Monthly Archives: August 2015

Finding the value in myself and my job

1967415678_28fbde92ff_mIf you read last week’s post, you’ll know that I’ve been putting the “always be looking for your next job” adage into practice. In July, I updated my resume and LinkedIn profile in preparation for this. In August, I began emailing contacts and recruiters at specific companies to let them know I’ll be available in September. I’m happy to report that my efforts have been effective in drumming up new job leads.

I received replies from a few studios saying that they may have positions opening up in September and continue to follow up with them. An email to a producer I met back in January (remember that?) resulted in two interviews for a gig on a feature film in Santa Monica. This experience has made me think about the value I place on myself and my new job.

The job was right up my alley, having held very similar positions at my former studio. The familiarity attracted me, as my current job in a different (but related) field has not been a positive experience for the last few months. Returning to the environment I’m more comfortable with sounded like a good proposition.

The first phone call went well. Then, I stopped by the studio for an in-person meeting that also felt good. I was qualified and willing! By the end of that day, I received an offer for a staff position. However, the salary was super low. I already decided that I’d be willing to accept pay somewhat lower than my current rate, which was reflected in the salary range I gave the recruiter. However, the offer came in $150 per week less than the bottom of my range! How disappointing.

This experience caused me to consider a few things:

  1. How important is it to get out of my current job that I dislike? Is it worth wiping out my salary increases for the past two years just to move on?
  2. Am I willing to accept less pay for a lower stress job that I enjoy more? If so, by how much?
  3. Would a considerably shorter commute justify accepting less pay?
  4. If I accepted this job, would I be selling myself (and 13+ years of experience in this industry) too cheap just to get out of a job I hate? Am I undervaluing myself and my skills?

It didn’t take long for me to decide that this offer wasn’t good enough. I do want a new job, but this company clearly wasn’t willing to pay someone with my experience. They are only willing to pay for a more junior manager. I am worth more than that!

Even though the decision to decline was clear, it sure was scary! Turning down a job offer can be frightening. But the fact that I currently have a job made it easier to pass up. And that’s the whole point of this exercise: to look for a job when you have the luxury of being choosy, rather than when you’re already out of work and more desperate.

This experience also caused me to consider giving my current job a second chance. My difficult project ends in about a week and moving on to a new one with different people could make a huge difference in my satisfaction. We’ll see how that goes in the coming weeks.

I will still be on the hunt for my next gig and must always remember the value I bring to my employer and what I value in my work:

  • I am paid what I am worth (in both salary and benefits).
  • I look forward to going to work each day and interact with smart, kind people who respect each other and do meaningful work.
  • A job that’s close to home. This will save me from wasting hours each day in my car, as well as being more responsible for the environment and my finances.
  • A job with reasonable hours, allowing me a healthy balance between my work and personal life.
(Image: MarkOh!)

Always be looking for your next gig

3299301361_a1e019a5af_zHas anyone ever told you that you should always be looking for your next job? I’ve heard that said several times this year and have been thinking about it quite a bit.

Over the past 12 years, I have NOT been following that advice. I have a tendency to be very loyal to my employer; when I get a job, I dig in, get comfortable, and assume that I’m with them for the long haul. I think that’s worked out well for me overall. I’ve enjoyed my jobs, learned a lot, and built relationships that have outlasted my stays with the companies.

However, I do see colleagues of mine who have switched companies much more frequently  and now seem to be ahead of me in position and pay. Naturally, there are a ton of factors that affect one’s career progression, but keeping mobile seems to offer some benefits (at least in my field of film):

Starting salary negotiation

In my spring job hunt, I researched salary negotiation for some advice. It seems that your best chances for higher pay are with your starting salary; once a company has you as an employee, you’re more locked in to getting smaller raises and it’s less likely to get a significant bump up.

Moving from a big company to a smaller one

I’ve worked for some big film studios, staying on for several long-term projects. Establishing yourself at a large company and leveraging that experience to a smaller place can be a smart move. That smaller company could want you to establish proven workflows and practices from your previous employer to their business and would be willing to pay you handsomely for it. Experience and knowledge gained while being a small fish in a big tank could be a valuable commodity to a company looking for you to be a new big fish in their small tank.

Being willing to go where the work is

Keeping mobile and being willing to move with the ebb and flow of job opportunities can prove to be a boon in your career. However, this is something many people don’t want to do. This just happened to me earlier this year with my job offer in Vancouver. It seemed like a great opportunity, but I just didn’t want to make that move to Canada. Trying to coerce myself into doing something that my heart wasn’t into just to potentially progress my career isn’t my style.

Changing jobs can be hard. And scary, stressful, full of uncertainty! It could also be the best thing you do for yourself. I’ve already started putting this adage into practice, as I feel that my new job just isn’t the right fit for me and my lifestyle. I’m aiming to be at a new gig that I love and is closer to home by the end of September. Of course, I’ll let you know how it goes…

(Image: PeterBaker)

YNAB: My budgeting tool of choice

3809464245_ee7bf73a55_zSince moving out of my parent’s house more than 20 years ago, I’ve had a general attitude of frugality and practice close management of my money. That’s not to say I’ve never made mistakes. I racked up thousands of dollars of credit card debt in college when I was working in theatre and hardly making any money. I also got myself into significant student loan debt. Fortunately, that’s long paid off and I haven’t had any major missteps since (although plenty of minor ones)!

But I hadn’t found a great way of tracking my day to day spending. I’ll admit that until last year, I still used a checkbook register to note all of my checking account transactions and would reconcile it against a printed monthly statement. I’m the kind of gal who needs to know how much money is in her checking account at all times. I’m not comfortable ball-parking the numbers in my head, like several of my friends and family told me they do.

I’ve also never been too keen on following a budget. Over the years, I just know what I should or shouldn’t spend my money on. I wasn’t earning much while in school and in the years after I graduated, so I had to live modestly. Now that my career is going full steam and I make a good salary, those frugal practices are still engrained in me as I continue to live below my means.

About a year ago, a friend introduced me to YNAB (You Need a Budget). I was looking to modernize my financial tracking system and thought this was worth a try for a small upfront investment (I think I had an online coupon and bought the software for about $40).

I just want to throw in a note that I’m not affiliated with YNAB in any way…I just like what they do and want to share it!

YNAB has a fun, user-friendly website. Their methodology is easy to understand, forgiving of spending missteps, and gives me a sense that they genuinely want to help people be better managers of their money. 

Once I started using it, it didn’t take long to figure out that it was great as a tracking tool and I would be able to throw out my vintage checkbook registers!

  1. I purchased and installed the software on my computer and got the app for my smartphone.
  2. I entered my checking account, credit cards, and Capital One 360 savings as my “budget accounts” since I use those the most.
  3. I entered my Betterment and Roth IRA accounts as “off-budget accounts” since I transfer money into them regularly, but don’t spend from them. I don’t track my 401k or traditional IRA in YNAB.
  4. I created a budget plan, but honestly don’t pay too much attention to it. It’s occasionally good for a check-in to see where my money is going and keep spending in check, but I don’t hold myself to the actual budget numbers.
  5. When making purchases with any of my “budget accounts”, I enter them in the YNAB phone app immediately.
  6. On a weekly/bi-weekly basis, I check my accounts on my laptop, making sure that all transactions are marked off in YNAB when they clear in each account’s website data.
  7. About every month, I do a proper reconciliation of each account and make sure the numbers match up!
  8. I also track my cash spending through YNAB, although I’m less diligent about reconciliation. I often forget to enter transactions for small cash purchases and will then just fudge the numbers to make YNAB match what’s in my wallet.

I encourage you to check them out if you feel the need for some help setting yourself up on a budget, or just want an easy way to tracking what you spend. For a small time investment, it could really be worth it! Their website has tons of resources to help get you started, including video tutorials, forums, and free online classes. Enjoy!

(Image: hadesigns)

Protecting my ID from the bad guys

11238345176_fda16b25fa_mJust the other day, I was chatting with a coworker who had been the victim of identity theft several times due to workplace security hacks/breaches. When he mentioned that he has a freeze on his credit, it reminded me that the very same thing has been on my financial to-do list for far too long.

Digging into better identity protection has been on my radar for quite some time, as I’d had several conversations with friends who’ve enacted varying degrees of prevention. A couple of years ago, my personal info may have been compromised through my health insurance provider. And again, just last week, I got a letter from my last health care company that the same thing happened!

Then, just a few hours after talking to my coworker, an ironic cherry was added to my financial fraud ice cream sundae. I got an automated phone call alerting me of possible fraudulent charges on one of my credit cards! I confirmed they were totally bogus – I was not trying to buy $5 worth of stuff at a CVS in Maine on Tuesday. Yikes! Fortunately, the charges were declined and the card is now being replaced. I dodged a small bullet there.

I took all of this as a sign to get my act together and take action to protect myself against fraud TODAY. Here’s my plan:

Check my credit report

This was fairly quick and easy, but not without hiccups. I visited annualcreditreport.com and went through the process of getting all three reports. I was only able to get two of them online, though. I somehow managed to answer those pesky security questions incorrectly for one of them. How am I supposed to remember the exact original amount of the mortgage I took out 7 years ago, or my home phone number from 1998 when I was in school and moving every few years?! Arg.

Fortunately, nothing unusual popped up on the reports that I downloaded. All accounts in good standing and no suspicious activity. Excellent. Now that I confirmed all is good at the moment, on to the next step.

ID Protection Service

My health insurance provider who was hacked is offering identity theft and restoration services free for one year. I signed up, but it’s not super clear what they do to prevent me from getting hacked…I need to dig into this a bit more. I did see that if I become a victim, they assign a “recovery advocate” who will hold my hand every step of the way out  that mess. Sounds like a good level of protection, but I’m not convinced it’s enough.

Place a freeze on my credit

I’ve heard that a credit freeze is the way to go if you’re serious about protecting your ID. It’s a matter of contacting each credit bureau and, for a fee of about $10, your credit is basically shut down to the outside world until you chose to open it back up permanently or for a short window of time. I found a great FTC site with FAQ’s and links to the credit bureau freeze pages. I learned that a freeze won’t necessarily prevent misuse of  existing accounts; it’s more for thieves opening new credit or stealing an identity all together.

I’m going to give this a try and see how it goes. I have no plans to refinance my condo or open new credit anytime soon. The only foreseeable event could be a job change. In that case, I can lift the freeze for a specified period of time or just to allow a particular company to access it.

The process wasn’t terribly long or painful. It took about 30 minutes to fill out the online forms for each company (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) and pay the $10 fees.

Keeping an eye on my accounts

The last thing to note is simply being aware of the activity in my accounts on a regular basis. I already do this and am confident that if any bad charges happened, I would notice them quickly. I reconcile all of my accounts every 1-2 weeks, with the help of You Need a Budget (YNAB). I keep promising a post dedicated to how I use their software, which I will do soon!

Now I feel confident that my financial castle is fortified from marauders trying to steal my monies. Single ladies gotta watch out for themselves, right?!

(Image: stavos)

Monthly Savings Update – August 2015

Wow! Home values continue to rise quickly in Southern California. While this is great for my net worth (which received another bump this month), I sure hope we’re not on track for a real estate bubble repeat. I will start including my home’s “zestimate” in these updates so I can track it more clearly from month to month. Monthly_08_02_15

All accounts are on their usual, steady course thanks to my automatic contributions. I had to do a little housekeeping this month in my old 401k. Turns out that I rolled it over into my IRA a wee bit prematurely and I had about $25 sitting in the account for a few months. Well, I wasn’t about to let that just sit there, so I did another roll-over to Vanguard! It only took one phone call, receiving a check in the mail, then throwing it back in the mail. Not too difficult or time-consuming.

Home value: $380,810

Current net worth: $295,203