3 Simple Ways To Maximize Your Raise or Bonus

The last time you got a raise or a year end bonus, what did you do with it?  I can tell you what I did with mine.  During the earlier years of my career, I would absorb any pay raises or bonuses into my spending and let lifestyle inflation creep up.

I wanted a new wardrobe?


Take my bonus and splurge on a resort vacation?


The choices I made with pay increases unfortunately fueled my former shopaholic tendencies and I was really no better off after the raises than before.  It took me awhile to figure out that I should put the additional earnings to good use and make my money work for me.

If you recently received a raise, are currently negotiating for one or will receive a year end performance bonus, here are three options on how to allocate it so that you can continually reap the rewards of your hard work.

1.  Kick Debt To The Curb

Whether you are having it out with student loans, credit cards or anything else that eats up your paycheck unnecessarily, using the additional income to pay debt down is always a smart choice.  The longer you carry your debt load, the more interest you’ll pay and debt is a big cause of stress.  Working mainly to service debt is a truly frustrating experience so the sooner you can get that over with, the better.

2.  Save For A Rainy Day

If you've ever heard of Murphy’s law then you’ll know what I’m talking about.  If anything can go wrong, it will.  Establishing an emergency fund to deal with life’s unpleasant surprises is a valuable tool when it comes to your personal finances.  You will easily remember to budget to pay your cellphone bill or rent each month.  It’s harder to come up with $1K when the car breaks down or you accidentally crack a tooth.  Use your raise or bonus to start or top up an emergency fund in order to weather unexpected moments.

3.  Pay Less Taxes

Take advantage if your company offers a retirement savings plan, especially one that offers a matching amount.  By investing your raise or bonus, you’ll get immediate tax relief from Uncle Sam.  Your money remains tax sheltered until withdrawal and will grow thanks to the wonder that is compound interest.  Even if your company doesn't offer a retirement plan, you can still accomplish the same result by opening an individual IRA.

You can decide to split your additional funds on a combination of the above or just apply laser focus on one option until you’re done. Then rinse, lather and repeat for the next goal.  If your financial situation is positive, consider donating part of the raise or bonus to your favorite charity or social organization.

I also believe in treating yourself kindly, so reserve a portion of the additional earnings in order to celebrate your success - you earned it.


How did you spend or save your bonus or money from a raise?

Originally posted 2014-11-13 06:00:25.


Workplace Time Traps and How to Avoid Them

Every day, we are faced with a growing number of distractions at work. Despite our best efforts, what I call “time traps” tend to take over more of our work hours than we intend. We get so caught up in them that before we know it, a huge amount of time is lost to these distractions.

But losing valuable time in the day is only one downfall of time traps. Most of these activities listed below will also disrupt your productivity. By some accounts, it can take a person up to 25 minutes to refocus after being hit with a distraction. And, let’s be honest, in 25 minutes you’ll likely get a text from a friend or an email from a co-worker that will restart the whole process.

Common Workplace Time Traps

Recognizing where you time is being lost is the first step to avoiding workplace time traps. Here are just a few of the many distractions we may face in a day.

  1. Cell Phone: This one is pretty self-explanatory. In the time it takes you to read this article, you’ll probably check your Facebook wall or send out a Tweet from your phone. Between texts, calls, social media, email and other miscellaneous apps, we allow our phones to take over our attention far to often. It’s time to put it away.
  2. Email: On a similar note, emails are one of the most time-consuming work activities. First and foremost, if you’re the type of person who checks an email as soon as you receive the notification, you could be seriously disrupting your focus. Calculating how many emails you receive per day multiplied by the 25 minutes it takes to refocus and we’ve got a problem.
  3. Web Browsing: If Buzzfeed is your weakness, or you have to check ESPN every hour for updates on your teams, you may be succumbing yourself to one of the worst time traps. It’s easy to get caught up in browsing your favorite sites, including social media. Too easy.
  4. Chatty Coworkers: I personally struggle with this one more than anything. I don’t want to be rude and tell someone to leave me alone, but, seriously, leave me alone. Being interrupted by someone who just wants to “chat” while you’re in the middle of a project can be frustrating. And, if they’re extra chatty, you could lose more than 15 minutes of productive time.
  5. Disorganization: You may be wondering how being disorganized can be considered a time trap. But, imagine that you are looking for something – a file at your desk, a document on your desktop – and your workspace is a mess. You could be wasting minutes (that add up to hours) looking for whatever it is that you need.

While these are only a small few of the distractions we experience every day, it’s important to acknowledge them. To help eliminate time traps, you have to recognize where you’re losing your focus.

How to Eliminate Workplace Time Traps

Once you know into which traps you fall, it’s all about avoiding them. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Plan your day. Working against a plan will help you stay on task, and likely reduce distractions.
  2. Schedule it. Set a time to answer emails and outside that window, don’t even open your email. Allow yourself a certain time each day to browse your favorite site (like, on lunch, for example). Stick to it.
  3. Put the distraction away. If it’s your phone, keep it in a bag or away from your work area.
  4. Politely ask for space. When someone comes to chat, nicely let them know that you’re in the middle of something important and that you’ll get back them.
  5. Clean up. Makes sense.

You know what they say: Time is money. And time spent caught in these traps can be costly in more ways than just financially. Don’t let yourself become swallowed up by these workplace time traps.

Do you find that you have fallen prey to one or more of these workplace time traps?

Originally posted 2014-11-07 06:00:42.


Choosing the Right Degree for Your Career

Making the decision to attend college is a big one. The costs associated with a college degree could remain with you for several years after you graduate.

With that in mind, you might want to work backwards before choosing a degree. That is, figure out the type of lifestyle you want and how much you need to make to sustain that lifestyle.

For example, when I decided to go back to college after graduating with a Spanish degree, I researched top paying majors. I examined top majors like engineering, accounting, finance, and computer science before I settled on finance. I chose finance because I actually enjoyed learning about how money works and I figured it would help me in my personal finances as well.

According to Think Advisor, the top 10 paying degrees in 2014 are all in engineering. One of the top paying degrees is software engineering. If you have an interest in engineering then your degree choice is simple; it is a top paying degree, and you will probably find it enjoyable.

However, don’t choose a college degree just because it is a top paying field. You will be spending considerable time and money on this degree. Instead, choose a degree that will give you work that you will enjoy as well.

Though it may not be appropriate to simply choose the top paying degree, you could still use this method of working backwards to choosing a major. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has an Occupational Outlook Handbook that includes career information and job descriptions for almost any occupation you could want. It is important to take a bit of time and research your options.

Then, think about your personal skills. Not job skills, but the skills that make you, well, you.

Are you a talker?

Communications skills are necessary for jobs in sales. Are you an even better listener? You could be the top salesperson in your company. Do you find that friends often turn to you for advice? How about a career in counseling? Your personal skills can help you narrow down your degree choices.

Finally, remember that a significant decision like this one, choosing a college major, is one that you have to make for yourself. Think about what is most important to you and go from there. I chose to major in Spanish because I enjoyed speaking the language and learning about the Spanish culture. That has not changed. However, if I could do it all over again, I would likely double major in Spanish and Finance to pair my interests with a high paying degree.

What about you? Have you graduated from college? Are you working in your degree field? Maybe you’re on your way to college now. How did you choose your major?

Disclosure: This post was written as part of the University Of Phoenix Versus Program. I’m a compensated contributor, but the thoughts and ideas are my own.

Originally posted 2014-10-09 13:00:56.


How to Survive Your First Job

Sometimes it seems like I’ve had several different jobs, even though, in reality, I’ve been at my ‘real’ job (the one I work for on a regular basis for real money! Not intern credit!) for nearly 3 years. Over the past 3 years, I had 6 different bosses – which is probably why it feels like I’ve had six different jobs!

With that, I think I have a pretty good handle of what it takes to survive your first few months in a new job. Sure, I don’t have decades of experience, but the experience I do have has taught me a lot about what it means to set yourself up for success… or recognize the job you have isn’t going to work out for you.

How to Survive Your First Job: Be Humble

As the saying goes, first impressions can really make or break you. I found that out first-hand with a young woman at one of my first jobs – she was around my age, but she wasn’t particularly nice. She thought she was hot stuff and everyone should know it – but guess what? No matter how good she was at her job (and she was good at it!), she gave people the impression that she was better than they were. She was denied several promotions in the time she stayed in our organization, and while I can’t confirm it, I have a feeling it was based on her reputation in the office.

No matter how awesome you are (and you obviously are, otherwise you wouldn’t have gotten the job!), be humble and nice to everyone you meet your first month or two. I’m not saying downplay your accomplishments, but just tell the facts. No need to tell everyone you’re a superstar – if you are, they will find out over time!

Listen More Than You Speak

Like your Mom may have told you, you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Ask more questions of your coworkers than they do of you – first, to learn about them and their roles in the company, but also: this may be one of the few opportunities you have to ask a lot of questions and not look like you don’t know anything. Use this to your advantage!

By listening closely, you’ll figure out who is friends with who, and who is related to who. It seems childish, but it’s a fact of office life: people gossip. And you don’t want to be the one being gossiped about, so keep your mouth shut and your ears open!

Learn How Your Boss Ticks

Listening carefully goes for your boss too – ask him or her a lot of questions now, early in your job, to get a feel for how he or she ticks. What are your boss’ goals? If you notice your boss spends a lot of time in her office, carefully reviewing work and organizing files, make organization and careful work your goal. If you notice your boss out socializing, make a little effort to socialize more too.

I’m not saying become a carbon copy of your boss, but these attributes may be things your boss prioritizes. I’ve had a boss comment to me once that I ‘must be shy’ because I preferred being at my desk versus socializing with coworkers. I thought I came across as a hard worker, but in his mind, I looked like the opposite of a team player. I quickly made an effort to be seen socializing more – and it wasn’t a bad thing!

Starting your first job can be nerve-wracking, but if you keep in mind that this first job could be a long term career, or a great jumping off point to another great career, that should help you to remember these tips. Like Lil Wayne says, it’s not what you walk away from, it’s what you walk away with – and you need to walk away from your first job with some serious skills, a solid resume/portfolio, and professional references for your next awesome job.

What tips would you include for those starting their first job?

Originally posted 2014-10-08 06:00:00.


How to Negotiate Your Salary

When you first start working full time, it can be very exciting. You successfully passed the interview, and you were extended a job offer with a salary! But before you accept out of pure excitement, you should negotiate your salary.

The majority of people don't negotiate their salary because they're afraid, including adults twice your age. According to, 32% of people they polled were scared of losing the job offer if they gave any push back to the pay. You're focused on getting the job, and not always thinking of getting paid what you're worth.

Don't be afraid of "scaring off" the company by asking for more money. You're not being greedy.

What Salary Should I Ask For?

So how do you go about negotiating your salary? The work starts before the job offer. When you're doing your research for the position and the company before the interview, you should take a look at the average salary is for that position.

You can look for what the pay is in your area, as well as compare it to other areas in the country. Set a goal for what your compensation should be, but also be realistic in regards to your level of experience. Many companies' job listings will list that salary is DOE, or depending on experience. If you're toward the lower end of the experience spectrum, expect to be on the lower end of the salary range for that job.

Next, when the job offer is extended to you, be gracious. Of course you're excited that you got the job, as you should be. However, now is not the time to be arrogant. Of course you want to be paid what you're worth, but you should never come off entitled during this stage. You want to be humble, yet firm.

How Should I Position My Counteroffer?

When the salary is mentioned, you have a right to counter. Throw your number out there, and explain that you've done research and emphasize how this is beneficial to the company. What are you bringing to the table? How will they benefit from having you on the team? Don't throw out a number because it sounds good. Have a legitimate reason why you deserve $Y as opposed to $X.

Now is also the time to ask about additional compensation with the company, in the form of benefits. Does the company offer medical, dental, vision, and life insurance? Are you able to invest in the company's retirement program after a certain amount of time? Is there a tuition assistance program you can enroll in?

While these things don't necessarily add to your paycheck, they are other ways the company is investing in and paying you. A benefit package can make a job offer more feasible, because these are things you don't have to pay for, and if so, you don't have to pay as much as you would if you purchased it on your own.

What If They Say No?

If, by chance, they say a hard and firm no, that usually means "not right now". This should not be the last time you negotiate. You may have more supporting evidence in the next 6 months, such as your superb performance and contribution to the company. This information will add to your case, and numbers are hard for people to ignore. They want to retain top talent, and if you're a proven top performer, they will work with you to keep you there.

Now is the time to negotiate. You don't want to simply accept the offer with the pay the company gave you, if you had the chance to make more money. A $5,000 bump in the offered salary is an extra $416 every month, and can translate into big money years down the line. So in the excitement and nervousness, don't forget to have a dialogue about your compensation, rather than having a company dictate it for you.

Originally posted 2014-09-11 06:00:54.


5 Interview Tips for Recent College Graduates

When you're ready to graduate and get a job you're going to need to go on an interview and interviews can make or break you. You've got to be ready to answer the questions to present yourself as the best candidate for the position so that you can get hired. It's really easy to make mistakes and lose a position because of something you said or the way that you came off. To help you make the best first impression, let's look at five interview tips for you as a recent graduate.

Tip 1: Prepare with a Pre-Interview

You will want to pre-interview with potential questions. For example, there are some questions that you are almost guaranteed to hear during your interview. Questions like "Tell me about yourself" or "What is your greatest weakness?" and the best one, "Why should we hire you?" These are questions that you should expect to hear on your interview. You can also research questions that are typical for your specific industry. If you're interviewing for a job in finance or in healthcare or in the marketing industry, there are certain questions that are going to determine what your skill set is and you should be ready to answer those questions. You should have answers already prepared.

Tip 2: Remember to Research

Next you should research the company. You want to know who this company is what they do. Is it a publicly traded company? If so, you should be able to find news or recent events that can give you insight on what the company does and any recent events of note.

If the company is private you could just check out their website. You might have to do a little digging or do some searches online. Just try to find out anything that you can about the company so that you can ask an intelligent question about the company.

You want to seem very prepared and part of that is researching the company and finding out what they do and how you as their future employee fit into their growth plans. Doing your research is really going to help you during the interview when you have to ask questions. Typically, at the end of the interview, the interviewer is going to ask if you have any questions for them. At this time you may ask a question about the interviewer, how the position that you're interviewing for fits in with the company, what could be done to improve on the position. Another good question to ask is if there is anything that they think you could do to go above and beyond. This is where you really want to impress the employer by asking very specific, direct questions.

Tip 3: Dress for Success

Tip three is to dress the part. When you're going on an interview, you always want to look your best. I once heard that you don't dress for the job you have, you dress for the job that you want. (Sometimes even nicer than the job you want.) If you are interviewing for a job at a restaurant, you still should to wear nice slacks or skirt and a nice top. Depending on the industry you may have to wear something a little bit more formal. For example, if you are interviewing for a position in finance, you need to wear black or dark blue. And you have to keep it simple with pinstripes or plain colors. In addition, keep your hair pulled back if it falls past your shoulders. You need to look very conservative for job in finance when you're interviewing.

If you're interviewing for job in marketing you have a bit more leeway. For example, you can wear a green suit or a dark green color. It doesn't just have to be black or blue; you can get away with a pop of color. A pink or teal colored accent item like a pocket square handkerchief or for ladies that nice colorful top to go underneath your shirt.  Regardless, you always want to make sure that you're dressing the part and that you are projecting that image that you are already there and working. You want to show them what you would look like if you were to come to work every single day. That helps the hiring manager visualize you in the position from the first impression.

Still looking for a job? I’ve created a full guide with details and resume samples just for you! Check it out here.

Tip 4: Be On Time

You have to be on time. There's a very simple saying and I don't know where heard it, but I like to use it.

If you're early, you're on time. If you're on time, you're late. If you're late, don't even bother coming.

So it's important to be on time. Your first impression is the first time the employer is going to see you and find out who you are. If you are not on time then they have a negative impression of you in their head without even meeting you. So make sure you are on time.

Ways to prevent being late

  • Scout out the area beforehand. If you are not familiar with where you are going and the building where you will be interviewing, then check out the area.
  • Do a test trip see what the traffic is like. You want to be very prepared for your interview so that when you arrive there are no surprises.
  • Early is better than late. You should be  be at least 15 minutes early. That is a good rule of thumb.
  • Prepare the night before. Lay out your clothes and make sure you have gas in your car etc. Those last minute stops really do add up.

Tip 5: Follow Up

The last tip is to follow up. When you are done with your interview, you can either send an e-mail or mail a letter depending on how quickly they are expecting to fill the position. A good final question is "when are you looking to fill this position". Once you have the answer, you have an idea of the time frame whether they are looking to fill the position immediately or if they have some time. In order to follow up, make sure to get the e-mail address of the person who interviewed you. Send them an e-mail right away, either that day or that afternoon. You can write something like this.

Hello NAME,

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I remember that you mentioned that you were looking for ___ and I am confident that my experience ___ makes me the perfect candidate for the position. I look forward to hearing from you.


In this short letter, you want to reiterate your competitive advantages to reinforce why you are better than the other candidates and why they should pick you. If you discussed something in the interview that required a follow up, for example, if they had a question about your references that you couldn't answer at the time then the email follow up is a great time to do it. Be sure to  follow up! It really does make a huge difference. You can do a letter as well. Physical letters are not done as much so if you have a chance and you can pop that in the mailbox the next day, that is going to put you above and beyond the other candidates.

Remember, finding the right career position is about the right fit for you and the employer, so don't sell yourself short! Don't forget the little things that are going to help you get the job.

Those are some tips for you if you're looking for job if you are a recent graduate or even if you're switching positions.

So what about you what was your experience like when you got your first job?

Originally posted 2013-03-06 18:24:38.