7 Strategies to Get a Job

Get that Job!

Get That Job!  7 Strategies to Boost Your Odds

Hundreds of thousands of students will soon graduate from high schools and colleges across the nation and will seek either summer or full-time jobs.  It’s no secret that the job market continues to be very tight, especially for first-time job seekers.  In many cases, you’ll have only one shot at making a great impression.  Here are seven tips to get you noticed:

  1. Be early.  Expect the unexpected to happen and make sure you arrive early for your interview.  The last thing you’ll want is to start the interview with an explanation about how a traffic jam caused you to be late.  Action plan:  Plan to arrive thirty minutes early.  Wait in the parking lot so as to time your arrival five minutes early.  Use the time to focus on the key points you want to cover in the interview.
  2. Control your image.  Recognize that your very first impression will be visual so a neatly groomed and well-dressed appearance will make a difference.  I realize that crazy hair, facial hair (men only!) and body piercings may still be ‘cool’, but cool isn’t what most employers are looking for.  As old fashioned as it may sound, most employers are still looking for the All-American man or lady.  Action plan: Take a long look in the mirror before heading out on your interview and make sure your overall appearance is congruent with the job you are seeking.  Also be sure to review your Facebook page (and Twitter, Instagram).  You’d be surprised how many potential employers will review it to get a sense of who you are.  Pictures of you at the beach partying hard with your friends might not be the image you want for your employer!
  3. Research the company.  It’s never been easier to learn about the company you are interviewing.  Most companies have some Internet presence through either a company web site or Internet articles.  Action plan:  Develop three to five key points about the company about which you can discuss during the interview, particularly if you can relate to how you can positively impact the company through your job.
  4. Focus on the opportunity.  Too many job seekers focus on what the company can do for them versus how their skills can benefit the company.  Avoid initiating conversations about salary, vacation time or perks and instead focus your comments on how your skills can help the company achieve its goals as well as the opportunity you see for yourself in the company.  Action plan:  To the extent you can get the interviewer talking by asking both good questions and good follow-up questions, you’ll stand out from the pack.  Most people prefer to talk rather than listen so ask the interviewer to describe the job responsibilities; follow with a ‘drill-down’ question like, “Describe the typical workday or work week”.  Do your best to engage the interviewer in a conversation versus you simply responding to his or her questions.
  5. Exude confidence.  People want to work with people who are fun, relaxed, and confident in the way they deal with others.  You can help build your confidence by being prepared for the interview by following the tips in this article.  Also, the more you interview, the easier it will become.  Action plan:  Make a list of at least a dozen companies where you might be interested in working.  Interview first with companies you are least interested in working for and save your best prospects for the end.  Consider your initial interviews as ‘practice’ for your later interviews.  Your goal is to become a master at the interview process.  And don’t be surprised if one of your early interviews is with a company you love and hires you!
  6. Be prepared to promote yourself.  No one’s going to blow your horn for you so you’ll need to be prepared to discuss your unique skills for this job.  Action plan:  Think of two to three personal characteristics that make you a great choice for the job and be prepared to weave them into the conversation.
  7. Say, “Thank You”, in writing.  Most job seekers simply move to the next interview without so much as a thank you to the interviewer for their time.  Others do send a thank you note but rarely is that note handwritten.  Action plan:  Be a standout by writing a hand-written note of thanks to the interviewer on custom stationary.  This assumes you have good penmanship; otherwise it should be a typed note on fine stationary.  Be sure you include something specific that impressed you during the interview.

My partner and our Director of Operations, Greg Weyandt, CPA, says that what employers are looking for is the ‘Wow!’ factor…that something that makes you stand out among all the interviews.  It could be exceptional maturity, being very prepared, asking great questions, being very at-ease during the interview all while focused on communicating that you want that job! 

Stewart H. Welch, III, CFP®, AEP, is the founder of THE WELCH GROUP, LLC, which specializes in providing fee-only investment management and financial advice to families throughout the United States.  He is the co-author of J.K. Lasser’s New Rules for Estate, Retirement and Tax Planning (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) and THINK Like a Self-Made Millionaire. Visit his Web Site www.welchgroup.com.  Consult your financial advisor before acting on comments in this article.

Wealth Creation

How to Invest $100

How to Invest as little as $100

Think of someone you know who is rich.  How did they get there?  Well, one day they had a hundred dollars and decided not to spend it, but to invest it instead!  Over the decades I have spoken to hundreds of people who simply feel lost regarding how and where to invest.  They don’t know what to do so they do little or nothing.  Today, I’m going to eliminate that excuse!

How to invest $100 or more

The single most important step to investing is the first step…getting started!  And no, it doesn’t take a lot of money to set up an investment program.  Here are two simple alternatives:

  1. The Obama Plan– Recently, President Obama launched a new savings plan called MyRA. Under this plan, you can begin by investing as little as one dollar per month so there’s no excuse for not getting started.  The money goes into the Government Securities Fund which invests in government bonds and there is no risk of loss.  Interest rates change monthly but have averaged 3.2%.  Contributions are limited to $5,500 per year plus an additional $1,000 (catch-up) if you are age fifty or older this year. .  To qualify for the full $5,500 contribution, your income must be under $116,000 for single filers or $183,000 for joint filers. You can withdraw the money anytime but must pay taxes on the interest earned if withdrawn before age 59½.   Once the account reaches $15,000, you must roll it over to a Roth IRA.  For more information visit MyRA.gov.
  2. The Welch Plan– The Obama Plan offers an investment strategy that has no risks of loss but also pays only modest returns. Most people will need a higher rate of return in order to have a chance of meeting their retirement goals…which I’ll help you calculate in next week’s column.  This means taking on the inherent volatility of the stock market.  Seasoned stock market investors know that the market is impossible to predict in the short term but historically has earned seven to nine percent over the long term (ten years plus).  While there are a number of low-cost, no-load choices, a great choice is Charles Schwab’s One Source Funds.  A large number of these fund options allow you to invest as little as $100 initially plus add as little as $1 per month.  Two choices worth considering are Schwab’s S&P 500 Index fund (symbol: SWPPX; 5-year annualized returns: 10.5%) and their Dividend Equity Fund (symbol: SWDSX; 5-year annualized returns: 7.97%).  The S&P 500 Index fund invests in 500 of the largest companies in America while the Dividend Equity Fund focuses on the slice of the large U.S. companies that have a history of paying dividends.  This dividend-paying strategy generally makes them a more conservative choice.  If you invest in either of these funds, you should plan to remain invested for a minimum of seven to ten years.

My wife likes to use the phrase, “Bloom where you are planted!”  This phrase can be used in many contexts, but here it means start investing an amount of money that you can afford to invest even if it’s $1 per month!  Creating a habit of saving is vital to your ultimate success.

Clearly you should invest where your money has the greatest potential such as your company matching 401k plan, deductible IRAs or Roth IRAs.  Take a look at all of the places you could invest and then prioritize them in order of most powerful.  For example, if your company offers a 50% matching contribution on a portion of your own 401k contribution, start there.  Then, when you get a raise (or bonus), commit one-half of the amount to your retirement savings program.  That way, you receive a boost in spendable income while also stepping up funding for your retirement.  It’s a painless strategy.  Ok, no excuses for not starting your investment program!

Ultimate Fitness Quest 2016

Anatomy of a Goal

Ultimate Fitness Quest 2016Anatomy of a Goal

My Personal ‘Ultimate Fitness Quest’:  I’ll Lose 15 Pounds in 30 Days!

We all hear successful people speak of the importance of having goals but most people either don’t have goals or the goals they do have are vague, not written down or not followed.  So I thought it would be fun and instructive for you to follow me and one of my goals.  I want to lose fifteen pounds of ‘body fat’ and do a ‘re-set’ of my nutrition and training program.  I also want to invite any of you who’d like to lose weight and get in shape to join me.  To help me (and you) I’ve put together a team of experts and on-line tools to make this all easier.  Visit www.UltimateFitnessQuest.com to get started.

Tips for effective goals

Effective goals all have a number of important and key elements:

  • Begin with a compelling ‘Why?’ Answer the question, “Why is it important for me to achieve this goal?”  If you can come up with a great ‘Why’, the ‘How’ will be much easier!
  • Put it in writing. A goal not written is what I call a ‘dream’.  By taking the time to articulate what you want to achieve on paper, something magical happens that’s hard for me to explain.  It’s like you ‘plug-in’ to the universe around you and the universe then bends over backwards to help you.
  • Be specific. You want your goal to be very specific.  You’ll know if it’s specific by asking someone to read your goal and agree that they understand what you intend to accomplish.  I love ‘stretch’ goals…ones that will really challenge me, but at the same time, your goals need to be realistic.  By realistic, I mean something that can actually be accomplished by you.
  • Set a time boundary. Setting a time boundary for your goal is an important part of being specific.  You need to know your start and finish date.  My experience is that sometimes accomplishing a goal takes a bit longer than you estimated.  This is ok as long as you’re prepared to continue executing your plan until you succeed.
  • Go bite size. Break your goal down into ‘mini-goals’…pieces that are easy to accomplish one at a time.  Each day (or week), develop a short list of actions (mini-goals) you will take that will move you towards accomplishing your big goal on time.
  • Get leverage on yourself. We all need help along the way and I’ve found doing things with others is more fun that being a ‘lone ranger’.  Find someone or a small group who shares similar goals and have them join you as ‘accountability partners’.  You’ll find that there truly is strength in numbers.
  • Celebrate your success! Everybody loves a celebration and in this context it will provide encouragement.  Come up with some way of celebrating when you accomplish your goal.  It’s just as important to come up with ‘mini-celebrations’ for accomplishing some of your mini-goals.  This is a perfect opportunity to celebrate with your accountability partners.

Stewart’s Goal: “I will lose 15 pounds of body fat in 30 days beginning April 4th (ending May 3rd).”  My compelling ‘Why’ is that the pants for my suits have gotten a bit ‘tight’ and I really don’t want to buy five new suits!  Yes, I also want to look and feel better but I really don’t want to spend the money to purchase a new wardrobe.  This is what motivates me…you must find what motivates you.  My experts tell me that if I do everything correctly, I can lose a half-pound a day in a healthy way by eating right and exercising regularly.  I intend to follow their plan and hope you’ll consider joining me with a fitness quest of your own.

You’re invited to join me

How about it, are you interested in losing some weight before summer?  At the end of every day, I’ll post my daily results to the Private Group section of my Facebook page.  You can simply ‘do what I do’ or follow your own plan.  All the tools you need for the program are free and available at www.UltimateFitnessQuest.com.  In my column each week, I’ll report my progress.  Get two friends to join you and let’s have some fun together.

Why Financial Education is Important

Why Financial Education is Important

And Why I created Get Rich on Purpose®

This Graphic from the NAFPA shares some alarming statistics. It is a great illustration of the reason that I decided to create Get Rich on Purpose®. I want to help as many people as I possibly can achieve Financial Freedom. As of now, only 5% of Americans ever reach Financial Freedom, even by retirement. Financial Freedom means your passive income exceeds your expenses. Passive income is income you receive without having to physically work for it.

Why Financial Planning Is Important

From Visually.

Financial Stability of the U.S. Dollar

Could the U.S. Government limit cash withdrawals?

Question: Sen. Ron Paul is not the only person who speaks of a financial apocalypse and others have written books too. From what you know or foresee, is there any possible way the U.S. government (with the way U.S. banks are set up)…could possibly limit cash withdrawals? Also, if the U.S. Dollar is devalued…By what amount and what affect would this have on U.S. consumer buying items in U.S.A.?

Answer: This is a story that apparently is not going away soon. Former Senator Ron Paul is particularly worried about the $18 trillion that the U.S. owes and that our biggest creditor is China. To repay the debt, every man, woman and child in America would need to fork over about $57,000! Clearly that’s not going to happen and so far our leaders (President, House and Senate members- Republicans and Democrats alike) are not only unwilling to pass debt reduction programs, but by their policies, they continue to grow the debt. Yes, at some point this chicken is coming home to roost and it may get ugly…but, after observing our economy at work for over forty years, I’ve concluded that it is much more elastic than most people think. And while we witnessed the citizens of Greece recently standing in long lines at the bank with withdrawals limited to $300 per day, I can’t imagine that happening here in America. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that while Greece is a country, its economy is about the size of Alabama’s economy. Likewise, it’s highly unlikely we’ll see a ‘devaluation’ of our currency although the value of the Dollar rises and falls versus other world currencies based on global financial and economic conditions. If the U.S. Dollar did ‘collapse’, I suspect what we’d see would be sharply inflated prices of goods sold here. Again, this is a highly unlikely scenario.

Healthcare Planning for Retirment

Medicare & Social Security Decisions-Be Very Careful

Medicare & Social Security Decisions-Be Very Careful

Question: My wife and I are both elderly, and she has dementia.  At some point, she

will probably have to go into an assisted living facility.  Since I have her power of attorney, I

changed the beneficiary on my IRA’s (3 traditional and 1 Roth) to my daughter.  She is our only

child.  If I die before my spouse and she is in or out of an assisted living facility, will the IRA’s

be subject to the 5 year lookback before she can receive Medicaid?

Answer: The Medicare rules and laws are very complex so I turned to Birmingham lawyer and elder care specialist, Melanie Bradford for her insights. Here’s what she had to say:

“Medicaid rules vary from state to state.  In Alabama, there is a prohibition against a spouse disinheriting

another spouse; such an act should cause Medicaid to impose a transfer penalty for the statutory

elective share.  Currently, there is no prohibition or transfer penalty against a spouse changing

his or her non-probate estate plan; however, this can change at any moment.  The safer course of

action is to work with an elder law attorney that can prepare an estate plan that places assets

equaling the elective share in a special needs trust for the incapacitated spouse.  Such a trust does

not disqualify the spouse for Medicaid.  Instead, it provides for any needs the spouse has that

Medicaid does not cover.    Any funds remaining at the spouse’s death are passed to the children.

This effectively accomplishes all goals by providing for the spouse, preserving the rights to

Medicaid, and passing on remaining assets to children.”

Stewart on Long-Term Care Insurance

LONG TERM CARE

Long Term Care insurance is the protection that you need when you are unable to care for yourself independently whether at a younger age due to an illness or accident or when you reach your retirement years due to normal aging.  LTC has become a critical family issue today because we are living longer due to revolutionary advances in medicine and public health. If you do not have a long term care plan you actually have one by default; you are relying on your own assets and investments, your family and extended family, or the government to take care of you when you become unable to care for yourself.  Owning long term care insurance gives your family choices.  It allows family members to supervise care and provide emotional support rather than be the care givers, and it preserves financial resources.

Plan_Ahead_Cover_for_KindleIf you would like to learn more, there is an excellent book on Long-Term Care insurance called, Plan Ahead, 2nd EditionImportant Questions and Answers Regarding Long-Term Care Insurance by Babs W. Hart of the Hart Insurance GroupThis book is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle.

 

 

What is Probate? How and Why to Avoid Probate

Probate is a court administered process whereby at death, the court oversees the transfer of your probate property from your name to the persons or organizations designated in your will.  If you die without a will, your probate property is transferred according to state law.  Probating a will can be expensive and typically takes from six to twelve months to complete but it can take much longer.  Because of this, lots of people prefer to avoid probate. At death, property is transferred from your name (ownership) in one of three ways: by title; by beneficiary designation; or by probate.  The trick to avoiding probate is to make sure all of your assets are set up as transfers under either joint title or beneficiary designation.  Examples of transfers by title include joint bank accounts and real estate held in joint names.  Examples of transfers by beneficiary include your 401k plan, IRA or life insurance.  The best way to make this happen is to make a list of every asset you own and be sure each asset is set up under either a joint title transfer or beneficiary designation.  This can be very tricky and, in many cases, is ill advised so you should not do this without the assistance and advice of a competent professional.

The key is to make a list of every asset you own and then make sure each asset would transfer by either title or beneficiary designation.  For example, if you owned a piece of real estate in your name, and you wanted it to go to your child at your death and avoid probate on that property, you’d need to add the child to the deed as a joint owner.  I added that you need to be very careful to avoid adverse tax consequences and you should have a professional advisor help you.

A little more complicated strategy is to set up a revocable living trust.  These trusts are extremely popular in high probate costs states such as California and New York.  In the typical living trust, you set up the trust and make yourself the trustee. You then retitle your property in the name of the trust. Once this is completed, you manage your property as you always have, with one or two key exceptions. One of the key ingredients in the living trust is that you will name a successor trustee in the event of your death or incapacity.  Having this successor trustee is similar to the power of attorney also discussed in last week’s column.  Here’s an overview of some of the advantages and disadvantages of this strategy:

Advantages of a Revocable Living Trust

  • Any property that you transfer to your living trust will avoid the probate process altogether. This means you avoid some expenses and lengthy delays as they relate to the property owned by the living trust.
  • Because property placed in a living trust is not subject to probate, your records are not made public. If you prefer to keep your financial matters out of the public eye, a living trust is an excellent tool.
  • At your death there are minimal time delays incurred in transferring assets to heirs. The assets are already in your trust, and the only thing that changes is your trustee. The trustee is someone whom you have selected.
  • Should you become incompetent due to an accident or illness, your living trust can provide for a quick transfer of management of your assets.
  • A living trust is simple to establish. Any attorney versed in estate planning should be able to set up one.
  • Generally, it is more difficult for someone to challenge a trust than to challenge a will.
  • Living trusts have low maintenance costs. A living trust is treated much the same as outright ownership of property for income tax purposes. If you are your own trustee, there are not any additional taxes, tax returns, or other costs associated with your living trust.
  • Without a living trust, if you own property in multiple states, you may face probate in each of those states. Since a living trust avoids probate altogether, you avoid this problem.
  • If your job causes you to move from state to state, your living trust removes the necessity of having to draw a new will every time you change your state of residence.

Disadvantages of a Revocable Living Trust

Two of the most-often cited disadvantages of the living trust are the costs to draft the trust and the time and costs of transferring your property into the trust.

  1. Costs—with a living trust your attorney must draft both the trust document and a will. The reason for the will is that at death it ‘sweeps’ into your trust  any assets that you might have failed to retitle in the name of your trust while you were alive.  The result of drafting two documents often means more fees than just doing a will alone but in the long run it may not be any more expensive, and might even be less expensive since you avoid the expenses associated with probate.
  2. Time and effort—The key to a successful living trust is to actually transfer all of your assets into your trust while you’re alive. It does take time but if you don’t do it now, someone will have to do it at your death.

There are a number of other intricacies that you should consider related to the living trust but if avoiding probate, privacy and management continuity are of concern to you, the living trust is worth a look.

The preceding is a modified excerpt from J.K. Lasser’s New Rules for Estate, Retirement and Tax Planning, which I co-authored.

 

Life Insurance Refresher Course

Life insurance is one of the most complicated of financial products for consumers.  Should I buy a policy that builds cash value?  Should I stick with term insurance?  Should I buy insurance on my spouse?  How about my children?  What follows is an excerpt from my (co-authored) recently published book, J.K. Lasser’s New Rules for Estate, Retirement and Tax Planning– Fifth Edition”.

If your primary purpose is to provide your family with a source of income should you die prematurely, then level term insurance is your best bet. This assumes that you have a wealth accumulation plan (retirement plan) in place. In working with our clients, we normally recommend either 15-year or 20-year level term policies. This is because we have implemented a wealth accumulation plan that is expected to achieve total financial independence by the end of that period. For example, let’s say that you determined that you need to accumulate $3,000,000 of investment capital to be financially independent. Once you have accumulated that sum, you no longer need life insurance as a source of income protection for your family. It is possible that you might need permanent (cash value) life insurance for other reasons, such as estate liquidity. Remember, because you can convert term insurance to permanent insurance without having to pass a new physical exam, you have left your options open.

Insurance on a Homemaker

If you have young children, replacing the services of a homemaker can be quite expensive. Ask yourself this question: If my homemaker spouse were to die, could I afford to pay someone to perform those services out of my current income? You may be lucky enough to have a family member who could step in and provide childcare services. In this case, no life insurance would be necessary. On the other hand, if you decide life insurance on a homemaker is necessary, a $150,000 to $500,000 term policy should provide adequate coverage. By buying a 10- to 15-year level term insurance policy, you will provide coverage until the children are old enough to assist with their own care.

Insurance on adult children

If you have adult children who have started their own families, you might consider buying insurance on their lives to provide protection for their families. We are sure you can remember how tight cash flow was when you first started your family. This is a situation where you have the cash and they have the need. From a selfish point of view, if you had a breadwinner son-in-law die without enough life insurance, you might feel compelled to step in with financial support for your daughter and grandchildren. Believe us, paying the premiums on a large term life policy for your son-in-law is a lot more palatable than financially supporting a second family! The latter could have a serious negative impact on your own estate and retirement plan.

How to Get the Best Deal

Fortunately for the consumer, term insurance is a very competitive product. In terms of planning and budgeting, 10-, 15-, or 20-year level term is advised. That way, you have a predictable premium for a fixed period of time. To access competitive quotes on-line click here: “Life Insurance Quotes.”

To get the best deal, first decide how much life insurance you need and what kind of term insurance best fits your circumstances. For example, if you decide that you need $750,000 of 15-year level term life insurance, first, go online to get a quote. Then, if you have a local agent, ask him or her for a quote. A simple comparison will ensure that you get the best deal. Personally, we prefer to work with a local agent because you will receive a more personal level of service.

I have suggested level term life insurance as the best choice for the family bread winner with the emphasis on being sure that you have plenty of life insurance while keeping your monthly premiums low.  Most people underestimate just how much life insurance is needed to replace the income of a family member and therefore are often underinsured.  A simplistic way to think about it is to decide for how many years you will need how much income and then do some simple math.  For example, you decide that if you died suddenly, you’d need to replace $50,000 of income for the next twenty years.  $50,000 times twenty years equals $1,000,000.  Ok, I understand that we could discount the amount of insurance we will need by what we expect to earn on the proceeds, but let’s keep it simple.  Consider the earnings portion as part of emergency reserves or to help offset future inflation.  And let’s remember that in many cases this is just the bare minimum of insurance you’ll need.  You may need a larger policy to cover future college costs or money to fund continuing income if your homemaker-spouse does not intend to return to work after raising your children.  At age thirty, a $1 million twenty-year level term policy costs less than $500 per year for a male in excellent health (females are much less).  If you chose to purchase a cash value policy, your premiums would likely be at least four times that much.  As you can see, trying to solve a big insurance problem with cash value insurance can be very taxing on your personal finances.

So when is buying a cash value policy a good idea?  Not too long ago we saw lots of situations where permanent (cash value) life insurance was needed to pay estate taxes for many middle income Americans.  However, the most recent changes to the death tax laws provides that there are no death taxes if your estate is less than $5,430,000 (double that for married couples) so this does not come into play for the vast majority of people today.  The other reason for buying a cash value policy is for the savings or investment feature.  It is true that life insurance policy cash values grow tax deferred and escape income taxation if the policy pays out as a death benefit but the cash value returns tend to be negative in the early years and very modest over the long term.  I’m not against using cash value life insurance as a savings vehicle but would strongly prefer investing first through your company 401k plan, an IRA, a Roth IRA or in stocks or low-cost no-load stock mutual funds.  You’re going to need the higher long-term returns of the stock market in order to build enough wealth for retirement.

Term insurance conversion trap

The big advantage to term insurance over cash value insurance is low cost.  But what happens if at the end of the term period (twenty years in my example above), you decide you still need the insurance but you are now uninsurable?  Most term policies allow you to ‘convert’ your term policy to a cash value policy with your same insurance company and you don’t have to prove you’re still in good health.  You simply sign a conversion form and you now own a ‘permanent’ cash value policy.  While this sounds simple enough, there are two problems of which you need to be aware:

  1. Conversion to lousy policy. If you’re converting your term policy, the insurance company is guessing that you may be in poor health and therefore a higher risk.  To discourage you, many companies don’t allow you to convert to their best policy…in fact they write a special policy that is very expensive and a lousy deal compared to their other policies.
  2. Conversion option expires before the end of the term insurance period. Most companies allow you to convert for the entire time you own the policy (20 years on a twenty-year term policy, for example).  However, some companies drop the conversion privilege two to three years before the policy ends.  Why?  I can only surmise they hope you’ll ‘forget’ and when you need to convert at the end of the policy, it’ll be too late.

Protect yourself in both of these cases by asking your agent to confirm that you can convert to a competitive policy and that the conversion right extends for the full term of the policy