Sep 6 2012

Get Excited for the Plutus Awards and FINCON12!

By |September 6th, 2012|Blog, Life|6 Comments|

Today is the first official day of the Financial Blogger Conference, with the main event being the Plutus Awards hosted by yours truly.

I was asked on twitter on Monday when I’d be doing my next music video. The answer is tonight. I’m going to kick off this awards show with a live musical performance accompanied by a little slide show.

plutus awards

It’s going to be awesome and I hope you are all going to attend the conference. If you aren’t going to be there, I understand there will be video of the event and I’ll be sure to post a link as soon as I have one.

I’ve been pretty stressed with the last month being the busiest month of the year in my job, plus working on getting my new promotion, plus writing a song, making a video slideshow, and figuring out what the heck I’m supposed to do with my body when I’m on stage giving a live performance. As you might be able to tell by the color of my skin and my Irish heritage, I’m not much of a dancer.

So come to the Plutus Awards for musical performance and get a kick out of the uncomfortable dancing.

Readers: Wish me luck! If you’re going to be in the crowd, please laugh at my jokes (even if they aren’t funny, which they probably aren’t) and clap for me. I need some positive vibes coming my way!

Sep 5 2012

The First 90 Days of a New Job

By |September 5th, 2012|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|9 Comments|

Congratulations! You just got a new job. Or better yet, a promotion! (I did)

But it’s a bad economy and if your department needs to save some money then firing the new guy can sometimes be an easy solution.

You have to show your new boss that you are a vital piece of his organization and that if he needs to cut some costs, your job isn’t going to be the first place he looks.

Here are a few ways to make yourself valuable in the first 90 days of your new job.

Fix a Problem

Every job has its frustrations. It can be a mundane status report, a frustrating new software, a printer that is never working, or anything else. The current members of your new team have accepted this annoyance and just deal with it.

new job

photo credit: Victor1558

As the new guy or girl on the team, don’t just accept it as well. Learn the problem and fix it.

If it’s a stupid status report, find a way to automate it. If it’s a new software that everyone hates, learn it forwards and backwards and then help your new team members understand it. If it’s a stupid printer, Google the model number and find someone else who’s had the problem and fix it.

These are all pretty simple things that will make you a savior with your new co-workers. It will also show your boss that you are a problem solver and that you take initiative without needing to be told what to do.

Volunteer for Anything

The first piece of advice I got when I started my career was, “Volunteer for anything.” If you boss asks for something to be done, it’s because he NEEDS it to be done.

It might not be in your job description, but if you volunteer to train the new guy, run to the store to grab more printer paper, or even take out the trash, then your boss will see you as someone he can rely on.

Then when he needs someone to cover for him in the meeting with senior management, he’s going to ask YOU. There’s no better way to get exposure to senior management and learn new skills than to be your boss’s right hand man. This makes you incredible in your current job and helps you work towards your next promotion.

Establish Your Schedule

The first few months of your job are very important for establishing your schedule. Maybe you have kids that have to be picked up from school or you just prefer to work from home a few days a week.

If you spend the first 90 days working from 7am to 7pm in the office, your boss is going to expect that. She will probably assume that you need to be in the office 12 hours a day to be productive.

Use the first few months to establish your schedule and prove that you can be a high performer on your own schedule. Once you’ve already produced results on that schedule, you’ve proven to your boss that you can get everything done while maintaining your work-life balance.

Readers: What do you recommend in the first 90 days of a new job?

Sep 4 2012

I Got a Promotion!!!

By |September 4th, 2012|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|15 Comments|

A few weeks ago I talked about how a weak economy like the one we’re in now should make you re-evaluate your current job and determine if there is a different place in the company that would make you more valuable (and hence, less expendable).

Taking my own advice, I decided to start looking for jobs that would move me into a more business critical role. I applied for a few positions and on September 17th I’ll officially start my new position within my current company.

celebration

My old job was great and I had a really awesome boss, but it was a support function. If the company decided to start saving money, my position wouldn’t have been considered essential and could have been on the chopping block.

My new job is one of the most important programs in my company. We’ve set a global strategy and this new job is smack dab in the middle of delivering on that initiative. As long as we are committed to doing this program, my job should be pretty safe.

Not to mention I get a promotion and a raise!

Make Yourself More Valuable

If you want to keep your job in a bad economy, you have to make yourself as valuable as possible to your company. Here’s how my promotion makes me more valuable:

  • With every new job comes new skills. Your ability to do things other people can’t is what makes you valuable, and I’ll be learning a whole new set of skills with this new job.
  • I’m moving from a support function that was important but not critical into a position that is essential to completing my organization’s goals
  • I’ll be meeting more people and building more relationships. The business world is all about who you know, and the more people you know the better chance you will have of keeping your job or finding a new one if necessary.
  • As the new guy, I’m also probably the cheapest guy on the team. I was probably making an average salary at my previous level because I had been there a few years. With the promotion I’m now the least expensive resource at my new level. When trying to save money, it’s the people with the bloated salaries that need to worry.

I’m feeling really good about the new job. I think I’ve made my job more secure while I’m also advancing my career. Plus the raise doesn’t hurt either.

I have to admit there are a few dangers of taking a promotion in a bad economy. Sometimes the last one hired is the first one to leave. Tomorrow I’ll talk about what I’m going to do to make sure I don’t get put on the chopping block if my company needs to save money.

Readers: When is the last time you got a promotion. If it’s been over 2 years, have you thought about applying for a promotion within your company or looking for new jobs at a new company?

Aug 28 2012

How I Saved $1.53

By |August 28th, 2012|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|27 Comments|

I was at the grocery store and instead of buying my usual brand of sandwich bread, I bought a different kind that was a little bit cheaper. Savings: $1.53. Booyah!

one fifty threeThen as I passed by the candy aisle, I saw some Milk Duds. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

I thought, “I just saved $1.53 on bread… I should treat myself to some delicious chocolate-caramel candies that will get stuck in my teeth and make me fat.” Bye bye $1.53 of savings.

There is a Difference Between Not Spending and Saving

Okay, so none of that stuff actually happened. When I go grocery shopping my girlfriend puts stuff in the cart and I pay for it. I try to buy things on sale when I see some deals, but in general my grocery bill is usually about the same every month.

If I save $1.53 on bread, but spend $1.53 extra on candy then I haven’t really saved anything. If I save $1.53 on bread and am cost conscious in all my other purchases then I’m closer to saving $1.53, but I’m not quite there yet.

Until that extra money makes it’s way to paying off debt, a saving account, an investment account, a small business venture, or something else then you haven’t actually realized the savings. Money saved on one thing and spent on another non-essential item isn’t money saved at all.

You Need a Purpose for Saving Money

There are two stages of spending money. There’s the “keep the lights on” spending (place to live, food on the table, transportation, etc) and there are higher purposes (saving for retirement, starting a business, travel, buying your kid a horse, a $200,000 racing pigeon).

Your higher purpose is up to you. Some people want money for retirement and some people want a racing pigeon. Your goal doesn’t matter.

What matters is how well you minimize your “keep the lights on” expenditures and maximize the money to goes towards your personal higher purposes. If you save money on food at the grocery store and spend more on food at McDonalds, you haven’t saved anything extra towards your higher purpose.

Think about that next time you “save” money. First, are you really saving that money or are you spending it elsewhere? Second, what’s the end goal of that $1.53?

Readers: What is your end goal whenever you save a buck or two?

Aug 21 2012

How Much is an Office Worth?

By |August 21st, 2012|Blog, Life|24 Comments|

Tag and I are currently living in a one-bedroom apartment. That means we have one bedroom, one bathroom, and one living space with a desk in the corner (my “office”).

As you can imagine, even the happiest couple on the planet can get into trouble when living in such close quarters. For instance, I’ve been in a particularly cranky mood this evening because of some frustrating technical issues with my website, and Tag really doesn’t have anywhere to go to get away from me.

We would be so much happier if we had an office where I could go to work and blog while Tag could have the rest of the space for her schoolwork and anything else she wants to do. We’ve talked about trying to change units to get into one with an office or a second bedroom.

The only problem is that will cost $100-$300 a month for the upgrade.

What’s the Office Worth?

Tag and I actually get along incredibly well and there are very few times where the lack of an office is a strain on our relationship. However, it is frequently inconvenient. My current “office” is in the living room, which means Tag either has to be really quiet in the living room or stay in the bedroom when she and I are both home and I’m working.

home office pic

photo credit: dierken

It also means that Tag doesn’t really have a place to study. The kitchen table, living room couch, or on the bed are her three options, and none of those are particularly comfortable or convenient for long periods of time.

We want the office. We don’t want to move again. We REALLY don’t want to pay an extra $100-$300 a month.

We are trying to save as much money as possible so we can hopefully buy a house with a 20% down payment in the next two years. We also know that if we do want to get married at some point that we’ll be paying for most if not all of the wedding.

The soonest we might be able to get into a unit with an office is December. We’ll probably live here until May of 2014. That means an upgraded apartment would cost us 18 months  of increased rent. That’s $1,800-$5,400, depending on how much the monthly increase came out to be.

Readers: Is it worth it to pay the extra money for an office? We can afford it, but it will mean we are saving less money that we need for big future expenditures. What would you do if you were me?

Aug 16 2012

Protecting Your Income from a Recession

By |August 16th, 2012|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|9 Comments|

In the last few weeks I’ve been looking at a bunch of job postings at my company to try to find a promotion. I’m hoping to take my career to the next level while increasing my income.

However, there is a big “recession” cloud looming over my head. I need to make sure my career is ready just in case the economy doesn’t get any better and we head into another recession.

With this potential recession in mind, I am doing two things to make sure I can make it through a recession with a steady income stream.

Be Valuable to Your Company

Let’s be honest: any job is expendable. With that being said, make yourself as valuable as possible to your company. The more valuable you are, the less likely you are to get that pink slip when the bad times roll around.

suit and tie

photo credit: JonoMueller

First, be great at what you do. My job does performance evaluations every year and I work hard to make sure I’m in the high performing group. If your company doesn’t tell you whether or not you’re a high performer, ask your boss. It’s as simple as, “What can I do to be even more valuable to your team and this company?”

Then do what he or she says.

Finally, understand the nature of your role. You might be the best person on the entire planet at making powerpoint presentations look pretty, but your company can survive with ugly powerpoints. On the other hand, there are certain positions that are absolutely essential to a company staying in business. If you aren’t in one of those positions right now, try to move yourself into one as soon as possible.

Have a Backup Plan

You can literally be the single most valuable person at your company, but that doesn’t mean jack squat when that company goes out of business. In scary economic times like today there are two things that everyone should do to prepare for the worst.

First, keep your resume updated. If you get canned today, you should be ready to find a new job tomorrow. That means having an updated resume and maintaining relationships with business contacts. You should have a network of people, both within your current company and outside of it, that you could reach out to if you were looking for a job.

Second, diversify your income. If I lost my job today I’d be in trouble, but at least I’d have the little bit of income this website brings me. I could also start freelance writing or using my skills to do odd jobs until I could find a new career. Having multiple income streams gives you extra money in the good times. More importantly, it gives you at least some money in the bad times.

Understand Your Risk Tolerance

It’s a scary time to be looking for a promotion because the last guy in is usually the first one out. On the other hand I can’t pass up the right position if the opportunity presents itself. I’m a bit of a risk taker and can handle the idea that I might be in trouble if a recession hits.

If the thought of losing your job scares the pants off you then it might not be the right time to look for a promotion (as long as your current job is a vital position to the company and you’re good at it).

Readers: What precautions do you take with your income to prepare for job loss, a recession, or some other bad situation?

Carnival Links

Canadian PF Happy Hour at Canadian Personal Finance
Carn. of Financial Camaraderie at My University Money
Carnival of Financial Planning at One Cent At A time
Carnival of MoneyPros at Aaron Hung.com
Carnival of Retirement at Young Family Finance
Festival of Frugality at CashNet USA
Wealth Artisan’s FinCarn at Wealth Artisan
Y & T’s Weekend Ramblings at Young and Thrifty
Yakezie Carnival at The College Investor