• Posts Tagged ‘employment’

    Making the Most of Your Career in Finance

    by  • February 7, 2017 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Are you feeling stagnant in your current position? Are you looking for ways to take your finance career to the next level? The time has never been better. Millennials and their younger counterparts are poised to flood the professional sector, meaning employment opportunities will become more competitive. In order to gain a competitive edge, it’s important to strategize around the ways you can advance your career within your current position. Keep these tips in mind and put yourself on the road to success.

    Consider Your Motivations

    In order to understand how best to proceed in your career, it’s important to take time to sit back and reassess exactly what it is you want to achieve. Are you hoping to make more money? Perhaps you’re more interested in taking on a management role. Maybe you’re looking for a position that allows you to move internationally and experience a new place. Whatever your reasoning, make sure you understand exactly what it is you want before embarking on this journey.

    Get to Know Industry Peers

    Networking is important in every industry, and that’s true of the finance field. Get out there and network with industry peers to improve your relationships. This could lead to career opportunities, access to new finance resources, seminars, and events, and a better, more comprehensive view of the goings on in the industry. The more informed you are, the more capable you are. Knowing key players in your field could see you advancing more quickly than you might have otherwise, if based on just merit alone.

    Get Certified Making the Most of Your Career in Finance

    Depending on your career goals, there are a variety of certifications that might advance your career. Looking to make your way into financial planning in your own firm? Consider pursuing your CFP. Becoming a Certified Financial Planner means proving to peers and the public that you’ve met rigorous professional standards, and that you uphold important ethics and principles in your dealings with clients. In order to pursue this designation, you must complete a college level program in personal financial planning or an equivalent, along with a bachelor’s degree. You must also complete a financial plan development course registered with the CFP Board. After qualifying, you must pass the CFP exam, which is administered through a computer and contains 170 multiple choice questions. You must prove that you have 4,000 to 6,000 hours of experience in financial planning, depending on different factors, and you must also pledge to uphold the CFP’s standards of ethics and practice.

    Perhaps you’re interested in becoming a Certified Financial Analyst. The road to CFA certification is somewhat more difficult, and comes with its own requirements. You must pass certain education requirements, then sign up for the infamous CFA Exam. This test is made up of three levels that must be taken separately. Most finance professionals don’t attempt this exam until they’ve put in months upon months of study with CFA study materials, and for good reason—the pass rate is around 42 percent for the first level of the exam. You must also then put in 48 months of acceptable professional work experience, and join the CFA Institute in order to receive your designation.

    Regardless of the certification you choose, those that receive a certified title are often able to access higher salaries and better positions. Consider the certification that might work best for your situation and aspirations.

    Expand Your Responsibilities

    If you want your superiors to take notice of your hard work, consider taking on more responsibilities than those included in your job description. Taking initiative is sure to put you in front of those that may be able to help you advance. Approach other departments and ask where you might be useful. Support your colleagues in various projects and learn what you can about the different facets of your company. When your employer notices your presence in multiple departments, and you build relationships with your peers, your chances for rising in the ranks increase significantly.

    Advancing your finance career is simple with these tips. Reinvigorate your professional life and find yourself in a much better position this time next year.

    Childhood Financial Lessons Important for Adult Life

    by  • September 9, 2015 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    Schools can’t teach everything. The early years of a child’s life is in the home and even when he or she starts to attend school parents continue to have the majority of the responsibility for how their children develop and the habits they form. It is not a paid job; the lessons are taught out of love with the aim of seeing children develop their potential and become people who can contribute to society. A young couple’s own parents, family and friends will be happy to provide help and advice but ultimately it is the couple themselves that have to decide what to teach their children. What they should try to avoid is passing on bad habits and one area where that is very important is in finance.

    Changing Environment

    The environment has been changing regularly in recent years but the rules are still the same even if the early years after the millennium saw a degree of complacency that is unlikely to be repeated. It was a time of easy credit when few people worried about building up debt. There was always another credit card company happy to offer 0% finance transfers and an immediate credit line. In addition real estate prices were rising so few people worried about spending; they could always re-mortgage. The recession brought a sudden halt to that and in theory that should have been the end to complacency.

    A few years of recession followed with many families struggling under the weight of debt they could not afford. A young couple starting out may well have seen the financial problems that complacency and then recession caused. The lessons should be passed on to their own children; buying on credit can be dangerous as well as costly. Children who see their parents spending on a credit card inevitably think that is the norm. If such spending creates a balance that receives a high interest rate charge at the end of the month because the full amount is not settled then it is a habit that parents should never pass on to their children.

    Troubling Statistics

    Some of the statistics in the USA are disturbing; almost two thirds of families have no emergency fund that they can use if a financial problem arises. The figures on retirement are no better with the Social Security system under extreme pressure. Anyone that thinks they can rely on that system when they retire are fooling themselves. Children should be taught the importance of saving to avoid joining the numbers that appear to be short of what they need.


    Children develop better in a stable environment and that is certainly more likely to be in one where there are no financial concerns. Those families that suffered during the recession because they were unable to meet their bills had to live through troubling times and that inevitably impacted on children as well as those towards the end of college education when the recession began, people who may now be looking to pass on good habits to their own youngsters.

    There is no reason to discuss every financial decision with your children but what you likewise do not want to do is to give them a false impression. If you are struggling to control your finances and if as a result you have built up debt on your credit cards then you should as a matter of urgency look for solutions to the problem. If you have regular income then online lenders are likely to look favorably on a realistic application. You will be paying less interest on a realistic loans than you are paying on credit card balances.

    You need to act; children can instinctively see when there is a problem and will not necessarily see it as a consequence of spending unwisely or extravagantly. There is an old saying that hopefully no longer applies: ‘Do as I say, not as I do!’ It pays to teach children the right way to manage money; perhaps to give them a few simple chores to earn their allowance. That is a valuable lesson and if parents follow the right rules themselves, hopefully their children will do likewise.

    Five Steps to Setting Up Your Online Business

    by  • September 10, 2013 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    There are several online services that allow you to sell products, whether those products are hand-crafted wares, antiques, or even baked goods. Of course, getting your online business up and running can be a little daunting, depending on how complex or competitive your industry may be. These five steps can help you achieve a no-sweat startup for your new business.

    Shop Around

    The first step, naturally, is to get a sense of what’s already out there. You’ll really want to look for the exact products that you plan to sell. This is the best means of determining not only what your target prices should be, but also how to distinguish your business from the competition. It may also be a good starting point for ideas; for example, if you weren’t initially planning on highlighting your customer response, you may find an aesthetically pleasing way of having your customers share their reviews and photos of your product.

    Partition Shipping Costs

    Customers are obsessed with shipping costs. Even if an item is relatively cheap, a heft shipping charge will stop most consumers in their tracks. A good way around this is something called “price partitioning,” which calls for you to divide the shipping costs between the listed item and shipping costs. So, if you want to charge $20 for that poster sized print, and shipping would cost six dollars, you may want to list the item as a $26 print with free shipping. If figuring out shipping costs to begin with is your hang-up, consider directing your business’s finances through PayPal. They have a useful online service to help you figure out PayPal shipping rates.

    Take Good Photos

    Because your customers will be unable to physically examine your products, the pictures that you use to display them are of utmost importance. Take the highest quality images possible, and, when possible, photograph your items in natural light. It’s also encouraged that you take pictures of your products from multiple angles. Close-ups are also useful for giving your prospective customers a sense of your item’s finer details.

    Promote Yourself

    Though it’s easy to assume that customers will stumble across your store themselves, this is not likely to happen when you’re just starting up. Take advantage of social media to promote your store and encourage your friends to share it. This is a good way to get you some early customers, and, by extension, product reviews. If you’re using a community-based site for your business, consider contacting other shop-owners and offering to promote their products on yours. Chances are that they’ll offer to do the same in return, resulting in an arrangement that’s mutually beneficial.

    Provide Excellent Service

    You want your customers happy, and the best way of achieving that is to go above and beyond the call of duty. Be prompt about shipping and notify them when products have shipped. If they have questions, respond to those quickly, too, and try your hardest to fulfill any special requests they may have. If you follow this advice, you should have a large and dedicated customer base in no time.

    You’re Hired! Now Here’s a Car Payment

    by  • December 6, 2012 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Highway, Houston

    I'll be stuck in this.

    One of the great things about my current job is that my wife and I can commute together, whether it be by public transportation (in the past) or by car (currently). While I’ve waxed poetic on how much I love my job, I found myself a few weeks ago interviewing for another position. It’s a step up from my current position, with much more room to advance and grow. Apparently I impressed them, which is surprising since I haven’t interviewed in over eight years and I only had a few days to prepare. They’re going to give me an offer soon.

    As I wait for the offer to come in, I’ve had to review my current benefits package and lay everything out to make sure that I can make apples-to-apples comparisons with the offer I am about to receive. That’s the easy part. The harder part is to determine the intangible items and see how they compare.

    One of the things I love about my current job is that it is in the heart of downtown Chicago. I have access to museums, shops, parks, history, you name it, all within a 15 minute walk from my office. But like I said earlier; one of the best things is that normally soul-sucking commute time can be spent singing Christmas Carols with my wife and child and having a grand ole’ time while sitting in traffic.

    One of the downsides about the new position is its location outside of the city, in a suburb almost 30 miles out from downtown Chicago. In taking the position, I would certainly have to buy a new car, in addition to not commuting with my wife and child who make the commute much more bearable. If I indeed take this position, I’d have to have something I haven’t in my adult life: a car payment.

    Knowing that I’ll have to buy a car really changes the outlook of how I’ll approach the new job’s offer. Should I make sure that I get compensated the amount that a new car would cost? That’s somewhat unreasonable as that could increase my income by over 25%. Do I ask for flexible work schedule so that I don’t have to drive as much? Is this a dealbreaker?

    I won’t know if this is a potential dealbreaker until I see the complete offer. Unfortunately, it seems that if I want to pursue a job in my field, I’ll probably end up commuting out to the suburbs sometime in my life. But it doesn’t have to be now.

    The Costs of Two Parents Working Full Time

    by  • October 10, 2012 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    cat in car seat

    Easier to get in the seat than our kid

    Ever since my wife was pregnant with our child, there was no doubt that we would both keep working full time. We thought that we had a good grasp of the costs involved with working full time. Daycare, of course, for our kid when we work, and a whole new slew of costs associated with driving. But that wasn’t all, oh no. We’ve been doing this for about a year and a half now, and, to really no one’s surprise, it’s costing us much, much more than we anticipated. Here’s the breakdown:


    Putting our kid in a place located just inconveniently enough to be a pain in the ass where other people can care for him for nine hours costs us upwards of $1,700 a month. Yes, you read that right, $1,700. Are there cheaper placed in Chicago? Yes. Are there more expensive places in Chicago? Yes. The daycare that we use is on the more expensive side of things, but considering the range of the cost of daycare (including home daycares) in Chicago for full-time care is $1,200 to $2,300 per month, we pay slightly over the mean.

    My wife has a dependent care flexible spending account, which allows us to allocate $5,000 of pre-tax money for daycare costs. That lowers our taxable income come tax time, which translates to a tax savings of about $1,250 a year. That can be combined with the child tax credit, but we can’t take full advantage of because of our total income. Nonetheless, we’re able adjust our withholding to increase our take home pay by a few dollars per month. Every bit helps.

    Is it worth it? Looking at the fantastic care that our child receives, we say YES. I was admittedly very skeptical at the cost, even to the point of having a feasible plan B. However, it didn’t take very long for me to see that the quality of care was exceptional. Now that we have a toddler, we can directly see the advances in development on a daily basis. The teachers genuinely care for our kid, and we have built an incredible amount of trust in them.

    There really is no right answer for how much someone “should” pay for childcare. We found the right answer for us. And this isn’t permanent! We might have to tighten the purse strings for a few years, maybe lots of years if we have many children, but they will all grow up.

    Automobile – Parking

    For a long long time, we were happy daily users of the public transit system in Chicago. After kiddo was born, that all had to end. We now schlep our kid to daycare, and then ourselves to work everyday. The price of parking in Chicago has increased a ridiculous amount in the past few years, but we’ve managed to find parking that doesn’t completely break the bank. Not only that, but it’s close to our work; next door to my wife’s work, in fact. For the privilege of parking our car in downtown Chicago, we pay $200 of pre-tax money per month ($2,400 a year); my wife also has a flexible spending account for parking costs. That offsets our costs a bit by saving us around $600 in taxes.

    Automobile – Gas

    Quiz: What city in the USA has the highest gas prices? CHICAGO. Yay. For a while we used our trunk to store our 25-pound stroller; we took it out once and didn’t put it back, and lo and behold we got better gas mileage. Back then we were paying around $50 per week in gas, but since the removal of the stroller we’re filing up about once every week and a half. In addition, we’ve found some strategies for saving on gas. Let’s call it a total of $150 per month for gas.

    Automobile – Maintenance and Being Stupid

    We have a 10+ year old japanese compact car. We’re fortunate that it hasn’t needed any maintenance above and beyond what is recommended. Oil change every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, fluids replaced whenever they need to be, tires rotated, whatever. The total cost of maintenance is probably around $300 per year if there’s no major things to be done. Our commute is still short enough that we’re not racking up a huge number of miles – maybe 300 miles per month – so maintenance costs will continue to be low.

    However, that doesn’t account for stupid driving mistakes. I’m the primary driver in our family, and I’m far from being a perfect driver. But sometimes, I swear, a pothole or a curb will pop out right in front of me, and then BAM, I’m changing a tire. Fortunately, these incidents haven’t happened too much, but it does cost time and money to get these problems fixed. Add another $200 a year.


    Before parenthood, I didn’t feel the need to be constantly caffeinated. Amazing what a few months of sleep deprivation will do. Each morning I fill coffee cups before we get in our car. We pay $15 a week for locally-roasted coffee which we grind at home, for a total of $60 a month on coffee alone. That amounts to a small savings over buying coffee everyday from a coffee shop, but we’ll take all we can get.

    Conclusion and Rationale

    Here’s the questions you’ve been waiting for: does having both parents work offset the cost of childcare related expenses? The answer is…not really. My wife’s take home is a little over $2,000 a month.

    So why does she keep working?

    Because she’s passionate about her career. Because she works at one of the top firms in the world in her field. Because she can work with some of the smartest people on Earth. Because she can contribute to a retirement plan. I’m of the same mind.

    That said, we have no idea what will happen if/when we have more children.

    Are you a two parent working full time household? How have you handled the costs and other challenges of working full time while taking care of a child or children?

    image: ocean yamaha

    Judge Not

    by  • April 9, 2012 • Tagged: , , , ,  • Comments


    Time Enough for This AND Retirement Savings!

    Image: Kurman Communications, Inc.

    Despite reminding my husband constantly how amazing I am, and how lucky he is to have me, I do, in fact, have a number of flaws that I try to correct (when I can remember them). Besides an anal-retentive need to keep things organized at the expense of the sanity of others, a propensity for nagging, and something of a temper, my greatest flaw is how exceptionally judgmental I am. It’s not something I’m proud of (except for those rare moments when it translates into a useful form of sass that gets things done) – “let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” etc. But it’s a habit that’s hard to break, and it’s one I find largely directed at financial matters.

    When I started writing for “Make Love, Not Debt,” I purported that I wanted to disprove the stereotype of the financially inept millennial. And it’s true! And as a result, there are moments when I want to drop kick some of my 20-something counterparts for their nonsensical financial decisions. An example: a coworker and I were recently discussing a variety of financial things. I mentioned our company’s retirement plan, and their match. “It’s great to have a 403b with a match,” I said.

    “What?” he replied.

    “Our 403b – it’s nice that [COMPANY NAME] puts a match in.”

    “What’s a 403b?”

    Readers, this company sends tons of emails about our benefits. When you start working, at the MANDATORY ORIENTATION, they run through all of your retirement plan options, and discuss the basics of a retirement plan, how to contribute, what the company-specific options are, and how you can make investment decisions. You get gads of mail reiterating all of that information. Not only does this company match – it puts money into your account whether or not you’re contributing. It is FREE MONEY. And this co-worker, who is a few years older than I am, and has been at this company for about a year longer than I, had no idea what I was talking about. He had no idea that he could be contributing to a retirement fund – nay, he seemed to have no idea what a retirement fund is. He had no idea that he has free money sitting in an account, courtesy of our employer. At that moment, I was judging the heck out of him. You’re 28! You work for a company that goes out of its way to explain its retirement fund to you! Why do you have no idea what I’m talking about? Why are you not taking advantage of the pre-tax contribution options? What is wrong with you?!

    Granted, this is the same friend who has upwards of three-digit student loans, and still spends more money on clothing than I do. So I have lots of judgment to go around with him.

    Alas, this is a common theme among my acquaintances. A 29-year old graduate student I know (who has the same stipend as my graduate student husband, and lives in the same rent-free housing that we do) once told me, “Oh, one day I’ll have enough money to put in a retirement fund!” And within the next breath, described the $180 pair of jeans she had just purchased. I realize that this prevailing sentiment comes from a place of procrastination. People think that they’re young, and that there will be lots of time later on to sock money away from retirement, when they “have it.” For now, there are nice jeans and happy hours and trips to spend that money on. I get it! I understand the allure of cocktails and trips and jeans. I’m young, too, and I like having nice things. But how do we get my generation to realize that all of that money doesn’t just appear later on in life – you have to start early. How do I drill into the young minds of my peers that the power of compound interest is amazing, and if you do even a little bit right now, it will make a world of difference? How do I convey the simplicity of designating a pre-tax contribution to your retirement fund? And how can I avoid making my judgment face throughout it all?

    The Necessary Evil – Dry Cleaning Expenses

    by  • March 29, 2012 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    Dry Cleaning

    Such an innocent-looking money suck.

    Image: Rob

    This weekend, I surveyed the damage done. How much would it cost, I wondered? Surely more than I wanted to pay. Did I have to do it? Yes, I did – any attempts to solve the problem on my own would only result in a more costly expense. So I steeled myself, and readied my wallet for the inevitable blow.

    Am I referencing a horrible home expense? A disaster of epic proportions that needed to be paid for? No – my apprehension relates entirely to an ongoing expense that I can’t get rid of, no matter how hard I try – dry cleaning.

    Before I started my current job, I worked in professions where “business casual” wasn’t so much the required attire as just “casual.” I could throw on some nice jeans and a blouse, and be considered well-dressed for the job. Now, however, it’s suits, pencil skirts, and blouses, all day, every day. While I’ve enjoyed building a wardrobe an adult can be proud of, I’ve been floored by the expense of upkeep. Even with careful maintenance – ironing skirts and pants that can be worn a few times without cleaning, machine-washing those items that clearly aren’t necessary to dry-clean – there comes a point where I just have to take things to be cleaned, and then I get to drop my jaw at the $16 cost of cleaning a dress, or the miserable discrepancy between laundering my button-downs as opposed to my husband’s (it’s $4 more to clean a woman’s shirt, apparently).

    My husband has also joined in on the horror. He has interviews and conferences to attend, and as a result, has a far higher dry cleaning bill than he ever did as a hapless undergrad. He makes a similar effort – hanging up pants, ironing where he can – but at a certain point, it’s unavoidable. I know some people who apply a Darwinian method to their clothing – throw it all in one washing machine and dryer, and whatever comes out alive deserves to be worn. While it’s tempting, I just can’t bring myself to throw a $300 three-piece suit into the washing machine. What if it shrinks? (And it surely will). I also have to admit that my sad ironing attempts pale in comparison to the dry cleaner’s – I can’t seem to get that sharp crease in the pant that they can.

    This is also an area where we won’t tally up our yearly costs. I like to try to cut expenses where I can, and sometimes looking at a huge number can be a useful wake-up call (I spent how much on eating out? Etc.). But with dry cleaning, I know it would just depress me.

    Is there an expense in your life that’s unavoidable but depressing?

    Optimize Your Employment

    by  • October 18, 2011 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Engineering Department employees, 1962

    Back in the day, TPS reports weren't a big deal.

    image: Seattle Municipal Archives 

    In my 7 years of working for the man, I’ve more than doubled my income from $40,000/year to $81,000/year. It hasn’t been easy, and there’s some things that I would have done differently. Here’s a few thoughts on what has worked for me through the years, and what I wish I had done.

    • Results, Not Effort – If you’re at work from 9am to 9pm everyday and you’re still at the bottom of the totem pole, it’s probably you, not them. Your boss wants you to have the best answer, not a sob story of how hard you tried for a mediocre answer. Corollary: improving your workflow and efficiency is good to help you get to the best results, but is not necessarily an accomplishment itself. Remember, you want to be doing things that will ultimately look good on your resume: “Developed process to shuffle papers faster” is okay, but “Developed process to shuffle papers faster, leading to a 1000% increase in bling” is much, much better.
    • Improve Yourself – If your employer offers a stipend for you to take classes, you should take it. I’ve taken a few classes which has allowed me to add more fancy credentials to my name on my business card.  Even if the stipend doesn’t completely cover the costs, it’s probably a pretty good deal. I’ve dished out up to $300 out of my own pocket after I used up the stipend to take come classes – it’s paid off in dividends so far. I’ve become the expert in areas in which my company previously had weaknesses, making me look very valuable to my employer. Online courses have made it easier to take some additional courses in your spare time, since you can complete your coursework without missing any work. Since you will not have to take time away from your full time job to go to school, your employer might be more receptive to the idea. Your employer might also be more likely to provide you with financial aid if you go this route, since it will not interfere with your productivity. If your company does not have an employer tuition reimbursement plan, speak with your boss about developing one because it provides benefits for everyone involved.
    • Don’t Hoard Information - Being the only one to know how to do a specific task or process can be stifling. You may think that you’re in a good position since no one else can do your work. However, you’ll quickly find yourself doing ONLY that task, which can prevent further growth in your career. I became the Excel and PowerPoint guy at my company for a little while and I got frustrated at all of the questions that I would be getting. I was, in essence, solving their problems, and helping them get good results, instead of focusing on my own work. After a while I decided to write up a cheat sheet and get some good resources for the office. I gained the goodwill of my co-workers, looked good to my employer, and got people to stop bothering me.
    • Sign Up for Retirement Plan and Contribute 10% RIGHT AWAY – A few years ago I struggled with choosing between paying down debt or increasing my retirement contribution. In hindsight, I made the wrong choice and focused on debt reduction. If I had known that my income would have doubled, I would have contributed 10% to my SIMPLE IRA instead of 3% to get the match. As my income went up, I would have had more cash to pay off debt. The instant that you’re eligible, sign up for your employer-sponsored retirement plan and contribute at least 10%.  This is easy if you can do this as soon as you begin employment as you won’t even know that the money is being taken out.
    • Participate in Office Politics – I hate that I’m even saying this, but the fact is that intra-company networking can be instrumental in getting a promotion or a raise. I’m not suggesting that you back stab or undermine (but it does seem to work for some people), but at the very least get chummy with those who are in the know. That little bit of knowledge may give you leverage to put yourself in a better position.
    Are you climbing the corporate ladder? Have you been a rock star at your job? Tell us how you did it in the comments.

    Working for The Man Makes Me Happy

    by  • October 13, 2011 • Tagged:   • Comments

    I love cubicles

    Home Sweet Home

    image: Tim Patterson

    I’ve been working at an office job for the past seven years. I’ve been commuting to the same place, day after day, to complete tasks given to me by my superiors. Sucks, right?

    HELL NO. I love it.

    (what now?)

    Sometime in the past few years of personal finance blogging, it has become de riguer to extol the virtues of entrepreneurship as the BEST. THING. EVER. Because going to the office is for suckers. And people with no ambition. And people who have a lot of cats.

    Entrepreneurship, while commendable, isn’t a panacea. Working for yourself comprises many activities that are assigned to many people in larger businesses: accountant, marketer, worker, janitor, buyer, seller, secretary administrative assistant etc. Sure, your money isn’t coming directly from “the man,” but who do you think is paying you? CLIENTS. Now you’re not working for one of “the man” but many of “the man” (men?). Just as I can get canned if the company I work for downsizes, your freelance clients can decide that they don’t need you anymore.

    There are whole fields in which it is close to impossible to be self-employed. When was the last time you ran into a freelance molecular biologist? Pharmacist? Aeronautical engineer? Those in highly specialized fields generally have to work for someone else in order to pursue their passions.

    Entrepreneurs like to brag about how they’re more likely to become a millionaire or about how their schedules allowed them to travel to awesome places. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a chance of becoming a millionaire because I’m working for someone else. Also, between Her and I, we’ve traveled to almost every major American city and over 10 countries.

    Let me tell you a few reasons why I love my AMBITIOUSLESS, SOUL-SUCKING, 9-TO-5, WORKING FOR THE MAN job:

    • Everyday Routine - Predictability is a good thing in my life, especially since we have another little mouth to feed. The everyday routine helps me to stay focused and look forward to
    • Welcoming Camaraderie - My coworkers are some of the most intelligent people I know. Most of them have interesting backgrounds and hobbies that help give the workplace a welcoming, quirky feel.
    • Focused Workload – I don’t have to go out and get new clients, balance the books, or mop the floors. I use almost daily the skills that I obtained in graduate school.
    • Near-term Stability – Our company is increasing its revenue and we barely can keep with the workload that we have. Knowing where my paychecks are coming from for at least the next few months is greatly comforting considering that we have a new baby around the house.
    • Fantastic Location – It is an awesome privilege to work in the middle of downtown Chicago. I have access to a plethora of cultural activities that I often enjoy during my lunch break.
    • Lacking Self-Discipline – I’m like a magpie and everything in my life is a shiny object. My office at my job has stuff that is related to work only. I’m able to keep focused and not head over to a TV and blow a few hours catching up on Battlestar Galactica.

    This all said, I do have a job in which I can eventually freelance. And maybe it’ll be in my future. But for right now, I’m as happy as a clam. (they’re happy, right?)

    How We’ve Been Doing Financially

    by  • October 10, 2011 • Tagged: , , , , ,  • Comments

    In the past two years, we haven’t been good with keeping this blog updated. As we’ve said before, finances weren’t a primary concern for us; we treat it more like a chore. Sure money is important, but for us it remains a tool that we use in order to achieve our other goals. However, like all chores, unless we keep up with it or we’ll end up with a mess. Here are some highlights as to what we’ve been up to financially:

    • Employment: We’re still at the same jobs, and consider ourselves incredibly lucky to have them in this economy. A few friends of ours have been unemployed for quite some time now and I can only imagine the stress that they’re under while they try and make ends meet.
    • Salaries: We’ve made a pittance by sticking ads on this blog. Her’s salary has remained stagnant in the last few years, and she’s still not feeling good about it. Mine, however, has continued to increase. In fact, I have increased my salary by 100% since entering the workforce. The extra cash has made it easier to get by.
    • Retirement savings: We have both increased our employer retirement plan contributions. Her is now saving 10% of her paycheck, of which the first 6% is matched 40%. For those bad at math, the match bumps up the total contribution to 12.4% per year. I’ve increased my contribution to 7% with a 3% match, for a total contribution of 10%. After the new year I’ll probably increase mine to 10%.
    • Savings: Did you know babies are expensive? In addition to buying all sorts of baby stuff, we’ve also taken a few vacations in the last 2 years. Some of them have been “paid” for by my work, some were to lands down under. We’re on track right now to replenish our savings to 3 months of our take home salary. We thought that would be an easier target because our expenses always seem variable. We assume that we could live off of that amount of money for at least 6 months.
    • Spending: In our not making finances a priority, I’m sure that we’ve spent a little more money than we’ve wanted to. Surprise surprise, daycare is our #1 expense, at 30% of our take home pay. At a distant 2nd is rent, which is 15% of our take home pay.
    • Debt: Student loans remain. We’re still not carrying balances on our credit cards – we  pay off the credit cards every month. Still making love, not debt. Oh yeah.
    I would say that we’re been doing ok with our finances. How has the last year or two been for you?

    Money and power

    by  • June 29, 2010 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments


    photo: angusf

    Personal finance blogger Eilene Zimmerman had a post recently that really intrigued me: How Money Can Hurt Your Marriage.

    Eilene hits right on the head a thing that has always played, subconsciously, into my own relationship dynamics: the way finances become a power tool.

    Eilene’s then-partner significantly out-earned her. "One of the biggest problems in our marriage was his demanding job (that paid well) and that the power in our relationship was – at least from my vantage point – all economic," she writes. "I felt like I had no right to ask for anything I wanted – not material things, but more like time away from the kids, time to work, time to go out with friends, essentially time – because he was working so hard. And although money is empowering in many, many ways, it made me feel powerless, because I didn’t have much of my own. My income was tiny compared to The Husband’s, so how could I declare I would be taking a nap on Saturday afternoon?"

    Ding ding. That’s a thought process I suspect is common to a lot of women. Maybe it’s prevalent with anyone, of either gender, in an income-imbalanced relationship, but  my impression is that women are more susceptible to it. Including me — on both sides of the equation.

    Money matters because the most important thing it buys is flexibility. Greater financial resources means greater control over where you live, what you do, how you allocate your time, and a vast swathe of other variables that shape our lives.

    But it’s easy to let money become something else: a way of keeping score. Beyond the ubiquitous cultural programming that tells us money works meritocratically, with more flowing to those who work harder/better/smarter/longer than others, it’s just easy. It’s why people are drawn to sports. The results are black-and-white, simple to compare, to rank.

    And the kicker is that it’s very easy to say "money doesn’t work like that; incomes aren’t neatly correlated to effort," but like most things in life, this is a gray area. Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t.

    In college I made $7 an hour working the popcorn machine at a local movie theatre; now I make much more money doing a job I think is way easier and more fun. I don’t work "harder" now than your typical retail worker. And, of course, I make a tiny sliver of what your average Wall Street financial type pulls down; you can guess how much "harder" I think their job actually is. (I’m not talking about skills and qualifications; I’m simply talking about the strain and labor involved in getting through a typical day of work.)

    But then, there’s cases where income does reflect effort. One of my friends works about 70 hours a week, on two jobs; her less-employable (and, honestly, lazier) partner works half as many hours.

    This is where the gray sneaks in. There’s a ton of factors — some controllable, many not — that affect income. And when you have two people in a relationship with financially intertwined lives, the only way to avoid tension is for both to be in synch about how money, especially when it’s imbalanced, should affect everything else. Time, chores, goals, priorities, everything.

    David and I had our own wrangles with this last year. In the middle of an epically bad market, he quit the job he’d held for almost a decade. With nothing new lined up.

    While I understood and agreed with his reasons, I was still not what you would call 100% cool and supportive about the move. ("Shrill" and "cranky" would probably be better adjectives to describe some of my comments about it.)  Yes, we could scrape by with just my income, but did I really want to? I started expecting David to do a hell of a lot around the house, because part of me wanted him to "prove" he was doing as much work as I was. I was bringing in a paycheck, my little brain-voice said; what tangible thing was he doing? I was definitely using money to keep score, even as the rational part of my mind knew that wasn’t really fair.

    (Caveat: This equation becomes a very different thing when you add in kids, illness, dependent relatives, or other complications beyond a relationship of two fully functioning, equally competent adults — which is, of course, the situation most married couples face at some point in their lives. That’s a whole other column.)

    Then David got a new job, with a salary slightly smaller than his old one. That left our incomes even more out-of-whack than they’d been before.

    But that gap doesn’t faze me at all. We both work full-time, office-type jobs; mine just happens to be in a field that pays better than his does. He loves his new job and it’s a great fit for him. Since my income is higher, I cover more of our expenses, but it seems to me that it would be ridiculous to expect him to do more than I do around the house to "pay off" the salary differential.

    So … sometimes I keep score with money, and sometimes I don’t. And though there are times when it’s clearly, actively destructive — most times, I’d guess — it also feels like a thing humans will inevitably lapse into doing.

    How do you sort it out?

    Brrr…My Salary Got Frozen

    by  • March 9, 2009 • Tagged:   • Comments

    Today at work I found out that my raise for this year is…zip. My company has been affected by the market downturn and there’s no telling how much work we’ll have in the near future. Right now my CFO wants to be cautious and not increase their fixed costs, so no raises for anyone. I’m really grateful to have a good job, and it’s comforting to know that salaries were frozen across the board (no executives got raises either). I’m not exactly surprised by the freeze but it has shaken my confidence a bit. Thank goodness we’re financially stable and weren’t counting on a raise!

    How about you? Are you getting a raise this year? Is your boss?

    Money’s in the Bank, and Then Some: Everything is Going to be OK (for now)

    by  • December 19, 2008 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    A few days ago Her posted about my company not being able to cover payroll.

    Since then I have been paid.

    I also received a bonus.

    Wait, what? Here’s what I think happened over the last week.

    Our clients have a terrible track record for paying their bills (us) on time. In order to cover that shortfall, small businesses such as the one that I work for used to be able to open up a small business line of credit/loan from a bank.

    Well, as we all know, banks aren’t really being so cooperative when it comes to lending money these days. As our clients fall further and further behind in their payments, our company has probably had to reach deeply into their own pockets to cover our paychecks. After their reserve was drained, they didn’t have any option other than to ask us to be patient.

    In comparison to our company in both size and revenue, our clients are GIANTS (hey that rhymes!). I have to wonder if they think that since we’re just a piddly little vendor that they can just NOT pay their bills on time, and everything will be okay. We play a pretty crucial role (in my opinion) in our client’s business and make them plenty of money, so I would think it would be in their best interest to keep us happy.

    All was made good this week as our clients FINALLY paid us. We were notified when the money would be deposited in our accounts. But the bigger surprise was getting a bonus this year – the total amount of it was equally unexpected.

    So Christmas wasn’t cancelled, we’re happy, and Tiny Tim still gets a goose for dinner.

    That doesn’t mean we’ve gone and blown our cash on hookers and blow. We’re extra skeptical about what the near future will bring us. It seems that my job is pretty safe for now, but polishing the resume is never a bad idea. And to answer a comment from the earlier post, I’ve already been reimbursed for the classes that I’ve taken. We’re going to continue to make sure that we will be able to come out of this time of uncertainty in good standing.

    What Financial Turmoil?

    by  • September 30, 2008 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    We’re finally back from 2 weeks of a Mediterranean honeymoon, and apparently our country’s, even the world’s, financial foundation is in deep trouble. Admittedly, it was disconcerting to hear about the economic turmoil when we were abroad.

    But here at home, things couldn’t be better. We’ve received a generous gift of a student loan payment. We have received a boatload of cash gifts from the wedding. We’re enjoying wines and other delicacies from our honeymoon.

    When we returned, I looked at our account and noticed that my most recent salary deposit was higher than the previous ones. While we were gone I received my yearly salary adjustment – a nice increase of 9.5% For those of you who are counting, my salary has increased by 72.5% in just 4 years!

    In the upcoming weeks we’re going to work on a new budget and some new goals now that we’re officially married. Exciting times are coming!

    Job Security?

    by  • April 10, 2008 • Tagged:   • Comments

    In the news as of late are talks of a recession, whether we’re in one, and what that means. One of the more common benchmarks that I see is lob losses. As our economy worsens, there is less money available to pay people, thus companies are forced to lay people off.

    When I read that and compare it to both Her’s and my job situation, I’m flabbergasted. Both of our companies are on hiring rampages and have doubled in size since we’ve started. To add to that, both of our companies don’t show any slowdown of hiring new people or obtaining new projects. We have recently received more responsibilities, bonuses, and pay raises.

    We’re extremely lucky to be in the fields of work that we’re in and working for great companies. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that we can get out of this economic downturn in a better position than how we entered it.

    How is your employment situation looking?

    Reimbursed Vacation

    by  • October 25, 2007 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    photo: Davide Schiano

    Since Her and I graduated from college, we’ve never taken a “real” vacation together…something about paying off debt got in the way. We could never justify spending a lot of money to take a nice real vacation together.

    I’ve mentioned a few times that I get to travel for my job, and that I usually get put up at nice hotels. This past summer, I was offered the chance to go to a pretty nice location for work to attend a conference. I was going to be there for a few days and would have a lot of downtime. I thought it would be perfect opportunity to have Her come along and have a fun vacation on the cheap. Here’s how we did it.

    When I signed up for the Citibank AAdvantage card, I was entitled to received a free companion ticket. I made the reservation for both of our tickets with American Airlines; my ticket would get reimbursed, and Her’s was free with the exception of taxes (which amounted to about $20).

    Our company generally reserves hotel rooms only a few weeks in advance of travel. Because of this, many of the hotels near the convention center were already booked. We ended up booking a room at a hotel that was a little farther than walking distance, but happened to be the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in. It might as well be the nicest hotel I will EVER stay in. We arranged a 4 night stay, but since I was doing work on only 3 of the days, we had to pay 1 night out of our own pocket. Since I was there for a conference we got a reduced rate on the room for all of our stay. We could have probably stayed somewhere cheaper for that 1 night, but all we could find were hotels that were far away from the convention center and hotel we were arranged to stay at. We decided the hassle wasn’t worth the $50 we’d save.

    Since we were more than walking distance to the convention center, we needed the use of a car. We rented a car for the full 4 days we stayed there, but paid for 1 day out of our pocket. We got a phenomenal deal on the rental through the travel agency that my work goes through, so we ended up paying $15 plus gas for the rental car.

    Whenever I travel, all of my meals are reimbursed as well. On the non-business day we were there, we ate pretty frugally – living in Chicago has given us an astute sense of where the cheap, but good eats are. Some of the days we ordered room service for 1 – the portions were so large that it easily fed both of us. Other meals weren’t extravagant, but weren’t all at at Subway, either. We saved a ton on food – so much that I didn’t mind the incredible pain in the ass it was to file the expense reports, separating our meals.

    A lot of the stuff we did for fun was free or cheap. We’re not really into touristy stuff, and much rather prefer to go on self-guided tours and get a feel for the culture of the place we’re visiting. We did do 1 touristy activity and got tickets from the hotel since they offered discounts. I guess that is one of the perks of staying at a super-nice hotel.

    After I was reimbursed for everything, our total out of pocket costs for the vacation was approximately $400. Not bad for 2 roundtrip flights, 4 nights hotel, 4 days of rental car, 4 days of meals, and entertainment. Oh yeah, and we got rewards for ALL of the vacation. The only downside is that I actually had to work on two of those days; although if it weren’t for my job, we wouldn’t have been able to have our first “real” vacation together.

    Handling Work Expenditures

    by  • September 19, 2007 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    photo: Jim Frazier

    Money Under 30 just wrote an article on how he handled work expenses, along with great tips on how you can do the same. The article had me thinking about the evolution of how I handle my reimbursable work expenditures and how it fit into our finances.

    When I first started at my company, we didn’t have much money stashed away in savings, and I had balances on (high interest rate) credit cards. There was no way that I was going front any of my own money in hopes of getting it reimbursed. I knew that other people had company issued credit cards, so I would have to ask them to purchase something for me. At first it was only under $50 items I would ask for, but then when it came time for me to make arrangements for my first business trip, I felt bad asking them to put $1,000+ on their company credit card and then have them deal with the paperwork associated with it. After that, I asked for my own company credit card.

    Things went pretty smoothly after that. I put all work related expenses on the company credit card, saved receipts, and did all of the paperwork. During actual business meetings, I would always bring $100 in cash with me for the little things like cab rides or tips, diligently saving all of my receipts. Remember, with anything reimbursable, RECEIPTS ARE KING.

    Fast forward to a few months ago. We have no credit card debt, and we’re now using rewards cards that we put mostly everything we buy on, and then pay off each month. We even have a substantial (for us) amount of money in savings. All of these things allowed me to cover a lengthly business trip in which I incurred ~$1,800 in expenses. The credit card bill came before the reimbursement check, but we were able to pay with bill without much financial hardship. When the reimbursement check came, we deposited it directly into savings.

    By having our own personal finances in order, we were able to not freak out about taking on a relatively big expense, all while earning rewards for business trips that I’d have to go on anyway.

    How do you handle work expenses? Has it ever been a drain on you personal finances?

    Another Raise: How Bitersweet It Is

    by  • September 14, 2007 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    This past month marks the third year I will have been working for my company; it also marks the date of my annual salary adjustment. When I opened up my pay stub I was pleased to note that my salary has been increased by 10.5%. I certainly have nothing to complain, as that is well above inflation and is pretty generous considering I got two raises last year.

    I now earn 57.5% more than when I first started my job three years ago. While the per-paycheck net take-home pay increase isn’t that significant, if we’re careful the extra cash can certainly go a long way.

    With this raise, though, comes a saddening realization: I now make what I consider more than an entry-level salary. Why is this sad? Because for the first time in my life, I feel locked in to this one job in one particular niche field for financial security. In the past few months I was lightly considering a career move into a related field, but in order to do that I would have to start at a near entry-level position, presumably with a salary to match. Before this raise, the financial hit, if any, wouldn’t have been too severe. What this raise has done has, in effect, limited my career options.

    Thankfully, I really do enjoy my job and the people who I work with. My job also doesn’t demand too much of me outside of regular work hours. Not to mention the nice perks that we get. My life outside of my job remains fulfilling and joyous.

    But now I am beginning to realize the whole depth of the term “financial freedom.” It really all boils down to having choices and options. It may take us a long time to truly achieve that freedom, but in the meantime I hope I can have a fulfilling life so that I can be most happy with the options and choices that I’ll have when I finally get there.

    Can You Find Work In A Smaller City?

    by  • July 24, 2007 • Tagged:   • Comments

    …oh right, we still have a blog. That we need to write stuff in. Yeah.

    Anyway, one of the main reasons we haven’t written is that we’re both pretty busy with our jobs. While we both put in some long hours, if you speak to either one of us we’d happily tell you the there are many more pros than cons about our jobs. I firmly believe that by choosing to live in Chicago we exposed ourselves to the opportunity to work at the best places in the country, even the world.

    I often wonder what our lives would have looked like had we stayed in small college-town USA. Our cost of living would definitely be lower, that’s for sure. J.D. recently had a guest post about relocating to a small city, and followed up with small town personal finances. FMF is a huge advocate of moving to lower to a cheaper city to lower costs.

    In that small college town we lived in, there was an abundance of culture, community, and social groups that fit our every need. The cost of living was cheap, the transportation was acceptable, and everyone was friendly. We often talk about maybe retiring there one day. The only problem with the town is that there aren’t great jobs for us to pursue.

    Her and I are both ambitious people when it comes to our jobs. We both love what we do, and are highly competitive in our respective fields. The jobs that we both hold now have opened many doors for our career in the future. These future opportunities could not have been realized in the town we were at.

    Also, my job in particular is very specialized and tend to be near large urban environments. Thus, no matter how bad I would like to live in a smaller town, the opportunities to do what I’m doing now are virtually non-existent.

    What about your job? Can you work just about anywhere, or are you somehow geographically limited?

    Expensive Taste And My Job

    by  • July 10, 2007 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    Yesterday Jim put up a post on how he developed an expensive taste for bottled water because of his work environment. I can definitely relate – when this blog still had that new blog smell I wrote a post detailing the great amenities that my job as to offer. Fortunately for me, I don’t drink soft drinks and I loathe the idea of bottled water. Many-a-co-worker has looked at me strangely for drinking tap water instead of grabbing a bottle from always stocked refrigerator. We do have other nice perks though.

    I get the chance to travel about a half-dozen times per year for my job, thus the ways in which I have developed expensive tastes are travel related – dining out and hotels. When I travel it is usually for conferences, so I generally stay at one of the hotels associated with the conference; most of the time it is a 4 star hotel. In the last few years I’ve gotten used to the comfy beds, large rooms, and all of the little things that a nice hotel offers.

    The other thing I get to do for my job is take clients out to dinner, and when we do we generally spare no expense. I’ve been to some of the best restaurants in the nation, all at no cost to me. Since the care and pampering of our client is top priority, the wine generally flows, appetizers are plentiful, and dessert is divine. If there is more than one person from my job traveling with me, we generally dine somewhere nice, but not at elite caliber restaurants.

    All of these things are paid for by my job, but since we’ve gotten rewards cards I am now putting these charges on those and getting reimbursed. Therefore I am getting rewards for what I do anyway.

    Has this translated into non-job expensive tastes? Not yet, at least. Except for one less than frugal non-work dining event, our dining bills align with our budget. That doesn’t mean I don’t look longingly at other, more upscale places. Also, we haven’t taken any real vacations, but I’m thinking that we’re probably going to look for more budget-friendly hotel options so that we can spend our money doing other vacation things.

    The good life is nice, but I know I won’t be at this job forever. Until then, I’m enjoying it very much.

    What are your expensive tastes?