Can Losing Your Job Mean Finding Happiness?

What goes through your head when your boss stops by your cube and asks, “Do you have a minute?” As you follow them into the conference room a little voice in the back of your head wonders if the impromptu meeting will end with you being escorted out of the front door without a job.

I remember when we had a “Reduction in Forces” a while back; if you were pulled into a conference room it meant the end of the road.  People were led out of the office with their personal items in a box and tears on their cheeks.

Being Fired Stinks
I’m sorry to say Lazy Man had a rough day yesterday. I don’t know how it went down but I picture a somewhat similar scene.  I’ve never been delivered the bad news myself and I never want to be in that situation.  Although I’m a bit disenchanted with corporate America and often times fed up with my job I’d prefer to leave when I’m ready, rather than an abrupt flush down the toilet.  You work so hard to get ahead it really takes you by surprise when the company says thanks for playing, there’s the door.

Do Secure Jobs Exist?
In today’s society many “secure jobs” are only one bad earnings report away from an unemployment check.  Since at-will employment works both ways you never know what tomorrow will bring. I have a cartoon tacked to my cube wall where a younger boss says to an older man, “You’re the best there is at something we don’t need done anymore”.  The myriad of reasons a company might let you go can be a little nerve-wracking to think about.  Of course, it’s good to wrack those nerves so that you can be prepared in the event you do lose a primary source of income.

After Losing Your Job
Now that we’ve covered the negative, lets talk about the positive.  After the shock of being let go wears off, you automatically start to think about what’s next.  You look at life from a different perspective since certain assumptions and obligations no longer exist. As Lazy Man said:

“I’m a lot happier than I thought I’d be.  In fact I’ve never felt so free. This could fade or get old, but right now, it’s new and exciting.”

I have a good friend that lost his job unexpectedly several years ago and in hindsight it was a pretty good career move.  He went onto bigger and better things and found the job he really wanted. Of course it doesn’t happen like that for everyone.  It may be that you love your job and your life’s a mess after you’re fired.  It’s for times like those that we should try and be financially prepared for a layoff.

On the other hand sometimes we just can’t make ourselves let go of a “secure” job even though we’d really like to and losing it actually turns out to be a good thing.  Other times, we’re not wanting to leave but a layoff turns into new opportunities or a new direction in life.  If your job vanished into thin air tomorrow, what would you do?  Would losing your job help you find happiness?


Are the Rich Necessary – A Non Book Review

Do you ever drive through a neighborhood with million dollar homes and wonder what the people that own them do for a living?  Do you ever look at Berkshire Hathaway stock and think to yourself “how in the world did Warren Buffet make all that money”? 

Rich people are a bit of a mystery to many of us.  I’ve never viewed the world from their perspective and sometimes find myself begrudging them for their success and vast resources.  I mean come on, who isn’t jealous of rich people now and then?  But without them, how would our economy survive?  Despite our occasionally envy of them, are they necessary to make the financial world go round?

Hunter Lewis recently released a book that discusses the question Are the Rich Necessary? I was given an advance copy of the book by the publisher to read and review but simply ran out of time.  There is an interesting review of the book by Thomas Kostigen on MarketWatch and another by Lisa Von Ahn from Reuters.

If you’re interested in reading the book, I’m giving away my copy.  Leave a comment on whether you think the rich are necessary or not. I’ll randomly select one commenter and send them my copy.  You might check out the articles first for some food for thought. Rich people shouldn’t leave comments, they can afford to buy their own copy : ) Just kidding of course, I’d like to hear perspectives from all sides.  Maybe we can get the rich Millionaire Mommy Next Door to lend her thoughts.


Do You Fall for Free Trial Offers – Sales Tactics #7

FreeTrial

Come on, sign up and give it a try.  The first 30 days are free, if you don’t like it just bring it back.

Sound familiar? How many times have you been talked into signing up for a service or buying a subscription because they offer a free trial?

“I’ll just see what it’s like”, you tell yourself.  “If I decide I don’t want it, I’ll just cancel.” The trial period goes by quickly, life gets busy, and suddenly the time to cancel has passed and you’ve been billed for the first month.  You call back to cancel when you see the charge come through on your card.  Sometimes they’ll give you a pro-rated refund other times they won’t give back a dime.

The free trial is an effective technique for sellers.  Their ideal scenario is that you will fall in love with their product or service and decide you must have it.  Another common situation is one where you aren’t really using their service but forget you signed up and the recurring payments on your credit card stay under your radar for a while before you cancel.

Of course a free trial can be a valuable offer to you as a consumer if there is a product or service you’d really like to try out before committing to it.  Just be aware that companies can use the free trial offer to entice you into closing the deal.

Warning Signs
• First 30 Days Free  • Absolutely No Obligation 
• Risk Free Trial        • First Issue Free
 

Tactic In Action
When I bought my last cell phone several years ago Sprint PCS was offering a 30 day trial of their Vision service that allowed you to browse their online content with your phone.  The salesperson convinced me to try the service when I activated my phone and sure enough the trial period came and went and I didn’t cancel. 

Not only did I get charged after the 30 days were over, Sprint also billed me for my “free trial”, they “forgot” to give it to me for free. The half hour I had to spend on the phone convincing customer service they had billed me incorrectly for something that was suppose to be free was definitely not worth the few minutes of time I surfed around the web on my phone.

Protect Your Paycheck
Trial Period Reminder – As soon as you sign up for a trial period, mark on your calendar two days before it ends to remind yourself to cancel.

Beware the Asterisk – Many free trial ads are followed by an asterisk that give the fine print of the offer.  Make sure you know the rules before giving anyone your credit card number.

Just Say No – Often times the process of canceling a free trial is more hassle than it’s worth.  Unless you’re actively looking to review and buy a product or service, just say no to free trials.

Sales Tactics
Free Trial Offer is the 7th sales trick in the Sales Tactics Revealed series. Be sure to check out the first six if you haven’t already: Don’t Miss Out, You’ll Be Sorry, Buy Now, Pay Later, Rebate Ransom, Sales Events, and Preferred Customer.


What Would You Do With a Million Dollars?

What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and had a million dollars?  Do you think your answers to that hypothetical question might change if you actually won a million dollars?

As I mentioned on QuickCents recently, Problogger had a cash giveaway where you were entered to win a variety of cash prizes by simply finishing the sentence, If I had a million dollars…. I didn’t read through all 742 answers but below is a paraphrased list of some of the responses:

  • Give money to charity
  • Fund a 529 Plan
  • Research cancer
  • Retire early
  • Travel
  • Pay off mortgage
  • Tithe to church
  • Pay down student loans
  • Quit my job
  • Spoil my family
  • Pay off credit card
  • Buy a house
  • Invest in my business
  • Buy a car
  • Invest the money
  • Buy a computer
  • Go back to school
  • Buy an island
  • Go on vacation
  • Buy parents a house
  • Ski everyday
  • Buy stuff
  • Take care of my family
  • Hire a maid
  • Become a writer
  • Buy a boat

There were many recurring themes such as get out of debt, charitable giving, helping family members, investing, and travel but my favorite answer was:

“If I had a million dollars… I don’t have an idea what would I do.”

It’s hard to say exactly what you’d do with that much money. Making your own million dollar list is a good exercise because it can highlight what things may be holding you back in life (debt) and also what you’d really like to do with your life (travel/philanthropy/etc).  But I wonder once you actually had the cold hard cash in hand, minus taxes of course, would your plans change? 

Despite inflation and the falling dollar, $1 million is still a lot of money; the kind of money that can really change your life.  Is it possible to say now what you’d actually do if you had that big lump of money sitting in your bank account?


Personal Finance Review – Installing a Patio Edition

Pavestonestones

I don’t remember the last time I was this sore! We spent all weekend putting in a Pavestone patio with the help of my wife’s parents (thanks guys!).

We hit a few roadblocks along the way but managed to overcome them and now have a new back patio!  We still have one more step left to take but we’ll wait a while until our tired muscles and backs recover.  Not only did it cost less to do it ourselves, we picked up a few cool new tools and learned how to install a patio.  Needless to say I didn’t have much time for reading about personal finance but here are some articles I noticed.

Stop Worrying About How You Got Into Debt and Start Focusing On How To Get Out @ The Digerati Life

Baby Bonds or Lazy Man’s Trust Fund @ Lazy Man & Money

Did You Miss the Rally? @ Suns Financial Diary

Looking At Life From A Stock Market Perspective @ Money, Matter, & More

October 1-7 is Financial Planning Week @ Generation X Finance

The Christian Perspective on Debt @ Free Money Finance

What To Do During A Recession @ Blueprint for Financial Prosperity

Credit Bureaus to Offer Credit Freezes to Customers Nationwide @ Five Cent Nickel

Save Money with a Roth IRA @ No Credit Needed

How to List an eBay Auction for Maximum Profit @ Get Rich Slowly

Money Lesson: Investment Vehicles @ Moolanomy

Tips On How To Cancel A Credit Card… Profitably! @ My Money Blog

Ten Steps To Financial Success For A Minimum Wage Earner @ The Simple Dollar

The unfortunate Dividend Guy lost his feedbuner feed, anyone who was a reader can get the new feed here. Thanks to My Retirement Blog for hosting last week’s Carnival of Personal Finance!


How Do You Thank Your Coworkers Without Breaking the Bank?

Every quarter things get really busy at my job and everyone works like mad to get things done on time.  Teams stay all night and work weekends, it really sucks for the people involved.

Since the majority of people are salaried employees, there is no incentive for staying late and working insane hours.  As a team lead, saying “thanks a lot, I really appreciate your help” tends to ring hollow quarter after quarter.

Of course the nice thing to do is treat them to a dinner or lunch or buy them a gift card.  But if you figure you have 10 people to thank @ $10 for a meal or gift card, that’s $100. Multiply that by 4 times a year and you’re looking at spending $400 a year.

Why do I struggle with this? We all just worked a lot of overtime without pay to ensure the company earns more money, why are we the ones paying each other for recognition? The current company recognition program will earn anyone submitted a crappy metal pin.  Frankly, I’m almost insulted every time I get one.  So my evenings and weekends away from my family are worth a tacky pin?

Is there any way to show your co-workers and team members you appreciate their hard work without shelling out money from your own pocket or is that the only way to make a genuine gesture?  What non-cheesy techniques do you use to express gratitude to people at your job?


Why Selling on eBay is a Great Way to Make Extra Money

Get a free tutorial on how you can start your own Easy eBay Business

Anytime someone is looking for an easy way to earn some extra money, I recommend eBay since it shows quick results, is simple to get started, and has a low cost of entry.

Quick Results
One problem many people run into when trying to earn extra money is that they start out eager to generate extra income on the web but lose steam when their hard work doesn’t immediately turn into profits. In my experience, eBay is a great way to overcome this roadblock since you can start seeing the results of adding extra income in a relatively short period of time.

Simple Startup
In addition to the motivation issues I mention above, another obstacle to creating a side income is not knowing how to get started.  Since the eBay website provides an abundance of resources on how to sell on eBay, the beginning steps to selling online are pretty much laid out for you.  If you already shop online, selling online isn’t that much more difficult with eBay.

Low Cost of Entry
Another reason eBay is a good place to earn extra income is the low cost of doing business there.  Your selling fees are the largest cost of doing business and are proportionate to the amount of items you list and sell.  You don’t need a lot of money to get started just selling a few items.

Gateway Income
One thing that’s a little intimidating about earning extra money is that you often have to spend/invest cash in order to make more.  It’s easy to avoid taking the initial risk since we don’t want to lose the money we already have.  Once you figure out how to sell on eBay, you discover a tried and true way to make extra money. 

At that point you’re a little more open to re-investing that money, you know if you lose it you can always make more.  That’s why I think of eBay earnings as a sort of gateway income. Money you can use to expand your earning potential, either through additional business on eBay or other methods you’re interested in.

eBay Training
If you couldn’t tell from this post, I’m a big fan of eBay : )  I’m working on a guide to selling on eBay if you’re interested in learning more check out the free tutorial for an Easy eBay Business.


How Spending Money Can Actually Save You Money

I’m not one for spending money.  It’s actually one of my least favorite things to do.  However, there is something to be said for preemptive spending that can help save you time and money.

The Crisis
The story begins like this. I arrived home late yesterday evening after a long, horrible day at work to discover the router in our small home network was kaput.  This is a huge problem for me since I spend many hours a night working online so I needed to get up and running as soon as possible.

The Unprepared Scenario
The plot of the story could have been a stressed-out, frustrated guy racing around an electronics store before it closed looking for a good deal or maybe spending the next day at work shopping online and placing a rush order on a router.

When you need something in a hurry the objective shopping and price comparison process can go out the window.  You’ll likely spend more than you want in order to buy something you’re not quite sure is what you’re looking for.  Top it off with expedited delivery if you’re shopping online and the costs of a crisis can really add up.

The Strategic Shopper Scenario
Luckily for me, I had done some preemptive shopping so the story has a happy ending.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t make a specific trip looking to buy something, shopping trips aren’t usually my style.  I happened upon a great deal for a Belkin wireless router when a local store went out of business and I snatched it up to store for future use.

Upon diagnosis of a dead router, I made a trip to the storage room and had the new router up and running in 15 minutes. Since I wasn’t scrambling around in crisis mode I didn’t have to spend a premium to get new equipment quickly, even better, I bought it ahead of time for a big discount!  Plus it allowed me to barely miss a beat in my work, which is worth some money itself.

Strategic Shopping Questions
Of course you don’t want to overdo it and spend too much on strategic shopping.  The key is whether an item will save you time and money down the road. Here are some questions you can ask when considering making a strategic purchase:

– Will the item need to be replaced or upgraded in the future?  If so, you’ll have to buy it eventually, why not buy it now for a good deal?

– Will your purchase hold its value?  How long can you keep the item in your storage area without it becoming outdated and unusable?

– Is it a large enough discount to make it worth your while?  The percentage or total dollar amount of savings is up to you.

– Can you store it easily?  Where will you keep the item for an extended period once you bring it home?


Start Your Christmas Gift Fund in October to Avoid Holiday Debt

Although we haven’t even seen Halloween yet, let alone Thanksgiving, it’s not too early to start budgeting for Christmas.

Make It Easier To Save
Are you paid twice a month?  Then you have 6 paydays between now and Christmas.  If your paycheck only comes once a month there are just three money days before the end of the year!

If you can save a portion of each paycheck between now and the end of December you’ll have built up a Christmas gift fund to pay for the load of presents you’ll shower on friends and family over the holidays.  It’s easier if you start saving small amounts early, rather than wait until the end of November and panicking about how much money you’re going to need; or worse just putting it all on your credit card and trying to pay it off in January.

How Much Should You Save?
The amount you spend on gifts is of course a personal choice.  One way to look at it could be to decide you’ll spend money on Christmas presents as a ratio of your disposable income. For example, if you have $500 left after expenses each pay period you could decide to set aside 30% of that for gifts.  The grand total that you’d save by the end of December would be your gift budget. 

The nice thing about this approach is that you have no reason to put it off.  Since you don’t have to figure out what you’re going to get each person and build a budget you’re less likely to procrastinate and delay your savings.  The other benefit is that it ties your spending to the amount you earn.

Another approach is to make a gift list of everything you’d like to buy, tally up the total, and set that as your Christmas budget.  Although saving as a percentage of your earnings is a simpler approach, itemizing your present wish list may be a little more realistic.  I imagine you’d tend to spend more overall with this approach but if you can identify the expenses in advance and save for them then that could be the better approach for you.

Avoid Holiday Debt
I can tell you right now some of the radio commercials you’ll hear come next January.  “Have a Holiday debt Hangover? Come down to XYZ Credit and consolidate your loans.”  They’ve got the ads lined up and ready to run.  Do you really want to have to go down to XYZ Credit and consolidate your loans next January? 

It will be the start to a new year, a time you can begin again fresh.  Why ruin it with a load of holiday debt?  Start planning now for your Christmas gift spending and you’ll be much happier in the new year, or at least less broke : )


Who Will Pay for Baby Bonds and How?

One of the best tips for building financial assets is to start early. Some people are fortunate enough to have family give us some seed money when we’re born.  Others of us are lucky to have money savvy parents that start saving for us when we’re young and pass that money sense on.

Of course, there are many people that don’t get that head start.  What can be done to help them? Hillary Clinton is proposing a “Baby Bond” program that would give every child born in the U.S. $5,000.  The idea is that they could use it to pay for expenses later in life such as college, a first home, or a business venture.

I think it’s an interesting proposal, putting the power of compound growth to work from the moment a person is born.  Letting people see the benefit of saving early and watching it grow. Of course there are many questions such as who would oversee and distribute the funds and what criteria would exist for cashing them in.  But before we answer any of these questions, I think we should first ask how we’re going to pay for it. An ABC news article makes the following cost estimate:

“Presuming that approximately 4 million children are born in the United States each year, a $500 “baby bond” would only cost roughly $2 billion per year. A $5,000 “baby bond” would cost the government $20 billion per year.”

Thanks to a variety of reasons the Federal government is already in massive debt.  Are we willing to commit to spending another twenty billion dollars a year when we don’t know how we’re going to pay for it?  I think after hammering out all the details to account for fraud, oversight, etc. it could really help give people a leg up but where will the money come from?  Is the government going to cut spending somewhere else, raise the money somehow, or just go deeper into debt?



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