Tag: career

 

Career Moves for the Summer Slowdown

If you’re skipping a summer getaway this year because you’re trying to save money, don’t feel bad about it. It could actually be a good thing if you’re hoping to get ahead at the office. 

In fact, summertime can be an ideal opportunity to do some strategic career planning. For example, perhaps you can use this time to map out your next moves at your current job. Or, perhaps you can begin strategizing about your next career move. 

If you’ve got some time on your hands this summer, here are four ways to potentially brighten your career prospects by the fall. 

1. Volunteer for Extra Tasks

Your colleagues may be taking time off and leaving part of their workload unfinished. That’s a chance to step up and pick up some of the load – and perhaps get the attention of higher-ups. 

“Taking on extra work and doing a great job of it can be an effective way to impress your boss,” says Chris Chancey, career expert and owner of Amplio Recruiting

Chancey says not to think of this as picking up the slack for your coworkers. Instead, “see it as an opportunity to demonstrate leadership, showcase skills and strengths your supervisor and teammates probably did not know about.”

Just be sure that taking on extra work doesn’t compromise your ability to manage your regular workload. 

Jason Patel, founder of college and career prep company Transizion, says to prioritize the kinds of tasks you offer to take on to focus on high ROI activities. Also, review your work schedule so you know what you can really do.

“This will help you discern how much extra work you can take on. Knowing how much you should help a coworker will save you from burnout,” Patel says.

2. Grow Your Network

Your network can be an invaluable tool for moving up the career ladder, so consider expanding your connections this summer. 

“Summer is a great time to get out of the office and socialize,” says Laurie Berenson, founder of Sterling Career Concepts

Some ways to connect? “Meet people for lunch or happy hour, reconnect with former colleagues, reach out to people with whom you’ve worked on projects in the past but haven’t seen lately,” Berenson says. 

Those kinds of activities can reinforce your existing relationships. If you want to add people to your network, Chancey says to expand your scope. He suggests taking up a group hobby or attending Meetup events to meet new people who may share similar career backgrounds or professional interests. 

You can also broaden your network online through LinkedIn and other professional networking sites. 

“You probably have a little more time in the summer so why not take this opportunity to send out personalized invitations to connect with people whose role you admire and aspire to,” Chancey says.

“This is also a great time to reach out to some of your existing contacts and see what they are up to. On LinkedIn, you can write them a recommendation or endorse their skills.”

3. Learn Some New Skills

Knowledge is key for career advancement so consider initiating your own version of summer school. For instance, take a class, attend a workshop or seminar, volunteer, read some useful books or listen to some motivating podcasts. 

“Summer is a great time to take a course,” Berenson says. “If your company offers internal training, look at what’s offered or find out if you can be reimbursed for third party courses.”

Focus on filling in any knowledge gaps you might have that could help you shine at work or potentially help you land another job down the line. 

This is where having a mentor can be invaluable. 

“What works for everyone interested in professional growth is getting mentored by an industry expert, either online or in person,” says Maciej Duszyński, a career expert at ResumeLab

“Why? Because industry experts can get you up to speed in a heartbeat.”

4. Start Planning Now for a Job Search

Setting clear goals for what you want to do career-wise can help you get clarity on how to achieve them if your plans involve changing companies. 

“Define your career goals for the fall and begin mapping out your next ideal move over the summer,” says Jeanna McGinnis, professional career coach and director of client triumph for Mentor Happy

“By planning now, you’ll have a better understanding of what you’ll need to accomplish prior to beginning a job search in the fall.”

McGinnis says that in addition to setting goals, you should focus on some tangible tasks. That includes updating your resume and LinkedIn profile.

You can also research for salaries, which can help you potentially earn more money if you’re offered a new position. And, you can practice your interviewing skills and elevator pitch over the summer so that they’re fine-tuned when it’s time to use them. 

Stay on Your Toes at Work this Summer

One last tip for making forward moves on the job this summer: Maintain your professional image at work.

Just because everyone is slacking does not mean you should come to work late and sneak out early or show up in beach attire,” Chancey says.

“While you should enjoy the cheer, do not let your guard down too much such that you ruin your reputation, especially in the eyes of your boss.” 

That’s good advice! While we want you to enjoy the summer heat, keeping it cool at work can help you get paid what you’re worth if you’re angling for a raise or promotion. 

 

What is a 401(k) Plan?

When planning for your future, it’s important to determine when you think you’ll retire. More importantly, how will you be able to afford retirement?

In order to retire, you need to save enough money to fund your lifestyle without needing to work. Experts say your retirement income should be 80% of your pre-retirement income. This means that if you’re earning $50,000 per year, you’ll likely need to live on around $40,000 per year during your retirement.

One of the best ways to save for retirement and build wealth over time is with a 401(k) plan. Read on to learn more about this type of retirement account.

What is a 401(k) Plan?

You might have heard the term 401(k) before, especially if you landed a job and your new employer offers this as part of the benefits package.

Backing up a bit, a 401(k) is basically a retirement savings plan sponsored by an employer. It allows you to save and invest a portion of your income before taxes are deducted from your paycheck.

This option can only be offered by your employer and it’s not a savings account. The money you put into your 401(k) is not easily accessible as it’s set up to grow over time.

Since 401(k) contributions are tax-deferred, you can deduct the amount you contribute from your income each year, thus lowering your taxable income. However, you will have to pay taxes on the money once you retire and start withdrawing it.

How Does a 401(k) Plan Work?

Contributing to a 401(k) plan is easy. You simply opt-in if your employer offers a 401(k) option. This may involve filling out some initial paperwork.

From there, you can choose how much of your paycheck you want to contribute. Some employers even offer to match your contributions and this is great because it’s just like getting free money.

For example, your employer may offer to match every dollar you contribute to your 401(k) up to five percent of your gross pay for the year. If your salary is $60,000, this means your employer can contribute up to $3,000 to your 401(k).

How Much Can You Contribute To a 401(k)?

This year, the maximum 401(k) contribution limit for anyone under 50 is $19,000. This is subject to change in any given year.

Be sure to research each year’s contribution limits at the beginning of the calendar year to see if there are any changes. This will help you plan your contributions.

What Are Roth 401(k)s and IRAs?

A 401(k) plan isn’t the only type of retirement plan available to you. A Roth 401(k) is similar to a 401(k) – except that your account is funded with after-tax dollars.

This means that you pay taxes on your income before you contribute to your retirement plan, yet you make tax-free withdrawals during your retirement years.

An IRA, on the other hand, is an individual retirement account. There are two main types: traditional IRA and Roth IRA. A traditional IRA is funded with pre-tax dollars while a Roth IRA is funded with taxed dollars. The main difference is whether you’ll pay taxes when you contribute (Roth IRA) or when you retire (traditional IRA).

Regardless of which option you choose, an IRA can be used as a separate, alternative retirement savings tool or it can be used in addition to your 401(k) plan.

The annual contribution limit for an IRA is $6,000 if you’re under 50 and $7,000 if you’re over 50. There are also income limits to be eligible to contribute to an IRA.

How Much Should You Contribute To Your 401(k)?

After recognizing the importance of 401(k) plan, your next question may be: How much should I contribute year after year.

The amount you put into your account depends on your retirement goals. So, think about when you want to retire and how much you’ll need to live on each year.

Fidelity recommends saving ten times your income by the time you hit 67. To do this, you’ll need to save around 25% of your income each year starting in your mid-20s. This 25% savings rate may sound high, but it includes 401(k) contributions, an employer match, cash savings, and debt repayment. Remember: You can always adjust your 401(k) contributions depending on your age and current situation.

If you can’t afford to max out your retirement account each year, you can still aim to contribute enough to get your employer match if it’s offered. This is (practically) free money that you don’t want to leave on the table. So, assess your situation every six to 12 months to see if you can increase your contributions over time.

The great thing about a 401(k) plan is that you don’t see the money you contribute so you won’t miss it much.

What Does It Mean to Be Vested in Your 401(k) Retirement Plan?

The term ‘vesting’ means ownership.

Being 100% vested means that you own your entire 401(k) balance and it can’t be forfeited or taken back by your employer for any reason.

Some employers, however, don’t give you full ownership of your 401(k) match dollars right away. For example, your employer may require you to be on the job for at least three years before you can be 100% vested in your 401(k) balance.

This means that if you leave your employer before that three year mark, you could lose some of the match contributions.

When Can You Get Your Retirement Money?

Generally, you’ll want to wait until you’re 59 ½ to start withdrawing money from your 401(k). Why? Because if you withdraw money before that age, you may face a 10% early withdrawal penalty from the IRS. This means you may have to pay taxes on any amounts you cash out (since you contributed pre-tax dollars).

However, there are some cases where you can avoid the penalty fee. Here are some of these situations:

  • Withdrawing funds as a down payment on your first home purchase
  • Unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income
  • Education expenses that fall under a ‘hardship withdrawal

If possible, it’s best to avoid early withdrawals to avoid any chance of receiving a penalty.

The Wrap-Up

A 401(k) plan is a great retirement tool that can help you save money to retire comfortably.

When it comes to deciding how much to contribute, look at your budget and determine how much money you can save. If you can get an employer match, try to contribute enough to get the full match and be mindful of vesting rules.

And remember: It’s important to start somewhere and set goals to contribute more over time.

 

How to Turn Your Side Hustle into a Full-time Gig

Fifty percent of millennials have a side gig, according to a study by Experian.

This is often the perfect way to jumpstart your financial goals, including debt freedom, moving into your own apartment, or funding that dream vacation. A side hustle can also be a big motivator to launching a full-time business and achieving financial freedom.

To help you learn more, take a look at seven tips to turn your side hustle into a full-time gig.

1. Be Realistic

The truth is: Not every side job can be turned into a full-time hustle. For example, mowing your neighbors’ lawns every weekend probably works really well as a side gig, generating a few hundred dollars a month. But you would need to put in a lot more effort to transform this concept into a full-fledged business. For example, you’d need to consider advertising costs, the seasonality of a lawncare business, and the existing competition in the market.

Putting together a financial forecast to determine your total revenues and expenses is another important part of your research at this stage.

2. Stop Treating Your Side Business Like a Hobby

Leah Gervais, founder of Urban 20 Something, says that if you want to scale your side hustle into a full-time gig, you need to treat your side business “like your job, because it is.”

“This means scheduling out your time to work on it and making those meetings unbreakable. Be honest with yourself; this will be an intense time period with long hours and lots of sacrifices. But it’s just a chapter. The more dedicated you are, the faster you’ll be able to make your side hustle your full-time hustle,” says Gervais.

Another way to up your commitment level is to formalize your business structure. Tasha Cochran, one half of the YouTube channel One Big Happy Life, recently quit her job to pursue her blogging hustle full-time. As she noted on her website: “We became an LLC, signed a partnership agreement and started to be more strategic about what we were doing.”

3. Look for Ways to Work Smarter

A side hustle can be hard to scale but it’s not impossible. One way to grow your side hustle is to transition from a one-to-one business model to a one-to-many business model. Translation: Figure out how to earn money while you sleep!

One booming market for doing this is the e-learning industry. According to Reuters, global e-learning grew to $165.21 billion in 2015 and is expected to skyrocket to $275.10 billion by 2022.

Just be aware: In order to scale an e-learning business with a host of online courses, you do have to hustle.

For example, Robyn Parets migrated online with her branded Pretzel Kids Yoga Teacher Certification Course in 2016. Pretzel Kids still offers live trainings and kids yoga classes, but the online school allows the company to grow its reach globally. Pretzel Kids nows sells a host of courses via its online kids yoga training school, such as How to Teach Mindfulness to Kids and Yoga for Kids with Special Needs. In addition, Pretzel Kids instructors can join a membership community where they can access branded materials, download teaching resources, get booked for teaching gigs, and more, says Parets.

“The ability to offer online trainings and a membership community has been pivotal to the growth of Pretzel Kids. We also offer our trained teachers a way to immediately start their own side hustles using our curriculum,” she says.

4. Invest in Yourself

Have you ever heard the saying the best investment you can make is in yourself? This is especially applicable to scaling your side hustle because you are your biggest asset.

As a full-time entrepreneur to-be, the learning process should be a continuous one. In the early days of scaling your hustle, you might have to invest in tools and courses to beef up your skill set. For example, you may need to learn more about email marketing or social media. Yet, in the long-run, this will save you time and money.

You can also fast-track your success by finding a mentor and connecting with other like-minded people who can help your business thrive.

5. Wait Until Your Side Hustle Earnings are Consistent

Before you make the leap from full-time employee to full-time entrepreneur, your side hustle earnings should either equal your current income or be sufficient enough to cover your living expenses.

Don’t forget to include a line item in your new budget for those intangible benefits that your current job provides, including health insurance, 401(k) contributions and the like. For example, if you have to say goodbye to free lunch on Fridays or free daily coffee, make sure to add these as new expenses each week.

Another tip is to wait at least a few months in order to determine whether your side business will produce consistent earnings. This is exactly what Gervais did. Once her side business started regularly bringing in more money than she made at her 9 to 5 job, she had the confidence to turn it into her full-time job. Today, her online business generates more than $10k in sales per month.

6. Boost Your Emergency Fund Before Taking the Plunge

If you have a healthy savings account, then you’ll have peace of mind to go all-in on your side business. To help you boost your emergency fund faster, you can try automating your finances.

With a Chime bank account, for example, you can save when you get paid and automatically direct a percentage of every paycheck into your Chime Savings Account. This way you can put your savings on autopilot and reach full-time entrepreneur status sooner. As a bonus, if you use your Chime Visa Debit Card to make purchases, Chime will round up each purchase you make to the nearest dollar, and transfer the round up amount right into your Savings Account.

7. Schedule in Self-Care

When you’re working to scale your side hustle into a full-time business, it’s easy to put health and wellness on the back-burner. But taking care of your physical and emotional well-being is more important than ever at this stage. The good news is: Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be as simple as scheduling in a 30-minute walk each day to get some fresh air and mental clarity, reading a book or enjoying a long bath.

Ready, Set, Go!

If transitioning your side hustle into a full-time gig is something that you’ve been on the fence about, we hope these seven tips will give you the push you need to start living your dream!

 

How Long Should You Side Hustle For?

Side hustling is a great way to make extra money. The more successful your side hustle is, the more motivated you are to continue, right? Not exactly. There are many other factors that contribute to the longevity of your side hustle.

Here’s how you can tell how long you should side hustle for.

Set a Goal If You’re Trying to Leave Your Job

If you’re side hustling in order to leave your full-time job, it’s important to set a deadline for when you’d like to leave and under which circumstances. How much do you need to earn? How many hours to do you expect to spend working?

For me, unfortunately, I had hit a breaking point with my side hustle which prompted me to leave my 9-5 and turn my side hustle into my full-time job. I was burning out from working so many hours between both jobs.

Luckily, I was earning enough money to allow myself to quit without too much worry. Still, this is something to keep in mind. If you plan on working several hours and building a business up on the side, set a goal as to when you will make the transition to full time so you know that side hustling is only temporary.

Consider What Your Short Term Goals Are

Are you side hustling just to meet a short term goal? Whether it’s to pay off debt, fund a large purchase, or to gain a new skill, get clear on why you’re side hustling so you can meet those short term goals.

Also, develop a plan for what you’ll do after you reach them.

Is Your Side Hustle Still Enjoyable?

This is a question my husband is faced with currently. He’s been side hustling with Uber for about 3 years now. He admits it’s not as enjoyable as when he first started.

In the beginning, he wanted to side hustle to help us pay for extra expenses, pay off his car loan, and save more for the downpayment on our home.

We have met all of those goals and he’s gotten to a place where he’d rather stay home at night instead of going to drive for Uber. We could still use some extra money each month, but it seems like it’s time to switch to another side hustle.

Since you’re working on the side, you’re already putting in extra hours so you might as well do something that you enjoy and are good at. If your side hustle is no longer enj0yable and doesn’t stimulate you, you’ll lose motivation and it will feel more like a chore.

Consider Working in Seasonal Spurts

If you plan to make your side hustle a long-term venture, continue working is seasonal spurts. That way, you’re expected to be “on” and working all the time. Working 7 days per week is not sustainable for anyone long-term.

Choose a side hustle that’s flexible and allows you to pick up or drop hours as you see fit. For example, you may want to work more hours during the summer when work at your main job is slow. A seasonal side business can be more sustainable because it allows you time to rest.

Summary

Side hustles are often great to have, but all good things tend to come to an end. Be intention when deciding what type of side hustle you’ll try and what your goals are. Consider doing flexible work and allowing yourself the freedom to slow down or speed up production as you see fit.

 

How to Save Money on a Nurse’s Salary

Nurses perform a valuable service in hospitals, doctor’s offices, schools and other places where on-site medical care is needed.

Being a nurse often means long hours in a high stress job. In return, registered nurses earn a median annual salary of $71,730, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That sounds good, right? After all, it’s more than the median household income of $61,372.

But, there’s more to the story. Namely, 76% of nurses owe undergraduate student loans, while 69% owe graduate school loans. Among nurses who attended graduate school and used loans to finance their education, the majority owe between $40,000 and $54,999.

When you couple this student debt with other bills that go along with a nurse’s daily life, saving money can be a struggle.

So, in honor of National Nurses Day, we’ve put together a how-to guide to saving more money on a nurse’s salary. Take a look.

Set up direct deposit into a savings account

Your employer might offer direct deposit for your paycheck, which is great for convenience. But if you’re dumping all your money into your checking account, consider funneling some of that into a separate savings account each payday.

“Savings accounts are good for nurses because unexpected expenses can really obstruct financial plans,” says Sandy Griffin, a licensed practical nurse and quality assurance coordinator at Hospice of South Louisiana.

“Money set aside in a savings account can cover these expenses, plus provide for your future,” she says.

Griffin says saving money in a retirement account through your job is also a no-brainer. At the very least, you should be contributing enough to get the company match. Otherwise, you could miss out on free money. That’s a mistake 25% of workers make.

Pro tip: Setting up direct deposit into your savings account can keep you on track so you don’t spend the money right away. To determine how much to save, go over your monthly expenses to see if there’s anything you can trim down. Also, pick a set percentage or dollar amount you’d like to save regularly. It doesn’t have to be much to start. The key is to commit to saving consistently.

Be savvy about shopping for nursing supplies

As a nurse, there are certain things you need. Scrubs and quality footwear, for instance, can be big out of pocket costs if your employer doesn’t offer any reimbursement.

Griffin offers some tips for saving money on these items:

  • Comparison shop to find the best prices
  • Wait for sales to buy
  • Buy in bulk as much as possible

You can also look for coupons and promo codes online through sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com. Using a cash rewards credit card to pay for uniforms can also save you money. The trick is to pay your balance in full to avoid interest charges.

Ben Huber, BSN, RN and co-founder of finance blog DollarSprout, says you should plan for these costs and save throughout the year.

“Employers generally won’t provide a subsidy or stipend for uniforms or other healthcare-related clothing,” Huber says.

Pro tip: If you’re going through a pair of scrubs and/or shoes every few months, “it may be wise to consider stashing away a few hundred dollars each year in a fund specifically for uniform replacement.”

Meal plan on the job (and off)

When you’re working crazy hours as a nurse, fitting in regular meal breaks isn’t always easy. Huber says it’s tempting to hit the vending machines when you get a craving, especially if you work in a high-stress environment. He has a simple solution for curbing impulse eating while you’re at work.

“Sit down for meals prior to coming on shift and pre-pack the meals you plan to eat,” Huber says.

Pro tip: You can save more money by planning out meals and snacks for the week or the month. Base your meals around what’s on sale each week at the grocery store. Shop with a list and stick to it. And consider using money-saving apps like Ibotta to earn cash back on your supermarket trips.

Consider whether grad school is worth the investment

Getting an advanced degree can mean landing a job with a higher salary, which can help you save more money. The downside is that it can mean more student loans, so you need to weigh the financial pros and cons first.

“If you’re a nurse considering an advanced degree, think about the specific ways higher education will actually pad your pockets,” Huber says.

“Aimlessly pursuing a BSN, MSN or other advanced nursing degree is the recipe for a lot of debt without the potential payday down the road to justify the expense.”

Before you make a decision on grad school, spend time researching median nursing salaries in your state. Then, consider how you’ll pay for a degree.

Pro tip: Ask if your employer offers tuition reimbursement or student loan forgiveness as this can really help.

Start a side hustle to save more money

A side hustle can boost your income, giving you more money to save. And it’s an alternative to piling up more student loan debt if you’re considering going back to school to earn an advanced nursing degree.

“Starting a business takes less discipline than nursing school,” says David Sanchez, a registered nurse who runs two side businesses. But, he says, running a side gig requires more passion, personal sacrifice and willingness to take risks.

If you’re thinking about launching a side hustle to supplement your nursing salary, first ask yourself how much time you can put into it. You may only be able to dedicate a few hours a week if you’re working long rotations.

Then, brainstorm ideas for things you can do in your spare time to make extra money. For example, if you’re a good writer you can try freelancing for medical blogs or websites. Or you might want to do something that’s not nursing-related, like dog-sitting or selling on Etsy.

Pro tip: Pick something you can make time for, something you’ll enjoy and something that will help you earn more money.

You can indeed save money on a nurse’s salary

If you’re a nurse, finding ways to save money can be challenging but it’s not impossible.

These tips can give you a good starting place to help you increase your savings. Are you ready to give saving more money a try?

 

How to Break Into a New Career Field in Your 30s

Some say that 30 is the magic age when it comes to getting serious about your life and career.

This is when you start to level up your savings for retirement, think about buying a home, and climb the career ladder. In fact, turning 30 will likely get you thinking about whether you’re happy in your current career. If not, it may be time for a change.

With these 6 steps, you can overcome intimidation and start a new career as you move into your 30s. Welcome to adulting.

Step 1: Figure Out Why You Want to Switch Careers

You may know you want to switch careers, but it’s important to narrow down why you feel this way. Is the work you do no longer fulfilling? Have you changed your interests or gained a desire to advance your skillset? Do you no longer enjoy your industry for different reasons?

Figuring out why you want to change careers will help you determine what you’re looking for in your new career. Ideally, what you lack currently should be placed on the priority list when it comes to choosing a new career.

Step 2: Be Honest About What’s Holding You Back

Have you been wanting to switch careers for some time now? Sometimes, we get so comfortable in our jobs that we tend to suppress any thoughts or feelings about moving on to something different.

In other words, the idea of switching careers after you turn 30 may seem risky or like too much work. Yet, if you want to explore a new field, you need to get past this step and identify the barriers that are holding you back.

Sometimes the idea of starting over or going back to school can be the biggest barrier. It’s up to you to break down these obstacles. Instead, think about what life would be like if you were able to start an entirely new profession.

Step 3: Assess Your New Career Path

Now that you know why you want to switch careers and what’s holding you back, it’s time to decide what you want to do.

To start, determine what type of education or experience you’ll need and how much it would cost to obtain the right credentials. Also, research current and future job prospects, along with expected pay and benefits. Depending on the type of new job, you may need to make some drastic changes. For example, going from a copywriter to an article editor may not be that big of a shift. But transitioning from an accountant to a nurse would require some significant changes, including additional education and training.

Always make sure that you keep your return on investment in mind. For example, if you’re going to go back to school to get a new license or certification, develop a specific career plan that will help you earn back that investment shortly after you land a new position and start getting paid.

Step 4: Update Your Resume

One of the most intimidating things about breaking into a new career in your 30s is that you’ll need to update your resume so that it’s relevant to job prospects in your new field.

I’d advise keeping all your past job history on your resume because this may be valuable experience. However, you can also make changes that will highlight specific responsibilities you had or accomplishments you made that will be relevant to your new career.

Skills like customer service, effective communication, organization and problem-solving are all generally valuable no matter what career field you choose.

You can also start rebuilding your experience by picking up volunteer or contract positions in your new desired field.

Step 5: Lean on Your Network

All the years you spent networking will certainly pay off when it’s time to change careers. Sure, you probably built your professional network based on your current career but you never know who other people know and how these contacts can help you.

Tell friends, family, and colleagues about your career shift and ask if they have any leads or can keep an eye out for opportunities they may come across. Start attending local networking events or meetups geared toward people in your new career field. And, update your LinkedIn profile to reflect your past and present skills and education.

Step 6: Prepare for a Financial Shift

Finally, it’s crucial that you be mindful of the financial changes you may experience during this transition phase. You may have to take a pay cut when you switch careers.

If you have to go back to school, you’ll have to determine how you’ll pay for tuition and make your loan payments. In the worst case scenario, where a lay-off prompts you to switch careers, you’ll have to figure out how to make ends meet for the time being. This may entail cutting expenses or picking up a side hustle.

In addition, it’s best not to make any hasty moves when you’re switching careers. Continue to work at your current job and build up a solid savings cushion on the side. If you have to go back to school, consider taking online or night classes so you can still work during the day.

Break Into a New Career Field by Going in with a Plan

When you first pursued your current career, you likely had a plan in place. Do the same thing this time around – except with a more detailed plan.

At the end of the day, it will be worth it when you start a new and exciting career that you truly enjoy and find fulfilling.

 

Are Alternative Education Programs Worth the Investment?

The numbers aren’t pretty. In 2017, the average college graduate had an average monthly student loan payment of $393. In 2018, outstanding student loan debt among all Americans stood at $1.44 trillion, and 12% of that debt was at least 90 days past-due.

With numbers like that, it’s no wonder you might be rethinking getting a four-year degree. After all, it’s not uncommon to hear about people taking out crippling student loans only to go right back to working at Starbucks.

Yet, there is another option — alternative education programs. These can be trickier to cobble together since you may not have access to an easy pipeline of federal student loans (for better or for worse), but it can be done. We’ll give you the scoop on some common programs, and how you can make them work for you and your bank account.

Coding Bootcamps

Have you heard of coding “bootcamps”? These programs are designed to fast-track you to an entirely new career in the tech industry in as little as three months. And, did you know that these bootcamps offer the potential of making a six-figure salary right out of the gate. (It’s true: my husband just got a high salary offer after finishing a General Assembly coding bootcamp.)

Coding bootcamps aren’t without their risks, however. They’re generally expensive. For example, Full Stack Academy costs up to $17,910 for a 13-week program, and General Assembly charges up to $13,950 for its program. These courses may offer pay-in-full discounts, scholarships, income sharing agreements, or personal loans as a way to pay the tuition bill if you can’t pony up the cash on your own.

It’s important to thoroughly vet these programs before you attend, and don’t just trust the statistics that the companies publicize. Instead, ask to speak with real graduates who’ve gotten jobs, and ask about the outcomes of their classmates as well to get a more realistic view of what you can — or cannot — expect.

Start a Business

Sure, your grandpa may have told you to start your own business like he did instead of going to college. These days, however, you don’t necessarily have to go it alone.

There are many programs out there dedicated to helping budding entrepreneurs launch startups. These outfits — including accelerators, incubators or startup accelerators – can provide the technical expertise, coaching, office space, and even funding to launch your business successfully.

Typically, you apply for these programs, and need to be accepted to get in. Some are run by universities (meaning one or more people on the team need to be an enrolled student), and others are private groups. Accelerators typically make money by taking a stake in your business (i.e., equity), so they have a vested interest in helping your company succeed.

Associate Degrees or Certificates

Who said you need a four-year degree to succeed? Maybe you only need two years of college, or less. The reality is that many professions only require a couple years or less of coursework, including:

  • Radiation therapist
  • Physical therapist assistant
  • Dental hygienist
  • Emergency medical technician (EMT)
  • HVAC technician

The advantage of these career prep programs is that they’re often in high demand, meaning your odds are good for getting a job. You can also use student loans to pay for your education, but you won’t have nearly as much debt coming out of school as you would if you graduate from a four-year-degree program.

Join the Military

It’s true — Uncle Sam wants you. Yet, careers in the military can come at a high personal cost. Depending on your MOS (Military Occupation Specialty — i.e. your job within the military), you may see active combat in war zones and be deployed away from your family for long periods of time. You may also not get to choose where you live — the military will decide for you. You could end up living in a exotic location abroad, or in a cornfield in Iowa.

The rewards, however, are equally as great. You’ll be paid for the entire duration you’re in the military, including while you’re in training (and you can even take these skills with you to new jobs if you leave the military.)

You can earn extra pay in the way of signing bonuses if you choose certain specialties that may require you to be in a combat zone, a high cost-of-living area, or outside the continental U.S. The military may also provide housing and health care for you and your family, GI Bill benefits, subsidized housing, and retirement benefits.

Trade Apprenticeships

Since so many people are being pushed to go to college these days, there’s actually a serious shortage of jobs in the trades. This includes construction workers, plumbers, electricians, pipefitters, factory workers, and other physical jobs. From 2016-2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects openings for another 180,500 construction workers.

This leaves a wide-open opportunity for you: Jobs are in high demand and salaries are equally high to match. Even better, many trade unions offer apprenticeship trainings for an affordable price or even for free. You may not be paid while you’re actually in class (which generally lasts for a short time), but you’ll be paid while you’re learning on the job.

You Don’t Necessarily Need a Four-Year Degree

Don’t let anyone push you into a four-year degree if that’s not what you want. The truth is that there are plenty of other options out there these days, and more are springing up each year.

College used to be a guaranteed way to get a leg up. But unless you have a concrete plan or know exactly what you want to do, it can also be a liability, especially if you have to balance savings with debt payments. Instead, set your sights on what matters most to you in your career — whether that includes college or not.

 

The Most Valuable Career Skills That Will Help You Get the Raise

Once you’ve landed a job that you enjoy and you’re excelling at work, these questions may pop up: “How can I get a raise or promotion, and what skills should I master to climb the career ladder?”

Whether you’re in an entry-level job or you’re a more experienced career professional, there are a number of skills that will help you get a raise and develop your career over the long-term.

Take a look at four top skills to help you build a career in nearly any field, boost your earnings, and save more money in your bank account.

1. Improve communication

Do you ever feel like your manager or co-workers don’t understand what you’re trying to say? If so, you may want to work on your communication skills.

Communication is a vital skill to develop in any work situation, but especially when you’re trying to progress in your career.

“We all hear that the most important thing is to become a good communicator, and it really is,” says Jane Scudder, coach and founder of The New Exec.

Scudder says that often an employee will communicate with a manager by jumping right into the details, without understanding that the manager needs to see the situation’s big picture first. She says this is a big communication mistake.

“Don’t start with the details. Start with the bigger picture and let the details follow.”

Before talking to your boss, ask yourself: What does she care about and how can I communicate this in a way that makes sense to her? Once you know this, you can then dive into the details.

2. Manage your time

Time management has been one of the top skills on the LinkedIn list of in-demand soft skills for multiple years in a row. It’s easy to understand why. No one wants an employee who shows up late or isn’t able to meet deadlines. And, a survey of employers found that time management skills were one of the most difficult skills to find among MBA graduates.

Luckily, time management doesn’t need to be a difficult skill to develop. There are a lot of small changes you can make to see improvements in the way you manage your time. An easy place to start is to identify your priorities ahead of time.

Time management expert Laura Vanderkam suggests that if you work a Monday to Friday schedule, you should spend time on Friday afternoon setting your priorities for the upcoming week. Plan to tackle the most important priorities on Monday or Tuesday so that if other things pop up during the week, you’ll already have completed your most important tasks.

3. Network

Networking can get a bad rap, but it’s a skill that will help you move up the career ladder and earn more money. Thankfully, improving your networking skills doesn’t have to mean forcing yourself to go to networking events – if that’s not your thing. But skipping events doesn’t mean you can skip out on mastering this skill.

Learning how to network takes practice and preparation. If someone has agreed to meet you for coffee, Scudder advises sending them a calendar invite, picking a meeting location that is convenient for that person, and planning discussion points ahead of time.

“Come prepared and be ready to answer the question, ‘How can I help you?’ This is your moment,” she says.

And, don’t forget to offer your help as well. We often think that networking with someone further along career-wise makes this a one-way street. Scudder says this isn’t true. Think of ways you can offer up guidance or resources and, if you’re truly at a loss, you can always ask a simple question: “How can I help you?”

The ability to network isn’t just important in the early years of your career. In a survey of companies hiring MBA graduates, the ability to build and maintain a network was one of the most sought after skills.

4. Expand your technical skillset

Soft skills, like the ones listed above, are indeed important when it comes to career advancement. Yet, it’s also valuable to continue expanding your technical skillset.

Technical skills make it easier for you to raise your hand and take a new opportunity when it comes along. Not only will this help you get the raise, but this can ensure your skills stay relevant in the ever-changing job market.

Just how quickly are jobs changing? According to an estimate from the World Economic Forum, 65% of children in primary school today will work in a job type that doesn’t currently exist. And some of the most in-demand jobs didn’t exist 10 years ago (like app developer and social media manager).

While no one can predict exactly which skills will be in demand in the future, LinkedIn has a list of the most in-demand hard skills that employers are currently looking for. Topping the list are cloud computing, artificial intelligence, analytical reasoning, and people management.

Fortunately, learning these new skills doesn’t always require going back to school. If you’re looking to develop some of these hard skills, there are plenty of online resources that can help. For example, online courseware sites like Udemy and Coursera have affordable options that cover a broad range of topics.

Are you ready to uplevel your career?

Once you’ve honed these four skills and landed your raise, it’s time to celebrate!

But don’t get ahead of yourself by letting your newfound money slip through your fingers. Start creating a financially secure future for yourself by creating a budget and automatically saving your hard-earned cash.

 

5 Ways to Help Bridge the Wage Gap

What’s better than watching your hard-earned dollars hit your bank account on payday?

Not much – except that if you’re a woman, checking your direct deposit pay stub can be a letdown. Why? Because the gender pay gap – or the gap between what men and women earn – is very much alive and well. This means that you could be earning more money for doing the same job you do right now.

This is why it’s important that we understand the premise behind Equal Pay Day and learn how to raise awareness about paycheck inequality. Equal Pay Day, which landed on April 2 2019, symbolizes how far into the year women had to work in order to earn what men earned during 2018. This means women had to work for three more months just to earn the same amount as their male counterparts!

How Wide Is the Gender Pay Gap?

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women in the U.S. who work full-time year-round make 80% of what men do.

When earnings for men and women are broken down further, by ethnicity or for certain professions, the gap becomes more pronounced. Hispanic and Latina women, for example, face the biggest gap, earning just 53 percent of what the average white man does. In terms of career paths, the gap is widest among financial managers, with women earning 35 percent less than their male colleagues.

“The less money women earn over the course of their careers, the less money they’re able to save for retirement,” says financial coach Maggie Germano.

“To make matters worse, women live longer than men, so they have less money to stretch over a longer period of time,” says Germano.

The gender pay gap is closing, but slowly. In fact, it’ll take about 200 years for the gap to close completely, if earnings keep growing at the current pace. What does this mean for women who are trying to build up their savings and plan for the future now? Germano recommends that women start by negotiating a higher salary.

Here are five other ways to just say ‘no’ to unfair pay:

1. Dress the Part

Red is the unofficial color code of Equal Pay Day. It’s meant to symbolize how the gender pay gap keeps women in the red financially when it comes to what they earn. Wearing red to the office and encouraging your co-workers and friends to do the same is a simple way to show solidarity for women workers and the equal pay movement as a whole.

2. Let Lawmakers Know You’re In Favor of Equal Pay

Closing the gender pay gap for good in the U.S. becomes easier when there are laws in place that require equal pay for men and women across the board. It’s up to legislators to introduce bills that can make these kinds of laws a reality. This is an opportunity for you to make a difference.

“You can lobby your politicians to pass equal pay laws,” Germano says.

“Individuals can make change at the micro level, but decision makers can make change at the macro level,” she says.

If you don’t know who your local and state legislators are, get to know them. From there, you can launch an email or letter writing campaign asking them to back the passage of federal laws for equal pay. If you want to do more than just write letters, you can create a petition championing equal pay and submit it to the White House.

3. Encourage Your Employer to Open Up About Pay

Asking your cubicle neighbor how much he earns is generally considered taboo. But you can get a sense of the pay scale by going straight to the top.

Specifically, this means asking your employer to be transparent about compensation for different roles within the company. When pay scales are transparent, this can help raise awareness about what does or doesn’t constitute equal pay.

But don’t be surprised if you’re met with some resistance. Since 2010, the percentage of employers that disclose pay information on a wide scale to employees has been shrinking steadily. In a 2019 survey, just eight percent of companies said they planned to share pay ranges and employee pay information with all their employees.

Still, it’s worth making the effort. Reach out to your HR department and ask what pay range details are available. And encourage your co-workers to do the same.

“The workplace is a big place for impact when the voice for disclosures is coming from the employees themselves, and in particular, the male employees, knowing they also want a fair and equal work environment,” says Kristin Hull, founder and CEO of Nia Impact Capital, a women-led registered investment advisor firm.

Hull also says that the call on the part of investors for companies to share disclosures is leading to improvements.

“Once companies decide to disclose their data, they actually take a look at it, and are more likely to make internal improvements when they’re being public about their pay gaps,” she says.

4. Give Equal Pay a Social Media Shout Out

Let your followers know you’re in favor of equal pay by launching a social media blitz.

Tweet to your lawmakers asking for equal pay legislation. Repost news articles or studies on equal pay to your feeds. Take a poll asking your followers what they think about the gender wage gap. Upload a video clip or a host a short live feed letting people know why the wage gap needs to be closed.

You can even share this article!

5. Donate for the Cause

Last but not least, you can show your support for equal pay by donating to a nonprofit that advocates for women and minority workers. It doesn’t have to be a huge donation; just something to show that you care about making the wage gap a thing of the past.

If you’re looking for organizations to donate to, consider Equal Pay Today, the National Women’s Law Center or the AAUW.

How Will You Show Support for Equal Pay?

Are you ready to do your part to close the gender wage gap? You can start by using these five tips to help women earn and save more money.

 

How Women Can Get the Salary They Deserve

Have you heard? Women still get paid less than men.

In fact, Economic Policy Institute reports that women earn an average of 22% less per hour than men — even when controlling for race, education, experience and location.

Although a myriad of societal and economic factors contribute to the wage gap, you have direct control over one important thing: the amount of money you ask for. According to a recent survey by Robert Half, only 46% of men and 34% of women negotiated their starting salaries. And, Glassdoor estimates that by not negotiating, the average worker leaves $7,500 — or 13.3% of their salary — on the table.

While you can’t go back in time and negotiate your starting pay, you can aim to get a raise this year. Here’s advice from three salary negotiation experts on how to get paid what you deserve.

Determine What You’re Bringing to the Table

Before asking for a raise, Kathlyn Hart, financial empowerment coach and creator of Be Brave Get Paid, says you need to figure out why you deserve one.

“You can’t just say, ‘Oh I work hard,’ because everyone works hard,” she says.

Specifically, you should ask yourself:

  • What are your job duties? How are you excelling beyond them?
  • How has your work — either by cutting costs or boosting profits — improved the company’s bottom line?

“At the end of the day, a raise can only be merited because you’re helping your company move further,” she says. “Or because you’re holding responsibilities above and beyond your current job description.”

Jacqueline Twillie, a negotiation strategist, also recommends aligning your contributions with your company’s quarterly and annual priorities.

“Get clear on how your work plays into the overall objectives. Managers really want to know that employees are buying in,” says Twillie.

Communicate With Your Boss

If you have regular meetings with your supervisor, get straight to the point — and acknowledge that you’d like a future raise or promotion, says Ashley Paré, the CEO and founder of Own Your Worth.

For example, asking your boss: “What else do you need from me…to advocate on my behalf?” will give you “clarity on where they stand in supporting you and your performance.”

Twillie agrees. “When you’re in a one-on-one with your boss, tell her about your career aspirations and find out what it will take for you to get there,” she says.

“Then level up in those areas, clearly communicating along the way that you’re expecting a promotion or raise.”

Be sure to amplify any positive feedback, too.

“Accept the compliment and share it with your direct supervisor. If you downplay your contributions, so will everyone else,” Twillie says.

Do Your Research

Once you’ve taken the necessary actions to merit a raise, it’s time to determine your target number.

Websites like Salary.com, Payscale, and Glassdoor will give you a salary range based on your industry, job title, education, and years of experience. To pinpoint where you fall, consider the amount of value you bring to the company.

“As women, we’ll naturally cut ourselves a little bit short,” says Hart.

“I always encourage [upping] your expectations a little bit. For any salary negotiation, you’re always going to start higher and come down. You don’t want to negotiate against yourself before the negotiation has even happened,” she says.

Prepare Your Case

If you’re afraid of negotiation, the best armor you have is information.

Paré suggests asking peers, mentors, and other leaders how your organization generally handles raises and promotions. If you can grab coffee with someone who recently went through the process, even better.

“The more you know up front, the less stressful the experience will be,” says Paré.

Hart advises preparing a one-pager that outlines your accomplishments and your competitive research. Twillie recommends including metrics that are important to your manager, too. (You can determine those by paying attention to what they reference in emails and meetings.)

“Negotiation is a conversation — not a battle — and the more information you’ve gathered prior to the discussion, the better-informed [case] you’ll be able to make,” says Twillie.

Practice Your Pitch

Whatever you do, don’t wing it with your ask.

“Write out exactly what you plan to say in the meeting, then practice the pitch out loud. Feeling confident is key,” says Paré.

Both Paré and Twillie suggest recording yourself on your phone, then listening to the playback and tweaking your delivery.

Hart also urges raise-seeking women to “look for ways to negotiate outside your job.” At a restaurant, for example, you could ask for a side of ranch after your server has already come to the table. Or you could ask for a slight alteration to your Starbucks order — after it has already been rung up.

She says pushing your boundaries in these small ways will help you conquer the “fear of asking for more” that nearly all of us have.

Crush Your Meeting

It’s almost showtime. To schedule a conversation with your boss, Hart suggests saying: “I want to set up a meeting to talk about my future with the company.”

Then, once you’re in the meeting, avoid diving straight into the salary talk.

Instead, Hart says you should discuss the following:

  • What you’ve accomplished over the past year
  • How much you’ve enjoyed being a part of the company
  • What you’re most proud of
  • What you’re excited to tackle next

“When a company gives you a raise, it’s not just based on your past,” explains Hart.

“It’s also on your promise for what you’re delivering in the future… [Your manager] is really looking to not only reward what you’ve done, but also show you they’re looking forward to you continuing to contribute,” she says.

Only after highlighting your accomplishments and goals should you ask something like: “Moving forward, what could my compensation look like?”

Usually, Hart says it’s better to leave the discussion open and see what your manager offers. If, however, you’re trying to justify a big leap in pay, then she suggests starting from that high number and seeing where she can meet you.

Accept Your Fears

Still nervous? That’s totally normal.

To combat your anxiety, Paré suggests identifying your biggest fear. Are you worried about “ruining” your relationship with your boss? Are you afraid you don’t deserve more?

“You’re capable of handling any outcome. So face your fear and take action anyway,” says Paré.

To push yourself, imagine how it would feel to pay 10% more on your student loans each month, or to accumulate thousands of dollars in extra savings over the next few years.

Hart also notes that, when you make an ask, you’ll nearly always be successful in some way. Even if you don’t get the raise you were looking for, you’ll gain the knowledge or confidence to land one in the future.

“If you don’t ask, the answer is always no,” she says, adding that it’s important to “be brave.”

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