Modern States

I’m deviating a little bit in my monthly non-profit highlight, because although Modern States’ focus isn’t strictly on veterans or those with disabilities; the services they offer can have (in my opinion) a significant impact on those households. Many families have children who are thinking of college, and I don’t think anyone would disagree – college can be expensive! Modern States provides a way to offset some of this expense.

Who They Are 

I came across Modern States while looking up resources for a client planning for (2) children’s college educations. What immediately caught my eye is how they are trying to lower barriers to entry, working towards making a college degree more accessible to those who want one. I copied the blurb below directly from their website, because I think their undiluted message is much more powerful than anything I could come up with.

Modern States Education Alliance is a non-profit dedicated to making a high quality college education free of cost and accessible to any person who seeks one. Its founding principle is that access to affordable education is fundamental to any philosophy that respects all individuals, and fundamental to the American dream.

What They Do 


Modern States offers a path to complete the first year (Freshman) of college for free. They do by providing the funding for online courses taught by college professors. After taking the course students can apply for a CLEP payment voucher from Modern States and take the exam.

I’ve written about CLEPs in the past, I took several when pursuing my undergrad – but I had to teach myself the material. I think having college professors review the material will significantly increase the odds of passing.Additionally – if you’re active duty you don’t need to worry about the cost of the exams, they’re free.

What Else Should I Know

“There are no prerequisites for the 32 courses that will be offered, and all of them are self-paced. Some of the courses stem from a partnership between Modern States and edX, the online education platform created by Harvard and MIT” (source Modern States).

Modern States has a comprehensive list of colleges that’ll accept AP and CLEP for credit, they’ve done the work for you. My recommendation, find a school that’ll accept the credits and offers the major you’re looking for – it’s not a short list, you should be able to find one. Click HERE for the link.


I am not an employee of Modern States and any errors noted are my own.  If I have misrepresented, or misstated anything please provide constructive feedback so I may make the appropriate change(s). All opinions and views are my own.


Mysterious Things People With Autism Do – and Possible Reasons Why

Very insightful!

Guiding Exceptional Parents

people-with-autism-do-why-guiding-exceptional-parents-sarah-waylandThis post was originally published on Parenting ADHD & Autism on October 12th, 2016.

Kids with autism have a unique way of thinking about the world that can be both fascinating and baffling. Often their intentions are misunderstood because they behave in ways that are unexpected.

This chart can help demystify some of those behaviors.  

View original post 923 more words

Be Present, Not Perfect

December is the month for holidays, and it seems like many of us get all wrapped up (pardon the pun) in the festivities and moments. We just have to give the “perfect” gift, host the “perfect” party, etc – you get the idea. And in the midst of all this somehow we lose sight of what the holidays are for (or as I understand it – I don’t celebrate them so I could be missing something).

I see so many of those around me stressing out, almost making themselves physically ill from worry they won’t live up to the expectations they think others have of them. The focus becomes almost materialistic, driving people to spend more than they ordinarily would; followed by feelings of regret and shame in when the holidays are over.

What makes this time of year any different than the other 11 months? What would happen if, instead of trying outspend the Joneses, we spent more time focusing on those we would be buying the gifts for. Give them the gift of your attention, focusing on who they are instead of what they want (or what you think they want). It’ll cost less, and I’m willing to bet everyone will remember this gift much better than those they would have received.

Walk Before You Run

The end of the year is just around the corner, and many of us fall into the trap of looking back and thinking about all the things we were going to do; but for one reason or another never got around to. This isn’t constructive, if you didn’t accomplish what you desired then instead of self-flagellation, instead focus on what you can do different. Below are a few ideas, from one parent to another.

Don’t try to do too much. It sounds great when you’re telling everyone how much you’re going to get done this year, and how it’s going to be SO different from last year. It may also give you a sense of accomplishment and hope, setting high expectations. Although this isn’t unheard of, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

It may have been a long time since you’ve actively sought to develop new habits; so focusing on one thing to improve is a great way to start. Determine what you really want to accomplish, more than anything else – and it will help if that one thing addresses a couple challenges in your life. For example, this year (2017) my focus was on improving how I communicate – because I saw challenges in both my personal & professional life.

Take the next couple weeks to draft what you’re going to work on, and I recommend breaking it down into quarters. Identify the big item, and then break it down into smaller chunks. It takes time to build a habit, it’s not something we can create overnight. Give yourself 6 – 8 weeks, at a minimum.

I like stretching it through the quarter, because by the end of it you’re not even thinking about it. Then it’s easy to build upon it, allowing you to focus your energy on developing the subsequent tools to accomplish your commitment. Don’t make it about pass/fail; understand these types of things take time and there may (almost certainly will) be hiccups along the road.

Next year can, and should be, your year – but it doesn’t have to stop there. Once you’ve got the formula down, use it to improve anything else you’d like to work on – be it personal, professional or financial. You’ve got this; here’s to 2018 and beyond!


Normally I’m agnostic, at best, when it comes to politics – however with the threat of cuts to MEDICAID as a means to fund a new healthcare bill I cannot stay silent. I admit I have selfish reasons for my concern, as my son is very likely to be negatively affected should MEDICAID cuts take effect. I’m not looking for to argue, and I’m going to do my best to leave my opinions out – sticking strictly to the facts as I understand them.

My plan has been to help my son live as independently as possible, through the use of self-direction – rather than relying on an organization for Residential, Day or Vocational programs. I would provide his home, help him with the job search by coordinating with DORS; and, whenever possible, avoid any type of Day program.

For those of you without family members who have a disability(ies) some of these terms may be completely foreign; and I encourage you to do your own research on what these programs are, and how they are administered. Each of these programs are protected, MEDICAID would still pay for them – however, if shifted to block grants States may not be able to fund these programs to the current level; because the Federal government is currently heavily subsidizing them. The same is true for programs for the elderly, everyone who cannot afford long term care is receiving it through MEDICAID. Again, subsidized by the Federal government.

Self-Directed services are covered by MEDICAID waivers, and these waivers are not guaranteed. What would likely happen is these programs would be cut, because although they are less expensive than using organizations; States would need to continue paying the organizations – so the money has to come from somewhere. It also means the States would need to reduce the amount of money they are providing to the organizations; forcing these non-profits to rely more heavily on private donors.

There are waiting lists for services, my expectation would be these lists would grow in size; because scarcity of resources. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has a fantastic article about Block Grants, so rather than try to recreate it I’m providing the link here.

To be clear, it’s not the idea of a Block Grant I oppose, it’s the rush to get a solution in place by the end of September. I believe these grants may be part of the overall solution, but in my opinion we need to do more prep work. We need to work with provider agencies, helping them shift their focus to fundraising. We need to educate families; and work with insurance companies – explore if there are opportunities to have more of the services needed covered; even at the risk of higher premiums.

MEDICAID serves a purpose. I acknowledge the issue of fraud, but block grants won’t solve this. There will still be individuals and families who do the best they can to transfer their assets so they don’t have to pay for their long term care; and other instances. But let’s be fully cognizant of who the majority is – individuals with disabilities and the elderly. Is this really who we want to cut benefits for?

Mind the Gap

How many people do you know who want to retire early, or leave their job for one reason or another? At first glance it seems like it would be awesome – plenty of free time, nobody telling you what to do, it’s like moving out of your parent’s house all over again! And I’m all for this, although I’ll be the first to admit early retirement just isn’t for me – at least not in the traditional sense. But I’m not discussing the pros/cons of early retirement – in the next few paragraphs I’d like to identify some things I think many of us overlook in our race to the finish.

First, and this is a biggie, health insurance. You are eligible for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday to 3 months after. There are some additional opportunities for those with disabilities, but let’s stick to this. If you retire before age 65, and you had been relying on your employer’s healthcare plan take a look to see what you’ll do when you leave. Does your spouse have a plan? Will it affect any of your children who may still be on your plan (under age 26 or disabled)?

I encourage everyone to make sure they (1) have identified what they’ll do and (2) are sure they can afford the option(s) chosen. It would be horrible to work off the premise you’ll use COBRA and then find out you can’t afford the premiums, or that it doesn’t cover you until you’re Medicare eligible. If leaving the work force before 65 is on your radar, healthcare should be one of the first things you consider.

Next – what are you going to do with all that time? For most of us work accounts for at least (8) hours, 5 days each week. Not counting travel time or other jobs (side-hustles) you may have. This time is occupied, even if only with “busy work”, not requiring much on your part to entertain yourself. What would 52 weeks of vacation be like for you? Could you afford it?

I urge you to consider this seriously, because I’ve heard several “rules” of thumb when it comes to retirement and I’m not fond of any of them. For example – the rule you only need 80% of what you’re currently making. This is a great rule IF, and only IF, you are in the minority of the population who is saving at least 20% of their income. If you’re not, why would you spend less when you have more free time? Sure, you may fill some of this time volunteering and with hobbies, but rather than just jumping right in try taking mini-retirements first – vacations without trips planned, because in most cases it’s not realistic in most cases you’ll be able to take trips each week – while spending what you’re spending now. 

Last, and not in any way least, understand your why. Are you doing this because it’s the “thing” to do, because you have a bigger vision you need time for, or because you want to relax and enjoy your later years? There’s no right or wrong reason, but the more connected to your why you are the more likely you’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen.

And that’s the point I want to stress – no matter what you want to do, or why; if it’s important to you treat it that way. If you want 40+ years to yourself in retirement, make sure you have enough money to fund it – even if it means making sacrifices now. Only, if it’s what you really want they won’t be sacrifices; they’ll be steps on your journey to your ideal state.

If you’re retiring before Medicare eligibility, consider investing into a side account, at least equal to your current insurance premiums, to be drawn from later. If you want to live on a beach or in the middle of the woods, would it help to pay off your current mortgage to maximize the money available to purchase these cottages? Just food for thought, and don’t feel bad if you don’t have all the answers. Talk to your advisor(s), friends and family – use them as sounding boards (but not final decision makers). Look for those with similar goals and see what they did to accomplish their goal; or have done to put themselves on track. And learn from their mistakes – not reinventing the wheel goes for the bad as well as the good.


Side Hustle, What?!

When I was younger if you had a second job, it was just that – a job. It wasn’t anything to celebrate, because often you were working to help pay your bills. I’m not sure what’s changed, and I fully admit I’m not 100% in touch with current lingo – but as I understand what I’ve been hearing, a “side hustle” is something people SHOULD have.

I can think of many instances when this is a good idea; for example if you have a hobby  you’re trying to become better at, in the hopes you can make it into a career (i.e. wood carver). After all, assuming the following:

1) Malcolm Gladwell’s theory it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill is accurate

2) We work and sleep on average (8) hours per day

3) We can spend (4) hours of each day (Monday – Sunday) working on our skill

It would still take us almost (7) years to become a “master” (6.85 years). That’s a long time to work on something for no reward (other than the satisfaction of becoming better). So getting paid to practice could be a great way to both stay motivated to learning and put a little extra cash in your pocket.

However, I question if this is why most people have a side hustle – I think for many it’s a way to increase their income. Nothing wrong with this, if you’re honest with yourself and you know what you want the money for. If it’s being used to cover monthly expenses, then I encourage you to revisit your spending habits. On the other hand, if you’re using it to save for a specific goal; just to have some extra cash; or as I postulated above, to get better at a skill more power to you!

Here’s where I become an old fuddy duddy (as proven by using the words “fuddy duddy”). When you consider a side hustle, and are determining how much money you’re going to make – please consider the associated expenses. This means if you’re driving for one of the ride share apps consider the increased frequency of required maintenance (oil changes, detailing, brakes, etc); the same goes if you’re renting a room or your house – typically there are additional expenses, including insurance, that often go overlooked.

If you’re “earning” $500 per month, but spending an extra $300/mth doing so evaluate if it’s really worth it. Many of the side hustles I’ve seen people do have the potential to be very lucrative; but like anything if you don’t know what it’s costing you you cannot be sure you’re really making a profit.

If you’re not sure how much you’re really making, track your cash flow. This is nothing more than the money coming in vs the money going out. You can set up a tracker in basic tracker in excel or talk to a financial advisor.  I like to see my clients saving at least 20% of money coming in for goals (not just retirement, things like trips to Disney & new cars as well). If you can’t, even with the side hustle, I would encourage you to evaluate where your money is going – and not just take on something else. And remember, although I’ve only talked about money; there’s another cost to be considered – time. Use it wisely, I don’t know of anyone who died wishing they’d spent more time working.