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July 12, 2010 / Suzie

Suzie’s Guide to Beefing Up Your Resume

I’m going to be frank: a resume can make or break a job offer. Right now, the competition is so high and the job opportunities are so low that we cannot afford to skimp on a disorganized, ugly resume. But for some of us, it isn’t the lack of organization or eye rolling fonts that is losing us the job: it’s content. Some of us just don’t have the work experience that our peers do.

Let’s think about the job market: even internships are highly competitive, and a lot of them are not even paid! It’s not uncommon for seniors to graduate with less than three internships and jobs combined.  So when your experience is lacking, you’re not the only one. However, there are lots of other students ready to fill that position at your dream job. That’s when you have to dig, deep, to find some personal assets and experiences to make your resume count. Here are some ideas:

  • Work study
  • Volunteer organizations
  • Honors society
  • Research
  • Student clubs
  • Sports teams (especially leadership)
  • Jobs and internships

It’s not enough to simply list your experiences though. Nowadays, recruiters can electronically scan your resume to look for buzzwords. That’s why you must tailor your resume to the job offer. Here’s an example:

  • “Increased student interest in the fitness center with a personally designed flyer.”
  • “Designed a flyer that increased fitness center sales by 20%.”

Which sounds better? The second one. Why? Because it has a concrete figure and the buzzword “sales” in the description.

Of course, skills are another area that can always impress a recruiter. Take three years of Spanish? Sounds like you have intermediate Spanish skills. Can you crunch numbers on an excel sheet? Then you can perform analytic spreadsheet tasks! Never forget to include these on a resume.

One final note: I encourage everyone to make their own resumes, and then offer it to other people for revision. I believe it is a waste of money to spend $100-$300 on a site like Monster.com or ResumeWriters.com to write the resume for you; most recruiters say that these resumes are too flashy. Write the resume yourself and then take it to your college’s career planning office—it’s what they’re there for, and it’s free!

FREE RESUME REVIEW

I’m willing to offer edits to five resumes for free. Send your resumes to savingsuzie@gmail.com and I will offer edits and suggestions. Please note that if your resume is selected for review, I will anonymize it (or leave your name upon request) and then post it on this blog. Last day to enter: July 19th, 2010. Must be a college student or recent (2010) graduate to enter.

July 8, 2010 / Suzie

Suzie Ain’t A Nice Girl

I’m in the middle of Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich by Dr. Lois P. Frankel, and I have to say my overall impression is that the book is definitely made for an older generation. Frankel does a good job of addressing issues for to-be divorcées, widows, and other typical older lady stuff, but not topics that particularly pertain to college women, like buying a first car, apartment, or paying off student loans.

The book is founded in psychology— Dr. Frankel received her PHD in psychology— and focuses on internal battles that women in particular must fight in order to get to the higher ground of richdom. Some barriers to entry include:

  • Women are still not normally the breadwinners within the family
  • They can be blind to what the family actually has
  • They grow up hearing “it’s just as easy to marry rich as it is to marry poor,” “it’s better to do good than be rich,” “talking about money is crass,” and “money doesn’t buy you happiness”
  • Women statistically succumb to impulse shopping and going over budget

Frankel provides psychological techniques to overcome these habitual issues. Unfortunately, she doesn’t give a whole lot of concrete advice in how to invest, or how to make money to begin with. This book is written for privileged moms and housewives who dote on their children and men. It’s probably not the best for college students.

As for my personal financial life, I am getting nervous. First off, I cut my last check ever for my tuition payment this past week. Yay for me, but it means that I’m out even more money for the summer. I’m also trying to save $280 a month for both Acorn Stash and my after-graduation account, and I have two phone bills left (about $70 each) until I start making an income again. I’m still trying to make up the $150 I lost on swipebids, and have yet to be successful. Poop.

Luckily, after going a week without spending, I haven’t been as tempted to go shopping on an impulse anymore, so I know that the money in my bank will, hopefully, not change on a whim.

I wish my internship was paid…

Cheers,

~Suz

July 6, 2010 / Suzie

Suzie Celebrates the Birth of a Website

Hello savers! I have some bad news, and some great news. The bad news is that Suzie Savings is going to be moving to a different website within the next few months, and that might mean a loss of traffic (boo). The good, no, fantastic news is that in moving, the site will be far more dynamic, and hopefully turn into something much bigger than it already is. Excited? I am. Oh, the site is Acorn Stash for all who are interested, but I’m certainly not done building it yet! In order to get some regularity on the site, I am going to begin posting regularly on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. There are so many topics to cover hat I’m going to be backlogged for weeks!

I hope everyone had a fantastic 4th of July! I filled it with free activities, like playing soccer in the park, watching some stunning fireworks go off from my parent’s back porch, and devoting some appreciation for America, God Bless. Do I love me some US of A? Yes I do!

Today I went to Old Alexandria to tour the Torpedo Factory. Okay, it’s not really a torpedo factory anymore, but a great location for indie artists to sell to curious tourists and show off their wares. I’ve found that though I went in knowing that I wouldn’t buy anything, I really enjoyed looking at what everyone had to offer. Ahh the benefits of being financially cautious!

After returning from the torpedo factory, I played a 4.5 hour long game of Monopoly. Okay, so in all honesty, I hate this game, and I lost again. I have always found it slow and frustrating, and I have never been able to win. So why did I agree to play in the first place? I’ve been reading Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich: 75 Avoidable Mistakes Women Make with Money by Dr. Lois Frankel, and she claims that women don’t win at Monopoly due to childhood conditioning when it comes to how to deal with, and invest, one’s money. Of course, I attempted to prove her wrong, and my 10-year-old brother creamed me. Ouch.

Though there was (or I perceive there was) a great deal  of luck involved, the loss got me thinking. Maybe women are conditioned to handle their money poorly. More on this topic later this week.

Hope all is well!

– Suz

July 3, 2010 / Suzie

Suzie’s Five Steps to Calculating How Much to Save for College

I’m going to take this a few steps back and talk about how to save for college. The process can be complicated, and the results expensive, but it is better to plan and have savings than to avoid the figures and be screwed in the future.

Step 1: Determine what kind of college you would like to attend.
Most students have these five options (data found from CollegeBoard’s Average Cost Calculator):

  • Four-year private school, in-state: average ($26,273 per year average, subsidized by state scholarships if applicable)
  • Four-year private school, out of state ($26,273 per year average)
  • Four-year public school, in-state (check your state schools for this information)
  • Four-year public school, out of state ($11,528 per year average)
  • Two-year public school, in-state ($2,544 per year average)

Expect tuition to increase by at least 8% every year, so the average cost of a four-year private school out of state would be $26,273 + $28,274 + $30,536 + $32,978 = $118,062 over four years, whereas a four-year public school, out of state would be $11,528 + 12,450 + $13,446 + $14,522 = $51,945. That’s more than half the cost of a four-year private school! Note that the rate of inflation varies from school to school. The scary thing is that this is before you incorporate room and board, which can run anywhere for $4,000 a year to $12,000 (in other words, it can be another $16,000 to $48,000 total), depending on the school. In sum: college is expensive and you need to start figuring out how you’re going to pay for it now!

Step 2: Consider the rate of inflation
Are you planning on going to college this year? Next year? In five years? The cost of college, as stated earlier, is rising, so it’s important to take that into account when planning for the future. Using About.com’s inflation calculator (a conservative 4%-6%), it’s easy to figure out the beginning cost of college. Take the expected tuition and multiply it by the numbers below, judging how long one has until college hits.

  1. 1.05
  2. 1.10
  3. 1.16
  4. 1.22
  5. 1.28
  6. 1.34
  7. 1.41
  8. 1.48
  9. 1.55
  10. 1.63
  11. 1.71
  12. 1.80
  13. 1.89
  14. 1.98
  15. 2.08
  16. 2.18
  17. 2.29
  18. 2.41
  19. 2.53
  20. 2.65
  21. 2.79
  22. 2.93
  23. 3.07
  24. 3.23
  25. 3.39

Wicked expensive! So if someone is saving for a $10,000 a year college now, but has 25 years to do it, that means that that college, on average, will be $33,900 by the time s/he starts. Whew!

Step 3: The rate of return is here to save you
If Step Two freaked you out, don’t worry. Thankfully there is a good rate of return if you start saving early. At an average of 8%, a 529 plan (educational IRA) can seriously bolster your chances of getting to school. Same math as before, but this time with your savings:

  1. 1.08
  2. 1.17
  3. 1.26
  4. 1.36
  5. 1.47
  6. 1.59
  7. 1.71
  8. 1.85
  9. 2.00
  10. 2.16
  11. 2.33
  12. 2.52
  13. 2.72
  14. 2.94
  15. 3.17
  16. 3.43
  17. 3.70
  18. 4.00
  19. 4.32
  20. 4.66
  21. 5.03
  22. 5.44
  23. 5.87
  24. 6.34
  25. 6.85

So if you start with $10,000 in savings, and you save it for 25 years, that will turn into $68,500. Woot!

Step 4: Doing the Math
So now that you know your current savings rate, how long it is until you’ll be in college, and what schools will cost, you can plug in some math. Say you’re a student with $10,000 in the bank with four years to go through high school, and plan on attending an out of state college. Take the $10,000, multiply it by the savings rate in Step 3 (1.36), take the initial cost of college ($11,582), and multiply it by its starting rate in Step 2 (1.22) times the years of college you plan to attend (4). This individual would have $13,600 saved for $56,582. That’s a $42,920 deficit, so let’s talk financial aid and some savings plans.

In addition to the already deposited $10,000, this family would have to invest more money to save for school to make up the deficit. Given an 8% rate of return, divide by this investment chart, given how long one has until college.

  1. 1.08
  2. 2.25
  3. 3.51
  4. 4.87
  5. 6.34
  6. 7.92
  7. 9.64
  8. 11.49
  9. 13.49
  10. 15.65
  11. 17.98
  12. 20.50
  13. 23.21
  14. 26.15
  15. 29.32
  16. 32.75
  17. 36.45
  18. 40.45
  19. 44.76
  20. 49.42
  21. 54.46
  22. 59.89
  23. 65.76
  24. 72.11
  25. 78.95

Sticking with the previous example, with a deficit of $42,920 and four years until college, this family would have to put away $8,813 a year to fully cover everything. Not possible? Thank God for financial aid and scholarships!

Step 5: Work hard and get good grades
With most families, college is an investment that you can’t account for fully. Scholarships can cover up to the full cost of college. Those grades matter! If not, student loans have been the go-to for folks who can’t deal with the $50,000 – $100,000+ bill for higher education. The key to avoiding these unknowns is to start saving as early as possible!

July 1, 2010 / Suzie

Suzie’s Top-5 Ways to Lose Money Online

In light of my money-losing activities today,  I will do a quick lowdown of the quickest ways to lose money

  1. Penny auctions, like SwipeBids.com. No, their site is technically not a scam, but be prepared for a $150 charge to your credit card just for signing up. Paying to bid on items is probably not what you had in mind when seeing these penny auctions on their home page. Yes, this is how I was duped today.
  2. Pyramid schemes. A pyramid scheme “is a non-sustainable business model that involves the exchange of money primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, without any product or service being delivered. Pyramid schemes are a form of fraud” (Wikipedia). In other words, if someone says, “pay me to get others to pay so that you get money,” your answer should be “NO!
  3. Nigerian Scams. You know exactly what I’m talking about: those annoying emails from someone leaving you five million dollars if you transfer into their account? No go.
  4. Pre-approved cards or loans. Mastercard, Bank of America, or any other card or bank would be stupid to pre-approve every applicant. If you get an email like this, trash it.
  5. Phishing. If you suddenly have to sign back into a site after being logged on for a long time, check the url. Sometimes you will have been redirected to a scam site that will take your username and password to steal your identity. Yikes!

Yes, I lost $150 dollars today to SwipeBids.com. I intend on making up the difference, but how? I have decided that my next personal challenge will be to regain that money without dipping into pre-known sources of income (in my case, babysitting). I have been scourging Craigslist and came up with some pretty interesting ideas! I might be marketing, tutoring, or publishing in the very near future.

Ta for now,

~Suz

June 29, 2010 / Suzie

Suzie’s Top-4 Reasons to Start Saving for Retirement Right After (or During) College

Tomorrow, my personal challenge to save all my money for a week is complete! And then it will be time to buy groceries. It’s amazing what you can find when putting off buying things (for instance, I totally broke out the ramen noodles this weekend). Yummy financial savings!

Since I have been focusing on avoiding the numbers this past week, I figured that I would offset my week without spending challenge with a different challenge: a week of Top ___ towards financial education. Welcome to day two (day one found here).

Top 4 Reasons to Start Saving for Retirement Right After (or During) College

After reading through a variety of financial guides, it occurs to me that the biggest trend that every financial planner is stressing for college students is saving for retirement now. Why save so early when we can barely pay the bills now?

1. We are not our parents
Social security has done what it has intended to do thus far, but it’s not going to be what it is now when our generation hits 65. People are living longer and thus stretching social security beyond its means, and our parents’ boomer generation is going to trample the system. Essentially: we are going to need to rely on ourselves, unlike generations before us. It is on us, not the federal government, to figure out our retirement.

2. Financial practice makes perfect
Okay, maybe not perfect (nobody is perfect, especially when it comes to money), but getting in the habit of dedicating 10% of our paychecks towards retirement now (say $250 a month for a $30,000 salary) is a lot easier when making bigger bucks (say $625 a month for a $75,000 salary). Easing into this system makes saving for retirement easier later in life.

3. You don’t know when you’re going to retire
The 2007 Retirement Confidence Survey found that 37% of current retirees retired earlier than planned because of something unexpected, such as health problems or changes in their company such as downsizing. Don’t think that will happen to you? Tell your 47-year-old self that.

4. Compound Interest
Here’s the good news, and anyone who has done any research on retirement knew this one was coming. When it comes to retirement, it pays to be young. Why? Compound interest. It’s a pretty simple system. Say you make 10% interest a year, and you have $10. That means after the first year, you have $11. If you earn 10% the next year, you have $12.10 because the interest earned from the previous year built up from the following. Let’s take bigger numbers to heart. Say you put in $300 a month, every month, for forty years (age 25-65) at a rate of 10% annual return. Know how much you’ll end with? $1,752,666.52. That’s right, you’ll be a millionaire. So start now.

After being ever so commanding on what you should do with your finances, I have a confession. As a college senior, I am not investing towards my retirement yet; I am diverting those funds (about $250 a month) to a savings account that will be my nest egg after college. Once I am salaried and making real money, I vow that I will immediately start saving for retirement.