Do You Really Want That Job?

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8 Questions Job Seekers Wish They Could Ask Employers

U.S.News & World Report LPBy Alison Green | U.S.News & World Report LP – Tue, Aug 21, 2012 10:58 AM EDT

When you’re interviewing for a job, it’s crucial to interview the employer right back, to make sure that this is a job you want and a company you want to be a part of.

But here are some questions most job seekers don’t feel comfortable asking–even though they’d love to know the answers:

1. How secure is this job? No one wants to leave a secure job for one that’s in danger of disappearing. If the new company is having financial troubles, new hires could be on the top of the list if layoffs happen–but all too often, employers don’t warn prospective hires that this might come.

2. What do your employees think of you? Managers have an enormous impact on workers’ day-to-day quality of life at work. Yet it’s often hard to tell in an interview if a manager is going to turn out to be unreasonable, or a wimp who can’t get things done, or a jerk, or even outright abusive.

3. Can I really use those benefits? Some companies offer generous vacation time on paper, but not in practice. If you can never get your time off approved and your manager frowns on taking vacations, it won’t matter how much paid time off you’re supposedly earning.

4. Why do most people really leave jobs here? In some offices, it’s a poorly kept secret that turnover is high because the company won’t give raises or offer opportunities for promotion, or simply because the management makes employees’ lives miserable. But as a job seeker, it can be impossible to tell this from the outside.

5. How do people get along here? Few people want to work for a company where co-workers pass the day in icy silence (or worse, open hostility). And on the other side of the spectrum, most people don’t want to work for a company where they’ll be expected to attend nightly happy hours and participate in forced bonding either.

6. How often do you give raises? A proposed starting salary might seem generously high–but if it will be years before that number is revisited, it might suddenly be a lot less appealing. A good starting salary could turn into a below-market thorn in your side in a few years. Speaking of which?

7. How do you ensure your salaries are competitive with the market? Responsible companies take steps to make sure that their salaries won’t be a reason for good people to leave. They benchmark their salaries against competitors and even proactively adjust employees’ pay if they spot a discrepancy with the market.

8. When is the last time you fired someone? Most people know how frustrating it is to have a co-worker who the company obviously should have fired but who instead was allowed to languish on. Just as good workers want to work for a company that will reward great performance, they also want to work for a company that will get rid of people if they deserve to be fired.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager       blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and      management  issues. She’s also the co-author of Managing to  Change  the    World: The  Nonprofit Manager’s Guide to Getting  Results, and  former   chief of staff  of a successful nonprofit   organization,  where she   oversaw day-to-day  staff management,   hiring, firing, and  employee   development.

Prepare for Future Employment

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New jobless numbers out today, Sep.20th,

and it’s a complete replay of last week, 382,000 jobless Americans standing in line, waiting for first time unemployment benefits.

Yet the Media, the self proclaimed experts, and others who will always have full employment as political deceivers are telling the Nation that things are looking up. Of course they know more than anyone else, but such an attitude reminds me of Pollyanna. She saw a silver lining in every dark cloud, and proved to be right 100% of the time.

It’s time to call upon our guest contributor, Miriam Salpeter, of the U.S. News and World Report, to share her insights on what must be done now to be prepared for the changing job market. Read carefully, it may give you a leg up on the competition.

3 Things to Do Now To Prepare for the New Job Market

U.S.News & World Report LPBy Miriam Salpeter | U.S.News & World Report LP – Wed, Sep 19, 2012 9:36 AM EDT

You may have already noticed: the job market is changing. Forecasters have been predicting this for years, and research continues to prove the contingent–otherwise known as temporary, or contract–workforce, is growing. Author Tammy Erickson writes on Harvard Business Review’s blog: “Temporary placement service provider Adecco predicts the growth rate for contingent workers will be three to four times the growth rate among traditional workforces, and that they eventually will make up about 25 percent of the global workforce.”

Career expert Alexandra Levit recently reported on technology firm Mavenlink’s 2012 infographic, The New Independent Workforce, which shows the number of self-employed, independent service firms, solopreneurs, and temporary workers grew by an estimated 4.3 million workers since 1995. The firm expects the contingent workforce to grow to 40 percent, or 64.9 million by 2020. And by the year 2020, 40 percent of American workers, or nearly 65 million people, will not work in what we know as “traditional” jobs, where they work consistently for one employer who provides benefits and insurance.

What does this new world of work mean for you? Even if you have a traditional job now, you may find yourself in a position down the road where your livelihood depends on your ability to market yourself as a one-person company. The writing is on the wall: the job market and career opportunities are changing–you need to be prepared.

Follow these three tips to get yourself ready for the new job market:

1. Pay attention to trends in your industry. Try to predict hot topics and identify problems organizations will need to solve. Since no one has a crystal ball, this is a tough assignment. Instead of maintaining an insular approach to your job and focusing on your company alone, make a point to spend time evaluating what is going on industry-wide. Join online forums or groups, attend events to network with professionals in your field, and read everything you can in print and online discussing your niche.

When you incorporate this research into your daily and weekly routines, you’ll begin to see trends; people will raise the same concerns over and over again, and you will have a head’s up about key topics flummoxing your colleagues.

2. Develop niche expertise. When you’re really good at something specific, it’s easy to make a case for why an organization should contract with you for short- or long-term contingent jobs. It’s much easier to stand out from the crowd when you specialize in a particular area and people know you as the go-to expert in your field. Ideally, your expertise will relate to the big problems puzzling people in your industry. Consider seeking additional training–either formal schooling or informal mentoring–to help you learn how to help people with the major problems coming down the pike.

3. Learn to market yourself. The concept of “personal branding,” which suggests individuals should think of themselves as a brand and market their skills accordingly, meets skepticism and criticism. But if 25 to 40 percent of American workers will effectively work for themselves in the near future, there is no doubt the ones who land the best opportunities will be those who understand the value of broadcasting their expertise beyond the four walls of their current workplaces. How can you get a head start, so you’ll have a chance to be considered an industry expert should you ever need to market yourself as a consultant?

–Learn to introduce yourself and focus on your target’s needs. Do you know your unique value proposition, or what makes you special compared to others in your field? If not, it’s time to think about what you’d say if someone asked you, “How are you more qualified to do this job than the other 200 applicants?”

–Tap into social networks, which allow you to meet new contacts, demonstrate your expertise, and learn new things. LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook are all great tools to help you showcase what you know and engage with people you’d never otherwise meet.

Don’t be complacent; always think about the future and how to position yourself and your expertise if you want to maintain any control over your professional future.

Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.

Don't Discount Inflation

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Most every Baby Boomer… who planned a Golden retirement failed to plan for inflation. That $1,000 a month in retirement income looked good back in 2005. Now, with $4 a gallon gasoline, and a near Zero percent growth on CDs and Savings Accounts, the worry of further devaluation through inflation is causing many retirees to have numerous sleepless nights.

The other alternative? Back to work!  There will be no rest for the weary. It’s like watching Snow White’s 7 Little Dwarfs marchiing off to work in the morning, whistling a happy tune.  Who can be happy with having to work when you’re old and grey, and hobbled by arthritis?

Christine Benz, today’s guest contributor, weighs in with her article which first appeared in Morningstar, just a few days ago.

Will Your Income Needs Trend Down as You Age?

By Christine Benz | Morningstar – Mon, Sep 10, 2012.. .

The 4% rule for safe portfolio withdrawals during retirement is a widely cited rule of thumb, probably because it’s easy to use and remember. But it also has its share of detractors, who have reasonably pointed out that it is an overly simplified take on an exceptionally complex problem.

Under the 4% rule, retirees withdraw a fixed dollar amount of their portfolios per year, adjusting that amount upward each year with inflation. The trouble is, that static spending rate ignores the fact that the portfolio’s value is fluctuating underneath the surface. By turning a blind eye to market conditions and portfolio performance and sticking with a fixed dollar amount withdrawal, the retiree may be taking out an outsized share of the portfolio in bad years and too little in good ones.

The other big problem with static spending rates is that they don’t jibe with real life. Emergency expenses and planned splurges cause all of us–whether retired or still working–to spend more in some years and less in others.

Retirement researchers have also examined the extent to which spending fluctuates by life stage in retirement, slicing and dicing the data by age, income level, and spending categories. In general, the data show that spending tends to go down during the retirement years. That might seem like good news, in that it would seem to suggest you might not have to save as much for retirement as you thought. However, there are some important considerations to bear in mind before you take those data to heart when crafting your retirement plan.

What the Data Say
Financial planner Ty Bernicke was one of the first researchers to an conduct an in-depth analysis of retiree spending patterns back in 2005. Using data compiled in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES), he showed that spending trends down steadily throughout people’s later years. A recent run of the same data, summarized nicely on the Bogleheads site, confirms that phenomenon. Households led by people age 65-74 spent, on average, $40,685, 12% less than those in the 55-54 age band. Those age 75 and above demonstrated an even sharper drop-off in spending: Their average expenditures of $30,946 were 24% lower than those of the 65-74 cohort. Spending surveys conducted and compiled by the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan for the National Institute on Aging (also summarized on the Bogleheads site), which improves upon the CES methodology by tracking expenditures for the same households from one time period to the next, shows a similar downtrend in expenses over the household’s life cycle.

Those statistics corroborate what many of us know from personal experience: As people age, health issues may slow them down. And even if they’re well, they may not feel like traveling and engaging in other active (and possibly costly) pursuits as they once did. In his book The Prosperous Retirement, CFP Michael Stein divided retirement into three stages: “Go-go,” “go slow,” and “no go.”

What You Should Do With It
At first glance, one easy takeaway from these data might seem to be that you need less in retirement than you might have first thought, but financial planners urge caution before incorporating tapered-off spending into your retirement plan.

For starters, it’s tricky to disentangle how much of the spending cutbacks were voluntary and how much were borne of necessity. When I interviewed financial planner Harold Evensky about retirement planning, he opined, “While statistics demonstrate that [people spend less as they age], I think there are two problems with those statistics. One is that they’re yesterday’s statistics, and two, the fact that people are spending less doesn’t necessarily mean they wanted to spend less. It may very well mean that they had to spend less.”

In his paper on age-related spending declines, Bernicke argued that the spending cutbacks were likely voluntary because spending declined across income levels. Why would wealthier folks cut back if they didn’t actually want to? But that assertion has since been questioned by retirement researcher Wade Pfau and others due to vagaries in the CES data. (Pfau’s thought-provoking analysis of spending trends in retirement can be found here.)

Perhaps more important for retirees aiming to use these data to plan for their own retirements is the risk in extrapolating conclusions from averages, particularly in an area as personal as spending. On his Nerd’s Eye View blog, financial planner Michael Kitces argued in a recent posting that a household’s level of wealth is likely a significant swing factor in whether living expenses go up, down, or stay the same as one ages; more wealth likely means greater spending cutbacks in retirement. That’s because discretionary categories like travel and dining out take up a bigger share of budgets for higher-income households than middle- and lower-income ones, and those are the categories that tend to see the largest cutbacks in expenditures as people age. By contrast, individuals or households who use much of their income for basic needs like housing and food–which tend to decline little, if at all, in the later years–will likely see less of a drop in their overall spending rates as they age. But as sensible as that guidance might seem, individuals might have different experiences: You’d hate to turn 85 and still have a zeal for travel but no ready cash to fund the trips because you didn’t expect to still be traveling at that age.

Finally, the real wild card in all of this is health-care costs, one of the few categories of expenditures that trends up consistently as people age. Indeed, for some senior households, their spending patterns are more of a “U” shape–higher in the early years when discretionary and travel expenses are in full swing; lower in the middle years of retirement; and back up again late in life, when health-care costs spike.

On average, cutbacks in other categories more than offset rising health-care expenditures later in life, leading to overall spending declines in old age. As Michael Kitces points out, there are also caps on the out-of-pocket costs for people with Medicare and supplemental policies; he estimates the maximum out-of-pocket health-care outlay for a couple earning less than $170,000 a year would be $10,000 a year. That’s a level that more affluent households may be able to absorb without undermining their standard of living too much, but high health-care costs could rapidly erode the standard of living for less-wealthy seniors who have less room for error in their budgets. That’s yet another argument for less wealthy households planning for fewer, if any, spending cutbacks in their later years.

It’s also worth noting that long-term care needs could drive a household’s health-care-related outlay above $10,000 in the space of a few months; individuals or couples without long-term care insurance could see their out-of-pocket health-related costs skyrocket. That means that if you’re one of the growing chorus of people saying they plan to cover long-term care costs out of pocket, it’s crucial to get your arms around what that actually entails.

You'll Never Get Rich Working A Job

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Back in the good old days, it was common knowledge that a good job led to the good things in life. Work harder than your Peers and you would get the promotion. If you wanted to advance, become a manager, or get a raise, it would mean working lots of overtime… Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, July 4th.

Work hard. In fact, Work harder than everyone else. When the Boss’s son in law gets the promotion, keep your mouth shut. If you do get fired, or laid off, it will have to be because of something you said, something you didn’t do.

That was way back when. But guess what? The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Thanks go to Steve Hargreaves, of CNNMoney.com, for today’s article. It’s another eye-opener and a deeper look at employment prospects for hard workers today… lower pay.

Why wages for jobs aren’t rising

By Steve Hargreaves | CNNMoney.com – Tue, Sep 11, 2012

When the government report on job creation came out last week, economists were quick to note a worrying point: average hourly wages in August dropped by a penny.

Though one cent may not sound like much, the drop underscores a broader trend: Amid sluggish growth and stubbornly high unemployment, wages just aren’t rising very quickly.

One reason is that persistent unemployment is keeping workers from getting salary increases.

“If your employer knows you don’t have a lot of options, there’s no incentive to give you a raise,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. “It shifts bargaining power away from workers and toward employers.”

Over the last year the average hourly wage for jobs in the private sector has gone from $23.12 an hour to 23.52 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That represents a gain of 1.7%, slightly higher than inflation over roughly the same time period.

But stripping out managerial and professional jobs, wages rose just 1.2% — below the rate of inflation. According to Shierholz, 82% of the private work force is in non-managerial jobs.

“People think high unemployment only affects people without jobs,” said Shierholz. “But it also prevents people from getting raises.”

Another reason for sluggish wage growth is that much of the recent job growth has been in low wage industries.

High unemployment also pushes people to take jobs they otherwise wouldn’t. This is especially true as economic growth remains weak and unemployment benefits run out.

Many of the jobs created since the recession officially ended in 2009 have been in lower wage industries like retail or food service work.

Nearly 40% of the private sector jobs added since early 2010 have been in retail, leisure and hospitality, temporary staffing and home health care, according to a recent report from Wells Fargo, even though these industries account for only 29% of all jobs.

The average hourly wage in those four industries is just $15 an hour, the bank said.

In August, 28,000 new jobs were added in food services and drinking places. And those industries have grown by 298,000 jobs over the past 12 months.

Without wage growth, consumers are loath to spend more, and the economy is unlikely to find its footing any time soon.

“The lack of real income growth is a major factor in preventing the economy from achieving the escape velocity needed to break free form the 2% trajectory maintained over the last couple of years,” Wells Fargo Senior Economist Mark Vitner wrote in the report.

Make Plans to Retire Early

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Sep. 10, 2012

Department of Labor statistics revealed last week that more than 300,000 jobseekers, from the week before, had decided to drop out of the un-employment rolls and, instead, chose early retirement.

Early retirement from being unemployed?  It makes no sense. The unemployment rate dropped 2/10ths of one percent, from 8.3 to 8.1 percent and the media rushed to praise the recovering economy. It still doesn’t make sense. How can it be that 25 million unemployed Americans equals only 8.1% of the total work force?

Someone is cooking the books, jiggling the numbers, making bat guano smell like cupcake frosting.  It’s another example of why Americans, by and large, distrust Government. It’s no longer OUR Government protecting us, it’s HIS government, bending over backwards to keep us all happy with a crumbling economy that is going to explode very soon, much like the Volcano in Central America, or the credit limit on Credit Cards that has already crept to its maximum.

Wasn’t it Abraham Lincoln who once advised, “You can fool some of the people All of the time… and All of the people some of the time… but you can’t fool All of the people All of the time.” ?

Sorry Abe, you’ve been proven wrong. You CAN fool all of the uneducated people, ALL of the time. It happens every week when lower new job numbers come out, and yet,  unemployment rates keep dropping.

We Thank our guest contributors, Sandy Block and Jane Bennett  Clark, for having the foresight to tell us what must be done between the ages of 40-55, in order to retire rich. The article, in its entirety, was first published in Kiplinger only hours ago.

How to Retire Rich:  3 Smart Steps at Ages 40-55

Maneuver to stay on track. It’s a balancing act to pay for college and keep saving.

KiplingerBy Sandy Block and Jane Bennett Clark | Kiplinger – 13 hours ago

By now, you’ve probably amassed a decent sum in your retirement accounts and another hefty sum in the college fund. You haven’t? Join the club. A survey conducted in 2009 by Edward Jones, the financial services firm, showed that 20% of respondents ages 45 to 54 had saved nothing at all for either retirement or college. A recent survey showed that 62% of respondents had never heard of a 529 savings plan, much less contributed to one.

Here’s the penalty for procrastinating on both those fronts: If you had started saving for retirement in your twenties, you would have had to carve out 13% of your salary every year to replace your income in retirement, according to an analysis by T. Rowe Price. Now, at 45, you’ll need to sock away 29% of your salary to catch up. (And if you put it off until age 55, you’ll need to save 43%, which won’t leave you much for groceries or gas.) Uncle Sam gives the procrastinators of the world a powerful incentive to save: Once you’re over 50, you can contribute significantly more to your 401(k) plan than your younger colleagues.

Adjust the college plan. The same time-and-money crunch applies to college savings. Compare the difference between starting a college fund when your child is a toddler and when he or she is 13. Fifteen years out, you would have had to save $345 a month to cover 75% of the cost of a public college education, according to Savingforcollege.com. At this stage — say, five years out — you’ll have to save $646 a month, almost twice as much.
Rather than regret the past, recalibrate. If you’re on track for retirement but short of your college goal, for instance, you can always redirect 1% or 2% of your gross income from one pot to the other for a few years, says Greg Dosmann, a principal at Edward Jones. Recognize that you might have to work a year or two longer before retirement or boost the retirement allocation after you’re done paying the college bills. “It’s a trade-off,” he says.

Or consider borrowing — judiciously. Parent PLUS loans, sponsored by the federal government, carry a fixed 7.9% rate. PLUS loans let you borrow up to the cost of attendance, minus any financial aid. Thanks to their fixed rate and consumer protections, such as forgiving the loan if the student dies or becomes disabled, PLUS loans are generally a better bet than private student loans.

Remember, however, that borrowing on behalf of your student can jeopardize your own financial security in retirement. If the gap is a chasm, not a crevice, find a cheaper school. Another way to get cash for college is to borrow against the equity in your home. With a home-equity loan, you pay a fixed rate (recent average: 6.4%) but borrow the entire amount upfront. With a line of credit, you pay a variable rate (recent average: 5.1%) and borrow as needed. With both, you can generally deduct the interest on amounts up to $100,000, no matter how you use the money.

A lower rate and tax-deductible interest may beat student loans. The downside to this strategy is that it pushes off a key goal for many people, which is to enter retirement mortgage-free. “After the kids are finished with college, you are going to have to save like heck to pay off the mortgage or, if you can’t do that, sell the house and downsize when you retire,” says Yrizarry. Downsizing doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it’s a decision you should make before you borrow, not after.

Talk turkey with your kids. No matter how you plan to pay for college, let your kids know what you’re prepared to do before you make up a college wish list. Be clear that “if the net price after financial aid doesn’t end up at your number, it has to go off the list,” says Fox. Without that conversation, you’ll be hard-pressed to say no when the acceptance letter from Vassar comes. “College is not just a financial decision,” says Fox. “There’s a whole emotional side. You have to have the guidelines established before you get to that point.”

Invest what’s left. If you’re among those who have college covered (or don’t have college costs to contend with) and you save the max in your retirement accounts each year, you may be looking for ways to invest excess income. One option is to add tax-free municipal bonds to your fixed-income allocation, says Yrizarry. Despite recent reports, most state and local governments have shown resilience in the face of budget cuts.

Or take advantage of low interest rates and bottoming housing values to invest in real estate, Yrizarry suggests. If your student is heading off to college, you can accomplish multiple goals (and take advantage of a strong rental market) by buying a condo near campus and letting your kid and a few roommates live in it. Later, you can rent the property to other students or to alums during big sports weekends, generating income before and into your retirement.

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