June 20, 2018 | ° F

Ask the Experts

Methods and the Market

Methods and the Market

I’ve been reading in the news about the stock market, and things are looking… well, not too good, right? That got me thinking about how I’ll invest when I graduate. I want to invest and save money for retirement, but the idea of seeing all my hard-earned cash evaporate in a big dip like this seems unpleasant, to say the least. What kind of strategies can I use to see a recession coming and get out of the market in time? I know that everyone must want to do this, but what do the big finance guys do to make sure they get out in time? They must manage it somehow, right?

Not necessarily! In fact, studies show that even the pros have an awful hard time “beating the market” when they get creative. Picking individual stocks and attempting to “time the market” by jumping out just before the next big crash can be a dangerous game.

Still, there are tactics that investors use to try to accomplish this difficult task. Many big investment firms now use computers and algorithms in their advanced techniques, hoping that their complex calculations are exact enough to give them an edge over the market as a whole.

Many investors view the economy as a series of cycles and attempt to identify indicators that can help determine if the economy is in “early cycle” (and due to keep growing) or “late cycle” (the crash is imminent). Trading Strategy Guides’ RSI trading strategy is an example of this kind of thinking.

Managing to beat the market is certainly an exciting thing, and while it can be tough, we won’t tell you it’s impossible. Still, you don’t necessarily need to use these tricky tactics to save money and grow wealth. As a young investor, you’re sure to see a few market dips in your time--but, if history is any guide, you’ll still see overall growth. With these assumptions in mind, many experts recommend a strategy of steady and diverse investments across the market and in all sorts of economic times. In this view, it’s better to “be” the market than to beat it; while you’ll lose value in dips, your steady investments during this time will be in a discounted market, setting you up for more gains as the economy recovers. It’s a simpler vision of investing, and one that work well enough for most non-professionals.

“Know what you own, and know why you own it.” -- Peter Lynch

Recommended Recovery

Recommended Recovery  

I need some advice. I have an extended relative going to college at Keiser University near Daytona Beach, Florida. He’s a junior studying kinesiology. We’ve never been especially close, but he’s always been fun to be around during our holiday get-togethers. 

Earlier last week, my mom called and said that he might have to go to rehab. I was shocked to hear that his parents and older sister think he’s abusing painkillers. That doesn’t even make sense. I asked my mom how anyone could be addicted to painkillers. 

She told me that they weren’t talking about generic ibuprofen or Tylenol but rather prescription drugs like Vicodin. I’m still struggling to understand it all, but on top of that, my mom asked if I’d consider talking to him as a last resort. Apparently, his parents think he’s more likely to talk to someone else in the family who’s also currently in college.

What should I do?!

This sounds like a real dilemma. It’s definitely normal to feel anxious and confused. Confronting a possible drug addict is no simple feat. Your first move before succumbing to the pressure should be to research as much as you can about substance addiction and dependency. It won’t be possible to do much of anything without an appropriate grasp of the subject. 

You might be surprised to learn how widespread opiate addiction and dependency really are. Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report that the number of prescription painkillers sold has quadrupled since 1999. Countless public health specialists are under the impression that the crisis can’t be curbed sufficiently without reducing how frequently physicians prescribe addictive substances (e.g., Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin, Codeine, etc.). That reality could be applicable to your relative because he may very well have a legitimate prescription for the painkillers he’s administering. 

Another important factor, aside from understanding the greater context, is to consider the different risks. The worst-case scenario is your relative escalating from opioid-based prescription painkillers to heroin. There’s no guarantee you can prevent that leap. The best chance he has is getting into a treatment program. 

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of viable options available to recovering addicts. One such possibility is known as Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), which combines behavioral counseling with specific drug therapies. This approach utilizes medications such as Methadone or Buprenorphine/Naloxone (or “Suboxone”). The objective of using these long-acting drug treatments is to gradually wean addicts off short-acting opioids. 

Make no mistake, though: MAT exposes patients to alternative opioids to help them mitigate the physiological withdrawal symptoms associated with detox. Many consider the treatment highly effective. Investigating a Suboxone clinic in Daytona Beach could prove insightful to your research. You might find that particular example especially intriguing because it taps into the potential of medicinal cannabis for opioid recovery

These are some initial suggestions that ought to keep you temporarily preoccupied. Don’t take anything you read for granted. This subject is both sensitive and extremely nuanced. Record what lingering questions you have and discuss those things with your family. There’s no reason to educate yourself alone. 

“I avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward.” -- Charlotte Brontë

Building a Business

Building a Business

I’m a college senior graduating in May with a degree in business. In one of my advanced courses this semester, we’re responsible for designing a product with a group, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. My team spent at least a week brainstorming together before deciding what we wanted to do. 

This past week, we finished putting together our proof of concept to present to the class. Once that’s done, we’ll probably get permission to develop a working prototype. That got me thinking: what if the product idea is good enough to launch for real?

I already know most of my peers aren’t interested in starting a business, but maybe it’d be appealing to at least a few. Either way, not having a business partner wouldn't necessarily be a dealbreaker. What should I be doing if I wanted to give this thing a shot? 

It takes a courageous soul to start a business and a stronger one to make it successful. No shortcuts or simple solutions exist to the challenges that you’re likely to encounter. Those tough realities are only the beginning. Before making a decision, you’ll want to take a few insights and suggestions into careful consideration. 

Let’s begin by ensuring that you’re starting a business for the right reasons. So much in life is about having an appropriate mindset, and launching a business is absolutely no different. The road to success is long, arduous, and overwhelmingly uncertain. Perspective and adaptability are critical to navigating the path, but that can be made tremendously difficult if you’ve embarked on the journey for all the wrong reasons.  

Once you’re confident about where you stand, the next step is road mapping and setting realistic expectations. Experts have written extensively on these topics. Some have outlined common misconceptions to dispel and others have shared helpful tips for novice entrepreneurs. It’s important to remember that mistakes and failure are both unavoidable when you start a new business. It should come as no surprise that some of the most valuable insights are those gleaned only after failure. 

You might also find it useful to know that it’s quite possible to launch a product without starting a business. This type of scenario certainly wasn’t nearly as possible even a decade ago. Nevertheless, should you remain steadfast about launching a product business, there are some common risks involved that you’ll want to understand. Conducting this due diligence will likely underscore exactly how much work is necessary to run a legitimate business. 

While you’ll be confronted with a multitude of obstacles, obtaining sufficient funding tends to be one of the most pressing and difficult. Writers at Entrepreneur published a list of ten viable funding options for the inexperienced. Evaluate each channel wisely and weigh the pros and cons before committing to anything. One sound strategy is researching what seasoned business owners have shared about their own endeavors. For instance, you could investigate insights from a serial entrepreneur. Consulting a business lawyer is a prudent choice, too. Don’t hesitate to tap into professional expertise when more serious barriers arise. 

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” -- Winston Churchill

How to Get By in Business: Don’t Do It Alone

How to Get By in Business: Don’t Do It Alone

Written By: Miriam Metzinger | Editor and Regular Contributor for Financial Site “Seeking Alpha”

My friend and I want to co-found a business. He’s interested in selling things, and he gives us the marketing and sales kind of expertise that we need (or, at least, he will when his education is complete!). As for me, I’m the one that is handling the core business: I know how to do the main stuff we’ll need to do for our service/product (sorry, but the business idea itself is still a secret!).

My question is: who else do we need? What are the most important skills to have in a startup staff? We need someone who can raise money, I guess, but I don’t know what else.

Your question is a good one, and one that a lot of startup founders ask themselves.

There’s no one magic formula for new business hiring, but experts recommend peppering veterans with experience in the field in among multi-talented staffers who wear a lot of “hats” and excel in communication. If that seems a bit thin on specifics, then try this: you need a “hacker,” a “hustler,” and a designer. In plain English, that might mean an innovative idea person, a person who can raise money and hype, and a person to put it all together.

But, again, that’s light on job titles and specifics. Perhaps the reason for that is another important thing that you should remember: when it comes to business, no company does it alone.

You will likely find it helpful to have a gifted fundraiser on staff who can bring in new investors. But you could also rely on loans, like private money loans offered by Val-Chris Investments.

You will also be tempted to have someone on staff for every possible task your business might need to handle. But that’s not necessary, either. Business isn’t always about going it alone, and choosing to outsource key tasks is a big part of keeping a fledgling business afloat. Smart outsourcing can save you money by preventing you from having to hire employees and whole departments that you don’t need on hand at every hour of the day. And outsourced solutions can also give you key perspectives from experts who have enough distance from your company to see it clearly. It’s tempting to want to do everything yourself, but if you cover the essentials with expert staff and stick to the core business that your dream is focused on, you may find that it’s best to rely on outsourcing for much of the rest of your business’ needs.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” -- Helen Keller

Buzz About Bitcoin

Buzz About Bitcoin

It seems that whenever I read the news or go online these days, I’m hearing about Bitcoin. I think I understand the basics of Bitcoin: it’s a currency that only exists online, and people can trade Bitcoins for dollars. But what I don’t understand is why there’s such a buzz about it. What’s the big deal? There are lots of currencies in the world, and none of the others seem to be things that I’m supposed to run out and buy. So why are people trying to get me to invest in Bitcoin? And are these people right--is a Bitcoin investment a path to big bucks?

Bitcoin is indeed a digital currency. But that doesn’t mean that it’s exactly like more established currencies--in fact, it kind of means the opposite. Bitcoin is a new and exciting currency that has investors and speculators going wild. Let’s talk a little bit about why.

First, a little background. Bitcoin isn’t the first digital currency the world has ever seen, but it is probably the most important (at least so far). Bitcoin’s advantage comes from its use of “blockchain,” a relatively new innovation that provides a secure online ledger for Bitcoin transactions. Bitcoin (and its many imitators) use cryptography and the blockchain to ensure that everyone knows whose Bitcoins are whose--solving a massive problem with counterfeiting that once plagued the digital currency scene.

One of the unique things about Bitcoin is that it is not backed by any government. That makes it very volatile, but also very appealing to certain segments of the population. This isn’t always a good thing--one of the first market segments to adopt Bitcoin was the black market--but it helps shed light on how Bitcoin might carve out a use for itself as a functional currency.

Bitcoin is technically a currency right now, of course, but it’s hard to find places where it’s being used in that way. Instead, it’s widely seen as an investment. You can track Bitcoin prices on sites like Buy BlockChain, and you’ll find articles on it in the Wall Street Journal and other traditional investment news publications.

Bitcoin has had a wild ride this past year or so:Iit rose from under $1,000 to over $17,900 per Bitcoin in 2017, before crashing down to below $10,000 and then beginning to rise again. Does that mean future gains await? It’s hard to say. Bitcoin is certainly exciting, but it’s important to remember that volatile investments can go down as easily as they can go up, and that you should never invest more than you are prepared to lose. As part of a larger diverse portfolio, though, there’s nothing wrong with buying an amount of Bitcoin you can afford and hoping for the best!

“Time is a currency you can only spend once.” -- Ziad K. Abdelnour

Lissette Harwood is a Former Content Director at District Confidential.

Launching A Podcast

Launching A Podcast

I could use some direction. Earlier this week, my sociology professor asked for some volunteers to help her put together some podcast episodes, which seemed like it would be a fun learning experience before graduation. I convinced my friend in class to volunteer with me, and we had our first meeting with the professor on Wednesday. 

The concept is fairly simple. She has a number of colleagues at different universities around the world whom she wants to interview as a series of podcast episodes. The theme is supposedly the rise of populism and its wider implications for social justice and equity. The catch is that she basically wants us to be in charge of production. I’m definitely excited about the topic, but as my friend and I also explained to our professor, neither of us has any experience with podcasting. 

She said that shouldn’t be a problem for two industrious college seniors. Despite her confidence, we know that we’re in over our heads. We have a week to do some research and let her know how to proceed. 

It sounds like you’ve been awarded a big opportunity. Launching a podcast successfully is no easy feat but it’s most definitely possible for those willing to commit. That’s probably the most important piece of advice for anyone seriously considering the idea of starting a podcast. Outsiders quite frequently and falsely assume that podcasts are a couple people offhandedly recording a conversation. While that might certainly be the case for some podcasts, it’s almost never the case for successful ones. 

You should only begin after you confirm that everyone involved is ready to devote the necessary time and effort. Experts at Mashable published seven tips for launching a successful podcast, which contains some essential suggestions for aspiring podcasters. The first item on the list is choosing a topic that you’re passionate about. Not only do you have that already going for you, but your topic is also highly relevant and widely applicable. Your professor likely knows that already. 

Several of the tips require decision-making power that you don’t or won’t have throughout the project. The two that most definitely concern you are planning the content and the recording, editing, and broadcasting of the podcast itself. Authors at Shopify wrote a similarly insightful guide describing how to launch a podcast on a rather limited budget. You won’t need to spend inordinate amounts of money on audio equipment and editing software at the beginning. Just know that, unfortunately, a long-term and professional grade podcast will have to exceed the $100 budget that the Shopify article plans around. 

Successful content planning is the result of more than openly recorded dialog about a predetermined topic. You need talking points, real-world examples, expert testimony, countervailing viewpoints, credible data, etc. More importantly, these things have to be orchestrated around a compelling and cohesive narrative that captivates your audience and keeps them coming back for more. The best way to accomplish this is by tapping into recognizable authorities. Entrepreneur explicitly encourages that you secure interesting interviews to help accomplish this task. 

In a best-case scenario, you could generate a tremendous following that justifies upgrading your production capabilities. For instance, hosting a reliable video conference with top researchers at a prestigious university isn’t something you want to worry about. There’s no doubt your professor would also prefer to avoid anxiety originating from unpredictable hardware. While Google Hangouts and/or Skype will suffice during the early days, success will force you to transition to more specialized products and services. 

“You just need one person to listen, get your message, and pass it on to someone else. And you’ve doubled your audience.” -- Robert Gerrish

Making Money Thru Mary Jane

Making Money Thru Mary Jane

I’m a college senior preparing to graduate this coming May with a degree in finance. My dad already helped line up job interviews with several companies thanks to his fraternity connections. It’s safe to assume that I’ll likely land an offer with at least one of them. 

Now that I’m well on my way with jump-starting my career, my dad said I should take the initiative and make moves on a nest egg. I do have a savings account with several thousand in total, but I was planning to finance a lease with it once I graduate. 

My roommate suggested that I use my tax reimbursement to investment in the cannabis industry, which wasn’t a bad idea. I just wonder how good it will look to have an active investment portfolio related to marijuana. 

What should I consider if I wanted to seriously consider investing in it?

The first thing to consider is whether or not you’re investing for the right reasons. Ask yourself some of these questions. Are you investing money because you’re genuinely committed to building future wealth? Are you investing money with the expectation of short-term profit? Are you planning to make investment decisions based on an outsider’s opinion? These answers are critical and you should be confident in them. 

You might begin by reading some of Warren Buffett’s best investing advice for beginners. If you don’t know who Warren Buffett is, then you’re already in trouble. One of the key takeaways according to his mentality is to establish an appropriate mindset. That’s why investing for the right reasons is so important. That being said, once you make the decision to actively invest, you’ll want to be smart about it. 

There’s really no shortage of investment opportunities that could more than double your money. The trick is deciding how much risk you’re willing to incur and how long you’re willing to wait. Bonds tend to be safest, but many investors avoid the timeframes and opt for stock trading instead. That sounds like what you’ve already decided on, which means due diligence is key. 

When it comes to the marijuana industry, seemingly exponential growth is the only plausible future outcome. Experts are predicting that by 2025, the combined recreational and medicinal cannabis industries will exceed $25 billion annually. Those figures are likely to be underestimated, too. That will definitely translate into vast profits for privy investors with the right mix of moxie and merit. 

Scour the web for the most relevant financial and historical data on the subject. It’s not enough to know about the product or service. You need to grasp the context if you plan to make investment decisions. Make a daily habit of perusing online news feeds to stay updated on medical cannabis trends (e.g., MMJ Stocks) and remember that it’s often less risky to invest in ancillary industries. For instance, instead of investing money in dispensaries or distribution networks, you could invest in compliance software that helps businesses obey state and federal regulations. By making those investments, you align yourself with the right side of the law should things come to an abrupt halt due to federal oversight. 

This is all to say that the notion of investing in marijuana is definitely appealing to aspiring investors, but it’s a decision not to be taken lightly because of how much time and effort is involved. There are plenty of other responsible ways to establish a nest egg without having to incur those costs. 

“The price of greatness is responsibility.” -- Winston Churchill

Cold-Weather Conundrums

Cold-Weather Conundrums

Written By: Nancy Pearson | President of Nancy Pearson Design 

I was born and raised in New Jersey, so you would think that I’d be used to the cold. But I’m not--and, to be honest, I hate it! I hate the winter, and I never feel like I’m getting enough sun or exercise. I feel down, bored, and depressed. My friends say I’m less fun to be around, but when I wake up in the morning and it’s so much colder outside of my bed than in it, I just feel like staying there all day. How can I enjoy winters more?

There’s a lot that you can do to enjoy winter a bit more, but it’s also important to pay pay close attention to the things that you’re experiencing and to consider the possibility that you may need a bit of a helping hand from a professional. It’s quite possible that you’re suffering from seasonal affective disorder (which also goes by the acronym SAD, appropriately enough).

Of course, there are a few things that anyone can do to improve their winter. For starters, note technicians at Jersey City, New Jersey residential heating repair company Duffy Energy, you may need to get your home or apartment heating system checked (or contact your school if this issue is happening on campus). While chilly winter mornings are few peoples’ idea of a good time, they’re also something you should be able to combat with the touch of a thermostat--or a tap of a smartphone, if you have a smart home heating system.

It sounds like you’re not doing much with your winter time, which could mean that you’d be better off tackling the cold head-on and adopting a winter sport. Could it be that your summers are full of physical activity--activity that you (and your body) miss when the cold weather comes around and you shut yourself up inside? Some people get down in winter because of a lack of activity, giving them an easy solution to the problem: get out there and move!

If taking on the cold is too much for you, you could also flee it. While we think of summer as the most typical vacation season, plenty of us take trips in the winter, too--3.1 million of us each year, to be exact. Vacation destinations in the south are popular this time of year, making this a good time to explore Henry County or visit relatively moderate winter locales in the mid-Atlantic or coastal West regions. Or you could head all the way down to sunny Florida and beyond--get all the way to the Southern Hemisphere, and you’ll be in summer once again!

Again, though, it’s important to note that your reaction to the season may run deeper than your dislike of cold weather and lazy days. Seasonal affective disorder is very real, and as many as a quarter of us may suffer from either SAD or its more serious cousin, winter depression. You may want to speak to a doctor or take advantage of your on-campus resources to learn more about the disorder and what you can do about it.

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” -- Edith Sitwell

Advice For Undergrads In Over Their Heads

Advice For Undergrads In Over Their Heads

My roommate and I could use some advice. At the beginning of the holidays, our mutual professor in sociology gave everyone a social improvement assignment. The project basically required students to gain firsthand volunteer experience to compare and contrast different assumptions about giving back to a community.

Everyone had about two weeks to identify a series of two or three local groups that we could contribute to as volunteers. My roommate suggested that we find a soup kitchen. I had zero experience doing this kind of stuff, so I didn’t object. We’ve now volunteered together at a local urban garden for at least three or four weeks, twice a week.  

Last week, one of the program assistants asked us if we’d help them throw a new community event. We felt pressured to help, even though neither of us knows anything about promoting events. It’s too late to back out now. We need basic guidance. Please help!

It’s important to remember that while your dilemma is certainly pressing, nonprofits and other charities rely heavily on the labors of their volunteer workforce. Much has been written on this subject. The Guardian openly questioned what charities have to do to engage more young volunteers. Answers have been elusive, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable. Consider this a learning experience. 

Based on the nature of your question, it’s probably fair to assume that neither you or your roommate know too much about event management and promotion. Remember that an entire academic discipline and professional industry is devoted to the topic. Having realistic expectations is the first key to success. Writers at EventBrite published an insightful beginner’s guide to hosting a compelling event. Some of the suggestions might prove irrelevant, but you can sure that having a firm grasp of your audience is vital no matter what. 

Don’t be afraid to explore more unconventional tactics. For example, with some expert salesmanship, it’s possible to earn sponsors and have food and beverages donated. Since you’ve been asked to support an existing organization, it’s reasonable to expect that some resources could be made available to you. When it comes to pre-event marketing and promotion, there’s no shortage of proven strategies. You might opt for digital channels (e.g., social media, newsletters, etc.) or traditional ones (e.g., local radio ads, flyers, etc.). What you choose will ultimately depend on your target audience. 

Research what you can concerning event marketing and promotion in order to compile a list of viable options. Eliminate those likely to be time- or cost-prohibitive, and discuss the remaining possibilities with the responsible organization. Say, for instance, you decide that distributing flyers to local community centers and homeless shelters is the best way to inform your target audience. A logical next step would be further investigating the best print designs for nonprofits or charities. Why reinvent the proverbial wheel when you can simply stand on the shoulders of giants? 

Don’t hesitate to tap into experts and other collegiate resources, either. You’re probably not the first two student volunteers to be given more responsibility than they feel like they can handle. 

“Spontaneity is one of the joys of existence, especially if you plan for it in advance.” -- Alan Dean Foster

Roommate Redirection

Roommate Redirection

My roommate could use some advice, but I’m struggling with what to tell him. We’re both graduating seniors majoring in business. I have an offer from one employer already, and my roommate could easily step into his family’s existing business in franchising across the Northeast. Neither of us is especially pumped about our prospects right now.

Unfortunately, my roommate has become newly obsessed with getting his MBA. He says it makes more sense to incur a little more debt to be way more marketable. I can’t help but think it’s more of a gamble now. I’ve heard that the number of job seekers with MBAs has skyrocketed. The degree can’t be that appealing to employers if everyone has it. 

That being said. I don’t know how to convince him that he should reconsider. What’s the best thing to do? 

The majority of college graduates are arguably in desperate need of appropriate career advice. Deciding what to do immediately after you graduate is no simple task. Pursuing further education is a common contingency plan for many aspiring careerists, but the path has a multitude of pros and cons to fully consider. Nevertheless, it might be more helpful to first direct your roommate’s attention to some of the best advice college grads never hear, compliments of Annie Cain at Business Insider

Essential to your future success is knowing that you aren’t alone when it comes to this dilemma. Countless graduates try to answer these very same questions with each passing year. Forbes contributor Robert Farrington put together a very compelling list of opportunities and risks to contemplate before committing to going to business school. Many of the items should seem rather obvious, but you’d be surprised how frequently people either ignore or neglect them. 

One of the most important points to explore is whether or not your roommate would truly benefit from a business degree without having any real-world experience. It shouldn’t surprise you that some of the best business school in the world only accept students with previous work experience. That’s usually because the curriculum was designed to leverage existing real-world knowledge. From this perspective, you can simply claim that your roommate is likely to derive more value from a business degree if he waits. 

Exercising patience isn’t necessarily an attractive option if you aren’t poised to begin something else with career potential. It’s possible that your roommate could land a job aimed at skill development while he studied management part-time. Linfield college offers online management degrees meant to address these exact scenarios. There’s no shortage of flexible programs to research. Faulkner’s online distance education programs also include an executive MBA. 

Regardless of the institution that your roommate might choose, it’s vital that he fully grasp how challenging his activities will become. The Muse composed a very apropos 4-step survival guide to help everyone balance work and grad school. Maintaining a healthy mindset is a key factor and often totally underestimated. Remind him that there’s no shame in tapping into his friends, family, and wider support network. Starting a career is no trivial pursuit. 

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” -- Mae West

Breathing Easy

Breathing Easy

Okay, I have a question: how important is the air we breathe?

I know, I know – it’s a ridiculous question. Look, I’m no dummy, and I know it’s pretty important that we breathe. But how big of a deal is it if, for instance, my apartment has mold? Is it going to give me serious long-term problems, or am I fine just leaving with the weird smell for a semester and then moving into a new place next year?

We humans don’t fare too well when we can’t breathe. Our breathing can be a sensitive thing: we need to breathe rhythmically and regularly, we need air with the right amount of oxygen, and we need our air clear of contaminants and particles.

That may seem like pretty straightforward stuff, but there’s a lot that can go wrong. Take sleep apnea, for instance, say the technicians behind a respected CPAP cleaner. From cases so mild that they barely cause snoring to cases so severe that they require hospitalization, sleep apnea comes down to our ability to breathe regularly when asleep – which is why a CPAP, or “continuous positive airway pressure,” machine is an effective treatment. And it’s not just sleep apnea: other breathing conditions include asthma, which affects 8% of the population.

Even those of us who are lucky enough to breathe normally can’t always count on the healthiness of the air we actually breathe. Studies have shown that pollution in our cities can really do a number on our lungs and can make us ill in the short- and long-term.

But what can we do about this, short of moving into the woods or walking around all the time with a SCUBA tank on? Simple, says this Cumming, Georgia HVAC company: we need to care for our home’s HVAC systems. Proper air filtering and clean vents can go a long way toward clearing our air.

And, yes, mold can be a serious air quality issue. Most molds aren’t toxic enough to put you in serious immediate danger, but it’s not healthy to weather the semester breathing in mold spores, because mold can cause problems over time and can also exacerbate existing health issues that you or your roommate may have. Mold remediation by experts may be necessary in your case, and it’s certainly the safest solution. Some molds can be taken out with bleach or sprays from the hardware store, though experts caution that you should always use breathing protection and gloves, and that some molds may be too dangerous for you to tackle yourself. It never hurts to do what you did here: ask an expert!

“Let the clean air blow the cobwebs from your body. Air is medicine.” – Lillian Russell

Social Science Suggestions

Social Science Suggestions

My roommate and I have to do research for a social justice assignment. We’re supposed to identify a current event or trend that has widespread effects but also a disproportionate impact on lower-income classes. We need to have data and an outline of the implications. My roommate wants to focus the report on medical or recreational marijuana, but that’s too obvious. It’s also highly controversial right now. 

What’s another possible example? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a drug. Crimes or diseases could count, too. It also doesn’t have to be exclusive to the US. 

One of the most pressing subjects right now is the opioid crisis, which is taking the country by storm and has some experts worried about a possible pandemic. While that might sound sensationalist at first, consider for a moment that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently reported that more than 90 Americans die every day because of an opioid-related overdose. Those numbers aren’t promising for anyone struggling with addiction or the countless others who stand to suffer heartache in the event of an unfortunate overdose. 

What makes this such a good example is how the substance is perceived. Only more recently have things escalated to the point where painkillers have taken the center stage right alongside heroin. However, for a significant period of time, heroin existed almost within a category of its own. The medical establishment suspected that those in vulnerable socioeconomic conditions were at greater risk. Despite opioid addiction being described as an “equal opportunity” opportunity drug, years of evidence would suggest that low-income persons suffer disproportionately

Making matters worse is how stressful socioeconomic conditions produce negative consequences on the mind. Clinical trials using animal models have demonstrated that those agents experiencing external pressures were more susceptible to self-administered addiction. This is part of the reason why dual diagnosis has proliferated. In many cases, as you might suspect, drug abuse and addiction serves as an outlet or escape from undesirable scenarios. Medical practitioners now rely heavily on dual diagnosis to both eliminate the substance abuse and the underlying mental disorder.  

What makes the opioid dilemma so perplexing to people is how quickly it’s exploded beyond what was originally perceived to be a lower-class problem. Fortune writer Sy Mukherjee claims the opioid epidemic is a middle-class problem, too. It’s likely a little late to only now be realizing how widespread prescription painkillers have become. Pharmaceutical companies have successfully marketed numerous brand-name opioid-based painkillers from OxyContin and Percocet to Codeine and Vicodin. Many of them are staples in the American household, freely accessible to anyone sufficiently motivated. Health care costs are expected to skyrocket unless society can find a way to address the problem. 

This changing dynamic underscores the importance of proven recovery treatments made openly available to everyone, regardless of class, race, age, creed, etc. It should be as easy to find heroin addiction treatment in New Jersey as it is anywhere in the US. This isn’t always the case, but it’s something to strive for if we expect to curb opioid abuse. 

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Conquering Cancer

Conquering Cancer

One of my two roommates returned to our apartment last night completely distraught. She confessed that earlier in the day that her dad disclosed that he’d been diagnosed with Stage I Hodgkin lymphoma. Though the prognosis was apparently promising, she was still worried to death. 

I can’t blame her, since her grandpa passed away a few years ago due to aggressive melanoma. My other roommate, whose concentration is pre-med, tried to calm her down unsuccessfully. While it’s obviously frightening any time a friend or family member is diagnosed with cancer, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a death sentence. 

We’d like to find a way to help her deal with the situation and be optimistic. What might help with that in this situation?

It’s never easy to cope with knowing that a beloved friend or family member is struggling with cancer. Expect it to be more difficult to reconcile if he or she has already tragically lost another family member to cancer. In 2016, researchers estimated more than 1.5 million cancer diagnoses in 2016 and further predicted almost 600,000 cancer-related fatalities. But those statistics can be misleading because, as you’ve already observed, there’s a multitude of different cancers each with their own stages, symptoms, treatments, and survival rates. 

Cancer is a widespread and indiscriminate disease. As a result, medical practitioners have devoted significant time and effort publishing helpful resources for both patients and their loved ones. For instance, experts at the American Cancer Society compiled a comprehensive list of information to guide anyone that knows someone else diagnosed with cancer. That’s an excellent place to begin your endeavor. 

Another sounds strategy is investigating these 11 tips for coping with cancer. While some of the recommendations are likely to be irrelevant, others are certain to prove insightful. One important aspect is developing a complex understanding of what it’s like to live with cancer as a patient. Avoid making any hasty assumptions and basing future decisions on them. Patients have enough to worry about without having to educate others on the realities of their disease. Be mindful of that. 

Your roommate can take at least some solace in the fact that Stage I Hodgkin lymphoma has a 95% survival rate amongst those diagnosed. Contrast that with later stage malignant melanoma, which is extremely virulent and often lethal to its victims. Though both are well-defined cancers, the former isn’t nearly as serious as the latter. It’s probably prudent to search for a local cancer care clinic that offers specialized treatments. 

One final consideration that could help your roommate and her dad is looking into ways he might manage his symptoms. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and natural remedies are all viable options linked to positive outcomes. Less conventional but increasingly popular is using CBD oil for cancer symptoms. This shouldn’t be confused with the active chemical ingredient, THC, which produces psychoactive effects. CBD-based treatments are becoming more widely available thanks to the marijuana legalization movement and critical advancements made in the medicinal space. 

“Cancer is a word, not a sentence.” -- John Diamon

Creating credit

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To the experts: I consider myself pretty well educated (or at least getting there, thanks to my professors), but I’ve been concerned for a while about how little I know about personal finance. High school and college (so far) have taught me all sorts of interesting things, but I’m short on practical knowledge about things like taxes and budgeting. One thing that really bothers me is how little I understand credit. I may not have to worry about saving for retirement just yet, but I am definitely doing things--like paying rent and using a credit card--that are affecting my credit score...right? How does this work? I don’t want to arrive in the post-graduation world with a ruined credit score just because I didn’t understand how it worked in college! 

From the experts: Let’s start by establishing what credit is and why you have a credit score. Credit is your ability to buy something without putting money up right away. Your Visa or Mastercard is called a “credit card” because it lets you do exactly that: you buy an item, you use the card, and the credit card company pays for the purchase with the confidence that you’ll be paying for it later on. 

Of course, credit card companies do not pay for unlimited goods for everyone. They would go out of business pretty fast if they did, because not everyone would pay them back! As it is, credit card companies are not going to get back all of the  more than $1 trillion in American credit card debt  that’s out there today. They make up for their losses by charging interest on your credit card balance or fees for the card itself, and most importantly, for our purposes they limit their risk by being careful about how much credit they extend to each customer.  Veteran auto retailers   tell us that car loan companies make the same sorts of decisions, as do mortgage lenders and other financial institutions. 

When it comes to assessing these risks, companies turn to the major credit agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. These agencies are dedicated to tracking your credit history and collecting reports from the people you have and have not paid back. They put together your credit score, which is a number measured on one of several different scales (FICO, a major one, runs from 300 to 850 — Experian, meanwhile, uses 330 to 830,  with the average American score clocking in at 687  ) — which means we’ve finally arrived at your original question. 

Credit scores are complicated, but you should know that they measure a few basic things. Your payment history is the biggest factor (35%) in your FICO score,  so make sure that you’re paying your credit card bills on time. Your outstanding debt matters, too, but it’s important to note that the credit agencies look at different types of debt in different ways — owing money on a student loan is not the same as running from six overcharged credit cards. Other factors include the length of your credit history, what types of credit you’ve used, and how often you do something (like take out a loan) that triggers a credit check. 

In general, you can count on having decent credit if you pay off your credit card bills, make loan payments on time, pay your rent, and do other obvious things. It’s also a good idea to get your credit report (it is free) from time to time--once a year will work--just to make sure that nothing fishy is going on (if someone steals your identity and takes out a bunch of loans, you want to know!). 

If for any reason you don’t have good credit,  credit experts  have said there are ways to improve it. The longer you wait, though, the tougher it gets. For the 24% of Americans who are worried about making their minimum credit card payments  , for instance, time is of the essence. Debt has a nasty habit of growing, so be careful about taking it on, and keep track of your debts and your credit score. 

“If you don't take good care of your credit, then your credit won't take good care of you.” ― Tyler Gregory. 

Clinic comforts

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To the experts: What makes a good care facility? I always thought the best kind of medical professional to see was simply whomever was the most expert in the field, but it sometimes seems that other people have different priorities. My parents are super picky about their doctors and even their vets, when I really just care if someone can get the job done well. What are those other factors, and why do they matter? 

From the experts: You are right in that the most important element to consider when choosing a professional in any field is the level of expertise. You want a someone who knows what he or she is doing. But there are certainly other considerations as well, and for good reason. While you personally might be willing to sacrifice customer service and atmosphere for a high-quality physician, those seemingly nonessential elements can chase others away. Lots of people stay away from doctors simply because they hate being at the facility, either because the wait is too long or they simply do not care for the atmosphere. 

Clinics that are effective at retaining patients know that it is important to have a live person answer telephone calls, escorting patients around the clinic, and privately addressing billing — rather than in front of a busy waiting room. There are logistical considerations as well. Wait times at clinics have risen 30%  in major cities, even though this often has to do with patients arrive late for appointments, and it can take on average 24 days before a patient can see a doctor, especially if the doctor is a specialist. 

Embarrassment  is also a big factor, and it certainly plays a role in why people might avoid the doctor. OBGYNs tell us that women are often apprehensive about the vulnerability that comes with women’s health, and that providing a highly compassionate atmosphere and level of comfort and assured privacy makes a big difference to their patients — and helps reduce the fear of coming in. Patients prefer doctors who have the kind of bedside manner that helps  reduce embarrassment and promotes comfort and trust. 

But, again, you are right. It’s not worth overlooking competency just for a level of comfort. You mention that your parents are also picky about where they take the family pets. The veterinarians at Petaluma Veterinary Clinic highly stress the importance of both a fear-free atmosphere as well as achieving an AAHA Accreditation. 

If your parents consider your pets part of the family, they will want the animals to be as comfortable as possible, as well as healthy and healed. The same also obviously applies to MDs. 

Next time you go to the doctor, try out a clinic that has good ratings and reviews that indicate a strong bedside manner and a comfortable facility. You might notice that your stress level goes down and that you feel more inclined to share important information with your doctor. A tidy waiting room itself can subliminally improve your mood and trust of the doctor. 

“Health is hearty, health is harmony, health is happiness . ” ― Amit Kalantri 

Understanding assets

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To the experts: I was having a dorm-room discussion the other day with a business-savvy friend, and I learned a lot — or, rather, I learned that there is a lot I don’t know! As sometimes happens with these things, I ended up talking to a bright guy and becoming increasingly confused. I never realized how “net worth” calculations take into account possessions like cars and boats and things like that. And I guess I never realized that all of these things are “investments” in the way that, like, stocks are — is that right? I always thought of finance as a dollars and cents thing, and never really considered that you could transfer your worth from money into physical objects (and have it grow, too!) ... can you explain how all of this works? 

From the experts: Sure! Your friend is absolutely correct that calculations of net worth typical include major assets like homes. Your net worth is just that — everything you are worth — so it should include all of the things you own. You would not starve to death while driving around a Corvette, because that Corvette would be worth money, and you would  be able to sell it. So it’s a part of your worth! In fact, so are some other things you wouldn’t expect. Experts tell people to include insurance policies, jewelry, art, furniture, and other valuables that might not immediately come to mind when we talk about finance. You’ll also have to subtract things like outstanding loans (which is why many recent college graduates technically have negative net worths). Americans tend to peak in net worth at around 65 to 69 years old, at a median of $194,226.

It’s true that many of the assets we’re talking about here can also grow in value. That’s the hope with any home purchase, real estate experts say that, in time, you may be able to sell your home for more than you bought it for. That does not always happen, but with today’s healthy real estate market, it’s a common story — with a median value of $200,000, homes in the United States have never been more valuable. In this sense, real estate assets are just as you described them — like giant stocks. Of course, that’s not the primary reason a person might own a house, but it’s a nice perk! 

With that said, not all assets are investments in the sense that they can grow in value. It would be nice if vehicles all increased in value, but the experts at Boat Crazy said that it is extremely rare to see a vehicle of any kind go up in value. Boats, cars and other vehicles have moving parts that suffer wear and tear, which is why their values drop as soon as they are purchased by their first owners (this is why you can sometimes get a great deal by shopping for used vehicles). But, certain rare vehicles can become collector’s items and increase in value. And just as with homes, it’s important to view expensive vehicles as assets to protect the value of. Regular maintenance and care will go a long way towards preserving the value of a vehicle — and, as we just learned, that will mean better protecting your net worth. 

“At the end of the day, your relationships with the people in your life will be greater assets than any material things. Take time. Be present. You'll thank yourself for it later.” ― Vironika Tugaleva 

Superior sleep

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To the experts: I​ ​have​ ​a​ ​simple​ ​question​ ​that​ ​I'm​ ​sure​ ​will​ ​have​ ​a​ ​complicated​ ​answer:​ ​how​ ​do​ ​I​ ​get​ ​better sleep? I​ ​know​ ​that​ ​sleep​ ​is​ ​important​ ​and​ ​I​ ​know​ ​that​ ​there​ ​are​ ​tons​ ​of​ ​benefits​ ​to​ ​maintaining​ ​a good​ ​sleep​ ​cycle.​ ​But​ ​I'm​ ​having​ ​trouble​ ​sleeping​ ​properly​ ​here​ ​at​ ​school.​ ​I'm​ ​sure​ ​the solution​ ​is​ ​as​ ​complicated​ ​as​ ​the​ ​causes,​ ​which​ ​are​ ​all​ ​over​ ​the​ ​place:​ ​my​ ​roommate snores​ ​(he​ ​says​ ​I​ ​do,​ ​too!),​ ​I'm​ ​in​ ​a​ ​new​ ​and​ ​unfamiliar​ ​place,​ ​my​ ​bed​ ​isn't​ ​comfortable, my​ ​room​ ​is​ ​cold,​ ​I'm​ ​working​ ​late​ ​(and​ ​partying​ ​late,​ ​too)...​ ​and​ ​so​ ​on.​ ​Can​ ​the​ ​experts give​ ​me​ ​any​ ​tips?

From the experts: Sleep certainly is important — and not enough of us get the amount we need. Experts say we should sleep between 7 and 9 hours a night (the exact amount that we need varies from person to person). The average college student gets 6 to 6.9 hours . That may not be as bad as some of us assume, but it's still less than ideal. Of course, some students sleep more than others — and studies show that those differences register on report cards. Students who sleep for an average of more than 8 hours a night have measurably higher GPAs than those who sleep for an average of less than 6, studies say. No wonder we get so many questions like yours! 

You're right, of course, that the causes of your rough sleep patterns are all over the place. And you can, in fact, address these things one by one. You may not be able to upgrade your bed or mattress in your dorm room, but you can get softer and cozier sheets and blankets. The comfort experts at Plumeria Bay point out that duvets and duvet covers are good options for college students: duvets are big, comfy, and warm, and duvet covers are conveniently removable and washable. As for snoring, there are solutions there too. Experts in snoring and sleep apnea and companies that are changing the way you sleep are battling against the remarkably common issue of snoring (45% of us snore, and 25% do so habitually!).

There are also, however, some steps you can take to tackle your sleep patterns more broadly. Rather than address each individual thing messing with your sleep, you may find that it helps to take a broad view of your sleep patterns. There are apps that track your sleep habits, and you can do the same thing yourself with a pen and paper. Recording when and how well you sleep can give you a sense of what's going wrong: maybe you sleep more poorly after hard-partying weekend nights, and ought to take it a little easier. Maybe you're allowing your bedtime to drift later and later as the week goes on, or maybe you're simply not waking up when you should —throwing your schedule off for the next day. Track and realign these macro patterns, and you may find that your sleep schedule can return to normal without many changes to the smaller things you identify as causes of your sleep deprivation.

“Put my head under my pillow, and let the quiet put things where they are supposed to be.” — Stephen Chbosky

Roaming retirees

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To the experts: My​ ​grandparents​ ​have​ ​worked​ ​all​ ​of​ ​their​ ​lives​ ​to​ ​save​ ​money,​ ​and​ ​now​ ​they’re​ ​enjoying their​ ​golden​ ​years.​ ​I​ ​think​ ​that’s​ ​great — I’m​ ​obviously​ ​in​ ​a​ ​very​ ​different​ ​phase​ ​of​ ​my​ ​life, but​ ​I​ ​can​ ​totally​ ​understand​ ​that​ ​they​ ​deserve​ ​to​ ​do​ ​whatever​ ​they​ ​want​ ​in​ ​their​ ​old​ ​age.

But​ ​I​ ​can’t​ ​help​ ​but​ ​worry​ ​about​ ​their​ ​passion​ ​for​ ​traveling.​ ​They​ ​end​ ​up​ ​all​ ​over​ ​the world.​ ​I​ ​worry​ ​they’ll​ ​fall​ ​ill​ ​while​ ​in​ ​Asia​ ​or​ ​get​ ​hurt​ ​while​ ​in​ ​Africa​ ​or​ ​Europe.​ ​I​ ​worry they’ll​ ​be​ ​pick pocketed​ ​or​ ​mugged​ ​in​ ​cities​ ​here​ ​in​ ​the​ ​U.S.​ ​or​ ​all​ ​around​ ​the​ ​world.​ ​I​ ​worry they’re​ ​not​ ​cut​ ​out​ ​for​ ​hotels​ ​and​ ​resorts — my​ ​grandmother​ ​slipped​ ​and​ ​fell​ ​in​ ​her​ ​own bathroom​ ​the​ ​other​ ​day,​ ​so​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​see​ ​how​ ​she​ ​can​ ​be​ ​safe​ ​in​ ​strange​ ​hotel​ ​rooms​ ​with slick​ ​tile​ ​floors.​ ​But​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​know​ ​how​ ​to​ ​or​ ​even​ ​if​ ​I​ ​should​ ​bring​ ​this​ ​up.​ ​What​ ​do​ ​the experts​ ​say?

From the experts: It’s wonderful that your grandparents have been able to save so much money for their golden years. Many Americans have trouble doing so — in fact,  studies show that the median amount saved is just $5,000 per household. For those who do properly save, though, the retirement years can be full of excitement and joy.

Of course, you’re right that older folks can’t keep traveling forever. Older people fall ill more easily and get injured more easily (21.8% of noninstitutionalized seniors are in “fair” or “poor” health). They can be victims of crimes and can struggle when lost or confused abroad. The experts behind American Standard walk-in tubs say that older people who are in danger of slip-and-falls should maintain safe spaces with fixtures and installations that help reduce risks, like stairlifts, handrails and the aforementioned walk-in tubs. With that said, though, there are hotels that offer features like these, and that can make travel less risky.

And while it’s true that some countries present more health dangers than others, many popular tourist destinations have healthy environments and quality healthcare. Travel insurance policies and Medigap plans can give your grandparents the health coverage they need while they’re out of the country. In fact, experts in travel visas say that some countries now require prospective visitors to show proof of travel health insurance before they can be approved for a visa!

It’s very possible that your grandparents are already aware of the importance of health coverage abroad, and have already taken care of this. None of this means that you can’t raise your concerns in a gentle and polite way. But it would serve you well to assume that your grandparents know what they’re doing and are making their own safety and health a priority. If you phrase your concerns well and express that your worries come from a place of love, not of condescension, you may learn some reassuring things about their planning and travel habits.

“To travel is to live.” — Hans Christian Andersen