Overcoming the Obstacles of a Criminal Record

They say crime doesn’t pay, and they’re right. Crime doesn’t pay, it costs. Crime costs the victims, it costs society, and it costs the perpetrator once they are caught, tried, and convicted.

Nearly 70 million Americans currently live with a criminal record, most of whom are convicted of nonviolent offenses involving drugs and firearms possession. Whether sentenced to six months of community service or six years of a hard time, many soon discover after release from their punishment that the price for their poor choices has not yet been paid in full.

It turns out society has imposed many ways in which a criminal record continues to cost an individual long after they’ve done their time. Those in this situation – particularly those who have long ago learned their lessons and genuinely wish to be good citizens – are faced with some genuinely tough obstacles going forward.

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome them for the patient and the informed:

Restoring Rights

Though one could always make some kind of argument to the contrary, it’s not likely the ability to own a gun and the ability to vote are critical for earning a living. However, if someone with a criminal record decides to try and reinstate these rights, it can become an expensive proposition if they opt to go straight to a lawyer versus doing most of the legwork and research themselves.

For instance, someone with a criminal record seeking to own firearms can get the process started online. Resources for how to restore gun rights will include sections on various state laws, as each state has their own pathway to reinstatement. Convicted persons living in Texas will discover they regain the right to keep a gun in their home five years after release from confinement or probation. No need to pay a lawyer $300 to tell you something found online.

The ability or inability for someone with a criminal record to vote in a local, statewide, or national election also varies from state to state. Before picking up the phone and calling a local attorney charging by the minute, give the ACLU executive summary on voting with a criminal record a look. It lays out the complicated but otherwise useful truth regarding voting rights for convicted criminals across the United States.

Finding Employment

Restoring rights and upholding them is nice and all, but most folks with a criminal record won’t start thinking about that until they land themselves a steady job and the financial security it brings. Unfortunately, the requirement to inform a potential employer of one’s criminal record means many otherwise qualified applicants never get that final phone call. Proponents of discriminating against convicted criminals in the workplace might say “Expand your horizons, relocate to find new opportunity!” and consider it a generous piece of advice to provide, but what about those bound by the geographical restrictions of parole and probation?

There are two ways for those with criminal records to increase the chances of employment. The first is education. While there are plenty of universities with exceptionally selective standards where a criminal record is not easy to overcome, many others are welcoming of anyone with the aptitude and desire to learn. A college degree doesn’t erase a criminal conviction, but it does make an individual more qualified for employment as well as demonstrate to potential employers a person’s dedication to a reformed way of life.

The other way for convicted criminals to better their odds of getting a good job is to have their record expunged. This essentially means having the criminal record sealed, after which it is legal to not disclose it to a potential employer. Now, having a criminal record expunged is not some magical process wherein one pays a lawyer a certain amount of money and *poof* their criminal past is suddenly gone. Many states will deny a request for expungement based on the severity of the crime, and other factors may prevent the process from occurring successfully. However, similar to restoring gun rights, an expungement is possible without a lawyer.

We expect those guilty of committing a crime to do the time. However, this time often extends long past what the judge sentenced due to a number of restrictions and policies aimed towards those with a criminal record. While it may never be possible to completely rid oneself of the cost of mistakes, it is possible to overcome the obstacles these mistakes create in order to spend the future making up for them.

Today’s Top Personal Finance Apps: Manage Your Money No Matter Where You Go

Keeping track of your money can be a difficult proposition for people who either don’t take the time to make a budget, or just don’t understand how to create an effective one. This can create financial problems that you may not be able to solve simply.

Fortunately, in today’s ever-connected world, help is just a mobile device away. Application developers have created hundreds of different apps that can help you set a budget, track your investments and give you a general overall sense of your financial situation. Some of the apps are even free, so you don’t have to spend anything to get on the right financial track. Here are some of the better financial apps that are available on Android and iOS that can help you keep an eye on your money from anywhere.

Mint

The Mint Budgeting App is a great, all-in-one tool that can help anyone set a realistic, sound budget and stick to it month in and month out. It’s also a free app for all mobile devices, so there’s really no downside to giving it a try.

If you do try it, you won’t be disappointed. Mint is a very easy, hassle-free way to follow all of your saving and spending. The app syncs directly to your bank account, so many times you don’t even need to input any information yourself. The app will know when you make withdrawals or deposits and when you use your debit card for groceries, gas or other monthly expenses.

The app is very secure and will give you alerts when you approach your monthly spending limit or when there are unusual charges to your account. It can even give you your credit score, so you know where your overall financial health stands.

All of these features will help you save more and spend less, strengthening your financial position.

PocketGuard

PocketGuard is another budgeting app that tracks your financial situation from anywhere. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that Mint does, but it is free as well and boasts a simplified outlook to your finances.

PocketGuard connects directly to your bank account and, once you input some information like your take-home pay, will keep honest track of your money. From the home screen, you can see your overall financial situation, from the total amount in your account to deposits and withdrawals. The app will also analyze your spending and recognize recurring payments, such as utilities and credit card bills, so it can give you alerts a few days before those payments are due. This will help keep you ahead of your debts and on track to saving money.

Wallaby

Wallaby is a financial tracking app that works a little differently than the previous two. Rather than just linking your bank account, Wallaby links to all of your credit cards as well, making even more financial information available to you in one place.

By linking to your cards, the app keeps track of all of your credit spending and can notify you when you are spending too much. It also analyzes your credit cards and gives suggestions as to which card to use in which store, maximizing points and rewards that each card offers and taking each card’s interest rate into account.

While the app uses top-notch security, linking your cards to the app may concern you, but you don’t have to worry. Wallaby allows you to just tell it what type of card you use and the app can still analyze the cards for the best opportunities to use them.

Digit

This app is for people who have trouble saving money. Like the other apps, you link your bank account to Digit so it can analyze your saving and spending habits.

Unlike the other apps though, Digit will use that analysis and take a small amount of money based on your overall account balance and deposit it into a personalized savings account.  This makes saving money an automated procedure that you never have to think about. Of course, you can block the app from moving money and you can withdraw from the Digit savings account at anytime, so your money is never tied up and unavailable. If you use this app for several months, you will see savings results that may surprise you.

These apps can help you stay on track. However, if you need loans to help pay outstanding debts, you can find out from King of Kash.

Joseph Birch could probably tell you to the dollar how much he has in his bank account. He’s a frugal guy helping people online to manage their finances better to become happier through his articles.

Get Away from it All Without Cashing Out

Escaping the urban jungle and suburban savanna for the ocean, forest, or open road is a dream of many. Achieving the level of financial stability needed for such expeditions is seemingly the hard part, leading many hard working, successful people to put their preferred adventures on hold indefinitely. Alas, it’s often in retirement when the possibility of enacting a dream getaway plan finally presents itself Too often the trade-off is cashing out retirement funds to afford the excursion.

Cashing out to get away from it all doesn’t have to happen, at least not for most people. Not when alternatives exist, ranging from smart financing to compromises on the dream itself. Here are the ways to afford an adventure and leave the savings almost entirely untouched at the same time:

Boat

The average price of a boat has increased dramatically over the last ten years, leading many open water adventure seekers from seizing on their dreams. Yet this increase in price is reflective of improved craftsmanship and increased durability, not to mention more room to move around in the cabin. Better yet, boat financing rates for those with good credit scores are lower than ever before. In fact, some lenders will agree to financing smaller sized vessels traditionally excluded due to their lower price tags.

RV

A quality RV can be a home on wheels for months or years. Or just weekends out of town, whichever is preferred. Similar to boat payment options, motorhome loans are available at price ranges and rates which surprise many potential borrowers. Acquiring your own RV is made easier by lenders willing to offer financing on older model motorhomes. Just make sure to review the reliability and conveniences of the model RV of choice before making your purchase.

Cabin

The quintessential cabin is the ideal getaway for countless men and women. These days, instead of building one yourself out in the middle of nowhere, the preferred method is to have prefabricated parts transported to a piece of land and assembled there. A one bedroom cabin can be bought for as little as $21,600. It might not the antler-covered walls and bearskin covered floors of the “classic” cabin setup, but it gives men and women a taste of the great outdoors without compromising too much on comfort – or price.

Camping

If financing or owning one or all of the above is just not in your realm of possibility, consider camping. It sounds like a cruel joke, but the suggestion is sound: camping doesn’t have to be all about cramped, flimsy tents and clothes reeking of wood smoke. For the relatively low cost of minimal upgrades to the gear, including a bigger tent, camping can be quite relaxing. Added together, upgraded camping purchases are unlikely to exceed five grand. After that, it’s simply a matter of stocking up on consumables and paying campground dues.

It’s easy to get tired of the rat race of the city and pretensions of the suburbs. We all at some point desire to get away from it all. Often we think the only way to do that is to liquidate our assets, cash out our retirement and hit the open road. This dream is as risky as it is romantic. Instead, opt for financing and compromise. Seize adventure without abandoning security. It can be done.

Common Ways Your Identity Can Be Stolen and What to Do About It

Identity theft isn’t always at the top of our worries list (which seems to annoyingly expand on a daily basis), but as the years go on, the problem only seems to get worse. The more advanced our security systems get, the more wily identity thieves seem to become. Identity theft is probably more common than you think, so check out some common ways thieves tend to gain access to funds and personal information and ensure you don’t become a part of the statistic.

Filing Your Taxes

Imagine this: You’re doing your duty as a law-abiding American citizen, sitting with a financial advisor to determine any taxes you might owe to the government (or how much you might receive back), when to your surprise, the IRS informs you that you’ve already filed. That’s right, fake tax returns happen every year, and many identity thieves have found great success filing tax returns under other people’s names and collecting the returns they were owed. If this happens to you, and you’re able to prove to the IRS that a fake return was filed, it could take months or years to finally receive the return that was rightfully yours. It’s important to keep an eye on your taxes and be sure to file as soon as you’re able to shorten the window of time in which fake personas may file them for you.

Giving Too Much Away

When we think about the dark side of social media and online interactions, many of us may conjure up images of the aptly titled “Craigslist Killer”, and shy away from posting our personal information to “friends” that may be strangers in disguise behind a foreign computer screen. While many social media outlets will prompt you to ender personal information including your full name, birth date, address, and phone number, it’s in your best interest to leave as many of these queries blank as possible. Even the most minimal personal information tidbits can be used by wily con artists to hack into bank accounts, credit cards, and more. It’s best to follow a “less is more” policy when entering information onto your Facebook or Instagram. If you have children, be certain that they aren’t posting this types of information on their social media profiles as well.

If You Rent a Home

Many Americans are choosing to rent instead of purchase a home these days, as financial constraints and cultural shifts have seen a desire for the flexibility that a home rental can offer. Unfortunately, identity thieves have caught onto this trend. Be careful when searching through listings on sites like HotPads.com, and do your research before meeting up with a potential landlord. Never wire money before seeing the property in person, as there’s no way to get it back (hint, hint: just the word “wire” should tip you off that a prospective landlord might not be who they say they are). Landlords will be asking you for access to a collection of bits of personal information, including your address and social security number. It’s never a bad idea to request a prospective landlord provide proof their screening service. If they don’t use one, consider asking them to use something like MySmartMove landlord credit checks so that your information stays in safe hands.

Invest in a Shredder

Luckily, these days documents are increasingly available online, decreasing the amount of important papers that we must keep and store hidden away from wandering, criminal eyes. However, there are still the occasional physical documents that contain our personal information, so it’s important to properly dispose of these papers so they don’t fall into the wrong hands. Purchasing a high-quality shredder is a good life investment, and you’ll find the peace of mind that comes with knowing your information is safe from prying hands is well worth the cost.

Identity theft can have lasting consequences that affect your life for years, including a damaged credit score, so it’s important to take precautions and prevent identity thieves from gaining easy access to your information.

How much does being ugly really cost?

Being ugly may not only be a detriment to your social life, but it could also greatly hinder your financial potential. There have been numerous studies indicating a correlation between beauty and professional success. And the verdict is…. hot people make more.

Don’t believe me? A study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, found that hotties-with-naughty-bodies make 5% more per hour than their average looking colleagues. Even worse, “unattractive” people were found to be making 8% less than average looking persons.

Not only do the attractive people make more money, but they also have a higher statistical shot at landing the job in the first place. Here’s a quote from a CNN article on the study…

After variables like education and experience are factored out, Fed researchers said the “beauty premium” exists across all occupations, and that jobs requiring more interpersonal contact have higher percentages of above-average-looking employees.

And here’s another snippet from a published study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences…

When someone is viewed as attractive, they are often assumed to have a number of positive social traits and greater intelligence.

That means beautiful people (like Justin Bieber) are not just gorgeous, but also perceived as smarter. Now I know why so many people think I’m a geenyus. Haha, get it… “Geenyus”. It’s funny ’cause I spelled it wrong. Man I’m unBIEBERlievable (yeah, I got the Bieber Fever).

Don’t worry though. Even if you are beat-up-from-the-feet-up or tore-up-from-the-floor-up, you still may have a chance at earning a decent wage. That is if you are tall. A study by two professors at the University of Florida found that “tall” people earn a substantially higher wage than their shorter counterparts, with each inch providing $789/year more in income. So, I guess it’s true… size matters 😉

Moral of the story kiddos. Don’t be ugly and don’t be short. Otherwise, it could cost you some major moolah. If you’re not attractive, don’t worry. There is always plastic surgery. I mean remember how good Michael looked after all his plastic surgery…

Have you ever witnessed some beauty biased in the work place? Can any level of “equal employment policies” prevent beauty from becoming a professional factor? Who are some exceptions to the “beauty” rule (think Bill Gates, Jack Black, Amy Winehouse)?

Sheriff of Nottingham

A few weeks ago Girl Ninja and I partook in an annual trip we do each year to Loon Lake, WA (about 6 hours away) with a bunch of our friends. I believe this was our third year participating.

What is there to do in Loon Lake, WA you ask?

Nothing!

And that’s why we love it. There is no cell phone service. There are no restaurants. There is no internet.

We spend our days playing ice hockey on the frozen lake.

Watching the Seahawks dominate the NFC championships (two years in a row). Go hawks!

IMG_3414

And we play a ton of board games.

I usually come back from the weekend obsessed with a few of the games I was introduced to. This year was no different. I ended up buying three games after this year’s trip which is not good for my budget.

The games I bought were:

Machi Koro: This is a pretty fun and straightforward city building / dice game.

machi-koro

Splendor: Loved this game. Best with four players. You collect tokens to buy special cards. First to 15 points wins.

pic1904079

and

Sheriff of Nottingham: Probably my favorite one of the bunch. It’s a game that’s all about bluffing. Each round you try to smuggle goods past the sheriff without getting caught, but even if you do, you can negotiate your way out of some pretty costly penalties.

Sheriff-of-Nottingham-Boardgame-web

I ordered the first two games from Amazon, but Sheriff of Nottingham is in really high demand and was sold out everywhere when I first tried to get it. About a week ago, I noticed the game publisher had updated their inventory and had copies available to purchase through their website.

I ordered a copy and thought nothing of it.

Until yesterday, when I opened the package on my front porch and saw this…

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at Jan 29, 2015, 9.53.42 PM

Ummm, I ordered one copy. Not six.

I hopped online to look at my order summary and make sure I didn’t accidentally order (and pay for) six copies of the game.

I hadn’t.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that my first thought was “I wonder how much I could sell these for on eBay.” But after about 0.2 seconds that Jesus guy I’m kinda close with was like “Don’t do it bro.”

Fudge.

High School Ninja and possibly even Even college Ninja, definitely would have kept all six games, but now that I’m a little older, a little more mature, and a little less selfish; I appreciate other peoples’ hard work.

This game doesn’t come from a big conglomerate like Milton Bradley (not that that should matter) so I’m positive this blunder will hurt their bottom line.

I sent them an email informing them of their mistake, but haven’t heard back yet. Hopefully no one gets fired over the mistake.

 

Have you ever received something shouldn’t have? (I remember a time in high school I gave a cashier at McDonald’s a $5 bill to pay for my food and she gave me back like $16 because she thought I had given her a $20)

Be honest… you ever kept the thing you didn’t deserve? (I think I kept that incorrect McDonald’s change. I’m terrible.)

 

 

How did we make it this far?

 Was at a group meeting a few months back and an older gentleman shared an email he received from a friend. The email read….

How Did We Make It this Far?

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we have lived as long as we have…

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. (Not to mention hitchhiking to town as a young kid!)

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into
the bushes a few times we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. No cell phones. Unthinkable.

We played dodgeball and sometimes the ball would really hurt. We got cut and broke bones and broke teeth and there were no law suits from these
accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents?

We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it.

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank sugar soda but we were never overweight … we were always outside playing.

We shared one grape soda with four friends, from one bottle and no one died from this.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X Boxes, video games at all, 99 channels on cable, video tape movies, surround sound, personal cellular phones, Personal Computers, internet chat rooms. Instead we had friends.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s home and knocked on the door, or rung the bell or just walked in and talked to them.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did
the worms live inside us forever.

We ate penny candy, swallowed bubblegum, and our intestines did not stick together because of it.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t, had to learn to deal with disappointment.

Some students weren’t as smart as others so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade. Tests were not adjusted
for any reason.

Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. No one to hide behind. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50 years has been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

Obviously as a twenty something I can’t relate to everything in this letter, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t certain things that stood out to me (I bolded the things I liked).

I mean think about cell phones. Twenty years ago no one had cell phones and people managed to get by just fine. Now, if I reach down to grab my phone and it’s not in front of me, I have a mild panic attack. Funny how priorities change.

What were some of the things in the letter that rubbed ya the wrong way? What were some that resonated with you?

Any other 20-somethings out there willing to admit we are probably the laziest generation to have ever existed? Would love to hear from the 40+ crowd today and get your insights on how you’ve seen things change over the years!

p.s. if Facebook is the biggest “accomplishment” of our generation I’m going to cry.