The Hippo


Apr 18, 2019








Hablo français
Here are some resources that can help you wow by ordering dinner in the native language on your overseas trip.

Conversation groups
Chinese group meets twice monthly at Nashua Public Library, 2 Court St., Nashua. Visit or call Carol at 589-4610.
French Club Richelieu for French-speakers in Greater Nashua holds dinner meetings monthly. Call 889-7112.
Italian conversation group at Nashua Public Library meets weekly. Contact Carol at or 589-4610.
Italian Bedford Italian Cultural Society holds monthly meetings (except July and August) at the Bedford Public Library on Meetinghouse Road. Parliamo Italiano chat sessions meet weekly. Membership is $15 per year. Visit
Lithuanian group meets at Nashua Public Library. Visit or call Carol at 589-4610.
Spanish conversation group at Nashua Public Library meets weekly. Call Carol at 589-4610.

These are some of the formal language classes offered in the area. Most charge tuition. See websites for current schedules.
Chinese classes from the Derry Chinese School, including preschool, child, teen and adult programs, are offered at Marion Gerrish Community Center (39 W. Broadway, Derry). Call 888-928-8470 or visit
Chinese Mandarin classes are offered at New Hampshire Chinese School (in Concord at West Congregational Church, 499 N. State St.; in Nashua at Girls Inc., 27 Burke St.; and in Manchester, at Belknap Hall at Southern New Hampshire University, 2500 N. River Road). Levels range from preschool to adult, beginner to advanced. Visit or call 557-3836.
French classes are offered through the Franco-American Centre (100 Saint Anselm Drive #1798, Davison Hall Manchester, 641-7114, for adult and youth, beginner through advanced learners. Tuition is $100 or $250, depending on the class. Most classes are 75 minutes. There is a mandatory yearly student Centre membership fee of $35. Call the Centre or e-mail Pauline Guimond Grant, French classes coordinator, at
German classes are held by the NHGA German School for adult beginners with no knowledge of German, those with limited abilities, and those at advanced levels. Classes are conducted using German textbooks in an informal, speech-intensive manner, emphasizing German conversation, traditions and culture. Visit
Greek classes for adults (beginner and intermediate) are held at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral (650 Hanover St., Manchester). Reinforce and review your conversation & writing skills. Free. Call 497-4581.
Hebrew classes are held at Congregation Betenu in Amherst (5 Northern Blvd, 886-1633, for ages 13 and older. Call 886-1633 or visit
Irish (Gaelic) language classes for all levels are offered by Conradh na Gaeilge of New England, a nonprofit Irish language organization in Manchester. Go to or call 508-797-9482.
Spanish is taught at the Adult Learning Center, 4 Lake St., Nashua. Beginning and intermediate conversation classes are offered. Call 598-8303 or visit
Spanish classes for adults are offered through Classes for Life, Community Education, held at Concord High School, 170 Warren St. in Concord, 225-0804,
American Sign Language community classes are held at 168 S. River Road in Bedford. Tutoring, private lessons, workshops and online classes are also available. See
American Sign Language is taught at the Adult Learning Center, 4 Lake St., Nashua. A six-week class focuses on basic signing techniques and interpretation as well as deaf cultural awareness. Call 882-9080, ext. 201.
All Learners, 15 Constitution Drive, Bedford, offers French and Spanish classes for adults. Call 986-7001 or e-mail  
The New England Language Center in Rochester offers classes in conversational Spanish, German, Russian, French, Italian, Portuguese, Swahili and English as a Second Language (ESL). Classes are available in eight-week sessions or individual instruction.
Manchester Community College, 1066 Front St. in Manchester, 206-8000,, offers a variety of language courses, including Spanish, German, French and sign language.

• Bee Organized,, professional organizers.
• B. Lee Services,, organizational consultant, 626-5629, provides tips and guidance for overcoming clutter., includes information on home organization., sells home organization products.

Vroom, vroom!

You may or may not want to tackle changing your own oil, but these resources can help you understand your automobile, and maybe your lawn mower as well.
Community Education, 170 Warren St. in Concord, 225-0804,, offers a course in small engine repair. provides answers to common car maintenance questions. allows you to answer a series of questions to narrow down what might be wrong with your car. provides the basics on how your engine works. contains vehicle-specific information to help you solve car problems.

And of course, read the Car Talk column every week in the Hippo.

But if you insist on changing the oil yourself...

Though Chartier does not recommend doing it on your own, he did provide a step-by-step guide for the very determined. Find it with the online version of this article at


A number of local resources will help you utilize your kitchen, or let you watch the pros in action.
Southern New Hampshire University,, 2500 N. River Road in Manchester, has a degree program in culinary arts. Call 800-668-1249.
Chez Boucher Culinary Arts Training Center,, 32 Depot Square in Hampton, offers a range of classes from one-day workshops to a full culinary program., based in Derry, features products and programs for kids. Send e-mail to or call 591-5918.
The Creative Feast, 5 Broad St. in Hollis,, hosts cooking demonstrations. Send e-mail to or call 321-5011.
Things are Cooking, 74 N. Main St. in Concord,, sells cookware and offers professional knife-sharpening. Call 225-8377.
Recipe for Success culinary job training program at the New Hampshire Food Bank, West Brook Street, Manchester,, offers training and experience to unemployed and under-employed adults who wish to obtain jobs in the food service industry. Students earn 260 hours of commercial cooking and food safety skills, résumé development, and effective interview techniques. Call 669-9725.

Making retirement decisions
There are plenty of companies and financial planners happy to provide advice on how much money to save and how to invest it. There are also online resources. Here are some investment companies, financial advisors and some links to help you get started saving for retirement., includes a retirement calculator, articles and advice, provides articles, advice and news, for tips on saving, for articles, news and advice, as well as a retirement calculator
Economic opportunity programs at Millyard Technology Park, Pine Street Ext., Nashua. For programs in computer training (intro to the PC, Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint and Outlook) call 594-8513 or e-mail For programs in financial literacy and educational goals (borrowing money, establishing good credit, and developing a personal budget plan) call Jennifer Spencer, 886-2866. For info about starting a small business and self-employment, call Sara Varela, 800-769-3482. For programs in ESL and learning conversational English and life skills, call 594-8513 or e-mail
Manchester Community College (1066 Front St. in Manchester, 668-6706, offers classes in personal financial management. Call for availability.
UNH Cooperative Extension (877-398-4769, offers classes in personal finance and investing. See schedule on website.

Beyond the outfit

These are just some of the resources that can help you make your way in the professional world in southern New Hampshire.
Stay Work Play,, New Hampshire nonprofit dedicated to keeping young people living and working in New Hampshire. Offers job and career resources, as well as networking events. Contact Kate Luzcko at or call 860-2245.
Manchester Young Professionals Network, offers a number of networking events, hosted a “Dress for Success” presentation on Wednesday, July 18, at Manchester Community College from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.,
iUGO, Nashua young professionals organization,, 881-8333.
Concord Young Professionals Network,
New Hampshire Employment Security’s Job Seeker section online at offers interview guidance.
Picanso Resume,, 998-4009, professional résumé-writing service in Manchester.
Creative Professional Resumes, 491 Amherst St. Suite 9, in Nashua,, 880-3980, professional resume writing service.
Job Corps is open to people ages 16 to 24 who are unemployed and need a job. Every Tuesday at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. there is an information session about how to obtain free job training, high school diploma/GED, driver’s license and job placement assistance. Sessions take place at the Job Corps Office, 50 Bridge St., Suite 306, Manchester. Call 627-2891.
Women Supporting Women holds leadership workshops and other professional support groups at 111 Water St., Suite 2, Exeter. Call 772-0799 or visit
Business After Hours is hosted monthly by the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. Call 924-7234 for dates and locations.
abi Innovation Hub at 33 S. Commercial St. in Manchester offers coaching, work space, administrative services and other resources for startup companies and entrepreneurs. Contact Jamie Coughlin at
Free résumé-writing workshop on Wednesday, July 25, 5:30-8 p.m., to help those out of work or those hoping to change jobs, at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, 749 E. Industrial Park Drive, Manchester. Instructor David Yudkin of Creative Professional Resumes will cover what should and should not be included in a résumé. Visit or call 627-0005.
Business Founders Series through abi Innovation Hub presents Dyn, a successful New Hampshire startup company, on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Dyn, Inc. (150 Dow St., Tower 2, Manchester). Learn how to start, innovate and grow business by listening to advice from some of the most successful founders in New England. Email

6 Skills
for a smarter, better-looking you


You know you need to pay that bill, but what stack was it under? You know you ought to be saving for retirement, but you keep putting it off.

You’ve got a pile of food magazines in the living room but the recipes are too complex and there are too many to choose from.

Your car’s oil change indicator lit up 1,500 miles ago; does that mean your engine is on the verge of failing? You’ve got a job interview next week — that’s the good news — but what to wear? And might it help if you knew a little Spanish? For that matter, once you’ve got the job, you’d like to know Spanish for when you take that two-week vacation in Barcelona.

Stop waiting to make your life better and start doing it now. Here’s a collection of tips and how-tos — and lists of local resources for further advice and practice — for some things you need to do, some things you may want to do, others you’ve been meaning to do, and still others you hadn’t thought of yet. Good luck.

How to: Learn to hablar like a local.

Maybe your job involves interaction with Spanish-speakers. Maybe you’re dreaming of a vacation in Acapulco or Barcelona. Maybe you just want to stretch your mind by learning another language, or you want to understand Sofia Vergara when she’s on a roll. Whatever the reason, the important thing is to have a context for learning a language, says Mark Phelps, a language teacher at Manchester Community College.

Whatever your reason, don’t try to learn a new language in a vacuum.

“Why are you doing this and what are you going to do with this?” Phelps said. “That’s the biggest key with the language. ... We have a catch phrase: ‘Use it or lose it.’”

Phelps said he tried to learn Arabic in college but after the coursework he had no context for it and thus today he remembers almost nothing of the language. 

The Modern Language Association’s analysis of U.S. Census data from 2000 shows Spanish is by far the most common language other than English spoken in the U.S. So it’s probably got a leg up in the relevancy department. No doubt you already know a few words or phrases from popular culture, but how can you take it further?

A good first step is to find a class. Online resources can be helpful, but the best thing is to get connected with somebody who understands the culture, Phelps said.

“The grammar and the culture are inextricably linked,” Phelps said. “The culture provides the background.”

You don’t need a classroom setting, but it’s important to find somebody who can be a guide. Between lessons, classes or practice sessions, keep at it.

Phelps finds it helpful to monologue to himself. When he is thinking about a particular topic, he tries to do so in Spanish.

You can also boost your skills by listening to music with Spanish lyrics. (Phelps suggested Shakira because her music is readily available and the grammar is largely correct in her songs). Find some Spanish music you like and sing along to it.
“It’s … another opportunity to build vocabulary and get some greater context... And it’s kind of fun,” he said. “Once you have the songs memorized, you can sing in the car, in the shower, while you cook....”

Phelps suggested finding things to read in Spanish outside a class, for pleasure. You might not be able to comprehend a whole Spanish novel, but you might be able to make your way through news articles in Spanish. Phelps said he keeps up with Spanish soccer news.

“It’s a good venue to pick up additional vocabulary,” Phelps said. “I like it and I find it interesting, and so I’m motivated to do it.” Newspapers are a good place for beginners to turn, since their articles are typically written in easy-to-understand language, Phelps said. “For beginners, it’s going to be very, very difficult,” Phelps said. “But it’s exposure to standard everyday Spanish.”

If you’re just looking to get by on a trip, some canned phrases and a few conversational skills might be enough. Phelps said people pick up speaking skills much more quickly than writing skills.

Particularly in tourist areas, a lot of people will speak English, but Phelps said they want to see people make the effort to speak Spanish. If someone is really struggling, they may suggest speaking in English, but it’s important to make the effort, Phelps said.
“It goes a long way to bridging that cultural gap,” Phelps said. “A little foundation is really, really helpful.”

How to: Learn to let go of clutter

Everybody probably wants to live in a neat and tidy home, but life gets in the way.

When the bills, the mail, the belongings and the junk pile up, Richard Barbalato comes to the rescue. Barbalato and his wife, Donna, own and operate Bee Organized (, a Francestown company that works to de-clutter and organize people’s homes.

For Barbalato, organizing has become a way of life, but he’s always been efficient in his different careers. The job is different every day and it allows him to be creative. When he finishes a job, he and his wife have improved people’s lives and reduced people’s stress. It’s a pleasure to do what he does now. In many ways, particularly on bigger jobs, he’s helping to give people their lives back, he said.

“Life is very complicated in 2012, and we need to simplify our lives as much as possible,” Barbalato said.

He’s got tips for getting on the path to a de-cluttered life.

Number one, don’t overwhelm yourself, Barbalato said.

“We like to have people be successful at doing this,” he said.

The reality is that when people try to tackle everything at once, they get overwhelmed and they ultimately give up. So Barbalato suggests picking out two or three things to target.

Start with the mail. Every day, bring in the mail. Every day, take care of the mail. Don’t pile it up and walk away. If it’s a bill, pay it or file it. If it’s another credit card offer, recycle it.

“Take care of it,” Barbalato said. “That will take care of the mail clutter...which can really stress people out.”

“Dispense with it,” Barbalato added. “After you get into the habit of doing it, you just do it. If you have piles, dispense with them.”

That’s simple. Barbalato has seen people with literally hundreds and hundreds of pieces of mail in stacks. The task becomes so huge that it just becomes a major stress factor. Handle it every day, and it’s never a big deal.

Next, take a room — basement, garage, a storage closet or a bedroom — whatever. But just take a single room. Barbalato suggests going through it and making piles. Make a pile of things you want to give away to people. Make a pile of things you want to sell, maybe on eBay or Craigslist. Make a pile of donations, perhaps items you could give to a charity or a place that can reuse them. And finally, make a pile of things you are simply going to throw out. Once the piles have been made, “dispense with it,” that is, make your donations, give stuff away, throw stuff out, actually do it.

It’s important to take just the one room at a time. Otherwise, again, it’s just too overwhelming. Once you’ve dealt with one room, move on to another, but take it one at a time, Barbalato said.

People have “to do” lists. That’s not a bad thing. But don’t make them 20 pages long. Make a list of no more than 10 items. When you complete an item, cross it off, Barbalato said.

“It feels wonderful,” Barbalato said. “The yang side of crossing it off: Then you can add another one. Don’t make a to-do list that has 150 items on it.”

“When people are successful, hopefully it encourages them to do more,” Barbalato said.

How to: Know when not to DIY

“I’m going to change my own oil” might be a thing you’ve thought to yourself. But it may be a good exmaple of when not to try to do something yourself.

To Jon Chartier, oil changes just don’t get enough air time. And they aren’t all created equal.

Chartier, owner and mechanic at Commercial Tech Services in Bow, says there are a lot of misconceptions out there with regard to oil changes: how often to get them, what oil to use, synthetic versus conventional oil, to name a few. Manufacturers’ guidelines can be dramatically different from car to car.

Some manufacturers maintain you can drive more than 10,000 miles on a single oil change if high-quality products are used, including full synthetic oil. Chartier said that is possible, but only when no shortcuts are taken.

The oil’s biggest function is to lubricate all the bearing surfaces in the engine — crank shaft bearings, valve trim bearings and connecting rod bearings, to name a few. Over time, the oil begins to break down as it is exposed to the heat of the engine. Turbo-charged engines, since they run hotter, break down oil faster, Chartier said. The oil is circulated through the engine by the oil pump and is filtered through the oil filter. Most turbo-charged engines have a cooling mechanism to cool the oil somewhat.

One thing is for sure: Changing the oil isn’t the Saturday morning chore for dad it used to be, Chartier said.

“Things have changed a lot, and I don’t recommend it anymore,” Chartier said.

At the end of the day, doing it yourself is only going to save you about $10. Chartier estimated a quality oil change should cost about $30 at a reputable automotive shop.

Whether your plan is to change the oil yourself or not, Chartier had some advice for people trying to provide care for their vehicle.

For a regular conventional oil change, the technicians at Commercial Tech are going to slap a sticker on your car that suggests coming back for an oil change in 3,500 miles. Realistically, that’s a little early. But the average customer isn’t going to bring the car back right when the sticker says to. On average, customers exceed 3,500 miles by about 1,500 miles. That puts things in the 5,000-mile bracket and that’s a good mark for an oil change. 

“The 3,000-mile number is really an old-school number, and with the technology in engines and in engine oil, you can definitely go longer,” Chartier said.

Synthetic oil does last longer, perhaps double the mileage of conventional oil. Synthetic oil stands up to thermal breakdown better than conventional oil, which is a crude oil that comes from the ground. Synthetic oil is manmade. Mobil 1 is the most popular synthetic oil, though Chartier personally recommends Valvoline full synthetic.

Take into account how you use your vehicle. If it’s a pretty standard back and forth to work each day, totaling 15,000 to 20,000 miles each year, that’s light or regular use. If you’re a soccer mom putting 25,000 to 30,000 miles on a car, Chartier considers that heavy use — all that stop-and-start and idling is like the wear on a taxi cab. Highway driving means a more consistent engine temperature, and the engine will experience less contamination and dust.

“Highway driving is significantly easier on the car,” Chartier said, noting that even at faster speeds, the engine runs better and more efficiently.

A lot depends on what people do with their cars. In the long run, it’s probably going to cost less to go with a full synthetic oil, since you’d be getting at least half the oil changes. But there are other factors, such as the quality of the oil and the quality of the filter, which Commercial Tech changes with each oil change.
“You can go to the local quickie mart and get one for $1.25,” Chartier said. “But it’s not nearly the quality of a filter that costs $4 or $5.”

More and more car companies are going toward a cartridge-style oil filter, many of which require a specific tool to remove. It’s changes like that that suggest to Chartier that manufacturers are trying to make it more difficult for people to change their own oil.

Also, most vehicles today require a specific computer to reset the oil change reminder function. There are specific procedures for resetting the reminder, but people would have to perform an Internet search to come up with those.

“There are procedures to turn a key to a specific spot, and then you go through and reset some of the specific diagnostic tools,” Chartier said. Some are easy. Some are not, he said. Auto shops have to buy computer programs that keep the reset information on hand for any car that comes in.

With cars becoming more aerodynamic, they have also gotten lower to the ground. That means people can have trouble accessing the oil plug without jacking the car up. That maneuver gets into some safety issues. Chartier said people can go buy little ramps or a hydraulic jack, but they don’t come with safety stands. “You have to have safety stands,” Chartier said.

You also need an oil catch bucket, and you need tools to change the filter. More and more cars have plastic shields covering the engine beneath the car, and those need to be removed for an oil change as well.

“The days of a 10- to 15-minute oil change are really becoming less and less frequent,” Chartier said. “People are running into more and more obstacles. Cars are becoming more efficient, but working on them isn’t as efficient as it used to be.”

Disposing of the oil is another consideration. It is considered a hazardous material. And people have to make sure they tighten filters and drain plugs properly, Chartier said.

A simple misstep, such as forgetting to remove the old filter seal and accidentally sealing over it, could leave you with a ruined engine, almost instantly.

“I’m not recommending doing it for a lot of reasons,” Chartier said.

How to: Make dessert with fire — and other cooking fun

Crème brûlée is a marquee dessert for sure. Most people have probably had it. But perhaps they haven’t tried making the sweetly creamy dish that involves a blowtorch themselves. Maybe that blowtorch piece kind of scares you. That’s OK. You can work around that. Or conquer your fears.

“With a little patience, it’s easy to do,” said Stefan Ryll, a culinary chef at Southern New Hampshire University. “If you’re having a big party, you can make it the day before and then all you have to do is just put on the sugar, caramelize it, and serve. … It’s a nice light dessert. It’s creamy and rich, but it’s small, usually one to three ounces, so you’re not totally full after.”

Ryll offered a basic recipe, some tips, and a few variations on the classic French dessert.

To start, you need six egg yolks, 4 ounces of granulated sugar, 24 ounces of heavy cream, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1 pinch of salt. You’ll also need an additional 2 ounces of granulated sugar and 2 ounces of brown sugar for the caramelization process. Ryll’s recipe serves six.

Begin by mixing together the egg yolks and the 4 ounces of granulated sugar until it’s well-combined. You can do that by hand, no mixer required. As you mix, slowly heat up the heavy cream. Heat the heavy cream until just before it boils; then turn it off.

Fold the heavy cream slowly into the egg mixture, just a little bit at a time. Be careful — you don’t want the heavy cream to turn the egg mixture into scrambled eggs, Ryll said. As you mix, whisk the first third of the cream quickly. After you’ve added a third of the cream, begin to whisk more slowly. That helps prevent creating too many bubbles.

“You want the crème brûlée to be nice and smooth on top,” Ryll said.

Place six 1-inch-deep ramekins in a hotel pan or a baking dish with a rim on the side. Divide the custard evenly among the ramekins. Then pour water into the pan so that it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins, so it provides a little steam, Ryll said.

If you do have some bubbles on the top, and if you do have a blowtorch, you can go over the top of the custard with the blowtorch just slightly to burst the bubbles.

“It’ll go bump, bump, bump and you’ll have a nice smooth service,” Ryll said. But don’t overdo it. You’re just bursting bubbles, not trying to cook it.

Place the dish carefully in a 350-degree oven and let it cook until the custard is set, which should take 20 to 25 minutes. That can vary from oven to oven, so check it after 20 minutes and if it is still runny, pop it back in for a few more minutes. When it’s done, there should be no liquid.

Sometimes the custards on the outside cook a little faster than the ones on the inside of the pan. When they have a minute or two left, take the pan out, and remove the outside custards. Leave the inside custards in the pan in the water, outside the oven, for another 10 minutes or so.

Then, take the custards out of the pan and let them sit at room temperature. Then refrigerate them for at least four hours or overnight.

Now it’s time to get out the blowtorch, which, obviously, you should be very careful with. “Crème brûlée” actually means “burnt cream.”

Take the custards out of the fridge and dab the moisture off the top with a small paper towel.

Mix the 2 ounces of granulated sugar and the 2 ounces of brown sugar together and sprinkle the mix evenly over the custards.

Take the blowtorch, light it, and work your way carefully over the top of the custards. When the sugar starts to bubble and it gets a little brown, get the flame away from it.

“You want a nice, soft, brown color, not totally burned,” Ryll said.

If you don’t have a blowtorch, go ahead and use your broiler, but you’ve got to get the ramekins very close to the heat, and you’ve got to pay close attention. You don’t want to melt the sugar. You want it nicely browned, Ryll said.

The finished product should have a caramelized, thin, hard crust, with the creamy custard underneath. Ryll suggests serving the crème brûlée within two hours. Over time, the sugar crust will soften.

“You want a nice crunch,” Ryll said. “A nice crunch, with a nice creamy custard.”

For variation, add a little coffee extract or coffee powder to the hot cream mixture. Taste it to decide whether you need more coffee flavor. Or add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the hot cream before you fold the cream into the eggs.

If you like chocolate, as Ryll does, change the cream mixture to half heavy cream and half milk. Then add 4 ounces of melted bittersweet chocolate to the hot cream. If you prefer sweeter, add semisweet chocolate.

But Ryll’s personal favorite, and it’s in season right now, is to make a crème brûlée with berries. Add the berries to the ramekins before you add the custard mixture.

“You have this nice crunch, the nice sweetness from the custard, and then the berries,” Ryll said. Try raspberries, strawberries, blueberries or blackberries. “It’s like flavors exploding in your mouth.”

Regardless of the variation you choose, Ryll suggested serving crème brûlée with a little whipped cream on top. Don’t sweeten the cream too much. Berries make a great garnish as well, whether you use them in the custard or not, Ryll said.

“It looks nice as a presentation, as well,” Ryll said.

How to: Save for the good life

The biggest part of saving for retirement is bothering to do it.

Yes, retirement is 25, 30, maybe 40 years away, but now is the time to begin putting money away.

Why? The answer is simple and obvious: “so you can have money when you are older,” said Michael Swack, an economics professor at the University of New Hampshire.

People know it. But many still don’t do it, even though employers and the government lay out the incentives. Swack said about half of Americans are not contributing to any type of retirement plan.

One big reason is simply inertia: “You have to open an account and decide to put money into it,” Swack said. “It requires you to do something affirmative.” Swack said research has found the majority of people will contribute to a retirement plan if their company automatically enrolls them in it when they begin the job — they won’t bother to opt out. On the other hand, they also won’t bother to opt in: The majority of people will not take the initiative to enroll themselves if the company doesn’t automatically enroll them.

For young people, it is difficult to think about what life will be like when they are 60, 70 or 80 years old. They may not be making much money right now. 

“People think about doing fun stuff when they’re older,” Swack said. “They want to retire and travel the world. They want to have fun and have great meals every night.... But they don’t think about it on the practical side.” So what should you do, practically?

First off, if your company offers a 401(k) plan and you’re not enrolled, talk to Human Resources and get enrolled. You’ll need to decide how much to contribute. If your company will make matching contributions, you should contribute at least the maximum amount they’ll match. An employer match is free money; take it.

Another option is an Individual Retirement Account. That’s something you’d open at a financial institution on your own, the same way you’d open a checking account at a bank. You can choose a traditional IRA, in which you make contributions pre-tax, or a Roth IRA, in which you make contributions after taxes. In a traditional IRA, the money gets taxed when you withdraw it. So each year, let’s say you contribute $2,000 to your IRA. When you file your taxes each year, you can deduct your income by $2,000. For Roth IRAs, since the money goes in after tax, you don’t get taxed when you withdraw funds. Financial advisors can help you decide what is best for you. Websites like can be helpful, as well.

If you’ve been earning pay and not putting any of it aside, the switch to saving for retirement might seem like a jolt.

“It’s hard to see that paycheck go down,” Swack said. “If you know you’re going to get $2,000 this pay period, you think you really can’t have it go down to $1,800.”

Even if you can only contribute a small amount, like $100 per month, Swack says do it. And the sooner the better.

Let’s say you invest $200 per month in a Roth IRA beginning at age 25. By the time you are 65, with a 7-percent rate of return, the account will be worth $497,000. (You can argue that that rate of return is high or low.) If you begin making $200 monthly contributions at the age of 35, with the same rate of return, the account will be worth $235,000 when you turn 65. If you wait until you’re 45 to begin making $200 contributions, the account will be worth $102,000. Do your own calculations at

“The earlier you start, the better off you’ll be,” Swack said. “It really does make a big difference.”

If your employer offers more than one plan or you’re going it alone, if there are choices that must be made — stocks vs. bonds, this fund vs. that one — then what? There are lots of brokerage firms and investment options, but a simple trip to your bank to meet with its financial advisor can get you started. Keep in mind, Swack said, that financial advisors at specific companies, like Fidelity or Bank of America, may try to get you to invest in their products. You can go with an independent investment agent, but that objectivity costs money. 

Typically, for younger folks, advisors suggest buying some riskier stocks now knowing that over the long term you’ll be able to withstand swings in the market. You can gradually shift to more stable funds as you near retirement. Some companies offer plans that alter your investment allocations automatically every five years or so with this in mind. 

In any event, Step 1 is visiting Human Resources or meeting with a financial advisor.

“Break through the inertia and do it,” Swack said.

How to: Dress for the occasion

If you’re heading out for a job interview, you wear a suit, right? Probably, but what if the workplace is casual? And once you’ve got the job, what’s appropriate to wear? 

Stephanie McLaughlin, owner of Savoir Faire Marketing Communications in Manchester, has some thoughts.

“There has been a massive casualization ... in all kinds of workplaces,” McLaughlin said. “Even places where people have worn suits for generations are starting to loosen their ties a little bit.... That being said, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.”

In a job interview, you can never go wrong with a suit, whether you’re male or female, McLaughlin said. You might be a little overdressed depending on the office, but no interviewer is going to be surprised by an interviewee wearing a suit.

Bernie Marchowsky, marketing director at George’s Apparel in Manchester, gives “Dress for Success” presentations; he recommends a suit in most situations, or at least a sports coat and nice pants. He echoed McLaughlin, saying it is better to be overdressed than underdressed. He suggested avoiding anything trendy for a job interview. No Jerry Garcia ties, he said; wear a medium to dark suit 12 months out of the year.

“The emphasis shouldn’t be on the clothing; it should be on you,” Marchowsky said.

At some workplaces, employee dress might be as casual as jeans and T-shirts. If you know that in advance, you might choose to wear a nice pair of dress pants and a well-pressed shirt, McLaughlin said. But when you’re interviewing, you could be meeting with someone in a leadership role. Even if your prospective workmates wear casual attire, the people you’re interviewing with might not be so casual, and it’s their attire you want to mirror in an interview, McLaughlin said.

“If they’re in a more corporate position that’s more formal ... make sure it’s appropriate for you to sit in the same room as them,” McLaughlin said. “Not only does that give you a little more credibility, it gives you more confidence....”

If you wear a suit and then it turns out the environment is khaki pants and a polo shirt, when you get dropped off in the conference room, take off your jacket and roll up your sleeves. Don’t do that in front of the hiring manager, but if you get a chance before the interview starts, those kind of “on-the-fly edits” show that you are taking your setting into account. 

Regardless of what you’re wearing, there are some guidelines. For one thing, wear clothing that fits you. If you’ve put on 10 pounds since you last wore the outfit, that’s going to show. Shirts should be ironed and you should be wearing closed-toe shoes. Make sure accessories are in good shape — shoes should be polished and not scuffed. 

“If you do take your coat off during an interview and you have a white shirt with stained armpits, that doesn’t help you,” McLaughlin said.

If you own more than one suit, maybe choose a wool suit in February and something lighter during the summer. If you have one suit, make it work — in the summer, you might choose a lighter-color tie or accessory if the suit is dark.

And don’t worry too much, as long as you’ve got the basics down. “You just can’t go wrong if your clothing is clean, crisp and professional, if the outfit is well put together,” McLaughlin said.

You’ve got the job — now what?

McLaughlin sticks to her philosophy that it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.

For women, that means skirts that are knee-length or below. There should never be any cleavage, and women should make sure to have sleeves. For the most part, women want to choose close-toe shoes. McLaughlin admitted that that might sound boring and stuffy, but in a lot of workplaces, that’s simply what is appropriate, even in July and August.

True, as McLaughlin said previously, more and more workplaces are becoming more and more casual. Perhaps that’s tied to an influx of newer generations running those workplaces. The new leaders come in with their own sense of propriety and style. It happens with every generation.
While Marchowsky has also seen workplaces go more casual, he still sees lots of people in the corporate and financial worlds who wear suits and ties every day.

Even if everyday attire at an office is casual, employees often want or need to look more professional when they have appointments or important meetings. Dress appropriately for what you’re doing that day. It’s a good idea to have a blazer at your desk, in case something comes up that requires a more professional look.

It’s probably a little easier for men to dress appropriately than women, but there are still rules for men too. Don’t wear anything you would mow the lawn in to work, McLaughlin said. Typically, T-shirts are too casual for the workplace. To McLaughlin, it’s all about a nice pair of khaki pants and a polo shirt. Some workplaces are going to be more or less casual than that, but that’s fairly standard today, she said. 

When you’re attending a work picnic, say, on the weekend, McLaughlin suggested wearing what you might wear to your grandmother’s 80th birthday party.

“You want to be covered, with no excessive cleavage or short shorts,” McLaughlin said. Make sure clothes are clean and that they fit. Wear “clothes that are flattering. For women, that could be a sun dress. For men, that could be a pair of Bermuda shorts and a polo shirt.” Polo shirts are readily available at stores ranging in expense from Old Navy to Ralph Lauren. Men can spend $10 to $100 on a polo shirt, she said.

McLaughlin did caution that less expensive clothing can deteriorate more quickly. New clothes will look good whether they came from a cheap department store or a more expensive seller. But before long, the cheaper materials can fray or develop pills. 

Maybe invest in a few nice pairs of khakis — but if you’re prone to stains on your shirts, don’t go out and buy $50 polo shirts; opt for less expensive ones, she said.

McLaughlin’s motto remains that it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.

“Just because somebody else is wearing a tank top and flip-flops doesn’t mean you should as well,” McLaughlin said.

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