Kwajilein here I come!!!

If you’re like me, you’re scratching you’re head and thinking WTF. Well mi amigos, apparently Kwajilein is one of the freakin’ small islands within the Marshall Islands. Again, if you’re like me you’re wondering “Where the heck are the Marshall Islands?” A quick geography lesson shows that they are located between Hawaii and Australia. Check out the image below…

I got an email yesterday notifying me I’ll be heading there mid September through late October to do some work. I’ve never been off the North American continent so I’m excited to see what other parts of the world are like. A couple random things about Kwajalein (or as I like to call it “The Kwaj”)…

  • The population on the island is less than 1,000 people.
  • Bicycle is the primary mode of transportation as private vehicles are not allowed.
  • It’s 3.4 miles end to end and 0.62 miles at it’s thickest section.
  • The island is leased by the U.S.
  • The water has 100ft visibility and is 80 degrees….hell yeah!

Anyways, enough about where I’ll be, moving on to more important things… While I am there I will be working 8 hours of overtime a week. I have two options with the overtime I will accrue over the six weeks I’ll be there. Get paid for it (at time and a half) or bank it as paid time off. I’m a terrible decision maker, as noted in previous posts, and would appreciate your input.

Here’s how I think it would break down. If I take overtime pay for the 48 hours I will get paid $1,740 for that time. If I were to add it to my annual leave, I would get paid $1,162 for that time when I did take it off. Here’s a few of my thoughts: If I take the money, then I pocket about $1,218 of it after taxes. That’s a butt load of money to just pass up. If I choose time off I never get that $1,218, but I exchange it for 6 extra days off this year.

So what would you do? Imagine your boss says “Hey you, you can take a week off whenever the heck you want and get paid for it or I’ll give ya an extra paycheck this year.” Which one would you take. The personal finance side of me says take the money and run. The lazy ass in me says take a week off and get paid to do something fun. I guess this is another awesome dilemma to have, but any and all opinions would be appreciated.

Sick days are stupid

Federal employees receive some pretty awesome benefits. Time off is definitely one of these perks. Employees with 0-3 years service get 13 days off a year, 3-15 yrs earn 20 days a year, and 15+ yrs earn 26 days off a year. In addition to vacation days, each employee is granted 13 sick days per year. Pretty sweet right? Well maybe it is, but I need your help to decide.

I have been on “Team USA” for just under two years, so I earn 13 vacation days and 13 sick days each calendar year. That’s 26 full days off each year! That’s pretty freakin’ generous if you ask me. I don’t know for sure, but I believe the government time off allotment is significantly better than most private companies. I’m having a little bit of a debacle though, and once again would encourage any input/suggestions.

What the heck is the point of a sick day? I understand the general premise. If you wake up in the morning and don’t feel well, call in sick, no harm no foul. But what do you do when you work from home? I’d have to be pretty darn incapacitated to not be able to work. Two years on the job and I haven’t needed to take a sick day yet. What am I suppose to do with all my sick time?

I know that I need to save up an “emergency fund” of sick leave in case I break a leg or something, but I’m having a little bit of a moral dilemma. Is it totally evil to use sick days when you aren’t sick? I would love to take some of my sick time and use it for frequent three or four day weekends. I could keep rambling about why I want to use sick time for personal reasons, but instead of boring you I’m just gonna open the floor for discussion.

How many sick days do you get per year at work? Do you ever “cheat” and use sick days as vacation days? At your work is it a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy? Am I going to hell if I call in sick, but am really going surfing? What the F am I suppose to do with 200 hours of accrued sick time, besides stare at it and wish I could use it!?

What would you do?

We all have fantasies about our ideal job. Dream jobs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are already working in ideal situations, while others are desperately trying to gain the experience needed to move up the corporate ladder. I got a little predicament for you. What would you do if you were offered your dream job, but you had to be willing to move anywhere in the country as part of the offer?

Well mi amigos, this kinda happened to me. A couple weeks ago I received a conditional job offer from a government agency that I never would have thought I had a prayer at getting in to. It’s not a sure thing, but it is definitely a great start. One of the conditions of the position, however, requires that I sign a mobility agreement. Basically that means that I agree to work wherever the agency places me. Not only that, but I could potentially be moved a couple different times throughout my career. I guess it would be kind of like the military, except not as frequent moving and I could quit whenever I wanted without receiving legal ramifications.

Before I continue on the hiring process I have been thinking “Would I be willing to give up my dream location for my dream job?” I really want to move back to the Pacific Northwest (where I was raised) and have been planning to do so within a couple years, but now that this offer has come up my plans may change. Life is about being flexible and going after your goals, but what the heck are you suppose to do when those goals conflict? There is always the potential that I get placed where I want to live, but there is also the chance I get placed in French Lick, Indiana (nothing against any of you readers from French Lick).

So bloggers, it’s time for your two cents. You helped me adjust my student loan payments and were responsible with the sale of my motorcycle. Now it is time for you to tell me what to do with the rest of my life. Would you be willing to relocate for your dream job?

Hi ho, Hi ho, it’s off to Texas I go.

It’s time for this San Diego beach bum to put on a pair of cowboy boots and a pair of leather chaps cause I’m on my way to Houston. I’ve been practicing my southern drawl and been downing sweet tea by the gallon to prepare. I’m going to be there from the June 24th to July 15th. That’s one long a$$ business trip! I’ve never been to Texas before so I’m excited to see if everything really is bigger.

My daily allotment for meals and incidentals is $59. That’s a crapload of money for meals and laundry each day. In addition to my per diem pay, I am also required to work at least 10 hours of overtime a week (paid at time and a half). At the end of the three weeks I’m planning on returning home with an extra $1,500 in my pocket. Hellz yea!

One thing I am not excited about…the forecast shows 100° every single day. It’s going to be disgustingly hot and considering I have to wear a shirt and tie, I’m prepared to sweat a good 20lbs each day. This is also going to be my first business trip alone, so I’m kinda preparing myself for a lot of lonely/awkward nights. I’m not really looking forward to eating out. Here’s how I envision a trip to a local restaurant…

Hostess: “Hi how many?”
Me: “Just me.”
Hostess whispering to friend: “What a loser he’s eating by himself.”
Me: (Run out of the restaurant crying like a little schoolgirl)

I’m not a real big fan of dining out solo. Haven’t done too much of it in my day, but the few times I have I remember feeling like everyone in the restaurant was staring at me. Maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but come on, it’s a little awkward eating out alone, right? I think I may be doing a bunch of take out and eating at the bar (drunk people tend to be friendlier).

I haven’t really set up a game plan for what I’m going to do with my free time in Houston, so if anyone has any suggestions I’m more than happy to hear them. I figure I’ll spend a good chunk of my time working out, blogging, working, eating, and sleeping. Wish me luck as I venture off on my first solo business trip!!!

I leave you with a Chuck Norris fact, in honor of Walker Texas Ranger…

If you have five dollars and Chuck Norris has five dollars, Chuck Norris has more money than you.

p.s. Think of me on the 4th of July when you are all with your families and I am sitting in my hotel room watching Oprah 🙁

Breakin’ down the government pay system

Check it out you crazy delicious bloggers. I’m gonna take some time today to get all academic on your a$$ and explain how gettin’ paid by the Feds works. Consider this a peephole to the public sector. For those that don’t care how gov pay works you can read an old post about “The importance of discipline” or you can watch this cat run in to a wall on YouTube.

F.Y.I. I’m only going to be discussing the GS (General Schedule) pay system because that is the classification I fall under and is the standard for most federal agencies.

There are 15 grades amongst the GS system. Higher pay grades mean higher income. Below is a picture of the various GS pay scales… click image to make larger

It may be a little confusing if you don’t know exactly how it works. Essentially, within each grade you will notice there are also 10 steps. Most federal positions have a career ladder. This basically means that you come in at a pre-determined pay grade, and as time passes you jump up to higher grades and steps. The best way to explain how this whole system works is to give ya an example. I’ll break down the pay system for my current position.

I started with Uncle Sam 1.5 years ago and was hired as a GS-7 step 1. Referencing the chart above you can tell my base salary was $33,477 (my actual starting salary was around $40,000 after Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLA), but for this example I’m just gonna use the base salaries)

Before I even applied to the position, I knew that it had a career ladder to the GS-12 pay grade. My specific career ladder was a 7/9/11/12. The numbers represent the promotion track to reach my maximum income. After exactly one year as a GS-7 step 1 ($33,477), I was promoted to a GS-9 step 1($40,949). In six months I will then again promote to a GS-11 step one ($49,544). One year after that I will then be a GS-12 ($59,383). My position does not increase to the GS-13 level and therefore I will never be paid as one. Once, you reach the highest grade, you then begin to promote steps. After one year as a GS-12 step 1 you promote to GS-12 step 2. You promote every year for steps 1-4, every two years steps 5-7, and every three years step 8-10. Confused? Don’t be. It basically takes 18 years to go from a step 1 to a step 10. Using my actual pay (after COLA), I started at $41,324 and at the start of my fourth year I will be making $73,302. Thats a $32K increase in 3 years! It gets much less exciting after that as it will take 18 years to go from $73,302 to $95,288.

I hope this all makes sense, but I’m starting to think I probably just confused the crap out of my readers. I guess the most important thing to note with government pay is you know exactly how much money you are going to make in 2, 5, 20, and 30 years down the road if you stay in the same position. I knew when I started at $40,000 the most I could ever make is $95,000. It’s great to know that in six months I can expect an over $10,000 pay increase, but sometimes frustrating to know that promotions generally come because of time in service and not necessarily the quality of work one produces. Don’t take that to mean that a crappy employee is still going to be promoted because they wont be, but it does mean that an average special agent makes the exact same amount as the best special agent in the country. Love it or hate it, this is the way the government works.

Hopefully you didn’t fall asleep 🙂

"Your job’s pretty cool, how did you get that?"

When someone asks what I do for a living, they almost always follow up their question with “How did you get that job?” There is something about the title Special Agent that sparks interest in most people I meet. Over the last two years I have probably been asked that question at least a hundred times, but I always provide the same response… “I applied for it.”

It really is that simple folks.The only way you can get the job you want is to apply for it. You are the driving force behind your future. I admit my response may be slightly caustic (caustic-critical or sarcastic, thanks synonym.com!), but it is also reality. Granted, my degree in Psychology was related to my field of choice, but outside of that, my application and a little luck from the Special Agent gods above did the rest. I didn’t know anyone in the field, I had no connections, I didn’t even really know much about the job when I applied for it, but I thought “Hey this sounds cool, I think I want to do this.”

Like most people, I have goals and a desire to enjoy my job. What separates me from those that continue to work in a job they hate? The difference is I applied for the job I wanted. I refused to remain in a dead-end job with no future career advancement opportunities Now obviously you aren’t going to get offers on every job you apply for, but if you are only applying to jobs you legitimately want, it only takes one offer to change your life.

So what if you get turned down by the other 40 companies you applied to?! Never, ever, ever, let doubt whisper in your ear “Don’t waste your time applying, you won’t get the job.” ‘Cause guess what, if you don’t apply you have a 100% chance of not getting it. What’s the worst possible outcome? They say “No thank you” and you move on to the next position. If you have a love for technology, but find yourself stuck at Chuck E’ Cheese, make a goal to apply to three computer related jobs a week. You’re bound to land an interview eventually, unless you smell really bad and your first name is Boogerhead (then you might not have a shot).

The best time to land your ideal job is while you are already employed. It allows you the flexibility to be selective and does not confine you to a deadline. Getting fired and then looking for a job obviously adds stress, pressure, time constraints, and financial burdens on your hunt. If you have found yourself unhappy in your current line of work, or even if you think “I really want to work in ______,” get off my freakin’ website and go to craigslist, monster, or your local newspaper and go apply for a position you’d love.

So how ’bout it you blogilicious people… What’s your current line of work? What do you want to be doing? And why aren’t you doing it? If you are already working in your dream field, how did you get there?  How long did it take? Are you a bagillion times happier now than before?

Get out there and punch your sucky employer in the face and get the job you deserve!

I can work in my underwear…you can’t.

I guess the title of this post is not completely accurate as we all work in our underwear (except for those of you that prefer going commando), but I literally can work in just my tighty whities. The biggest perk of my job is the ability to wake up and be in my office. I got to thinkin’ and made a short list of the pros and cons of my Jay Oh Bee (job)…

Explanation:

1) Working at home is great. I don’t have to fight traffic and I’m never late to the office. The downside to working at home… I don’t have coworkers. Now some might see this as a pro, but I am a people person and wish I had fun coworkers that I got to see everyday. It’s like going to school, even though I wasn’t excited about going to classes, I enjoyed getting to see my friends in class.

2) The coolest thing about my job is I can work 50% of the time in my spongebob squarepants underwear. The only bummer is that my position requires me to be out in the field the other 50% of the time and when I’m out in town I have to wear a suit. I hate dressing up and dread putting that tie around my neck everyday.

3) Making my own hours is quite possibly the greatest thing ever. It allows me the flexibility to make adjustments to my work day. It’s always nice to know I can end work a half hour early if needed. The major downside to making my own schedule is fighting procrastination. It’s difficult fighting the urge to put things off. Another major downside to working at home is… work is always at home. I don’t get to leave my ‘ish at the office like others. It’s on me at all times and I’m always thinking in the back of my mind “Oh I need to get this done.” It’s similar to having a big test coming up, even if you’re not studying for it you cant help but think you should be.

4) I can watch TV from home. Do you get to watch tv while you work? While I thought this would be super cool, I have come to realize that’s not always the case. Most of the time the only thing that is on is Judge Judy and Days Of Our Lives. Neither of which I am particularly fond of…although Judge Judy is kind of hot…haha.

So there ya have it. These are just a few things that I thought were cool and not so cool about my experiences working from home. It should be noted that I am not self employed and, therefore,  do not have complete freedom over my schedule and workload. My experiences are probably vastly different from those self employed individuals. As with most things in life, there is always an upside and a downside. Overall, I’m stoked that I have the opportunity to work from home, but I definitely find myself wishing I had an office to go to every now and again.

Boxers or briefs,