Nice ass(ets)

Yesterday I wrote about a little quandary some working professionals face: being stuck in a job that will limit their future career potential. Let’s face it, some skill sets just aren’t as desirable on the open market. So what’s a person to do, in such a situation? Well many of you, that commented yesterday, hit the nail on the head. You gotta diversify yourself and think outside the box.

Just as diversification is important in a retirement portfolio, so it is true in your personal life. I might be an investigator by trade, but that doesn’t mean I will be limited to investigatory type positions the rest of my life (at least I sure hope it doesn’t mean that).

Here are a few ways I plan to make myself more competative on future job applications…

1) Read. Easy enough right? I ain’t no financial guru, but the majority of the finance skillz I picked up, came from one place…books. I use to hate reading in college, probably because it was required, but now I can’t get enough. Books are like candy for the brain. Do I have any financial experience or degrees? No. But I do have a passion for money and at least the fundamentals down. I’m sure this would help me out in an interview for a business related position.

2) Do something. I was interested in personal finance, so instead of sit idly by, I decided to do something about it. Thus the birth of PDITF. Sure blogging may have helped my writing skills (or lack thereof) a little bit, but more importantly, it has spawned quite a few more talents. I know how to use photoshop and I’ve become somewhat proficient in CSS coding and other computer mumbo jumbo. My blog has turned in to a small business, one that makes me a couple thousand a year. Never did I think I would be a quasi- business owner.

3) Network. “It’s not what you know but who you know.” While that may be a frustrating quote it is DEFINITELY true. You have to surround yourself with people involved in the field you want to work in. If you want to be a writer, start hanging out at coffee shops. If you want to be a photographer, join a picture club. If you want to be a babysitter, start sitting on babies (wait…that’s not how it works). If you know people in your field of interest, maybe they can put in a good word for you with their hiring manager. Remember, your future employer is going to train you on how to do your job, you just have to prove to them your the best candidate to be trained.

4) Education. I put education last on purpose. Not because I think it is the least important (although I kinda do), but because I think people overemphasize the importance of further education and end up neglecting other aspects of their life. Sure, if you want to be a physician you better go to medical school, lawyers to law school, and truck drivers to…truck driving school? But a masters or Ph.D. does not guarantee employment, and if you think it does, you’re dumb. A few of yesterday’s commenters suggested taking courses at the local community college. GREAT IDEA! C.C.’s are generally pretty cheap and have a lot of flexibility in class schedule. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT quit your job to go back to school full time to get an M.B.A. only because you think it will ensure higher income.

So those are four ways to increase your desirability to future employers, regardless of your current position.

Can you think of other ways to stand out from the rest?

p.s. if you are reading this post via RSS or email, you should check out my actual website today, I posted up my Valentines banner (putting those photoshop skills to use)

p.p.s. I am super duper excited for tomorrow’s post. It’s a little experiment that I hope you all will consider participating in. I can’t give away too much, but I’ll give ya a hint… it’s a “secret”. 🙂

My job could be my own worst enemy

I graduated college at 21 without the slightest idea what I was going to do for a living. I took my psychology degree and landed myself a job with The Fed. I’m pretty vague about my specific position, but I have mentioned before it involves investigations. Over the last two years I have gotten really good at investigating things that I’m suppose to investigate. It’s a sweet job, but I knew going in to it, I had to make a decision… A decision that would impact the rest of my life.

I set a rule for myself when I accepted my job offer: Get out within five years, or do it for the rest of your life. Ya see, my job is such a narrow/specific field, that the skills I have learned over the last couple years do not really translate well in to most other career fields. I know that if I stay in my position for more than five years, I will have a freakin’ difficult time trying to find a job in a different field, because aside from investigating things, I wont have any other applicable skill sets.

I re-read that last paragraph and realize I’m not doing a very good job at communicating my thoughts (must be too much nacho cheese from the Superbowl party yesterday). The best way to enlighten you is by example. Think about a cop. Their job is pretty specific: Keep the city civil. Do you know many cops that only work for the department for a couple years and then transition to corporate America? I sure as heck don’t. Most cops are career cops. They work for their local P.D. until the day they retire. It’s not a bad gig if you love being a cop, but it’s not the greatest thing if you want to change careers.

Some positions are stepping stones, i.e. HR assistant, financial analyst, marketing intern. They are a means to an end. You take the financial analyst job so you can transition to a corporate relationship manager, then promote to vice president, and eventually become a partner in the company. You get to climb the corporate ladder and you have a billion different options if you decide you want to change companies or positions. But, what the heck are you suppose to do when you don’t have a stepping stone job? How do I keep from allowing my current job to limit my future potential?

I have some thoughts on this that I’ll be posting up tomorrow, but for now I want to hear from you. Has anyone out there found their job prospects severely hindered as a result of your current position? What do you do if you love your job, make good money, but don’t want to do it for the rest of your life? Has anyone had success changing from one field, to a DRASTICALLY different field? Gimme some insight, ’cause I need some help!

What are you saving for?

Seeing that I have already wrote two articles on saving this week, I figure it’s only appropriate to finish the week off with, yet another post, about saving. Consider these three articles the holy trinity of personal finance. Okay, maybe they aren’t that insightful…wait, actually they aren’t really insightful at all. Oh well, I tried 🙂

So we all have a desire to be rich, right? The word “rich” is totally subjective though. I would consider both, Kobe Bryant and Bill Gates to be rich, even thought there is a large discrepancy between their net worths. Being rich isn’t about reaching a specific quantifiable amount of cash, but instead it varies from person to person. Whether we are talking thousands, millions, or billions, I think we can all agree on at least a base line definition of wealth: comfort in knowing we have enough money to survive tomorrow.

Personally, I will feel wealthy when I have the ability to work any job I want, regardless of the salary. Imagine the freedom that would come with such financial stability! Not being dependent on employment income would be the best thing since sliced bread…Sure comfort, peace, and stability are all important reasons for accumulating wealth, but let’s be honest, we also wanna do some crazy awesome things with our hard earned moolah. Thus, the reason for today’s blog post title…What are you saving for?

I can think of a few things I want to do when I achieve great wealth…

1) Pay the Young Life summer camp fee for 50 high school kids that live in under privileged neighborhoods. This last summer I was able to take a charter bus full of these kids to camp through the generous donation of $30,000 from an anonymous donor. I got to be there and witness these high schoolers experience the best week of their lives! It was an incredible experience, and I can’t wait for the day I can do the same.

2) Buy a vacation property. I absolutely love skiing and have not been able to do enough of it since I have been living in San Diego (apparently it hasn’t snowed here since Dec 13th… 1967). It would be incredible to own a cabin in Colorado that I could spend a few weeks at every winter so I could get my ski on. Oh and I would get to said vacation property via my private jet of course 🙂

3) Visit each continent. I think it would be totally sick to go to every continent at least once. Sure Antarctica may be a little difficult to get to, but if you are loaded it’s probably more feasible. As of this point in my life, I can check one continent off the list (North America)… not a great start. Ninjafrica here I come!!!!

So those are three things I am saving for. What about you? Hopefully you have some plan to become financially abundant, what do you plan to do once you get there? Maybe take a year long vacation touring the world? Maybe you want to buy a killer whale and name it Rufus? Or perhaps you want to collect every action figure that has ever existed like this guy…

…whatever it is, I want to hear it. WHAT ARE YOU SAVING FOR?

Are you a Thousand Dollar Baller?

There’s a lot of hype around millionaires. If you read Budgets Are Sexy (which I recommend you do) you’ll see J. Money has a club, “The Million Dollar Club” that is. It’s a club I’m sure many of us hope to one day join. Ya know what though? I gotta keep it real and come to terms that I wont be a member of that club for a few decades. Sure. one day I’ll be in the Million Dollar Club, but until that day comes, I’m perfectly content serving as Senior Assistant Junior Associate Vice President of the “Thousand Dollar Baller Club”.

That’s right suckas, you ain’t need no proper grammar, flashy cars, or 5+ bedroom crib to join this club. In fact, a Ford Fiesta, one bedroom apartment in the quasi-ghetto, and a hint of frugality is all you need to be a member. Sure the millionaire clubs may be more snobby elite, but the Thousand Dollar Baller Club is nothing to be ashamed of.

According to CareerBuilders.com most recent survey, 61% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. That means 61% of Americans would be royally screwed if they lost their jobs. You definitely want to be a member of the thousand-aire club, because that means you can survive (at least for a short period of time) with no income. The ramifications of having no savings is shown in this highly scientific formula I worked up…

So, not only does being a member of the highly exclusive “Thousand Dollar Baller Club” make you one of the coolest people in the world, but it also gives you some stability. Can I get a booya for stability?

Too often we get so caught up in the future, that we forget to find hapiness in our current situation. Well not anymore kiddos, I am proud to be the first member of The Thousand Dollar Baller Club. Are ya like me, and get so focused on making that first million, that you forget to appreciate the fact that you are a thousand-aire? How long have you been a member of this “not-so-elite” club? If you’re stoked to have over $999 in the bank, drop me a line in the comment section below ’cause I want to hear you say “I love being a thousand-aire!”

p.s. I made this sweet little badge for my sidebar…
here is the code for it, if you’d like to put in on your site!….

<a href=”http://www.punchdebtintheface.com/”><img title=”thousand dollar club” src=”http://www.punchdebtintheface.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/thousand-dollar-club.jpg” alt=”” width=”125″ height=”125″ /></a>

National savings rate…epic fail

Wanna see something that will make you cringe? It’s a graph of the United States Personal Savings Rate. As of mid 2009, the savings rate had reached a 17 year high (6.9%) as Americans conserved cash due to the declining economy. If the savings rate is at a ‘relatively’ high point, you might be wondering why the graph would be scary… well, check this ‘ish out!

Shame on us America, and by “us” I mean you, and by “you” I mean anyone that helped contribute to this dismal savings rate. There are a couple interesting things about this graph. The first being that from the 1960’s to the mid 1980’s, the savings rate held steady between 8%-11%. But if you look from the mid 1980’s to just before 2007, the savings rate had PLUMMETED from around 10% to 0% (including one year with a negative savings rate). That’s just plain embarrassing America.

Another interesting thing that can be seen in the graph; periods of recession (included in the gray shading) almost always resulted in an increased US savings rate. This is particularly noticeable in this most recent recession where savings went from 0% to 6.9%. You know what this graph indicates? That Americans suck really really bad at saving their money, and even worse, we don’t learn our lesson. Sure we might save more during recessions, but the second the recession has passed, we are right back to our old ways… living paycheck to paycheck, racking up debt, and making a$$e$ of ourselves.

There is an old adage that goes “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” Unfortunately for America it goes a little something like this “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you. Fool me three times, shame on you…” When are we going to learn our lesson? Unfortunately, the answer is probably not until it’s too late…a.k.a. China comes and takes us over.

Don’t worry though, being the revolutionary voice of personal finance that I am (you think I am right?), I have a solution… make the US savings rate an Olympic event!!!! If there is one thing we Americans love it’s sports and America. Just imagine, a live feed of the US savings rate in comparison to all the other major countries of the world, during the Olympics. It would be just as exciting as watching Michael Phelps win his 8 gold medals (Dear Michael Phelps, if you are reading this, will you bear my children?). Seriously though, the only way I can think of motivating my American counterparts to save is by making it some sort of competition. If they knew how badly we sucked at this thing (especially when compared to other countries) it just might spark a long term savings attitude. Ah, a boy can dream right?

Do you think this recent savings boom is gonna stick around? Did we REALLY learn our lesson this go around? How can we teach/instruct/force people to save more? Are you currently part of the solution or the problem? According to this poll I ran a few weeks back, it seems like most PDITF readers are doing their part to save a decent amount of their take home pay. Kudos to you.

Net Worth: February 2010

I would like to officially welcome my Net Worth to 2010. I have some ground rules for the NW for the remaining 11 months…GO UP!!!! It’s all about growth baby, not to be consfused with “growing babies” (baby ninja’s aren’t coming till 2050). Let’s see how I’ve done…

Checking Account(s): $1,877, -$2,483. My checking accounts (INGdirect and Chase) took a hit over the last month, but for good reason: I transferred a couple thousand dollars in to my online savings account. You’ll see that growth in the next category.

Savings Account: $21,065, +$3,340. I have officially broken $20,000 in my online savings and it feels good. If you are wondering why I haven’t just paid my student loan off it’s for a few reasons. 1) I’ve got a wedding pending and don’t know how much to plan for my wedding expenses (i.e. gifts, honeymoon, etc). 2) Girl Ninja and I have many unknowns ahead of us, and having extra cash on hand helps calm us mentally. 3) Because it’s my blog and I can do what I want 🙂

Roth IRA: $13,368 -$387. I don’t like it when the stock market goes down, but I guess it has to happen from time to time. Oh well, glad it was only a few hundred dollars of money I wont touch till I’m old anyways.

TSP (401K): $11,759, +$118. Five percent of each paycheck makes its way in to this account, which get’s fully matched. I invest in very similar funds in both my Roth IRA and 401K. I use to contribute 8%, but after some thought, I decided to reduce down to 5% this year.

Student Loan: -$16,003, +$190. Oh Sallie Mae, how much I loathe thee, yet I still keep you around. I find comfort knowing I could rid myself of you at any moment. Don’t get too comfortable, you won’t be sticking around that long.

That put’s me at a net worth of….drumroll please….. $30,234!!! I’m up $1,441 from last month, which means I have officially joined the $30,000 club (if such a club exists). I can’t wait for this month to be over, because I will be seeing a $12,000/yr raise coming my way in early March, it should work out to about $700 extra each month that will go straight towards increasing my NW. Thanks for poking in ya’ll and I’ll be seeing ya tomorrow!

If you have wondered why the blue bar (debt) in the graph sometimes increases, it’s because my credit card balance gets taken in to account each month. Even though I pay the balance in full it still appears as a “liability” in Quicken. I just deduct this from my checking account balance to give myself an accurate net worth reading. This is why my total increase, may not always necessarily match with the total of each category, but I promise the overall total is REAL. I choose not to include my car in my NW calculations, which would probably increase my worth by about $8K.

Have you no morals?

I tweeted on Saturday about an article I read over at The Motley Fool. I am pretty frustrated with the article and think it is worthy content to bring up today. If nothing else, it should at least stir a little bit of controversy in the comment section below. You can find the full article here, but here’s a quick excerpt…

For many of the underwater homeowners in today’s market, paying down their mortgage isn’t really in their best financial interest. Particularly in states like Arizona — where mortgages are nonrecourse, meaning the lender can’t go after any of the homeowner’s assets other than the property itself — it makes little sense to continue paying a large mortgage on a devalued house when comparable rental rates are far below the monthly mortgage payment.

This article made my blood boil. Have you ever seen a ninja’s blood boil? It’s not a pretty sight. I totally disagree with hate this article for a few reasons…

First, and most important, it’s totally immoral. So you may be $100K underwater on your house. But if you can still afford the mortgage, you have every MORAL obligation to keep paying. To be clear, I don’t have an issue with someone walking away from their house if they have no ability to pay their mortgage (i.e. can’t put food on the table, can’t afford gas to get to work, have become unemployed, etc), but to recommend that people walk away, even when they can comfortably afford the mortgage is ludicrous. Sure it may not be illegal to walk away, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Just because your home decreased in value, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to back out of your end of the contract. Remember, when you purchase a home, you VOLUNTARILY accept the risk that comes with it.

Quite a few people that commented on the article made comments like… “Banks screw us all the time, this is just our chance to get back at them.” Ummm excuse me? If you think that is an acceptable reason to back out of your mortgage contract than please do me a favor, quit reading my blog, and go read Im-A-Big-Dumb-Head.com. Now I’m not saying banks aren’t shady, ’cause we all know they can be, but why does that suddenly give you the right to be an equally douchtastic individual? This is such a juvenile thought-process, I can’t even comprehend why someone thinks this is a reasonable excuse. Yes banks can be evil, but you walking away from your home, makes you just as terrible.

The third and final reason I can’t stand this article is because it would cause the end of the world, okay maybe not the end of the world, but the entire economy would collapse if people actually followed this advice. A commenter said it best….

so let me get this straight…the plan is for people seriously underwater to just walk away…

…. followed by a further decline in home values……then those people who WERE just slightly underwater become seriously underwater….. but thats OK they can just walk away too…..

causing another wave of declining values….eventually even those that have equity will be underwater too….but thats OK they can just walk away with the rest of em……..

If people follow the author’s advice, the amount of foreclosures would skyrocket, thus causing a downward spiral in home values nationwide. An increase in foreclosures is NO BUENO in my opinion.

I have so many other things I want to say about this article, but instead of rambling on, I’d rather hear what you all have to say. Does anyone else find this article concerning? What do you think would happen if people actually started taking this advice? What matters more, your “best” financial interest, or your morals? Is there anyone out there that can try and make sense of how this could possibly be a good thing for America? Ugh, this article makes me depressed with humanity.