Tag Archives: career

Fears of Debt Drown Potential Prosperity

These days, it seems like everyone has tens of thousands of dollars in college debt. Not me. I was one of the lucky ones. Yup, mom and dad foot the bill for my entire college tuition. Given, at the time, I didn’t understand the true value of a college tuition because I didn’t have any sort of grasp on what money is worth.

Today, I’m proudly making it on my own. But my talents are not lining up with my current career, and my boss is starting to notice. I’m trying really hard because I want to do a good job, but I guess there are just some things that come natural to certain people that, well, don’t come naturally to me.

I’ve spent my whole post-adolescent life running away from the thought of a career in design or the arts because that was what my parents expected me to do. Now I’m landing a few weekend freelance design jobs here and there and realizing that this design thing is a rather profitable endeavor. Right now I can fake it – ie, futz with CSS and Photoshop and make a site look purty, but I know I’m not designing within the bounds of modern coding standards. Trying to understand Illustrator is almost as difficult as reading Greek. I can’t do either.

What I’d love more than anything is the opportunity to spend a year or two focused on learning the art and craft of web design. I’m not so sure that’s do-able. First off, the amount of masters and certificate programs available for education in web design and back-end coding make my head spin. They’re all pricy, though pricy has a different definition in each program. Regardless of the program I chose, if I chose one, they’ll all put me into debt. And I know education debt is supposedly good debt, but I am so terrified of having negative money that I can’t really consider doing what my heart knows I ought to do.

Meanwhile, I’m slowly but surely driving my co-workers nutso at my current job. Not sure how to solve that problem since unfortunately succeeding at this job requires certain abilities I do not have. So I’m rather confused regarding what to do at this point. Deadlines for graduate school are rolling in, and I can’t figure out if they’re worth it. I do know that when it comes to web design ultimately what matters is a portfolio and skill – and that can all be created and learned without an expensive education. What to do, what to do?

Labor Day Wrap Up

Investments: I’ve been avoiding checking my Vanguard accounts for a few days. My losses, however temporary, were too painful to look at on a daily basis. After checking a few minutes ago, I’m happy to report Wall Street’s latest recovery has brought my losses to an amount I can deal with.

Career: Has its ups and downs. My job is, quite frankly, amazing. I’m still not sure I’m right for it. Then again, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be “right” for anything that could be described as a “career” or a “job,” even. Figured out my biggest problem with my current job is not my inability to fact check properly (although that’s a huge problem that I’m going to fix, hopefully with the help of ADD meds that I might be getting this week), it’s my massive issue with social anxiety. It’s not ideal to be a journalist with social anxiety. Can I overcome my fear of talking to strangers? Can I find confidence in my intellect so I can stop spending my life apologizing for my errors and worrying about future ones, and focus on just doing a good job? Tune in next time…

Love: I’m lucky in love. I think. I’m just stressed out about life, overall, and that’s affecting my relationship. It isn’t fair to my boyfriend. He’s a great guy. I used to think that happiness meant being successful, ie, figuring out some way to lead a life that would make my parents go “wow.” Now that I realize this is impossible and/or unimportant, I’ve almost given up at that dream. Instead, I now understand that happiness in life is about the people who we meet along the way, especially the person (or people) who we love. I need to figure out how to live love. I’ve spent so much of my life finding security in the dramatic, and I’m tired of it. My parents’ relationship is a joke, despite that they’ve been married for more than 25 years. I’ve grown up to believe marriage is a joke as well. I’m not sure I still believe that. It’s odd that I can see myself one day having a husband and a family. It sounds really, really weird to hear myself think that. I’m not sure if my current boyfriend will be the guy I end up with forever, but I wouldn’t want to be able to foresee that clearly now anyway. On my Labor Day vacation, a bunch of strangers kept asking if we were married, or calling us husband and wife. It was weird. I still feel like I’m 16 years old, even though I’m really pushing 24. Geez, 24. You know, I hadn’t even thought about the significance of turning 24 until just now. That’s old. I mean, not old, old. But old enough that I’m no longer a young adult. I’m, well, an adult. Plain and simple. And I need to start living like one.

Sleep: Lacking. I need more sleep. Insomnia is destroying my already limited ability to focus and function properly.

Budget: Spent $125 on six pairs of shoes while on vacation. Yes, six. That includes California tax. Did I need six pairs of shoes? Probably not. But outlet stores plus a need for new shoes and finding shoes that actually fit me (a rarity) equals buying a lot of shoes. I find shoes are a worthwhile investment, especially if they’re good quality footwear sold at a relatively cheap price. At the Nine West outlet store, I actually bought a pair of shoes I already own. They are pretty gross right now and my gut instinct has told me throw them out for months. Finally, I found their replacement. The same exact pair, for $15 on a sale rack on extra sale. There is something orgasmic about walking into a shoe store that has a sale rack where prices are already marked down about 50 percent, and then there’s a giant sign that says “take 50 percent off already reduced prices.” Sometimes I think I could live on the thrill of buying $70-$100 shoes for $20.

Travel: Labor Day weekend in Tahoe was great. I felt bad that I ended up spending so little on the trip. My boyfriend’s father footed the bill for our motel and my bf covered most of the gas, so I ended up spending about $200 on the trip for food and a show. (And then I spent $125 on shoes (see above)). I’ve got a few upcoming trips that will pinch my wallet a bit… a roadtrip to LA coming up in a few weeks, and then I’m off to Miami for my childhood friend’s wedding. Overall I expect travel to cost me another $400-$500 over the next two months. My mother still wants me to take a trip to Vegas to visit my grandmother, but I’m not sure it makes sense to spend even more money on that. And then there’s the possibility of taking a trip home to the east coast for the holidays, though I might just not go home this year. There’s not much left for me there. Being around my parents, in my childhood home, just depresses me. It reminds me of all the things I’ve been trying so hard to get away from (and failing, but trying nonetheless).

Successful Shoe Return; Job Stress; Understanding Economics

Please pat me on the back. I walked into Macy’s to return my non-functioning shoes that I purchased for $45 last month (the heel of the right shoe somehow deflated each time I put any weight on it) and by some miracle of miracle’s I managed to walk out of the store, return receipt in hand, without making another purchase.

(Although I admit, I did eye the earring display by the door and have dirty thoughts about buying half of the items shimmering in my view).

Now, before you get too pat-happy, prepare to punch me. Five minutes or so after my accomplishment, I walked into Borders and spent $36 on two books. I felt like the books were worthy purchases though. Sure, I could go to a library to get books for free, but on the rare occasion I manage to motivate myself to read anything, I’m the type that loves to take notes in the columns. The librarians don’t really think my notes add value to the books, so it’s best for me to purchase them up front.

My goal over the next few months is to actually start reading. I have terrible ADD and I rarely pick up a book and make it through from start to finish. I’ve given up on fiction almost entirely, but non-fiction is worth my time and painful attempts to focus.

Since I’m on this personal finance kick and slightly depressed/confused/bewildered about how Wall Street works, I decided to invest in some economics for dummies-type books.

So I bought:

1) Economics: Making Sense of the Modern Economy (by “The Economist”)
2) Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery, by David Warsh

I like buying “smart people” books. My shelves are filled with them. Do I read them? No. But I do need to figure out this economy thing. It’s one subject that I’m embarrassed I know next-to-nothing about. As a business reporter, I owe my readers (and myself) a bit of a fast education on the topic.

Speaking of my profession, I won’t go into detail (since I want to remain anonymous), but I’m a bit stressed out about my new job. The job is awesome for so many reasons – flexibility, salary, the people I get to work with and meet, and above all, the ability to learn something (or a bunch of things) new every day. How could I ask for more? I know I’m so lucky to have landed in such a great position given my age, my experience, and perhaps even my potential.

Well, that’s the problem. I really want to do a good job, but it’s not like I can just complete all my projects early, take on additional projects, and seem like a great worker. Ultimately my success is dependent more on quality than quantity of my output, though quantity is important as well.

The sad thing is that even when I try to be careful with my reporting, I have a tendency to make little mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes once in a while, but I seem to do it all the time. I’m looking into going to see a psychiatrist because I’m thinking perhaps if I get on some drugs for my ADD I’ll be less likely to miss my errors. But all that mental health care costs a fortune, even if my insurance covers some of it. Then again, if it’ll help me keep my job, it’s worth it, right?

In any case, I’m confused about the whole career situation. More than anything I’m frustrated with myself for not kicking ass at my job. I don’t want to let my anxiety hold me back from success. Then there’s also the question of whether I’m smart enough to be in a position that obviously requires a high level of intellect and ability to collect, analyze and re-hash complicated information.

My boss recently criticized me for my lack of voice in my work. He said he hired me because I told him that I’m a blogger. But my writing for work has been so boring and dry. It’s lacking any sort of personality, I guess. I wonder what he’d think of this blog or any of the other blogs that I keep that are chalk full of personality. It’s a lot easier to have a voice when I’m writing about things I’m intimately familiar with, but the topics I write about are not things that are easy to understand or to explain. Maybe someday I’ll get to the point where I can write short, edgy posts with tons of voice that people would actually want to read. Until that day, I better get “good enough” so I can keep my job… and keep improving.

Payday!

My first paycheck for my new job was direct-deposited into my checking account. After taxes, it looks like I make $1,588.19 twice a month. So that’s like $3200 per month, which is hopefully how much I should be making after taxes (last year I ended up owing like $500 in taxes because I guess I didn’t have enough $ taken out.)

That’s very exciting. Up until June I was making $2200 a month. So I’m basically making $1000 more a month. That seems wrong, though. I feel like taxes should take out more, since I was making $35k before and now I’m making $50k. Hmm.

So in July, with my $300 in freelance work, I took in about $1888. Plus I guess I can count the $450 in rent money I earned last month letting my friend crash at my apartment while she looked for a place of her own. So I ended up making just about as much as I would have at my old job this month…

That’s not too bad, being as I took two weeks off for the month. It’s still not great, as $1050 of that went to rent, and I certainly spent more than $800 this month on random odds and ends, car keys being lost, gas, and cocktails. The good news is that next month I might break even. I might even put some money into my savings account. I might even, by then, figure out how I should actually be investing my money, as opposed to watching my mutual fund account depleting.

Ashes, Ashes, Her Finances Go Down

The stock market is still performing poorly. I went ahead and bought $100 more dollars worth of my mutual fund, because I’m upset that I’ve lost $400 and I figure if I buy more now, when the the fund is cheap, maybe I’ll make my money back. At least my CDs that are making interest have made about $400 total over the last two and a half years, so, I’m at break even, for now.

I’m not too concerned about my Roth IRA. It kind of sucks to watch my Roth depleting. That’s going to have quite some time to recover. Afterall, I’m only 23. The mutual fund is really worrying me, and it probably should be. As I’ve written before, I’m not going to pull my funds out right now. I’m keeping them in for a while. A few years probably. I have other money not tied up in investments so I’m doing fine financially. It’s just it’s really upsetting to think that there’s a possibility the $9100 dollars I now have tied up in mutual funds — $4000 in my Roth and $4600 in my index fund buy – will be down to… much less than that the day I decide I want to buy a house or take a year off of life and become a reclusive writer traveling the world.

In happier financial news, my freelance career is sort of, kind of taking off. Thanks to my uncle, who hooked me up with some folks who needed writing help, I managed to make about $300 extra this month. That’s really nice, considering I’ve spent about that much to get to and from my show and work in gas and that lovely $170 car key incident.

I’m also excited about getting my first paycheck for my new job tomorrow. I’m not sure how much my check will be after taxes are taken out, but I know I’ll be making more than I was the last time I was taking home money. And my new company even has direct deposit, so I don’t have to deal with going to the bank twice a month. I hate going to the bank.

Really what I need to focus on is doing good work at my job. I’m trying, I really am, but my new position is pretty hard. And I love the challenge, but I’m terrified of failure. I’m even more terrified of failure because I’m not really sure what it’s defined as in a job like this. There’s no way to quantify what a good job means. Obviously if everything I do is great and gets a lot of positive feedback from the blogosphere, I deserve a pat on the back. But otherwise? I don’t need constant praise or criticism but once in a while it’s nice to know where I stand – especially when I’m so new at something. I do hope I’ll get better. I like that my company does offer a bonus incentive to work towards. That’s certainly not the reason to do a good job, as really, the reason to do a good job is the reward of knowing that I’m contributing something to a larger conversation… but, the extra cash incentive doesn’t hurt.

Women Don’t Negotiate = Women Make Less Money.

I got a new job. I can’t go into details on here regarding what that job entails, as I don’t want to blow my thinly-veiled cover (to those who know me, it’s impossible for me to blog without giving away who I am.) Needless to say, the position is 99 percent of the way to dream job, and I’m really proud of myself for somehow falling into the opportunity.

The focus of this entry is not my new job, persay, but my terror of negotiating and my delight in figuring out that I can get what I want in a negotiation without feeling guilty.

The day of my meeting to negotiate terms of my new job, I spent all my free time scouring the Internet for advice on how to approach any likely scenerio. I took my current job with absolutely no negotiation, and while I don’t regret it (the job was worth more to me than a few thousand more dollars at the time, when my lack of full-time experience made it painfully difficult to get a job at all), it does suck being stuck at my entry-level salary a year later. Between the company struggling financially and my inability to be brilliant in their eyes, I lost the opportunity to be promoted five months into the gig. And since then, I haven’t even dared to ask. I’ve been working my ass off and I’m pretty sure I’ve been earning my keep, to say the least. It has just become increasingly clear to me that in order to be valued as I ought to be, I need to move elsewhere.

So I applied for dozens of positions and even got offers for a few, but ultimately turned them down. They all paid more than my current gig, but I decided while I’d like a fatter paycheck, salary isn’t the only thing that would get me to make the leap to a new position. I’m picky. And I really wanted to find a job where I knew I would feel like I’d be able to give just as much as I take, if not more.

Found that job, or so it seems. I had no idea what the salary would be. It’s one of those Web 2.0 jobs where there’s no pre-defined standard for base salary at any level. It’s a guessing game for all involved, to be determined based on either my former salary or my current and potential value.

The one strict rule in negotating, it seems, is that you’re not supposed to note your current salary at any point. Nor should you bring up a number first. In my situation, I was practically forced to put a number out there. I blurted out a range, which was higher than what I’m making now but not entirely ridiculous. The low point in the range was what I figured I should be making at my current job if I was in a company that actually paid attention to the growth of its employees and wanted to reward them for their hard work. The high of the range, $5k more, was what I’d like to be making, even though I didn’t think that was really possible.

Side story…

The other day I met up with a young woman who used to intern with me at a community newspaper. She graduated a year after me (I was interning the year after I graduated, while she was graduating that year with a degree in journalism.) Turns out, she hated the internship (and seemingly journalism as a whole, but maybe it was just the internship.) So the other day we re-connected on Linked In and it turned out she was working in a PR office a few towns over. So we decided to meet up for lunch.

We talked a lot about issues of age, salary, and feeling like being taken advantage of at work (mostly due to our age.) Turns out that her salary, surprisingly enough, was $3k less than what I’m currently making. She was frustrated with her job, mostly because of the pay – I’d imagine mind numbing PR work without a rewarding salary would get old fast. We’ve both been in our positions a year now, even though I’m officially two years out of school and she’s just marking her one year anniversary of graduation.

She took such a low salary without negotiating at first because she needed the experience as well, but likely she could have gotten her base pay up to that $35k figure that seems to be standard for entry-level corporate or agency work (unless you’re a software engineer or something). Now she’s stuck. She could ask for a raise, but the raise would bring her up to what she should have started at a year ago.

Back to the main story…

Negotiation is an amazing tool when used properly. It’s amazing what you can get just by asking. Women are taught to make other’s happy, to be people pleasers (at least most of us are) so negotiation seems like a painful experience. Aren’t they offering me what’s in my best interest? Not likely. It turns out that men often think of their own interests first, whereas women are the opposite. So a man will low-ball a salary and expect the other person to negotiate. If the other person is a man, chances are he would negotiate for a higher salary or at least better benefits. If the other person is a women, it’s questionable if she’ll say “Ok” or go with the great tactic… “hmmmmm…”

But I’m living proof that it can’t hurt to ask. At the start of the negotation process, I was given a salary quote, which was the lowest number I had noted in my range at my first interview. While I could have taken that and been happy with it, I felt like that was a little low considering my additional commute time for this new job and all the added responsibility. I was thinking of asking for $2k more, but I realized if I did that, then he might pick a number in between the two, and I’d end up with only $1k more. So instead I mustered up all my courage and pushed the number up $5k. It was quite a nervewracking moment. I was waiting for him to say no. He almost said no. Then he said, “done.”

Moral of the story – female or male, but especially female, make sure to ask for what you want when you’re negotiating. It might make sense to accept what’s offered to you for your first job out of college, but even then most people respect a little negotiation initative. Afterall, business – whether it’s working for a giant corporate company as a sales rep, or as a development associate at a non-profit, is ALL about negotation. And if you can’t ask for what you want when it comes to your livelihood, what’s to say you would be able to do it on a daily basis to help your company get ahead?

Building Up a Freelance Career

There are tons of opportunities to make a few bucks here and there when it comes to writing. This blog, despite all of those AdSense ads, is not one of them. I seem to be making about three cents a week with AdSense, and that’s on a good week.

However, with all of the magazines in the world, online and in print, there’s plenty of room to pitch stories and freelance for some extra cash each month. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of working as a freelancer, but I’m not sure I’d be comfortable moving to a full-time freelance career. First of all, every month would bring in a different amount of money. Health insurance would be all up to me to figure out. I might ultimately make more money, but the uncertainty freaks me out too much to take that leap.

In the meantime, I’ve been lucky enough to be doing some minimal freelance writing work for my uncle, who runs his own online marketing company. He develops e-newsletters for a company that are sent out each month. Included in those newsletters are summaries of related news articles. Guess who writes those summaries? I make $50 per month doing that, but that $50 covers one voice lesson. It actually used to be $100 a month but one of the companies he developed the newsletter for decided they were done with their monthly marketing e-mail. The extra $100 a month was really nice. It seemed to provide the extra cushion I need between overspending and just having enough money to break even each month. The job is nice because writing up the blurbs comes naturally to me and I feel like I’m actually helping my uncle out while also making his life a little easier.

I’ve done occasional freelance work for newspapers, but it’s a ton of work for $50. My cell phone bill for making all the calls ends up costing more than what I make. So I’ve put a stop to newspaper freelancing for now.

Lately I’ve realized that the real money to be made in freelancing is writing for PR and marketing. I don’t think I’d want a full-time PR or marketing career, but I do enjoy spending my free time writing marketing copy. It’s nice to spend my days reporting and writing hard news, and then getting a bit fluffy come evening. Of course, I have to be very careful not to run into any conflict-of-interest issues, which is always a very real concern for me as a journalist. I’d only write marketing copy for a company outside of the sectors my magazine covers.

On top of writing, I’m also trying to build up my freelance web design work. It’s amazing how much money one can make designing a simple site for a person or a business. My uncle hooked me up with my first gigs, where he pitched me as a cheap alternative to other web designers. I guess most web designers charge about $1500-$2000 for a simple site. I’ve charged about $600-$700 per site. I feel really weird charging people that much money, even though I realize my prices are more than competitive. I’ve also worked for small companies or people who have a large chunk of disposible income, so my uncle tells me not to feel guilty about setting my prices in that range. He said he’d charge $2500 or more to do the exact same thing.

Knowing that, sometimes I wonder if I should really focus on gaining skills in web design. After all, it would be neat to either work full-time as a web designer or, ideally, to supplement my income as a reporter by designing about two sites per month. The extra $1200 per month, or even $600 per month, would really help balance out my budget.

As far as career goes, I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing in a month. My company, as I’ve noted previously, looks as if it’s about to go down the tubes. But I’m not too concerned. Some exciting opportunities have popped up. It’s kind of nice how things seem to always work out. A networking contact of the past has contacted me about an opening at her company. It’s not everyday someone contacts me about a job opening.

I definitely have tons more to say about job searching as both an entry-level candidate and now as a candidate with rather specialized experience. But that’ll be another entry.

Do any of you freelance full-time or for supplemental income outside of your job? Any advice for a gal who’s interested in building out her freelance work?

Money and Etiquette: Why are the important things in life never taught in school?

The waitress handed the bill to a guy sitting at the table of 10 family members. The group included a few small children and a majority of adults with disposable incomes, plus a girl hoping to keep some of her savings account for graduate school a few years down the line. In this situation, it looks as though this girl (that would be me) is expected to pay. There’s nothing offensive about being expected to pay for one’s own share of the meal.

It is never that simple. The biggest problem last night, it seemed, was my lack of access to cash. My debit card had been turned off for suspected fraudulent activity (there wasn’t any, It was re-activated this morning after a lengthy Q&A session with BoA) so that’s why I had no access to cash. I had a credit card and figured if they didn’t offer to cover my portion of the bill, I’d just pay my way with plastic. No big deal, right? I ordered a $16 plate of fish & chips… which was one of the least expensive full dishes on the menu. I didn’t go with the salmon or fancier fish dishes since, despite that they were a healthier and more desirable choice, I wasn’t going to splurge on a 20-some-odd dollar meal that may or may not get picked up by family. Either way, it paid to be frugal.

So when the bill made it to the table, it looked like I was, in fact, going to pay for my share of the meal. The question, then, was the sum of my share. In my mind, I had purchased a $16 meal and ordered water for a grand total of $20, tip included. As I suggested my $20 fee, a variety of suggestions regarding my proper payment hit the table. “What about the appetizers,” asked a relative. Right. The appetizers. The three of them that I didn’t order, but ate when offered. I wouldn’t have chosen to order them on my own, but since they were there (and quite tasty looking) I enjoyed my fair share. Fine. I’ll chip in for the appetizers I wouldn’t have ordered, but that I ate. My $16 meal is now costing me $25.

Suddenly another relative suggests we just split the bill evenly. I cringe. Luckily, others realize this isn’t fair and continue to split the bill according to purchase. It doesn’t always work out that way. But I’ll get to that later.

Ultimately, my offer to pay with a credit card offended my family member to the point where she said, in an upset voice, forget it – and hastily paid for my portion of the bill. Unfortunately a few minutes later I had to ask her to borrow $5 for bridge tolls since I was out of cash and realized the bridge didn’t accept charge either.

I don’t want to seem like this stingy, ungrateful bitch to my local relatives, but it seems like I manage to always leave a bad impression on them every time I visit. I’m contemplating writing a check out for $30 and sending it their way, but here’s an untold piece of the story – the woman of the family (who ultimately paid the bill) didn’t want to pay for my portion, whereas the husband, who ran off to entertain his children at the time of payment, made some comment under his breath that made me think he’d gladly cover my portion. No one else heard that, it seems. I don’t know if it would be even further rude to just send a check in the mail to cover my costs.

I did suggest that I owe both of them dinner – which may or may not happen. Because then we’ll all be having dinner and get to the bill and what-do-ya-know, they’re going to want to get the bill and will refuse to let me pay it.

It seems etiquette is rarely about follow-through, but instead just about an offer.

However, what happens when you are at social lunch or dinner and someone boldly suggests the bill be split (of course, it’s usually the guy who ordered two top-shelf margaritas who thinks this is such a brilliant idea). Do you speak up for yourself or do you sit back and watch your affordable meal turn into an extravagant expense?

If this occurs with friends, it’s usually easy to say something. But what about co-workers? This happened once early on in my time at my current company and I was flabbergasted by the entire situation. I mean, how stingy can one be around people whom she sees as important networking contacts down the line? As far as my company goes, it seems that all of this has balanced itself out over time. Colleagues who have gotten new jobs with great promotions have covered entire bills, and in the long run I’m likely out of the red when it comes to overspending on my meals in aggregate costs. Obviously it doesn’t always work out that way. It’s important to fit into company culture and go out with co-workers to social lunches, happy hours, etc, but it can be costly. How much is networking worth?

PF Jitters

My $6000 was officially transferred from the safety of my Maximizer checking account into my IRA and Mutual Fund investment accounts. I’m excited about taking the investment leap myself, but nervous as all hell that the leap might be futile, or worse. I’m pretty comfortable with the $3000 I put to my Roth IRA. It’s in a nice Retirement 2050 plan that’s already diversified with my retirement date in mind. And since Vanguard seems to be a pretty reputable company, I’m not too worried. However, the $3000 I put towards that Mid-Cap Growth Index Fund is probably a bad idea.

As of 10:25am, my $3000 in my mutual fund is down 5 cents, and my $3000 in my IRA is up 3 cents. Why is a 2-cent loss making me so god-damn nervous? And furthermore, why is my Mutual Fund down 5 cents when looking at the day’s activity in the fund, it should be up a bit? I’m rather confused right now. Maybe it dropped down the second I put my money in. I know I’m going to be anal about checking how the fund is doing, despite that I’m going to try to force myself to keep my money in there for a few years (until grad school) unless someone more knowledgeable than me advises me otherwise.

I’m kind of glad I’m prohibited from getting involved in the nitty gritty of stock trading (due to covering technology companies that I’d like want to invest in), so I’ll likely avoid making any major investment mistakes. Still, putting $3000 in an account that could drop down to $2000 in a few days makes me rather nervous. I mean, the largest investment I’ve ever made with my money thus far was that godawful CD with a 3.1 % interest rate. I put $7000 into that a few months after I got out of college. It seemed like the wise thing to do at the time. It was an 18-month CD, and I figured since I had upwards of $30k in savings somehow, I could spare $7000 for such a “risky” investment. Well, it felt risky at the time.

Sadly enough, I didn’t bother to call my bank when the CD matured, thinking that it would just automatically transfer to my checking or savings account and I could deal with it then. Of course, now I know that CD’s automatically reinvest themselves at the same rate, for the same amount of time. So now I have my $7000 (which is at about $7400 after gaining the 18 months of Interest, which I guess is better than nothing) tied up in this low-interest CD. Meanwhile I recently saw an ad on Bank of America for an 8-month 5.01 % CD and I threw $5000 at that. For some reason they haven’t processed my CD investment yet, though. I guess I have to call them and confirm some things before they can pull my money from my checking account and put it in the CD.

In more exciting news, since last weekend I’ve made $1.57 since enrolling in BankofAmerica’s “Keep the Change” program. It’s kind of neat – every time you use your debit card, they roll your spending cost up to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference in your bank account. So, for instance, if you spend $1.01, they’ll toss in 99 cents. Of course, most purchases end up being, like, $2.92, so in that case you only get 8 cents. But over the course of one week and eight transactions, I’ve afforded myself a small coffee. I also apparently racked up $2.46 in my AdSense account somehow. I guess that means people are actually reading my page. That’s exciting! Extra income, even $4 a week, is certainly helpful. I’m nervous about this AdSense account thing, though. I’ve read some horror stories about how Google has shut down accounts if you click on your own links. And it’s not like I’m going to do it on purpose, but sometimes I’m not thinking and I’m actually interested in an advertisement shown on my page. I’ve never had to restrict myself from clicking something. So hopefully I can restrain myself.

On another note, I’m saving some money this month because I’ve offered a friend who’s recently moved to the area a place to crash until she finds a place. I wasn’t going to make her pay anything, but since she offered I figured I’d split my rent and pro-rate it. So that comes out to $15 a day. And I’m also possibly designing some websites for my friends for a rather small fee (compared to my normal rate.) But I never count my freelance money as income. It’s always “extra,” although in actually due to my poor spending habits and inability to keep a budget, I’m lucky if my freelance wages cover all the cash I’ve spent in a month.

So salary-wise, make about $2200 a month after taxes. (Though this year I ended up owing a lot in taxes and I haven’t done anything with the W4, so I’m figuring I make about $2100 a month, really. $905 of that goes to rent & utilities (PG&E, water, trash, etc are “included” in my rent). Oh, what the hell, here’s a list of my basic fixed monthly costs:

$905 — Rent (includes utilities) – Going up to $1050 per month in July, plus requiring renter’s insurance.
$60 – Verizon Cell Phone Bill, if I remember to pay it on time and don’t use 411, etc.
$64 – RCN TV & Internet
$8 – the converter box from RCN that I’ve yet to find time to return, that I’m apparently “renting” on a monthly basis
$5 – RCN “Home networking” – on my RCN bill, but I have no idea what this is. WTF?
——————————
$1038 total for now
$1188 + whatever rent’s insurance costs in July.

Now, time for some depressing figures…

My spending on rent currently is 45 percent of my income (you’re only supposed to spend 20-30 percent of your income on rent, I hear.) In July, sans a raise (and I doubt I’m getting a raise anytime soon) I’ll be spending 50 percent (or more) of my income on rent.

It doesn’t take a personal finance blogger to tell me that’s a terrible idea.

I’ve been thinking about writing a post about why on earth I live alone in the SF Bay Area on $35k a year, so I think I’ll write that up over my lunch break later this afternoon.

In any case, with $1050 left for all the other things in life outside of basic housing, TV, Internet and phone, I just keep overspending. It doesn’t help matters that I’m spending upwards of $350 a month in gas to get to my various rehearsals that are 40 or so miles from my home (my “hobby” is doing community theater – which is free, outside of gas mileage and makeup for shows and the like.)

But hey, at least I made $1.57 in “keep the cents” change. Then again, Bank of America, for some reason, has that $1.57 noted as a “spend” in my checking account. So I’m down $1.57 for the time being. What’s up with that? Grr.

Agism & Career

Business magazines love to gush over CEOs who barely left the crib. In December, BusinessWeek ran a story on “CEOs 40 and Under.” Meanwhile Forbes highlighted “America’s Youngest CEOs,” who were all around 33 years of age. But most of their success as an entrepreneur began in college or soon thereafter. Then you’ve got Red Herring’s “Tech Tots” who are all under 30 years of age… some are even as young as 17.

Each age has its benefits and hindrences, even though at some point age stops mattering, or so I’ve been told. Additionally, being female, age has further significance when it comes to how others view you in a work enviornment.

Since I can’t speak for 40 year olds or 30 year olds or 27 year olds, I’ll focus on what I know best.

I’m 23 years old. What does that mean? Well, I’m certainly no longer 18. That seems to be the last age with a real clear definition in my mind. Once upon a time 21 seemed like a big milestone, but two years past that birthday, I see little has changed upon passing that overrated celebration of aging flesh and mind. 18 meant something. It wasn’t at all about getting the right to vote, or to gyrate naked on some dirty, wealthy man in a strip club had I any desire to do so. It was just the year that I legally grew out of being my parent’s kid and became my own person. Of course that took a few years to accept, but when I turned 18 I stopped being a kid and became, well, sort of an adult.

Then the years flew by. Heck, that was nearly six years ago. I was a freshman in college then. Somehow I managed to wrap up undergrad in four years. Two years later, I’m an entry-level worker in the wonderful world of reality.

The first year I got out of college was really tough for me. I didn’t quite understand how old I was, I just felt like this 14 year old playing dress up when I went on job interviews. I’d put on some suit, fix my makeup, ensure my lip gloss was no more than a nanometer out of place, and headed off in my “new” used car, and attempted to promote my greatness to some stranger who responded with little more than a nod.

How I got through that year, I’ll never know. There were certainly days when I could have called it quits. I’m glad I stuck it out, though.

After all of that, I landed a full-time job. As I noted before, I work in the editorial department of a magazine. Being as I work in business journalism, the people I work with are extremely smart. They’re also all at least four years older than me. That is, others who have the same title I do (and started after me) are at least four years older. Most of them have advanced degrees. So it’s just an awkward spot for me to be in… given that in order to prove myself I not only have to prove that I’m a hard worker and talented enough for my age and experience, I have to prove somehow that I’m really just as smart and talented and motivated as my colleagues who’ve been around the professional block.

It feels weird for admitting my age to co-workers to feel like such a dirty thing. If someone asks me how old I am at work, it feels like they might as well ask me which site I prefer to surf for my weekly dosage of porn viewing. It’s not something I like to discuss publically. I’m embarressed by it. I’m only 23. Then again, people can be successful at any age. Folks are getting into Stanford at 18 (there goes my Ivy Envy again) and they’ve surely accomplished great feats well before filling out their college applications. When it comes to success, age is irrelevant.

But so much of my profession is about being respected and getting to know sources. So much of it is about being able to, well, talk the talk and walk the walk. And to be honest I still feel like that little girl playing dress up. I don’t know if the feeling is enhanced because I’m female or what… one of my co-workers, a female, told me once that she feels like we’re working in a boys club… and it’s true. One out of maybe 400 venture capitalists is female (this is a guess, but it’s likely true), and the stats are probably similiar for CEOs.

Of course the topic of gender requires it’s own entry and… I’m not about to write three entries in one night. 🙂 But age in itself is an issue worth discussing. There’s a feeling towards people who “just graduated.” It just so happens these days “just graduated” doesn’t really give away a person’s age. Plenty of people went to community college, took a few years off, and maybe wrapped up their schooling in their mid-20s. Well, I started undergrad at 17 and I was out by 21.

I’m really tired of hearing that I’m “young” and “inexperienced.” Yes, that’s true, but it’s not like I’m oblivious to the fact. And while I’d like to think I do a good job given… my age, my “experience,” and my abilities… I’m not sure what is “enough.” I believe that if I were male I’d be treated a lot differently. Sure I’d still be “young” and “inexperienced,” but I think my age would matter less.

Am I still “entry-level” just because I’m young? Sometimes I feel like I need to be at least 25, or have a higher degree to be considered anything but entry level. But that’s just my mind playing tricks on me and my billions of insecurities, right?