When it comes to the world of personal finance magazines, Jean writes for Money magazine—but she has also worked for SmartMoney. Jean talks with SmartMoney magazine's editor in chief, Jonathan Dahl, about the hottest articles in the May 2007 issue.
Adult Education Programs
An inside look at adult education or certificate programs at colleges and universities across the country was the focus of one article that Jean says caught her eye. Although many people looking to change careers spend a few thousand dollars to complete a "mini degree," Jonathan says it is not worth the money. "You are not expecting for $3,000 the same kind of education as [you'd get for] $20,000, but I do think you are expecting a deeper quality of education than we were finding," Jonathan says.
In the course of the SmartMoney investigation, Jonathan says his colleagues found that many of the schools that offered certificate or continuing education classes didn't offer college credit for the work. Another flaw with the programs is that they lacked a strong curriculum, and Jonathan says most students don't learn very much. "One of the biggest problems we found is the use of speakers," Jonathan says. "It is kind of easy for a teacher to bring in speaker after speaker who are not trained in teaching people. So, the students would complain that it was too simplistic, too boring, and they didn't learn anything."
While Jonathan says SmartMoney uncovered many faults with adult education programs, he says it should not discourage you from going back to school if you are looking to change careers. "It's just a matter of doing your homework—not just when you take the course but before—and you might want avoid the certificate program and stick to individual courses," Jonathan says.
Another article in the May 2007 issue of SmartMoney focuses on smart home improvements. Instead of renovating your home so that you can sell during a sluggish housing market, Jonathan says you should improve the areas where you spend the most time and try to live in your home longer. He says renovating your garage is one good place to start. "The idea is [the garage] was kind of a wasted, dirty space, and with not-that-expensive cabinetry and flooring, it can just look beautiful," he says. "It becomes a new room, a new place to hang out and work, as well as park your car."
Life Insurance Policies
A story about the recent trend of inexpensive premiums on term-life insurance policies is also featured the May 2007 issue. Jonathan says there is a lot more competition in the term-life insurance field, and with people living longer, more policies are not being paid out, so rates have fallen. Jonathan says now would be a good time to invest in a policy. "You can get for $500 now a million dollars of coverage, which would have been unheard of five or 10 years ago," he says.