy a single thing and see what happens. If you succeed, try it out for another day and keep going until it stings!

This money stuff really isn’t that complicated. Sometimes the answer is literally just doing nothing.

Name That Ad: Can You ID These 21 Classic Slogans and Jingles?

Ad jingles and slogans are designed to stick. So if you suddenly find yourself humming “Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Meyer wiener … ” even though you haven’t seen that commercial for 30 years, or citing an ancient Alka-Seltzer slogan — “Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh, what a relief it is” — you are not alone.

Those old-school commercial jingles and slogans can burrow into your brain more permanently than any algebra formula or state capital ever could. So, why not embrace it?

Here’s a little quiz to see just how good you are at remembering those ads from the good old days. Are you a slogan smartypants, or did you spend all that TV time outdoors, healthily never watching a commercial in your life? (Even then, you may be surprised …)

For each slogan, identify the product it advertised, then click on to the next slide to see if you’re right. Keep track and give yourself a point for each correct answer — we’ll grade you at the end.

How Cheap Light Bulbs Let Me Sleep Soundly

Having trouble sleeping? Installing some cheap light bulbs might be just the trick you need to blissfully escape to dreamland.

I’ve dealt with insomnia since my teens, buying many purported sleep aids and trying many lifestyle tweaks along the way. That’s why I ditched “cool” fluorescent light bulbs for “warm” LED bulbs a few months ago.

It pained my inner miser to buy new light bulbs to replace the bulbs that came with my apartment. Ultimately, though, I knew that even a small improvement in my quality of sleep was well worth the cost of a handful of light bulbs.

Along with a sunrise-simulating alarm clock — I own the Philips Wake-up Light HF3510 — extra-warm light bulbs are probably the only sleep gadgets I’ve bought that I would recommend.

It’s not a coincidence that both involve warm light. The color hue of artificial lights can affect our brain’s production of the hormone melatonin, which in turn affects our biological clocks. Many studies have detailed and supported this over the years.

Nighttime melatonin levels signal your body that it’s time for sleep, helping to regulate your circadian rhythm. But blue light suppresses melatonin, effectively manipulating your biological clock in a way that jeopardizes your quality of sleep.

That’s why you’ve probably been hearing for years that you should be wary of screen time before bedtime. Phones, tablets and computer screens are known to emit a lot of cool blue light inches from our eyeballs.

Dr. Lisa Ostrin, a researcher and assistant professor in the University of Houston’s College of Optometry, recently led another study to further explore and confirm the negative effects of cool artificial light on our sleep quality.

In the study, participants wore special glasses that blocked blue light for the three hours before their bedtime. Their nighttime melatonin levels jumped by 58 percent.Ostrin concluded:

“The most important takeaway is that blue light at night-time really does decrease sleep quality.”

Nighttime melatonin levels signal your body that it’s time for sleep, helping to regulate your circadian rhythm. But blue light suppresses melatonin, effectively manipulating your biological clock in a way that jeopardizes your quality of sleep.

You can buy your own special blue-light-blocking glasses to wear in the evening or install free apps like f.lux and Twilight to reduce the amount of blue light emitted by your screens. I shelled out for Gunnar glasses and use both of those apps. They all helped and I still use them, but changing my lighting made a much bigger difference in easing me to sleep come bedtime.

The ‘color’ of your lighting

Little did I know back in high school that the Kelvin temperature scale I learned about in chemistry class would come in handy one day. I forgot what the scale even had to do with chemistry, but I’ve since read all about its connection to modern-day light bulbs.

All you really need to know is twofold:

  1. Kelvin is a measurement of color temperature. It’s abbreviated as “K.” At one end of the Kelvin spectrum is warm light, and at the opposite end is cool light. This is where things can get a little confusing. The U.S. Department of Energy explains, “Confusingly, higher Kelvin temperatures (3,600–5,500 K) are what we consider cool and lower color temperatures (2,700–3,000 K) are considered warm.”
  2. Federal law generally requires a light bulb’s Kelvin to be listed on the product label. You’ll find it in section called “Lighting Facts,” which resembles the “Nutrition Facts” section of food labels.

The Department of Energy says a color temperature of 2,700–3,600 K is generally recommended for most indoor general and task lighting applications. The bulbs I now swear by for evening lighting are mostly 2,200 K.

Better sleep on the cheap

When the clock strikes 8 p.m., I turn off all the overhead lights in my home. They have cooler and brighter bulbs. So I instead turn on lamps and other fixtures in which I’ve installed especially warm bulbs that are also a little dimmer.

It really does help cue my body that bedtime is nearing, helping me mentally wind down before getting into bed. That in turn helps me fall asleep faster.

There are special light bulbs designed to help induce sleep, but “special” seems to mean little more than “expensive” — as in $20 or more per bulb. If you understand Kelvins, you can find warm bulbs for a fraction of that. My search led me online because I couldn’t find bulbs warmer than 2,700 K in my local home improvement stores or big-box stores.

I ended up at 1000Bulbs.com. I was unfamiliar with it, but the company has been selling bulbs since the 1990s, according to its website. It manufactures its own brand of bulbs, called Precision Lighting and Transformers, or PLT. It’s effectively a generic light bulb brand, and it includes LED bulbs. The 2,000-2,200 K bulbs I’ve bought from the company cost $2.44 to $5.99 apiece — considerably less than similar products from brand names like Philips.

Best Colleges for 2018 Include Several ‘Value’ Schools

U.S. News & World Report has released its 2018 Best Colleges rankings — with a new twist: The publication now provides postgraduate salary information from PayScale.

The U.S. News profile pages for these schools list the median starting salary for alumni who have zero to five years of postgraduate work experience and whose highest degree is a bachelor’s.

The U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Naval Academy tied for first, CBS News reports, with this type of graduate earning a median salary of $80,300. The California Institute of Technology comes in second with $78,400.

Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News, explains this new feature:

“[F]amilies and students have increasingly asked for more data on salary and potential earnings. We wanted to make this information easily available to them, but stress that it should be considered as one factor among many when deciding where to attend college.”

Alumni salaries were not used to determine school rankings.

Academic excellence remains the focus of the rankings. In particular, student outcomes such as graduation and freshman retention rates are weighted most heavily.

U.S. News editor and chief content officer Brian Kelly describes graduation and retention rates as “important indicators of how well a school supports its students both academically and financially.” He continues:

“Colleges that saddle students with debt but do little to support them through graduation are contributing to a vicious cycle — without that valuable degree, students will have a difficult time landing well-paying jobs and repaying their loans, which puts them in a precarious financial situation early on in their careers.”

Among all ranked schools in the National Universities category, the average six-year graduation rate is 71.7 percent and the average freshman retention rate is 87.2 percent.

By comparison, among the top 10 schools in that category, the average six-year graduate rate is 96 percent and the average freshman retention rate is 98.3 percent.

The top three schools in the main categories this year include the following:

National universities:

  • Princeton University, New Jersey
  • Harvard University, Massachusetts
  • University of Chicago (tie for third)
  • Yale University, Connecticut (tie for third)

National liberal arts colleges:

  • Williams College, Massachusetts
  • Amherst College, Massachusetts
  • Bowdoin College, Maine (tie for third)
  • Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania (tie for third)
  • Wellesley College, Massachusetts (tie for third)

Public national universities:

  • University of California-Berkeley (tie for first)
  • University of California-Los Angeles (tie for first)
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Public national liberal arts colleges:

  • U.S. Military Academy, New York
  • U.S. Naval Academy, Maryland
  • U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado

Before you write off the nation’s top schools as out of your price range, you might want to check out the Best Value category. Princeton, Harvard and Yale ranked highest here due to generous grants.

 

8 Money Lessons I Learned From Three Weeks in Europe

Kids tourists smiling at the camera near Eiffel Tower

In early June, my husband and I took a bucket list trip to Europe with our kids. While we’ve visited countless countries worldwide as a couple, this was our first “big trip” with our daughters, ages six and eight. In addition to the four of us, we took a family caregiver to help with the kids and give Mom and Dad a break. Over the course of 19 days, we spent time in Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. The entire ordeal was exhausting, but it was an absolute blast!

Fortunately, we planned far enough ahead that we didn’t spend too much out of pocket while we were there. By leveraging travel rewards credit cards and setting a daily spending budget, we were able to get the entire trip, which would normally cost $20,000 retail, for around $3,500.

In addition to the virtues of planning ahead as a savings strategy, we learned numerous financial lessons during our travels. While we were aware of most of these lessons already, seeing the world through our children’s eyes served as the perfect reminder of the reasons behind some of our most important financial decisions.

Here are a few lessons we relearned thanks to our trip abroad.

1. Failing to plan means planning to fail

One of the most expensive components of our trip was dining, mostly because there were five people in our group. No matter how cheaply you try to eat, feeding five people three meals a day means your food budget adds up quickly.

While we tried to minimize our food costs by eating breakfast in our condo and searching for budget options, there were times where we didn’t plan ahead and paid a steep price for our lack of preparation.

One meal in particular stands out. We traveled by train to Rome in the morning and arrived in early afternoon without researching restaurants or stores in the immediate area. In a tired and hungry daze, we entered the first restaurant we walked past near Piazza Navona.

Unfortunately, we paid big time for this oversight. Not only was the food overly touristy (pictures on the menu — blech), but our lunch set us back nearly $90. If we had searched ahead of time, we would have known we could have found much cheaper (and probably tastier) options had we walked a block in the other direction.

2. Expensive does not equal better

That meal also served as a reminder that expensive isn’t always better. We paid $90 for a lunch that was mediocre at best on that particular day, but at other times we enjoyed meals that were absolutely delicious and downright cheap.

One that comes to mind was a meal we had in nearby Florence, Italy. In order to keep our food budget under control, we started researching local restaurants once we arrived. Eventually, we stumbled upon a sandwich shop — Panini Toscani — that was uber-cheap but was also the third highest rated restaurant in Florence.

We wound up eating there twice. The food was delicious and convenient, and our total meal for five people was less than $20 both times.

3. Even budget trips can be fun

By the time we got to Switzerland (our last stop), I was pretty tired of spending money in general. So, when we had our final “free day” in the country, I spent some time looking for something fun and affordable to do.

Eventually, I remembered a town we drove by that had the most beautiful, clear-green lake I had ever seen. After looking up the details, I found that the tiny village of Lungern had a public beach and a few waterslides with a daily admission cost of about $5.25 per adult.

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This relatively cheap day was probably the most fun we had. All of us swam and rode waterslides the entire day, stopping only to have a low-cost lunch.

It just goes to show that budget travel can absolutely be fun, and that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to enjoy yourself.

4. There’s more than one “right way” to do things

One of the most rewarding components of travel is watching my kids react to the many ways other countries handle things differently. My kids were obsessed with euros, for example. They couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to offer two euros in the form of a coin.

I also had to explain why we didn’t tip as much as we normally do. Since workers in Europe are paid higher wages, you don’t have to tip 15–20 percent like you do in the states.

While we could argue all day over which way is better, I told my kids there is more than one “right way” to do things sometimes.

5. We actually need very little

While I wasn’t sure we could pull it off, we made it through the entire trip with just carry-on luggage and two school-sized backpacks of stuff. It helped that one of our condos had a washing machine, but I was still amazed we enjoyed ourselves without many comforts from home.

This just goes to show that most of us don’t need a lot to be happy. We need clothes, food, and shelter, but everything else is optional. We can be happy and content without having a bunch of stuff to bog us down.

6. Most people are honest, but not everyone

Most of the people we dealt with abroad were both kind and honest — except for a couple of small incidences. First, we encountered a taxi driver who tried to charge us $28 (instead of running his meter) to take us four blocks in Rome. Not only was this outrageous since we’d paid $7 for the same ride earlier that day, but it was illegal for him to do this since the city of Rome regulates official taxis.

Second, when we got home from the trip, we received a fraud alert from Chase. Apparently, someone had swiped our card information and tried to make a purchase in Peru.

This kind of stuff happens no matter where you are, so it’s important to always stay vigilant.

7. Exchange rates matter

Whenever I travel abroad, I almost always struggle to keep track of the currency exchange rate and how it affects everything we buy. But, since a single U.S. dollar is currently worth just .87 euros, this is an important detail to keep in mind. If something costs 10 euros, for example, you’re actually paying $11.55.

While I used a credit card with no foreign transaction fees to pay most of our expenses, I tried hard to impart this lesson on our kids. No matter where you are in the world, chances are good the money isn’t worth the same as at home. And, if you don’t pay attention, you could wind up spending a lot more than you think!

8. Some experiences are worth the money, even if they’re expensive

While we definitely saved a bundle on this trip due to the way we leveraged credit card rewards, we still spent $3,500 of our hard-earned dollars. On top of that, I probably spent 30–50 hours planning not only our credit card rewards strategy, but our hotels, flights, and trains.

The thing is, I don’t regret a single cent — or a single second. Over my lifetime, I’ve learned that some experiences are worth the money and the time, even if it seems like a lot.

It’s hard to put a price tag on a fun family trip that exposed us to cultures in a completely different part of the world. I believe it was priceless. Some memories are worth saving up to splurge on.

3 Risk Management Tips Every Trader Should Know

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As a day trader, how you manage your money will set you apart from others as well as giving you an edge when trading. While a trader is unable to control how the market works, he or she is able to control how money is spent. Furthermore, one is able to control and mitigate any risks that arise during trading.

Risk management is the cornerstone of successful trading. It allows you to evaluate financial risks finally coming up with strategies to minimize the impact and avoid financial ruin. Risks are uncertain and unpredictable.

Here are tips on how to manage risk and minimize their impact.

Placing hard stops versus mental stops

Risk management ranks very low among the priorities of most traders but without better risk management practices, profitable trading is difficult. To be successful, every trader needs to understand different ways of managing risk as well as create a positive outlook. One of the best ways of managing risks when trading is by placing hard stops or mental stops.

When it comes to hard stops, traders need to pre-place a stop order or a stop loss order. How will this help? In case the market price of a security falls below the level set by the trader, the system will stop the trade automatically. This eliminates the chances of the trader incurring losses.

There are traders who use mental stops which is not advisable. Mental stops simply refer to a method where the trader sets the stop loss order in his or her mind and not in the system. While this may offer a lot of flexibility, it requires thorough understanding of price action and changing market conditions. Furthermore, mental stops are difficult to set because most traders lack the discipline and concentration required.

On the other hand, physical stops are prone to stop hunting. So, if you are a short term trader, go for hard stops and if you are a long term trader, go for mental stops.

Limiting size in volatile trades

Volatile markets experience wide price fluctuations and heavy trading. Furthermore, they are characterized by an imbalance of trade orders in one direction. There are several factors that result in volatile markets.

They include economic releases, popular IPO, company news and unexpected earnings results. The only way to minimize risks is by limiting investment size in volatile trades. Other traders do avoid it altogether which means they end up staying invested.

This is very hard and it takes someone who is disciplined to get through. Just imagine watching your portfolio take a hit in a bearish market. To get out of this problem, you can consider scaling in and out of positions. It can be achieved by buying stock in increments as the price fluctuates or selling in increments when you get to the top. This will help in reducing the overall cost basis finally preventing you from having too much of a position.

As a trader, it is important to be aware of potential risks. If you are confident about your strategy, you can choose to stay in and limit size in increments. Remember to be aware of the market conditions.

Take profit/adjust stops as trade works in your favor

In trading, money management takes one half while the other is taken by the determination of entry/exit points. What every trader needs to keep in mind is that no amount of successful analysis is useful unless good trigger points are determined. It is also important to know when a trade will appreciate and when it will end.

Without this in mind, you will lose. Majority of traders enter into new trades without any solid exit strategy. When the market starts moving, a trader’s emotions should not be used but rather use solid analysis. So, how do you plan a successful exit strategy?

By making profit/adjust stops when the trade works in your favor. This calls for trade timing. The first principle of trade timing is to be sure about the price and technical pattern at the same time. It can be based on the actualization of a technical formation or price level. The only way to avoid excessive losses is by using a layered defense line which is achieved by keeping it small.

Final Thoughts

As said earlier, traders need to implement sound money management strategies in order to avoid losses. Some of the best ways to manage risks include planning an exit trade strategy, using stop losses effectively and limiting sizes.