Monday, November 18, 2013

Change

This is an guest post from the Personal Finance Blog Debt Discipline:

It’s that time of year again when most companies open their annual enrollment period for employee benefits. The time when the employee has the ability to change his/her benefit elections for the upcoming year. Things like medical coverage, dental coverage, life insurance, flexible spending accounts, etc. Now with the affordable care act in place I believe many of us will be facing changes in the way of cost increases in our medical benefits. Those benefits package should be arriving shortly, it not already and you will be able to see just how big of an impact it will make in your finances. Now depending on when you receive a merit increase these changes could actually reduce your take home pay come the New Year. Keep this in mind as you plan ahead.

change


Grass isn’t Always Greener

How many times have you heard this phase as it relates to the workplace? Often I’m sure, I know I have. All jobs and companies are not created equal. Some require travel, being on call, working extra hours, working in dangerous environments, etc. Company benefits vary as well, number of paid days off, cost of medical coverage, perks offered, bonus, etc. There are a number of variables that go into the company’s ability to offer you the employee these benefits, their size, their revenue, the position, the job responsibilities, etc. So is the grass greener on the other side? It’s difficult to say because most positions don’t equal one another.

Managing By Fear

Change is inevitable, I get that. My family and I will adapt to possible changes in cost or coverage in our medical benefits in the coming year. What frustrates me about the changes is the spin that is put on them internally at companies. Statements like “no other companies pay as much towards benefits as we do.” Well this is simply not the case. I have done a quick informal survey of some family and friends and found a wide range of benefits cost. Some better, some worst. It varies widely, so to make a statement and claim it as fact is dishonest. I would much rather hear the facts. There will be changes this year, we expect increases in cost, depending on your benefit plan cost increase will vary. As the workplace continues to evolve and employers look to do more with less pushing employee boundaries it’s important that “you’re lucky to have a job” attitude doesn’t rule the workplace.

What’s your current state of benefits at your job? Are you expecting big changes in 2014? Do you ever fell like you not getting honest answers at your workplace?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Money Songs

This is an guest post from the Personal Finance Blog Debt Discipline:

I have been inspired by some recent posts over at Budgets are Sexy outlining some lyrical lessons from two recent pop song hits. It got me thinking about other songs about money that might help motivate and inspire you. Here’s my list money, business, work songs come to mind:  

Money for Nothing – Dire Straits (1985)
Best lyrics:
Now look at them yo-yo's that's the way you do it You play the guitar on the MTV That ain't workin' that's the way you do it Money for nothin' and chicks for free
Takin’ Care Of Business – Bachman Turner Overdrive (1973)
Best lyrics:
You can get to work by nine And start your slaving job to get your pay If you ever get annoyed Look at me I'm self-employed I love to work at nothing all day
Gold Digger – Kanye West (2005)
 
Best lyrics:
(She gives me money) Now I ain't sayin' she a gold digger (when I'm in need) But she ain't messin' with no broke n…… (She gives me money)
Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money) – Pet Shop Boys (1985)
 Best lyrics:
I've got the brains, you've got the looks Let's make lots of money You've got the brawn, I've got the brains Let's make lots of money
Money – Pink Floyd (1973)
 If the cash register and coin sounds effects were not enough.

Best lyrics:
Money, get away Get a good job with more pay and your O.K. Money it's a gas Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash New car, caviar, four star daydream, Think I'll buy me a football team
She Works Hard for the Money – Donna Summer (1983)
Best lyrics:
She works hard for the money So hard for it honey She works hard for the money So you better treat her right
U2 – Silver & Gold (1989)

No real tie to money within the song lyrics, as the title would suggest.
Just one of my favorite bands of all time and I have some cool pictures to share. money songs money songs

What’s your favorite themed money, business, or work song?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Frugal money habits to incorporate - Tips on planning a budget and getting out of debt

This is an guest post from the Personal Finance Blog Debt Discipline:

[Guest author today – Michelle Blackmore - Freelance Financial Writer]

So, are you up to your eyeballs in credit card debt? With credit cards easily available, credit card debt is too commonplace. There are different circumstances that lead to debt and one of the most common reason behind this is irresponsible financial planning and financial ignorance. They say ignorance is bliss but when it comes to managing your finances, this is not at all true. Most debt situations can be rectified with effective financial planning and intense effort through a long period of time and hence if you stay focused towards your debt reduction efforts, you can easily remain on the right track. Although it is possible to consolidate credit card debt yet this is certainly not the ultimate panacea to your soaring debt woes. Without adopting a frugal life, it is never possible to save money and accumulate enough funds to repay debt. So, have a look at the ways in which you can adopt a frugal lifestyle and stay out of debt.

Systematize your debts

You should make a chart of each and every outstanding credit card debt in order from the smallest to the largest debt amount. Then you shouldtry to snowball your debts by repaying the smaller amount first and then concentrate on repaying the next debt with the second highest principal balance. As you see the smallest debt amount being repaid first, you will be motivated to repay your debt even sooner.

Stop using your credit cards

If you don’t want to keep incurring debt time and again, you should close all ways of incurring further debt. Make sure you stop using your credit cards as without this, it is almost impossible to control your expenses. Credit cards are the main reason behind the soaring financial worries among the consumers and hence you should avoid using your cards as much as possible. Instead of carrying your cards, you can carry cash in your wallet so that you stop shopping when you exhaust your cash.

Pay more than the minimum monthly payment

The credit card company might tell you that it is okay with making just the minimum monthly payment but you should be aware of the fact that the longer time you take to payoff the principal balance, the more will be the interest rate that you will accumulate on the debt account. So, try your best to save money and pay more than the minimum monthly payment so as to get rid of debt sooner.

Delay all those unnecessary purchases

If you don’t want to fall further into debt, you should delay all those unnecessary purchases which you can certainly do without. Make a list of all those expenses that are necessary for you and all those that you simply can’t go without. Postpone all those unnecessary expenses so that you may have enough to save and get out of debt with. Therefore, when you’re wondering about the ways in which you can get out of debt and also lead a frugal lifestyle, you may follow the above mentioned steps. Stay on the right track and get out of debt without having to file bankruptcy.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Time Management

This is an original post from the Personal Finance Blog Debt Discipline:

I’m in a leadership role at my day job. I have direct reports and responsibility for staff reviews, feedback, coaching, time management, etc typical things that you might expect for some in a role like this. The group I run is a 24/7 operations group. I recently had a staff member give me his two week notice. After many years with the company he was moving on to a new role with a new company. He thanked me for his time. I wished him well, explained that we never want to lose anyone, but would not want to hold anyone back from a better opportunity. I also explained the process of leaving the company. The exit interview and what to expect as far as last pay check, unused time etc. This was a general overview on my part and I explained that our human resources department would go over these in far greater detail. He handed me his official letter of resignation and he left. Reading over the letter I realized that he was not giving the company full 2 weeks notice, more like a week and a half. I was able to work it out with other schedules to cover, so all in all not a big deal. On his final days, 3 hours before his shift he sent an e-mail stating that he has unused personal hours and would be taking them for his last shift. Not a huge deal as we have other coverage, but didn’t leave a good last impression with me or others in the group. This event got me thinking about the overall balance between work and personal life.



Time Away from Work 


 My company offers a variety of paid time off during each year. He’s the breakdown.
  • Vacation Time – as many as 4 week or 200 hours per year depending on your length of employment.
  • Sick Time – as many as 10 days for 80 hours per year depending on your length of employment.
  • Personal Time - as many as 3 days for 30 hours per year depending on your length of employment.
  • FML – as much as 3 month or 120 paid based on circumstance.
  • Short Term Disability and Long Term Disability – based on length of employment you are entitled to % of your pay.
As you can see there are many options to cover time away from work given any number of reasons. Vacation time is the only time at my company that is allowed to be carried over year to year, Unused Sick and Personal is lost and reset each year. These 3 are accrued monthly during the year.

Balance 

I usually do not use all of my accrued time within a given year. I often give sick time back and carry vacation time over year to year. I try and be flexible with staff with their request as I understand that life happens, and unexpected things will pop up from time to time. I myself will occasionally take a sick day or as I like to call them a mental health day when I need a break to reboot myself for a day. I have experienced staff that always seems to come up with the last minute, need to leave early, or day off request. When these request become patterns that is when I begin to question their validity. I have no idea at what rate I accrue my vacation, personal or sick time, but I have seen staff members who do, down to the hour. Who will put request in for vacation in advanced of having the hours banked already. When I would question it they would say oh by that time I will have enough hours. This type of work ethic makes me questions ones dedication and make we wonder if they have ever heard of the term career limiting move. My job provides for my family, and my salary is the biggest wealth building tool I have. I do try and maintain a health balance between work and personal life. The concept of using ever bit of time and counting your hours to your next vacation is foreign to me on a personal level. Even more so that I’m in a leadership role I’d much rather have dedicated staff members than someone who counting their hour to the next day off. If you are truly that unhappy, why not go find something else to do?

How many paid days off do you receive from your job? How do you maintain a health balance between work and personal life? Have you ever been so unhappy with a job that you use every bit of vacation, sick, personal time once you had access to it?

Friday, November 1, 2013

What I've Learned About Personal Finance

This is an original post from the Personal Finance Blog Debt Discipline:

We started to clean up our finances some 40 months ago. We had hit rock bottom and I realized this over vacation planning for our summer family trip in spring of 2010. We had no cash savings and had basically maxed out four credit cards and a line of credit. We were unable to borrow any more money, so I broke the news to the family that there would be no trip that summer, instead we would stay local and enjoy our first staycation. This was probably the best thing that ever happened to us, because if we didn’t hit bottom we would have continued to live beyond our means. We enjoyed our week of day trips and made the best of it. After that week we began our journey of paying off $109,000 in consumer debt. This is what I’ve learned about personal finance.

Personal Finance Blogs

I first hit the internet to begin researching information on how to get out of debt. I was hoping to find some secret that I had overlooked for years. There had to be some get out of debt fast scheme that after graduating high school with honors and picking up my B.A. in communications that someone failed to let me in on. One of the first personal finance blogs I came across was “Punch Debt in the Face” I read as many posts as I could that first night stumbling across this blog, from there it lead me to “Get Rich Slowly” and “Budgets are Sexy.” These blogs gave me so much information in the first few days of my research. It was very clear that there was no secret or special plan, just some simple common sense rules.

Moved on to Books

After reading as many personal finance blogs as I could, I moved on to books on the subject. One name that was very popular on the blogs was Dave Ramsey. I picked up his book the “The Total Money Makeover” at my local library and read it cover to cover in about 3 days. I felt very stupid after finishing the book. At 40 years old I realized I had really made bad decisions with money for most of my life. The principles for staying out of debt were right in front of me and I didn’t need to have a college degree or any special education for that matter to make better decisions.

Getting Organized

I quickly got our budget together and began to apply the debt snowball technique to our outstanding debt. My wife and I reviewed the plan and agreed on it. It wasn’t just that easy; it took some time for my wife to fully come on board with the plan. I explained to her if we made the short term sacrifice, what it would mean for us long term. It would mean a lot of saying “No” to our children, family and friends for now, but eventually being able to say “Yes” to just about anything we wanted. The first year was tough, but we have managed to survive, so far paying off over $80,000 to date.

Motivation

There are times when we want to go back to our old habits, but we keep the end goal in mind. Having $2k worth of surplus cash each month sure does sound appealing. That is one big motivator. We stay sharp by reading personal finance blogs, and listening to Dave Ramsey podcast. Hearing other people’s stories of debt repayment is totally motivating whether you like Ramsey or not. I started this blog as a form of motivation, in hopes that I could help someone else get on the right track with their money. I have given out many copies of Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover” I’ve lost track.

In the End

Personal finance is just that, personal. We all have our own story, that’s why there are so many different blogs with so many different points of view and great ideas on how to manage your money. The general concepts are universal, build a budget, live within your means, use a debt snowball, have an emergency fund, etc. You have to find those blogs that fit your style, share that common ground, find it interesting, make you laugh, etc. I hope that our story does some of that for one of you.