Posts tagged employment

Sep 25, 2008

Security of group health insurance

career corporate world employment health insurance | comments

Billy Mays is pitching health insurance hahahaha!
 
Photo by Alcoholica

This past winter I approached another hurdle: group health insurance. I had already been working on my own for almost a year. My wife worked twenty hours each week, less for income and more for the group health insurance benefits she received. We had two children, and that health insurance kept us from even discussing reducing my wife’s work commitment.

Then I changed tactics and started looking at health insurance as a strict money problem. Even though this money problem was like a Porsche lease is a money problem, it did help to bring a dollar amount into the decision making process. I drew up budgets that included higher monthly premium payments and the assumption of paying a huge deductible.

The large insurance numbers were very foreign to me. Enter yet another risk-tolerance test. Insuring ourselves meant that our potential to save money was threatened. If we paid all of our deductible, not much would be left over. On the bright side, if my family had a healthy year we’d be able to save more than in past years.

The non-monetary benefits out weighed the cost of insuring ourselves. We each saw our stress levels plummet once my wife began working eight hours per month. The cost of individual health insurance is a very real hurdle. I found the idea of losing group health insurance to be a false road block.


Sep 17, 2008

Security of income

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Book : How To Use Internet To Earn A MAssive PassivBook : How To Use InBook : How To Use Internet To Earn ternet To Earn e Income In Your Pyjamas
 
Photo by mohdzarki

My corporate job did not provide an extravagant income. It was probably less than industry average. This was not a realization over time - getting rich was never a reason to take the job in the first place. Budgeting and planning was made easy due to this consistent monthly income. Yet that simple fact was a poor reason to continue in an unhappy situation.

As my job satisfaction diminished, I began plugging scenarios into a spreadsheet, using various hourly rates and annual hours worked. I asked myself what expenses I could cut to make my budget lower profile. At first the resulting numbers concerned me. The largess of my necessary expenses surprised me.

A bit of a depression phase ensued. I wished I had never worked corporately, that I had never become accustom to living with two cars, a house, and piles upon piles of Stuff. I imagined prison walls built out of stacked DVD’s, furniture, and electronics, with framed equity and debt statements as the only decorative flourishes.

Since my responsibilities necessitated a certain level of income generation, the task of leaving corporate life required analysis of my (and my wife’s) risk tolerance and testing of my ability to predict the future. While I carried debt in the form of a mortgage, car payments, and student loans, I found our situation better than bad.

First, I had recently established an emergency fund. This offered me protection in the form of tide-me-over money in case of disaster while my income dipped below the norm. Second, I carried no credit card debt. Zero credit card debt was obviously helpful in that I had zero credit card debt to pay, nor interest to incur. Less obvious is if money ever became tight I basically had pre-approved loans up to my credit limits to keep my family in house and home (and car and diapers and ramen noodles and so on).

I am not recommending a dip in the ice-cold waters of one’s emergency funds as a means to make a corporate departure possible. Nor am I suggesting incurring credit card debt is the way to go. But this bit of buffer, this bit of protection, eased my mind as I considered the possibilities for my career. If the budget does not work, it simply does not work! There is no shame in working on the side to establish oneself in an alternative career. I would probably recommend the moonlighting route as opposed to the route I took.

After taking my risk tolerance temperature, I was at a point where I preferred tightening the purse strings to delaying a career change. To be sure, I needed to secure paid employment at some juncture over the next six months. I calculated the lowest possible amount I could make in the remainder of the year in order to cover my needs. The scenarios I devised were plausible, and even allowed me to develop a pecking order for potential work. At this point I was fairly secure in my abilities to get another corporate job if the “real world” became too difficult.

I was only able to make this jump into the freelance world by taking the time to research my budget, address my risk tolerance, understand the income I truly required, and consider ways to reduce my required income. Once I truly understood all of these factors, leaving the every-two-weeks checks behind was not all that scary. Growing confidence in my abilities did not hurt my comfort level, either.

Here’s where I share my secret, my ace-in-the-hole. I had another safety net. My wife was working a good-paying job with options to increase her hours if the need arose. It really helped me to have a supportive (in more ways than one) spouse!

Oh, and one other thing. My potential income is now much greater than it ever was in the corporate world.


Sep 15, 2008

Security of retirement

401(k) career corporate world employment retirement | comments

The Retirement
 
Photo by ted.sali

I cannot argue against one saving for retirement. Most people live a long time nowadays and at some point elderly people are going to need to provide for their needs without much income in the form of a paycheck. Saving is a good thing, and paying off debt is even better. The less money you have invested in Things (tm), the more flexibility you have to make life choices.

Yet 401(k) and defined benefit (pension) plans are a subversive tool in the corporate world. Corporations do a particularly good job of selling these benefits. Heck, most even match 401(k) investments to a certain point, and that’s free money I never turned down in my career. By the end of my time with the corporation, I was investing 15% of my paycheck in my 401(k). Saving for retirement was one of the few career-related choices I had control of.

The promise of future benefits is pushed on us like a pile of garbage bulldozed into a hole to be covered by dirt for a few thousand years. A future of little to no work and monthly 401(k) payouts is indeed tempting. Yet what percentage of employees are even investing at a level to make this feasible? Many coworkers of mine were saving at rates of 8, 6, or even 2 percent. I will not denigrate anyone for saving his money, but those rates do not lead to a beach-infused retirement. This does not even consider the unpredictability of inflation rates, lifespan, and quality of life.

The question I asked myself is, “Why am I putting off a happy and fulfilling life for the distant future?” This opened the door to possibilities. While compounding interest makes early investment critical, would I be willing to give up a year of savings for many years of happiness? The question was quite easy to answer when placed in those terms. Yes, I would give up a year of retirement savings to reroute my career in a more positive direction. Yes, I would take a more clear and immediate route to happiness today rather than wait to see how successfully my retire-in-thirty-years plan could be pulled off.

In no way am I recommending against saving for retirement. But I found when I looked at the retirement question through the filter of more specific, actionable questions, my perspective changed. Will I really stop working one day when I turn fifty-five? I don’t think so. Would I rather have a couple more thousand in savings or a sweet vacation with my family? Family vacations have always been a great experience for each of us. When I look back, would I trade my 401(k) for more time with my kids? YES!

Ultimately my choice was not so drastic. It was a matter of forgoing the “security of retirement” feeling for a short time. After gaining solid footing in a new career, saving money resumed its important place in my life. The salesmen would have me believe in a shiny, happy future with a gold watch and pension plan as a singular career goal. That picture was wiped away like tarnish from the family silver, revealing an even more beautiful future that I could begin enjoying in the present!

Save for retirement. Save for a rainy day. Save for personal flexibility. But don’t buy the beautiful retirement picture corporations are selling. It is possible to be happy with work life even before retiring. When evaluating your employment situation, it is important not to focus on what is coming after the work is all done.


Sep 11, 2008

Security of employment

career corporate world employment | comments

Beginnings of a Blanket
 
Photo by R_rose

Corporations seek to build a culture within their walls. Typically the culture is catalyzed by mission statements, catchy phrases, and generalized value messages repeated by various levels of management. This was no different at my employer. It was considered a family-focused company, with a long history of respecting it’s employees. In fact, the company had never laid off a single employee in its 100-year history!

This last selling point, which I must admit was a pretty good one, fell by the wayside in the first years of my time at the company. A significant number of IT employees were let go one fall day, and the culture never recovered the family-focused vibe. In truth, the vibe felt pretty manufactured the whole time and never tasted like the real thing. While family-friendly benefits existed, there were no creative or exceptional family benefits this company provided over any other typical corporation.

Feeling safe and secure in one’s job is a nice thing on the surface. I learned a safe feeling in one’s job is not real; it can easily lead to ambivalence, lack of career motivation, and weakening of one’s skills. Was this feeling of safety causing me to let my skills diminish? If I were laid off, how marketable would I be for prospective employers? My answers to these questions were not positive.

I came to realize that I would much rather feel safe in my abilities and experiences than in any particular job. Prior to leaving my corporate job, I spent many hours getting a basic understanding of new technologies that provided a path of growth and opportunity. I never felt like there was a moment when I was skilled enough to jump ship, but there was certainly a moment when it was time to jump anyway.

The three-month training program, something I labelled a “benefit” even upon my exit interview, was one of the more damaging events of my career. The training was specifically designed to tear down each trainee to a base level and then build them up at the same rate. The training did not focus on any individual’s particular skill set. The training did not recognize when an individual was best deployed into a different problem area.

My greatest loss in this training process was forgetting what excited me about computing in the first place: using my creativity and problem-solving abilities to create elegant solutions to interesting problems. All passion for development had been extracted from me like a lime freshly squeezed to provide juice in a CEO’s beach-side margarita. It took six years to rediscover that passion. I was a shell of my potential self.

Before leaving the company, I tried to point my newly discovered passion inward toward the company. Encouraged to run with several of my ideas, I met impasses at each and every turn. The internals of this organization were pretty much designed to foster the status quo and over time I knew I needed to leave.

For all of these events, I blame myself more than the corporation. My early lack of self-awareness made it very difficult for the company to handle my new-found focus. If I had been more insistent up front, perhaps my career path would have been different within those walls. Or perhaps I never would have been hired.