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Financial Tip

Oliver Wendell Holmes, former Justice of the United States Supreme Court, once said, "Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society." Although people work hard to meet their needs and the needs of their families, there are some things they cannot purchase themselves. For example, the taxes paid to state and local jurisdictions help pay for police and fire protection. These taxes also pay for the operation of the local governments, and for local recreation areas such as parks and other public facilities.

On the national level, federal income taxes help pay for defense for the country. They also pay for capital facilities such as highways and other transportation services, and to help those who are poor or ill. These are all services that individual citizens cannot purchase the way they can buy food and clothing and the other necessities of life. When people live together in a society, all of its citizens bear the cost of providing such services. Taxes are the means by which the society raises the money to cover these public costs.

The United States Department of the Treasury has a number of fact sheets that can help people better understand the various taxes imposed in the United States. These include: Economics of Taxation explains how taxes support government services and benefit the country's citizens. Writing and Enacting Tax Legislation explains the process for developing and passing legislation into law.

In addition, Lesson 1.5 of the Yes, You Can Curriculum includes classroom examples of how taxes are collected and used by the various jurisdictions.

Source: Adapted from United States Department of the Treasury.

Charity Work Can Lead to 'Real' Work

It's the classic Catch 22. You can't get a job without experience, but you can't get experience without a job.

Fortunately, there is an answer to this dilemma. Volunteer! When you volunteer with a nonprofit organization you have the opportunity to learn new talents, discover what you enjoy most, and develop transferable skills for a career that best suits your interests and abilities.

"Volunteerism offers high school and college students, in particular, a chance to hone their social skills, boost self-confidence, enhance personal accountability and develop new skills that will help them in the workplace," said Bob Dusselier, volunteer manager with Crossroads Hospice in Kansas City.

It's also a great strategy if you're interested in changing careers or are out of work and interested in developing new skills.
Showing your volunteer activities on your resume helps demonstrate to potential employers that you're keeping your skills up to date while learning new ones.

Here are some additional GAINS volunteering provides:

G for Gratitude - Often times, volunteers work with those who are less fortunate or may have fallen on hard times. Seeing the challenges others face can make you more appreciative for what you have while demonstrating that "things" may not be the root of happiness.

A for Awards - Like gratitude, some awards are internal and impact the way you feel. Other awards, such as recognition from the organization or the community offer a more tangible benefit. These types of awards look great on your resume.

I for Image - Volunteering with a charity gives you more visibility. You may be asked to attend social events or you could be the one who gives speeches promoting the organization.

N for Networking - While networking with the group's board directors and members, you'll be in a position to hear about job openings. You'll also meet other volunteers who probably come from a wide-range of backgrounds. These individuals can serve as natural resources for referrals, positive references and job leads.

S for Skills - Find a mentor in the organization who can help you gain marketable skills to list on your resume under the organization's name or as "Community Involvement." Because many nonprofit organizations are in need of volunteers, you may get the opportunity to try new things and learn a wide variety of skills.

Nonprofit organizations make it easy to get "hired." Unlike most businesses, charities are almost always looking for volunteers and they may not ask to see your resume or require prior experience before letting you work on a project.

When deciding what charity to volunteer for, look for one with a good reputation that is still small enough to allow you to play a major role. By volunteering for a successful charity that has sound business practices, you can more easily transfer your skills to the business world. These skills can lead to careers in accounting, marketing, training, web development, office management, public relations, customer service and many others. Since you can move up quickly in a small organization, you can also develop your management and leadership skills.

Another suggestion is to consider volunteering for a professional organization in the industry you're interested in entering. For example, if you're interested in marketing, look for a local Ad Club or Public Relations Society of America. If you're a student, trade organizations, like these, often have a special membership category for you that is considerably less expensive than a regular membership.

You've heard people say that helping others helps them as much as the charity. It's definitely a win-win situation for everybody!

Teachable Moments

Encourage your kids to get involved in a charity, such as an animal shelter, local camp or area school. If they belong to a youth organization, explore ways to include the members. For example, they can volunteer at a food pantry or assemble goodie bags for soldiers. As a volunteer, they can learn to work as part of a team and may even discover a career field they're interested in, too!