Fabulous Financial Advice: 6 tips for Yuppies

All too often, young people traverse the world with no clue about how to manage finances and save for the long term. With a good bit of real world experience myself, I am going to share some great tips to ensure financial stability for here and now, but most importantly, the future. Onwards!

1. Get outta debt

Pay off ALL consumer debt as soon as you can. Long term loans like student loans and car loans will obviously take longer, but credit card debt looms over your head like an ugly cloud. Bought a TV on your Best Buy card? Pay it off first. Using your Capital One credit card too much? Pay it off. Interest charges pain me. But nothing beats the psychological satisfaction of defeating devilish debt.

2. Build credit

GET A CREDIT CARD. And no, the debit/credit card doesn’t really count. Pay all your bills on time. Building a good credit history is seminal to your life’s goals. The difference between an average and excellent credit score can mean thousands of dollars when you buy your first home. But in order for banks to trust you, they need to see that you are responsible and mature enough to pay some bills.

3. Online and paperless

Do all of your banking online. The best thing I ever did was set up online bill pay. It’s quick, easy, and you never have to actually mail anything. Oh, and it’s free too through most major banks. Also, most banks have smartphone apps and some like Chase even let you deposit checks through your phone.

4. Monitor your situation like a hawk

Mint.com is an amazing resource for anyone. It’s brilliant really. The web site compiles all your financial accounts including debt in one place and updates DYNAMICALLY. All by itself. And you can even set up budgets for food, clothes, and bars. Then, it sends weekly updates, and they even have a free app for smartphones. It’s pretty awesome, not even gonna tell a lie.

Additionally, get a free credit check online to make sure you don’t have outstanding unknown debts. Also, it’s good to know your credit rating just to know.

5. Know your limits and save

Open up MS Excel. on the left side, list your monthly income. On the right side, list your costs, but separate them using fixed vs. variable. Fixed costs are the same ones every month (rent, cable, internet, electricity) and variable costs are ever changing (food, clothes, “fun money”, etc.) Overestimate costs when unsure.

The remaining after you subtract your revenue minus costs is your disposable income. Try to save 1/2 of this by putting it in an online savings account (avoid brick and mortar banks – they usually offer less interest). I use Discover Bank. Also, you can set up automatic transfers from your checking account so it forces you to save. You can spend the other half on fun things like hobbies, entertainment, and impulse buys. Go ahead, live a little!

6. Last tidbits

* Aim to spend 1/3 or less of your income on rent. More than that and it’s not wise.

* 401K match = free money. If your company has it, do it. No brainer.

* Check your account often – knowledge about your financial situation is so important. Somewhere along the way to civilization, it became taboo to talk about money. Parents tend to be secretive about the family budget, so we never learned. Friends don’t want to seem aloof, so they rarely ask others what to do. Inquire. Gain knowledge. And as I paraphrase the timeless poet Snoop Dogg, make sure to keep your mind on your money and your money on your mind.

Posted in Culture Caveats | 2 Comments

7 Crucial Gift Giving Tips

As Christmas fast approaches, you may be in dire need of of some last second gifts. Here’s some tips to keep in mind when purchasing goodies for loved ones.

1. Think One Size – Since you may not know a person’s size and stores don’t use a uniform format for sizing clothes, spring for items that only come in one size. Things like scarves, ties, and cufflinks are easy to find and you don’t have to worry about them being too big or small.

A 100% cashmere scarf? Don't mind if I do.

2. Think Simple – Never, ever get things that are too colorful or too trendy. You have no idea if they would like that funky color or crazy pattern. For men and women alike, simple colors are great (read: black, white, grey, navy). Unless you KNOW they love a certain color or pattern, just err on the side of caution. Even if YOU love it doesn’t mean they will – and they will probably return it or just stash it in their closet.

3. Think Non-Novelty – Novelty items are just terrible gifts. Sure, a fluffy Santa hat, Christmas plates, or holiday themed tie may be rampant at stores right now, but they are just not useful outside of a 2 week span in the year. Not to mention, they are pretty ugly and awfully tacky!

This was actually on sale for 16 dollars. This makes me sad.

4. Avoid Shoes and Sunglasses – too hard to shop for someone else when it comes to these things.

5. It doesn’t always have to be clothing – Electronics, weekend bags, and perfume/cologne are awesome gifts. For those special loved ones, jewelry is also an option.

6. High priced hygiene – Beauty and hygiene product sets are always great gifts. For moms and girlfriends, you can grab some nice makeup essentials. For your dad, shop for high end shaving sets such as this one below from Art of Shaving.

Source: Art of Shaving

7. Overspend a little – Remember, gifts are all about buying the people in your life things they normally would not buy themselves. So splurge a little and get them something nicer than usual.

Posted in Fashion | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Networking Tips

In every man’s life, there comes a time where business meets social. Here, professionals wander awkwardly around a room sipping alcohol and exchanging business cards. In these trying times, I offer a few tips to navigate such ambiguous terrains!

Networking 101

  • Approaching: Approach from the side. Coming from the back is too creepy and coming from the front is too aggressive (double entendre intended).
  • Opening: Have a short (15 second) spiel about “who” you are and “what” you are seeking. For instance, “Hi, I’m Ernesto – I’m currently a financial analyst looking to switch into management consulting.”
  • During the conversation: Address the speaker by name once they introduce themselves – it adds a touch of class and shows you are listening. Don’t whip out your phone at any time and actively listen. By doing this, you show serious interest in what the other person has to say and allows you to delve into subjects and ideas that pique your interest. Also, ask open-ended questions rather than just simple yes and no questions. (“What are your thoughts on the recent company merger?” vs. “Do you like working in Houston?”)
  • Body position: Keep an open body position. For instance, think of two people sitting across from each other in a restaurant – this is a closed body position – they are facing each other, making it harder for other to jump in the conversation. Now think of two people sitting at a 90 degree angle to each other. This is an open body position that’s easy to approach for others. Now, just do this standing up. Additionally, this position is natural if you approach from the side. The reason this is important is because you want to meet as many people as you can – you want it to be easy for others to jump into the conversation. An open body position will accomplish this.
  • Involve others: Bring other people into the conversation using the body position tactic and introducing yourself as well as the person you initially came to talk to. Give them your name, the other person’s name, and a short spiel about what you were talking about. “Hi, I’m Ernesto and this is Tiffany. We were just talking about how to convert from a financial analyst to a management consulting position.”
  • Build/Break rapport: This may sound weird since humans do it naturally, but building rapport is all about mimicking body language. Smiling, nodding, and laughing together will build rapport easily. Even mimicking hand gestures and such will show the person that you are into the conversation. Furthermore, breaking rapport such as turning away will signal an end to the conversation. If you have gotten what you need and want to move to another person, rock your feet as if you are about to leave, shake hands, and thank the person for his time.
  • If you are lost for words: Prepare a set of questions to ask and revert back to that if you run out of things to say. Alternatively, point out something visual until you can jog your mind about what you need to say next. There are many options here – you can ask about someone else in the room  (“Is he someone you work with?”) or just a simple (“This lounge is great – have you ever been before?).
Posted in Etiquette, Fashion | Tagged | 3 Comments