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Winter Break Options for College Students

Winter is a busy time of year for college students. Come December, students are preparing for the holidays at the same time that they're entering the final leg of the fall semester. Once grades are in, resident students head to their respective homes away from campus for a few weeks or more before the spring semester begins.

The winter lull can be confusing for students and their families, both of whom have grown accustomed to new schedules and routines apart from one another. Students may find they have a lot of time on their hands over winter break. Once a few days of relaxation has passed, individuals may be eager to get back into the action. These tips can help college students looking to stay busy.

Winter courses

Many colleges offer a winter session that takes place between the fall and spring semesters. During this time, students learn in an accelerated format, earning college credits during the intercession. Taking courses at this time affords some the ability to graduate sooner. However, drawbacks include burnout and missing out on spending time with family and friends during winter break.


Many college students find that coursework and a competitive job environment on campus can make it challenging to work during the semester. That is why working during school breaks and banking as much money as possible tends to be a popular way to go. Students can utilize winter break to grab a temporary job back home or even around the campus when other students clear out.

Winter internship

Winter may be a time to explore paid or unpaid internships. The popular employment resource Indeed says benefits to internships include gaining valuable work experience, fulfilling college requirements, adding valuable content to a résumé, and allowing students to explore their interests and career goals. There's no limit to the number of internships a person can do, but time can get in the way. Winter may afford an opportunity to get an internship during a slow period.


Whether students take trips with their families or organize vacations with campus friends, travel is one way to decompress. A trip can provide relief from the pressures of study and make for a welcome change of pace.

Winter can be a time of transition for college students. There are various ways they can stay busy during winter break.

Young Workers & Retirement Savings

Young adults newly introduced to the professional arena may not immediately be thinking of the future when their careers will come to a close. Retirement may seem like a distant goal when it's 50 years or more away. However, pushing off retirement savings because it is not viewed as a necessity could turn out to be a significant mistake.

According to Mass Mutual, the economic disruption caused by the global pandemic pushed retirement to the bottom of many workers' lists of financial priorities. That was especially so among young professionals. A 2019 survey found roughly half of millennial and Generation Z professionals believe they are not saving enough for retirement. Student loan burdens are another reason why certain people may delay saving for retirement until they are older.

Young workers need to get the facts about retirement. For example, The U.S. Social Security Administration says that Social Security taxes that people now pay into the Social Security Trust funds that used to pay benefits to current beneficiaries, not future ones. The Board of Trustees estimates that, in 2041, and based on current law, the Trust Funds will be depleted since people are living longer and the birth rate is low. The taxes being paid now will not be enough to pay the full benefit amounts scheduled for future retirees.

Young people can no longer rely on Social Security benefits to finance their retirements in the United States. Rather, young workers need to be proactive and take control of their own retirement savings.

· Experts advise following the general rule of saving 10 percent to 12 percent of your salary when you are in your 20s, including factoring in any employer match.

· Working for companies that offer defined-contribution plans like a 401(k) or 403(b) can make it easier for young professionals to begin saving for retirement.

· Setting aside a portion of your income early on in retirement savings ensures more years of savings and investments will benefit from decades of compounding.

· Those who contribute to a retirement plan may receive an immediate tax break because the contributions come out of paychecks before taxes are withheld. Many of these plans also offer the advantage of tax-deferred growth. This translates to not being required to pay taxes each year on capital gains, dividends or other yield distributions if the money is not withdrawn before age 591/2 . Speak with a financial advisor to learn more about tax-advantaged accounts.

· T. Rowe Price says there are certain benchmarks that can help people save enough money for retirement. By age 30, you should have .5 times the amount of your salary. At age 35, that amount should increase to 1.5 times your salary. These numbers are based on an assumed retirement age of 65 and with a household income growth of 5 percent until age 45 and 3 percent thereafter.

· According to research from Qualtrics, young workers don't plan on working until they can receive full benefits from Social Security. Twenty-four percent plan to retire early, and 41 percent want to do so by the time they turn 50. That could spark more ambition among younger generations to save for retirement and to save more aggressively.

Even if retirement is many years in the future, young workers need to start saving for retirement early on to be able to retire comfortably.

5 Ways to Ensure a Better Work-Family Balance

Individuals have to juggle many different responsibilities on a daily basis. Those with full- or part-time jobs, children, spouses or partners, or aging family members that require assistance, will often find they are pulled in different directions. In many cases, work takes priority over family time because people rely on their jobs for the income that funds their lifestyles. Rather than jeopardizing that income, certain individuals will make time concessions that favor employment over personal relationships and family time.

Recent data indicates that many people are trapped in unhealthy work-life balances and can't find the time to unwind and enjoy themselves. The e-commerce company Groupon asked 2,000 Americans about stress at work and 60 percent indicated that pressures and responsibilities of the workplace and home life do not have boundaries. Learning to balance work and life better may come from following these tips.

1. Find more time. While there's no way to add extra hours to the day, you can add extra hours to your schedule. One way to do so is to wake up earlier or stay up later than the household. Some people prefer the quiet time to get things done while others are asleep. If you can afford to shave an hour from your sleeping schedule (provided you already are getting enough), this approach can make a significant difference.

2. Limit distractions as much as possible. Distractions pull attention away from tasks and that can make it harder to complete jobs on time. Schedule tasks that require your utmost concentration when others are not around. Perhaps this means coming into the office during off-peak hours or waiting until a spouse or the kids go to their respective places of work or school before you start on things that require greater concentration.

3. Figure out your home priorities. Schedule your home priorities just as you would work meetings and other responsibilities. While you may not be able to attend every sports practice or game, make it a point to get to as many events as possible. Put it in the calendar or planner as a must-do.

4. Maximize your PTO. Chances are you are entitled to a certain number of days off. Do not squander the opportunity to use these days. It will not make you a hero if you give up on time off. Map out priorities for the next couple of months and see where your time away from work will be needed. Then utilize PTO for these events as well as vacations.

5. End work at a certain time. There is a saying that "work expands to fill the time allotted." It's easy to let work infiltrate home time especially for those who are remote workers. Set a distinct end time for the job and reinforce it by turning off your computer or other devices, or physically lock the door to your office. Schedule tasks directly after work that are important to you, so you won't be tempted to continue working.

Finding work-life balance can take time and require breaking established habits, but it is one way to reduce stress and feel more personally satisfied.

Dress for Interview Success on Your Next Job Interview

In his masterpiece "Crime and Punishment," author Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, "We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken." The great Russian novelist is referring to the fact that impressions can be made even before conversations begin. This is an important notion to grasp and can do a job seeker a world of good in every interaction during the hiring process, including the interview.

Recruiters may have an understanding of you as an applicant from your résumé and other correspondences, but it is during the interview - whether it's in person or remote - that a hiring manager can really get a sense of your energy and professionalism. While no one wants to be judged on appearance alone, what you look like and how you dress affect others' first impression of you. Doing all you can to tip the scales in your favor may lead to favorable job outcomes. The best outfit to wear on an interview varies depending on the company and the job, according to The Balance: Money. But there are some guidelines for dressing to make the best impression.

· Follow the employer's dress code. If you can gauge dress code in advance, dress to mirror what others are wearing and then take it up a slight notch. For example, while you wouldn't wear a suit if you're interviewing as a park ranger, you may eschew work boots and faded jeans for a collared polo shirt and khaki pants. For a tech start-up or creative company that favors casual wear, something that is more business casual may be appropriate for the interview.

· Err on the side of caution. If you do not know the company dress code, it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. A sports jacket and a button-down shirt for gentlemen and tailored pants and blouse for women may fit the bill.

· Less is more. Distractions can derail an interview, and wearing too many accessories can be distracting to the interviewer and even candidates during the interview. Keep jewelry to a minimum and mute all alerts on a smartwatch and smartphone. If you have piercings, you may want to remove them until you learn more about which types of body art are acceptable at the company, which you should be able to discern when visiting the office. Distractions also can include heavy or drastic makeup and hair styles. Tone things down until you have a firm understanding of dress policies.

· Choose neutral colors. Wear neutral or classic colors over more flashy options. You want to be judged on your qualifications, and neon shirts or a busy print dress could cause an interviewer to lose focus. During a remote interview, choose a high-contrast interview outfit so that you don't blend in with your background.

· Wear clean, tidy clothes. No matter how formal or informal the attire, it should be freshly laundered, free from wrinkles or damage, and fit properly.

Interview attire can make or break first impressions, so attention should be placed on what to wear.

How Long to Hang On to Your Tax Returns

As individuals attempt to more effectively organize their homes, they may come across a familiar pile of documents that they might hesitate to discard. Conventional wisdom has suggested taxpayers hold on to their tax returns for at least seven years. However, the Internal Revenue Service indicates that the seven-year timeline is not necessarily applicable to everyone. The IRS recommends taxpayers speak with their insurance company or creditors to see if they require account holders to hold on their tax records longer than the IRS. If they don't, individuals can follow these guidelines, courtesy of the IRS.

1. Keep records for 3 years if situations (4), (5), and (6) below do not apply to you.

2. Keep records for 3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later, if you file a claim for credit or refund after you file your return.

3. Keep records for 7 years if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction.

4. Keep records for 6 years if you do not report income that you should report, and it is more than 25 percent of the gross income shown on your return.

5. Keep records indefinitely if you do not file a return.

6. Keep records indefinitely if you file a fraudulent return.

7. Keep employment tax records for at least 4 years after the date that the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever is later.

These can serve as guidelines taxpayers can follow if they are attempting to declutter at home but don't want to discard tax returns they might someday need. Taxpayers also can consult with their accountants or tax preparers for advice on how long to keep their returns. In addition, those who want to keep their returns can scan relevant return documents and then store them digitally on an external hard drive. This frees up space in a home and can calm any fears about discarding returns taxpayers may have.

How Mid-career Professionals Can Find Their Next Job

Newly minted college graduates often utilize career placement services at their colleges and universities as they seek to land their first job in their chosen field. Such services typically are not utilized by mid-career professionals, who are generally those individuals with ample experience but who are still many years away from retirement. But it's not necessarily easy for anyone to find a new job in the digital era, so mid-career professionals can utilize some strategies to increase their chances of finding a job that allows them to advance to the next step in their careers.

· Identify your priorities. Mid-career professionals who are working but want to move on to a new opportunity have the luxury of looking for a position that aligns with their priorities and should take full advantage of that position. Identify what you like or don't like about your current job. Variables that merit consideration include the job itself, but also company size, workplace culture and benefits and perks. Make a list of these priorities and identify which are most and least important to you, and then allow that list to inform your search for a new job.

· Determine if your next job will be your last job. Many mid-career professionals looking for a new job may be looking with the intention that their next employer will be the last company they work for. If that's the case, then it's important to keep that in mind as you begin your search. Opportunity for professional growth and advancement should be available within an organization that you envision being the last firm you work for. If you enjoy the challenges and excitement that comes with switching employers, or even careers, then you may not need to prioritize advancement opportunities over chances to beef up your experience.

· Practice interviewing. Mid-career professionals may not have interviewed for a job in many years, and the process of interviewing has undoubtedly changed since individuals were offered their current jobs. For example, initial interviews are now often conducted over conferencing apps like Zoom, so mid-career professionals may want to study up on how to master such interviews. Everything from lighting to backgrounds to how you sit during the call can affect interviewers' impression of you as a candidate. So preparing for interviews may involve more than traditional steps like studying up on the company and preparing responses to questions interviewers may ask.

· Utilize a recruiter. Mid-career professionals can benefit from the services of a recruiter. Recruiters can provide pointers on constructing a résumé and how to answer interview questions with the goal of emphasizing your experience and accomplishments. Such insight can be invaluable for established professionals.

Mid-career professionals looking for their next job can utilize various strategies to ensure they ultimately land at a company that values their experience and challenges them in new and exciting ways.