21 February 2013

5 Useful Things They Don't Teach in School

Recently I've been thinking of useful things I've learned that they don't teach in school. I don't mean schmalzty stuff like it's okay to fail, or how to love. Bah! I mean useful shit. Here are the first five things that come to mind:

1. How to Microwave Correctly
When microwaving, place your food on the outside of the turntable, not in the center, for more even heating. Read the explanation at lifehacker.com.

2. Turn Off the Lights, All of Them
Ever hear that it takes more energy to power on a fluorescent light (as opposed to leaving it lit)? Turns out, with today's CFL bulbs, it's better to switch them off than leave them on. The gub'ment says so!

3.  Nutrition Labels aren't for (most) Girls
Those nutrition labels on packaged food are based on the caloric needs of an average male adult. For a 5' 3" female, the calorie, fat, protein, etc. amounts are almost halved. Instead of 2,000 - 2,500 calories per day, I get 1200-1400. Exercise, of course, increases this number. Even still, the amounts on the label can be misleading. Calculate your daily calorie allotment.

4. How to Google
To be fair, we didn't have The Google yet when I was in school. Even still, there are a few simple tricks to being a better Googler that everyone should know. 

If all you ever do is type a few words into Google, well, I'm not saying you're doing it wrong, but you could be doing it better. One I use daily is site search. Let's say someone tells me about a recent article from the OC Register website about the Anaheim Ducks. So how do I go about finding this article? 
  • Go to ocregister.com and poke around until I find it?
  • Google "Anaheim Ducks news" and sort through all the articles?

Nyet! None of the above! I go Google and do a site search. It looks like this: 

ducks  site:ocregister.com

Note there are two spaces between "ducks" and site:ocregister.com - you're telling Google to look for the word ducks only on the website ocregister.com

You can use the additional search tools to further refine the results to items from the last hour, 24 hours, week, month or year.

Once you start using this, or the other Google search operators, you'll wonder how you ever used the interwebs without them.

The next time you're want to see what lamps IKEA sells, try: lamps  site:ikea.com and then choose the Images tab to browse pictures of lamps from IKEA's website. 

Beauty, eh?

5. Invest in index funds
There's a saying that Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Poorly. This doesn't apply to stocks. None of us is a financial genius or a psychic. If your employer has a retirement plan and matches contributions, that's free money. Buy an S&P Index fund like SNXFX, contribute to your employer matching max and pat yourself on the back.

I'm no stock expert, but I've read a lot of books, and the Boglehead book is the best of the bunch. By "best" I mean that I had a brokerage account where I followed the index find plan, and another where I went my own way (with an advisor no less). Guess which account is doing better? Yeah, the index fund account which I paid almost zero attention to... less work, better return. 

Why didn't someone teach me this in school?


Unknown said...

Most helpful to me: microwave and google search. Wow, I did NOT know that about google.

Unknown said...

Awesome post, Megan! (as always)

Anonymous said...

Please do "5 useful things" daily for the rest of your life and make the world a better place.