Monthly Archives: March 2015

Job Hunt Week 12 Recap

14474589697_8c4ac8575f_zAs I started writing last night, I was all ready to make this the final post in my job hunt series. I received two job offers this week, the first was for a staff position at the VFX studio on the west side of LA and the other was for the animated feature being produced in Vancouver BC. I spent many hours weighing the pros and cons of each job (oh yes, I have spreadsheets), thought long and hard about a potential international move, and spoke to a few friends about my thoughts on the positions.

I decided to accept the staff job in Los Angeles, mainly for its stability and my desire to stay local with my friends and family. But before I could call the recruiter to give her the news, I got a call from the co-producer of the Vancouver film (who I am really growing to like) inviting me to a public preview on Monday night. She said this would give me an opportunity to see the movie and meet the leadership team, which is true. However, I think what it really gives is HER a better chance to win me over by introducing me to the star/writer of the film and enticing me with salary and benefits. And to be honest, she might be successful.

Both jobs seem like great opportunities and I would be very happy at either place, which is precisely why this choice is so hard! On paper, the LA job seems like such a safe bet, but am I brave enough to leave my comfort zone and jump into a gig that lets me try out living in a great city for a year, make more money, and just take a freaking risk?! Am I too anal-retentive and practical to take the more frightening opportunity and see where it leads? I hope not, but I might be. It’s so easy to get comfortable and ease into a routine that can be hard to get out of. I needed my last job to let me go in order to move on from that. Now, do I need that extra push from the co-producer to get me into that job? Likely.

As this is mainly a personal finance blog, I’ll add that the biggest issue of the Vancouver move is ensuring my complete understanding of the financial ramifications. This includes income taxes, retirement savings, Canadian health care, day-to-day banking, transferring funds to the US, can I bring my car, can I keep my cell phone, and all those other little money things that aren’t as big of a deal when you stay within the US. If I can spend an hour with a knowledable person on such matters, it will help me immensely in making this call. I will find a way to make that happen.

So I have held off the LA studio until Tuesday. I expect to decide my fate on that day…

(Image: sperry160)

Finding a new home for my 401k

5857192377_955b365f6d_zI received a check in the mail yesterday for more than $87,000! It was an exciting thing to behold, but alas, it wasn’t mine to keep…not yet anyway. It was the total 401k balance from my old job and it was made out to Vanguard (“FBO” me).

When I got laid off, I assumed that I’d simply roll over my current 401k into my new employer’s program whenever I landed a job. Having since done a bit of research, I discovered that my primary options are:

  1. Direct rollover into my traditional IRA.
  2. Direct rollover into my new employer’s 401k.
  3. Cash it out, pay taxes and 10% penalty, completely screwing up my retirement saving plan and future financial independence.

Obviously, option #3 isn’t even an option and therefore easy to eliminate. Option #2 was fairly easy to pass by, since there’s no telling what investments will be available to me when I get my next job. Option #1 was the clear winner in my eyes, particularly since I already have a Vanguard IRA that’s invested in low cost index funds I am totally on board with.

The rollover process is fairly easy.

  1. Check online 401k account to confirm that all employer contributions are complete.
  2. Call Vanguard.
  3. While on the phone with the Vanguard rep, we conferenced in a Fidelity rep who initiated the rollover.
  4. A few days later, I got that sweet check and wrote my Vanguard account number on it.
  5. Mail the check to Vanguard.
  6. In 1-2 weeks, check online account to be sure money has landed and is allocated correctly.

When all is said and done, my allocation will be:

  • 70% Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSAX)
  • 10% Vanguard Total International Stock Index Fund (VTIAX)
  • 20% Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBTLX)

Initially, the international fund will be closer to 12%. In order to get the admiral shares (which come with at a lower cost), I need to hold a minimum of $10,000.

Now, when I enroll for the 401k at my new job, I’ll be starting from scratch. Fingers crossed that they’ll have good funds to invest in. I want to get my contributions up to 20% and have a match on top of that!

(Image: Images_of_Money)

Job Hunt Week 11 Recap

2835089412_e05cbff756_zNegotiations continued this week with the recruiter from the VFX studio. As of Friday, I had given her a salary range based on an initial 3-month freelance trial period they require. On Monday however, I received an email asking if I’d be interested in a staff position at a lower salary but with full benefits. I told her I would be and requested that the salary be bumped up a bit from the number she estimated. She replied that my request was reasonable, she would discuss with HR, and get back to me ASAP. On Friday night, she emailed that they are working out “logistics” with HR on upcoming hiring and she should know more next week. I’m cool with this, as it gives me a little more time with the interview process for the Vancouver film.

Speaking of the Vancouver gig, I had my second phone interview on Tuesday! This was with the Line Producer of the film, who is also the co-owner of the Canadian studio. She was very nice and gave me some good details about the small studio and the project. The film is already about 20% animated and they don’t have quite enough production staff to cover all departments and report regularly to the executives of the financing studios. I think the job is right up my alley; I could fill in any gaps in the back-end shot departments, help with delivering to Post, and work some Excel magic in reporting progress down to Los Angeles. The potential move to Canada would be a huge undertaking, but I think I could make it work and have a good time. A huge priority for me is to be sure I understand all of the financial aspects of such a move and ensure that it’s a smart choice. I’m now waiting to hear back if an additional call is needed with the Production Manager of the film. There is also the potential for them to fly me up to Vancouver to meet the staff, which I would very much like to do. Spending a day (or two) in the city before deciding to move would be super helpful and fun.

In other news, I received an email from a recruiter at Netflix on Monday. I had been referred to her by a couple of people and she wanted to chat about a Content Operations Coordinator position. We set up a call for Thursday and I spent some time reviewing their Netflix Culture Deck, which is quite an inspiring and intimidating document! I recommend checking it out; it sounds too good to be true in some ways. In the end, it made me very excited about working there, but very nervous about the interview process. When the call happened, I told the recruiter about my experience and what I was looking for. It became clear to me that the position wasn’t quite right, which was hard to say in an interview! But she understood and we agreed to keep in touch if any positions opened up that are closer to my skill set and interests. I found it difficult to voluntarily take myself out of the running for a job, but I’m confident that it was a good call. I just wish I figured it out sooner and spared myself several hours of research and nervousness in the days before the call! Live and learn.

(Image: KsGlimpses)

Why yes, I am addicted to podcasts

43165466_d0964e3234_oI’ve been using Stitcher on my iPhone since June 24, 2011 to listen to a variety of podcasts. I just can’t seem to get enough of them. I recently looked up my stats in the app:

  • My listening hours – 2,817
  • Number of episodes – 6,579

Holy crap! I’m not sure how to feel about these numbers. Obviously, I don’t just sit around in my pajamas while I listen; I’m most frequently driving, running, getting ready for work in the morning, or cooking dinner at night. Even so, that’s a heck of a lot of my time – over 16 weeks! That must make me some kind of weird expert on random stuff, right!? Likely not. But I do learn quite a bit while being entertained, which is the whole point for me. Many shows have come and gone from my playlist over the last 3 1/2 years. I’d like to share with you some of my current favorites that I think more folks should know about. Have a listen and enjoy!

Personal Finance:

Healthy Lifestyle:

Running/Fitness:

  • Marathon Talk – Hosts Martin and Tom are super likeable! Been listening faithfully for years.
  • Trail Runner Nation – Hosts Don and Scott crack me up with their “casual” interviewing style.
  • Ultra Runner Podcast – I love to hear from runners covering a crazy amount of mileage.
  • Endurance Planet – I like their “Ask the Coach” sessions on training and fueling.

Pop Culture:

Here’s a recent list of US News’ Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts to Follow. I’m going to check a few of them out!

(Image: Allen)

Job Hunt Week 10 Recap

3560932923_0a4803cd60_zThis week seemed to fly by, mainly due to some temporary work on an outsourced animated feature. On Tuesday, I received a text from a former coworker (who I met for lunch a couple of weeks ago), asking if I could come in to their local San Fernando Valley office for a few days to help get them through a crunch. I’m starting to get bored here at home and was happy to offer my assistance! That afternoon, I started marking up sequence storyboards with detailed character, prop, and set references before shipping them to India for animation. The work wasn’t terribly exciting, but it did require a good amount of focus that the other crew members couldn’t maintain with all of their other responsibilities. I was able to get through them pretty quickly and by Friday afternoon, I completed three sequences that would all be shipped to India that night.

Overall, it was fun to get out, learn a little something new, and feel useful to that studio. The commute was about 30 minutes each way, which is pretty good for LA. I even rode my bike there on Friday, which took an hour and a half to cover the 17 miles each way. I was pretty tired last night, but it was a warm,  sunny So Cal day and it felt great to get a good ride in along a wonderful bike path that spans across the Valley.

Ironically, the first week I got some work since losing my job happens to be the first week that I qualify to receive Unemployment! Go figure. My hourly rate was about 40% less than my former rate, but the 25 hours I worked earned me more than what I would’ve gotten from Unemployment.

In other exciting news, I got an email on Thursday night from the VFX studio on the west side saying that they’re prepping an offer! So excited to hear this. After dodging the salary question twice already, I finally had to cave and give her a freelance salary range that I compiled based on information I received from several of my friends in visual effects (which pays more than animated features). The bottom of the range I gave the recruiter is $350 more a week than my last salary, which is awesome! This was taking into consideration that they will start me as freelance with no benefits, which means paying over $400 a month for Cobra health insurance and receiving no 401K match or sick/vacation pay. My expenses for gas (since I will have a long commute) and food (my former studio offered free breakfast and lunch) will increase, as well. I’m now anxiously awaiting their offer, which should come on Monday.

On Friday, I received an email about setting up a second interview for the animated feature in Vancouver. It had been just over a week since my first phone call and I was getting nervous that they moved on. But the Line Producer (who would be my boss) at the Vancouver studio asked for a call and I promptly responded with some options over the weekend. Now that I have an offer coming in, I want to move this process along as quickly as possible. If I get offers for both positions, I think it will be a tough decision to choose! Obviously, the huge factor is whether I want to make the move to Canada, but salary is another big consideration. I’ll just have to stress out about that if/when the time comes. Argh! But that will be a good problem to have, right?!

(Image: JayW)

Job Hunt Week 9 Recap

2313091900_9a162d3a05_zThe ninth week of my job hunt extravaganza started with my foray into the world of California Unemployment Insurance! What could be more exciting than that?! Well, the dental work I had last week is giving it a run for its money.  But seriously, it was fairly easy to fill out the online forms and hit submit. Now, I wait until I receive mail notification that I am approved. I hear that there will also be a phone interview. Let’s see how all of this goes.

In more interesting news, I had lunch with an old friend and colleague on Tuesday. She is producing TV animation and has passed my resume on to her boss (although there are no current openings). The facility is two blocks from my front door, so that commute would truly blow my mind!! It’s too short to even bother cycling. I would have no choice but to walk, which is so cool. I also might get together with her and her husband in the coming weeks to help them get a website started. I’m no expert, but I’ve built three simple sites now and would be happy to point them in the right direction over a bottle of wine.

But way more exciting than that lovely lunch was a call with the Co-Producer of the animated feature being produced in Vancouver. She and I have many mutual friends through my former studio and I’m sure a few of them already put in a good word about me. However, one cannot count on the generosity of their pals when seeking a new, fabulous job, so I tried my best to give a solid interview. She painted a positive picture about the creative leadership of the film and the good working atmosphere that’s already in place. So nice to hear. The position would be more in the back-end departments of the film, which is where I wanted to go next at my last job but couldn’t make it happen before getting the axe.

I’m expecting a call from her this coming week to set up a Skype call with the Line Producer up in Vancouver, who would be my boss. I’ve never used Skype, so I need to do a little research on that this afternoon! It’s used heavily between LA and Vancouver on this film.  If all goes well, I will be flown up there to meet the team and then move ASAP. Yikes! I’ll do another post later this week on my thoughts about moving to Canada. It’s starting to sound really exciting!

Lastly, I followed up via email with the post-production studio I interviewed with two weeks ago. His reply was slightly odd, saying they’re in an “exploratory stage with some of the personnel movement going on”. I don’t like the sound of that. Makes me think that they may no longer need to fill the position externally. I’ll give him a couple of weeks before inquiring again. I also need to follow up with the VFX studio I interviewed with over a month ago. Last the recruiter told me, they might staff the job in mid to late March, which is nearly here!

(Image: FarTripper)

Belt tightening strategies

12663532544_c2a6d47814_zNow that I’m all signed up for California’s Unemployment Insurance, I figure it’s a good time to look at my spending. Over the past couple of months, I’ve identified several places in my monthly recurring expenses that could easily be trimmed with a wee bit of sacrifice on my part. I fully expect that further expense cutting will be more difficult and have a larger impact on my social life (boo!), but for now this is a solid start.
Charter Cable Service
  • Last year, I took the leap and canceled my Charter cable service! I now use Apple TV, Netflix, and Hulu+ and find that I watch much less television and save a chunk of change. I had been paying $105/month for cable and internet. I lowered it to $55.00
  • A few months later, I called Charter to see if I could get a better deal on internet service and they hooked me up with a year for $40/month!
  • Monthly savings: $65

Hulu+

  • After several months without TV, I found that I don’t use Hulu+ very much. I’ve only been occasionally catching Grey’s Anatomy and Saturday Night Live. I can get everything on my laptop (rather than TV) without paying for it – time to drop!
  • Monthly savings: $7.99

Graze

  • Graze is a cool subscription service for snacks! For $6 per box, you get four different kinds of munchies that you can customize to your taste. You can get them anywhere from weekly to monthly. Cool idea, but I don’t need it right now.
  • Monthly savings: $12.00
Amazon Prime
  • This is a tough one. It’s soooo convenient to get free two-day shipping on almost everything I buy! But Free Super Saving Shipping is still available with a $35 minimum. If I utilize more patience, I can group my purchases and wait a bit longer for them to arrive. Prime convenience also encourages me to shop, which is something I’m trying to do less. Furthermore, I don’t need their video service – I get plenty from Netflix and Hulu.
  • Monthly savings: $8.25 ($99/year)
Emeals
  • Late last year, I tried out emeals.com based on a friend’s recommendation. It was pretty convenient to get paleo recipes and shopping lists in my inbox each week, but now that I have all of those recipes, I’m comfortable taking a few extra minutes each week to plan my meals all by my little self. My life is not so busy that I can’t do that.
  • Monthly savings: $8.00
Local Grocery Delivery
  • Almost two years ago, I started subscribing to a weekly delivery service for local, organic fruits and veggies. Boxes got delivered to my work, which was extremely convenient since I live in a condo and getting them dropped off there might not work. Being a single-person household, I opted for one small box every other week. Unfortunately, I found that I got too much food at once and had a difficult time using it all up before it went bad. I was also unable to customize my box in any way and frequently got items that I don’t really like (eggplant, lettuce). I had already made the decision to cancel by the time I was laid off; I think it’s more cost effective and less wasteful to walk to my local farmers market on Sundays and buy only what I know I will use.
  • Monthly savings: $45.60

That’s a total of $146.84 I am easily saving each month! I’ll take that any day.

(Image: EvelynHill)

Monthly Savings Update – March 2015

This is my first “Monthies” post! I’ve created a separate page here to share my savings updates at the beginning of every month. I sure hope that once I get a new job, I’ll be able to continue this frequency, but I may need to change it to “Quarterlies”. Reviewing all of this monthly might be obsessing about my money a wee bit too much (even for me)!

I get this number by tracking my total savings and include all of my accounts except for primary checking. I do not include the value of my condo or my mortgage balance. If I decide to start tracking this as my net worth, I think I should include those things. But for now, this is how I’m doing it!

Monthly_03_01_15

Looks like I’m up by nearly $6,000, which is great. A few notes:

  • My work 401k is still at 4% to get the full 2% match. Those contributions end as of March 1st, so that account will stall until I move it. My thoughts are to transfer it to my Vanguard IRA, but I want to wait a few weeks once the dust settles.
  • My Capital One 360 is down because I paid my property taxes in February. I am also transferring some of that into Betterment to get me past the $10,000 mark, which will reduce my fees from “Builder” at 0.35% to “Better” at 0.25%.
  • I received a big tax refund this year of $5,000! I transferred $2,000 to Betterment and the rest is still in my checking account. Once I receive my vacation pay-out from work, I’ll decide where funds need to go.
  • I apply for unemployment benefits this week, so regular savings transfers from my paychecks will be stopped. I expect Monthlies to grow more slowly until I get a new job.