Sunday, November 29, 2015

It's True: You're Broke Because You Want To Be

I believe that within a modern society with a modern economy, people are broke because they want to be.  

Poverty is more a result of personal bad choices than we usually acknowledge.  Without acknowledging this fact we cannot adequately fight poverty.  

Poverty has little to do with our environment or race. If a person's fate in life is predetermined by his social and physical environment, then we should all still be living in caves. 

Pay close attention to the people you know that are broke and stay broke.  

You are capable of helping yourself by going out there and earning more money.
You need to earn more money, not expect others to give it to you.
Take responsibility for your own life.  It's your fault you're broke. 

It's not your depression or your anxiety's fault that things aren't going your way.
It's your fault you aren't following through on your applications which
is why you're still broke! 

Don't blame him or his job (or lack thereof) for the fact you don't have money.
It's your fault.  Get off your butt and go back to work!

They find blame for their misfortunes in everyone and everything but themselves and their lack of self control when it comes to money and their attitudes.  They deny their own responsibility in those choices.  

This is a relief

There is nothing more demoralizing than to convince someone they are incapable of taking care of themselves.  LDS gospel principles of church welfare and self reliance teach us the exact opposite of what society teaches regarding welfare and poverty. Some things they teach us. 

(1) Each of us has a responsibility to try to avoid problems before they happen and to learn to overcome challenges when they occur.  
I feel that so many members of the Church have a gross misunderstanding of this: Church welfare was set up to remind us that we are responsible for preventing need in the first place. We are responsible for preventing the outcomes that would make us go to our bishop or local welfare office for temporal assistance.  Church welfare wasn't created just in case we need it, a common belief I've noticed that is irritating. This attitude makes us void of personal responsibility and consequences for our decisions.  It destroys our temporal and spiritual progress. 

(2) We need to abandon immature strategies of blaming and victimhood and adopt a more self-reliant view of ourselves in the world.  

(3) Because of agency, we create our problems and therefore, we are capable of fixing them.  We're responsible for our situations and we can't just wish for something to happen.  We have to get up and do something about it.  Once we feel remorse for our poor choices that led us to being broke, we exercise repentance and change the behavior that made us broke, and prevent it from happening again.   

You Don't Have a Money Problem
Most broke people do not have a money problem: the money problem is a result of other problems! Discipline problems, self esteem problems, attitude problems, integrity problems, thinking problems.  Messed up priorities.  

Other Things
No amount of outside help like money from family, free rent,  Xmas presents from Secret Santas, or public assistance will help poor people out other than themselves.  Outside help tends to make the problem worse.  This is because before you can fix a problem you have to know you have a problem.  The sad truth is most of the poor people in your community or family you are trying to help, don't think they have a problem, so therefore they see no incentive to fix it. 

We do nothing for our broke friends and relatives when we tolerate their whining and moaning about what's wrong with their life, job, etc.  

We do our loved ones a favor when we cowboy up, look them straight in the eye and tell them, 

"You know what?  Life is your own damn fault.  It's your fault that you're broke

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Long Term Benefits of Taking on Student Loans

Living in Utah, I've noticed that a lot of people around here are extremely debt averse when it comes to student loans.  So they consider working while in school and many people do. 

I do agree that having the cash ready for school is the best option.  This is why we opened a 529 account for our child.  (Don't do this until you are well on track to retirement first)


If you are a recent HS graduate that's single, no children to support, planning to attend an affordable program, and still come up short with paying for school, my opinion is that you will be much better off taking the student loans to meet whatever you need left to finish school in 4 years, rather than work full-time and take 8 or more years to finish an undergrad.

If you can finish your 4 year degree in less than 4 years, even better.  The concurrent enrollment with HS/community college is something more people should do instead of worrying about their social life their senior year.  AP classes and passing them are good too.  Take it from everyone that went on to finish college, and they will agree with me: At some point in college, you will be glad you took that advantage in HS and got your got classes out of the way sooner than later.  (College classes you want out of the way ASAP are US History, and math and English requirements at minimum.  If you are going on 18 months or two-year LDS missions, you will forget a ton of math if you hadn't taken math since junior year of please take 4 yrs of math during HS for your learning)

For everyone that isn't dropping out to be an billionaire entrepreneur or pro athlete (and congratulations if you are, none of this below will apply to you), the best long term money savings strategy is to get college out of the way as soon as possible and start acquiring real life post graduate work experience.  

Now why would taking out loans be a better option than working through school?  Who wants to leave school with debt? 

Let's consider the following that are true and keep them in the back of your mind:
1. Average wages for someone with no college degree aren't likely to increase much in a span of 8 years. 
2. Average wages for someone with a college degree are likely to increase a lot in 8 years.
3. Tuition costs and fees are likely to increase faster over 8 years than salary increases. 

Should you enroll part-time, the total cost of completing your degree will cost you as much or MORE money in the span of 8 years than for someone who took out student loans for the entire 4 years of school.  

"But Alina I'm working full-time at a company where they reimburse a good portion of my tuition!  I'll keep working there until I graduate" 

The truth is if your annual salary increases are lower than your annual tuition increases, you are losing money and the company tuition benefit isn't that great of a deal.  Jobs are an investment because they compound with interest annually (assuming you are at a decent employer that gives you an annual raise).  Smart investments will always trump the best deal.  While leaving school with no debt sounds great on the surface, getting more bang for your buck in 4 years, even with the loan interest and fees is better than paying rising tuition costs and fees over 8 years.

A student loan facilitates not having to work many hours during the school year just to pay for the cost of tuition. You would need to work just enough hours to meet your expenses such as rent and food, which isn't much for a single childless student.  And if you aren't working, or just working a few hours on campus, there's really no reason to own a car and the added expenses that come with it.  You can take the bus (free or heavily discounted for most college students), walk, or ride a bike to class. 

If you're working full-time during the school year, most of your earned income will go toward to maintaining your car on top of paying your tuition.  Keep in mind that you aren't making rock star wages at this point.  

Ideally you should focus on school and then get a car to facilitate obtaining internships and securing better employment after graduation. 

By not working full-time, you can actually concentrate on what you are really in college for: to study for 4 years.  If you do well in school, you get paid for your grades with semester scholarships.  There are even plenty of scholarships that do not require a near perfect GPA.

Most people think they can't afford college because they weren't awarded a huge scholarship during HS and their life is over.  Not so, there are always scholarships in college.  My first scholarship as an incoming freshman was only $500, just barely enough to cover textbooks. Each year, I kept searching and applying for whatever scholarship I'd be qualified for, and surprisingly, the scholarship amounts got more generous the closer I was to graduating.  My last two years were tuition-free.  Searching and applying for any and all scholarships is almost a second job in itself so several people that work full-time miss out on this.  In addition, you need to be enrolled full-time to qualify for a scholarship.  

So what happens when you have a loan and a scholarship?  The university will take the loan, award you the scholarship, and refund any money left over back to you by mailing you a check.  You set this money aside to pay your rent and other needed expenses or loan payments in the future.  

What student loan averse people fail to consider is that the biggest expense for part-timing your college education is the lost opportunity costs for your wages to increase exponentially after graduating on time.  

As a recent graduate, you could be making less than someone who has been working longer, but still in school.  

To illustrate a real life example: me and my husband.  I took about 4 years to graduate and he did the 8 years or more track.  When we met in 2011, I earned less than he did when I finished nearly two years prior because he had more work experience.  I took out loans to facilitate finishing my degree program on time, while Dave continued to work full-time, be in school part-time with no debt after graduating.  He graduated 6 months before we got married in 2012.  He also began college before I did.  Both of us went to junior/community college first and then transferred to the University of Utah to finish, which did reduce the amount of what we both needed to pay.  Community college and junior college are great money savers, but you need to go in with the intent of transferring to finish the last two years of university.  

Remember how I said it's likely that salary increases a lot within 8 years for graduates?  The chances of your salary increasing exponentially within 3-5 years post college are extremely likely.  The key thing to consider is who experiences this increase first: the one who finished college sooner.  

While you could be making less right out of college, you have a very good chance coming out ahead of everyone that is still working through college.  What ended up happening was that I experienced my 1st major salary increase sooner and outearning my husband right before our wedding in 2012.  He too experienced a big increase to his salary after his 3-5 year post grad mark...but by then I experienced my 2nd major salary increase.  Yep I became the sugar mamma in this relationship ;-)

My first increase in pay made it possible to pay off the entire loan sooner than planned, and avoided paying more in interest.  My last loan payment was when Baby was born in 2013 and a few months later in 2014 was when my 2nd salary increase happened. 

Guys, as long as the total cost of your student loans are less than what you're earning your first year post graduating, you'll be able to pay the loan back without any problem during the repayment period and fulfill your return on investment expectations for a college education. So if you went to an inexpensive program, borrowed all 4 years, got scholarships, and the amount of the loans was $25k, that would mean you would need to earn at least $12.50/hr post graduation to make the loan repayment for 10 years.  

It is important to remember that salaries do not stay stagnant, they increase as long as you keep working and acquiring more specialized work experience.  Most employers value the 4 year degree.  

If you don't have other obligations to consider and want to go to college, your priority should be to finish your degree program on time or sooner.  So do not rule out student loans as a means to facilitate finishing your degree on time. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

How Women Can Ask for a Raise Like a Man - Part 1

The number one thing I wish I had someone tell at the beginning of my career instead of later is this: that every time I was made a formal offer of employment, I do have the formality to come back with one counter offer.  

Looking back I pretty much shot myself in the foot the moment I stepped out of college.  While my external offers were huge increases in previous base pay, I could have asked for a little more of my offers.  Most of the time that I was interviewing externally, I simultaneously made it to final rounds at two companies and that really could have gotten what I needed or more.  

It never occurred to me I could ask for more after getting an offer.  No one told me this. I had never seen salary being approached like how I would negotiate for car!  

What made it even more baffling is that not even my husband, dad, father-in-law, brothers-in-law, or uncles told me anything about counteroffers and negotiating--and they do it all the time.  I learned that men negotiate, women do not--but the question in my head was how come the men in my life didn't tell me this when I interviewed for my first job, and subsequent jobs after that?  

Why didn't my closest male relationships, the ones who provide, honor and protect me, teach me how to ask for a raise like a man?

A gender and leadership expert, Jeffrey Tobias Halter answered that question that kept mulling in my head for months.  He flat out explained that men do not connect the dots that the women they work with at the office is also another man's wife, mother, daughter or sister and I believe this is the case why didn't I get any advice or support.  It wasn't their fault, they just hadn't thought of it.  More on that HERE, it is a must read for any man that has daughters.  

Who then taught me this?  Other moms that worked. Not all of them though, because most of them leave before they leave.  Read "Lean In" to understand this concept more, it is honestly a fantastic and helpful book.  And "Lean In" was where I learned only 7% of female graduates counter offer their first job.  (My reaction when I read that statistic "Whaaat?  You can do that, ask for more money than what they tell you??  Darn!!")

Not long ago, I talked to a friend who's a working mom and shared some insights about salaries and raises, because I used to work at her current employer and remembered how much I got paid (peanuts).  It definitely was unsolicited advice, my bad habit, I try to mitigate it with a blog. 

A few weeks later, she followed up with me.  To my greatest surprise, she told me she had thought A LOT about what I said.  The result was that she went to her boss and ended up getting a raise and a promotion!  The thing that kept me up at night though was what she said after that:

"I wouldn't have done it if you hadn't reached out to me"

That time around, another woman received advice from another mom that worked.  This made me shudder.  
I wasn't told about it until I heard it from another mom, and my friend didn't know either until I told her.  I even confided in a colleague more senior than me asking if she ever asked for a raise or counter-offer her promotions.  Not even once. It had never occurred to her either that she could ask for more.    

I decided from there  I would go out of my way and reach out to other women, primarily mothers who work and/or graduated from college to not make the same mistakes I did with negotiating salary.  I would share anything and everything I've learned about salaries and negotiation.  

Why? Because chances are that no one told them yet either and they'll remain underpaid until another woman goes out of their way to tell them about it.  

While I work on Part 2, I want to ask these questions, no need to respond.  
Did anyone tell you about it?  Was it a man or a woman?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Why Part Time Work May Not Be Better for Young Moms

When I decided to go back to work full-time when Baby was 6 months, a common response I got was 

"Couldn't you just look at part-time jobs??"

Part time work was the first thing I looked at.  After a while I realized that part-time employment isn't what it's all cracked up to be, and decided to search for full-time employment instead.  I'm not saying that part-time employment has no value.   It can put a foot in the door for something better.  But more often than not, what you get in return for working part-time is not worth the time and the cost that it takes to earn part-time wages.  

I tell moms who are in a situation where they really need the additional income and still have young children at home, that part-time work, while well-intentioned, will not resolve their financial situation in the short and long term.  Their best bet would be to look at full-time employment and preferably in jobs where you get a salary, and not in jobs where you have to punch in and out for lunch or something gimmicky like direct sales.  

Here are problems I discovered that come with part-time employment which led me to reconsider and to go ahead with working full-time.

Consider this example. While the scenario is hypothetical, the facts are true.   
Two moms live next door to each other.  Both of them commute to work at the same place and both earn the same rate per hour.  

One mother is employed full time and the other is employed part time.  Here's where part-time starts to become a problem, financially.  

Transportation Costs:
The person that gets hit the most with the transportation expense is the part-timer.  What it costs for a full-timer to get to/from the job is exactly the same for the part-timer.  

Insurance premiums:
Both of them receive employer benefits.  However the health and dental insurance premiums for part-timers cost more per pay period than for the full-timer.  This is why you see more happy retired folks in part-time roles instead of young moms; they take the income, reap the social benefits but don't need to pay for health insurance because they're covered through Medicare.  

Childcare Costs:
Both of them have the same number of children with the exact same ages and go to the same daycare. Childcare tuition for full time, 5 days per week turns out to be less expensive per day than childcare for 2 and a half days.  This is because centers have to find more employees to ensure adequate child-to-caretaker ratios for all hours of the day they're open or get shut down.  Part-timer is hit again with the extra cost.  

After adding all the expenses for both moms, the full-timer comes out far on top.  

While the full-timer is working 40 hour weeks, she ends up earning and taking more in take home pay PER HOUR than the part-timer. These expenses are why so many mothers start and end up quitting part-time employment very quickly without realizing that they probably could have been far better off with full-time employment instead.  

Other problems with part-time employment:
The reason why benefitted part-time jobs are far and few in between across all industries is because an employer gets more value for one person producing in one job than two people producing for one job.  It's also a pain in the butt for an employer trying to get coverage for 200 hours of work managing 10 people instead of 5 people.  

Part-timers reach a cap in what they can earn per hour, especially in entry-level jobs.  The wages for full-time positions more often than not, pay a lot more per hour than part-time wages, around 30-50% more!

Also, people who are broke, or on public assistance work less hours on average than the middle class and the affluent.  So if broke is where you want to get out from, then cowboy up and work more hours by obtaining stable, full-time employment.  


Thursday, September 24, 2015

"I Feel Guilty About Wanting to Leave My Job"

I love the Mormon Messages but this is not my favorite one I've come across, "You Never Know"  You can watch it HERE People have commented their mixed feelings about the video on whether the mom should have Just Said No, or give praise for going out of her way to help others even though her hands are full as they were, and feeling bad thinking she didn't get what she wanted done but in end it turned out to be a good day because you never how you never know how much you made a difference in people's lives but that is none of what I want to talk about.  

What I want to talk about is the scene where the mother meets up with her sister at the park. 

Based on the conversation, her sister is not happy at her current job.  Emphasis added on lines in particular. 

Mom: So what are you going to do?
Sister: I don't know.  Everyone is looking to me to help them.  But I don't want to stay there if I'm not happy.  But at the same time I don't want to abandon them.  I really just want to think about myself, but I can't.  
Mom: That's frustrating.  That makes ME angry.  Like today--.
Sister: --I know.  I don't want to bother you with it though. 
Mom: No, you're not bothering me with it.  But Heidi, if you left, who else would be able to help them? 

Oh dear, what will her employer and team do without her??  
My response: her employer and teammates will be fine anyway if she decides to quit! 

Let me explain how.  

It is the responsibility of her current employer to resource the work it has committed to accomplishing.  As part of that responsibility, the company has a duty to adapt when (not if) resources change.  The company's options include replacing, reprioritizing or reshuffling the work stream.  However, resolving this situation is NOT Heidi's fault or her responsibility.  That's the problem I saw in the job scene, the message portrayed it as being her problem.   Women in paid jobs following this approach actually set themselves up for career hindrance.  

In fact, many women have a big problem feeling guilty about leaving their jobs for something better.  They end up staying and get paid peanuts to their male counterparts for years.  

Are any of you facing a similar situation in your paid jobs?  You can think about it this way: 

Just because you're leaving or wanting to leave the company/division/department and that causes a change in the status quo, it isn't your responsibility to fix it or that you're causing the team to suffer.  The cause of the team's suffering is the choice that the company made, ultimately, because they have the responsibility to work through resource changes.  

Good employers/bosses/colleagues/teammates never take someone leaving a job personally, and if an employer does take it personal, then you might as well wonder what else do they take personal with you and why on earth you want to work for someone like that?  I mean, they don't take it personal when they have to layoff employees.  

You have to do what is right for your situation, and you should feel no guilt if you give proper notice.  Only exception to this is if the reason for leaving was due to being treated very poorly on the job (I'm talking things like harassment, discrimination, bullying and nothing was done from the employer's part to resolve it) then you don't owe them any notice.  

People might struggle at first when faced with filling your shoes if you were a good employee, but someone always steps up.  It is not your job to worry about the company after you leave.  Don't feel guilty at all.  

Ultimately you have to make the decision that works best for you and really figure out if it is an opportunity that will better you.  You spend most of your waking life at a job. Why waste your life being unhappy going to/from your work??  I promise you guys, there is no better sense of joy when you find yourself at a job where you look forward coming to each day and leave from work feeling accomplished in what you've done on a daily basis.  

Instead of telling Heidi "If not you, then who?" I'd tell her to put her career and best interest of her family above loyalty to  people who didn't care if she worked there or not.  It will also be a good time to ask for a raise, which is probably the bigger issue at hand.  

I'd tell her that if she doesn't take this new opportunity, or even try to look for new opportunities, someone else will and her current company will know that they can leave her right where she is for a very long time and her loyalty will keep her there.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sticky Interview Questions and How Best to Respond

There are questions asked in job interviews where the question is obviously simple but you don't know how best to respond because of something negative, sensitive, or private you experienced in the past.  You want to give the best answer but at the same time, not volunteer information that could keep you from getting hired.   

"Oh man.  How do I answer THAT question....?"

Here are some interview questions that you will most likely be asked.  If you are nervous, don't worry I'll share from my experiences on how best to respond.    

What would your former supervisors/co-workers say about you?
This is tough if you had bosses that hated you for whatever reason.  Maybe the real reason you're interviewing is because of your boss or co-workers.  The solution in this dilemma is to pick three qualities that tie with what the company is looking for or matches its company values.  And say that you volunteer help when needed.  

What did you like most or least about your supervisors?
Never rat off on a boss you thought wasn't good even if 100 people who worked for that boss think the same.  The solution is to keep it positive, there is always at least something positive about them.  Just begin with this:

"I admired them for their skills and ability to solve problems..."

What were the reasons for leaving your previous jobs? Why did you leave your last job?
These are valid questions that need good answers.  But what if you left your job for a reason you DON'T want the interviewer to know because it may lead to a bias in hiring?  I answered with:

"I left Company X for Company Y because I had an offer for a position which allowed me to learn the skills that are applicable to this job at Company Z.  I left Company Y for personal reasons"

Personal Reasons is what clever professionals say instead of:

"I'm being harassed at work" 
"I'm about to get fired"
"I moved for my spouse's job transfer"
"I was hospitalized and could not work"
"I left my job to care for my baby"

and anything else that is personal.  

Saying you left your job for personal reasons will make some interviewers curious and wonder if you have something to hide.  At the same time, your interviewers cannot ask you questions that will trigger a bias in hiring.  

If the interviewer does follow up with asking what those personal reasons were, reiterate politely "They were for personal reasons"  You are not obligated to tell them details and it's not appropriate for the interviewer to ask for more details of personal reasons.  

The hiring manager at my current position did not ask what my personal reasons were, but she did handled it appropriately and asked if whether my personal reasons would affect doing the job.  I replied with:

"No.  I have taken care of what I needed to do during that time and ready to commit to full-time employment again"

We moved on to to the rest of the interview, invited back for a second interview, and then to an offer at my current position. :) 

Lesson learned: Good hiring managers are more interested in your skills, abilities, and aptitude to do the job.  Not your personal life.  

Should some rules be followed more than others? What is your opinion on SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and policies?
"Personal: Jaywalking on an empty road.  Professional: I review and follow company procedures.  I follow SOPs, and if there is a need for improvement, I will follow company procedure in how to address that and follow the suggestions and advice from my supervisors and colleagues"

Any mention of following company policy is safe and legit to answer.  It's probably the best thing to mention.  Plus you need to follow the rules   

When you are asked a really hard interview question or a question that could throw you off...

you respond first by saying "That's a great question..." this will ease the anxiety and give clarity as to what you will say next.  An example I've gotten at an interview:

What would you do if a higher-up supervisor asks you to monitor your boss?

"That's a great question...I wouldn't know 100% what to do.  I'd first turn to company policy to review if the request was appropriate and follow procedure from there"

The interviewer smiled at my response and then asked:

What if there isn't a company policy?

"That's even a better question...I think in that situation, I would review the information I received and present it to HR, who would be an excellent resource in guiding me into the right direction of what I need to do in that case"

After that, the interviewer smiled and said:
That's one of the best responses I've heard to this question!

I didn't get that job from that interview.  But I was really happy for how well I did which gave me a boost of confidence at other interviews leading to the job I'm in now which I love!

Friday, August 7, 2015


If you're shopping for a home, you should get a realtor.  It costs you nothing as a buyer to use one.
If you're selling your home, you are probably better off using a realtor if you want to sell quick.

However, some tips (as I love to give unsolicited advice...a blog is a great way to do that)

Please make sure your real estate agent isn't:
  • A friend
  • A relative
  • A member you know from your church
Because if (s)he sucks, it will be hard to cut them off and lose more in your time and especially money. 

If nothing else, when checking out a real estate agent...if they tell you they're full-time, you got to find out what their definition of "full-time" means before going further. Real estate may be all what they're doing but involved in 1-3 transactions in a year.  You want someone involved in a lot more transactions per year than that. 

Think about it.  If you are planning to sell your home and get an inexperienced seller's agent, you risk having them sell your home at too low of a price so that a more experienced buyer's agent will notice it, and tell their buyers to go ahead and make an offer.  

When it comes to buyer vs seller, whomever's agent that has the most experience and knowledge of the market will win.