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Your guide to saving for retirement 

Have you ever heard the phrase “It’s never too soon to start planning for the future”? It’s a good rule of thumb, especially when it comes to financial planning and saving for retirement. Sure, you may be at the very beginning of your career journey. You might feel as if it’s too soon for you to have to think about this subject, and that you have plenty of time to worry about planning for your retirement down the road. Still, it might be worth your time to reconsider when you should start.

The truth is, most people put off saving for retirement way too long, and the end result is endless anxiety and fear that they’re ill-equipped to afford retirement. Unfortunately, in many cases, they may be correct.

According to a recent Business Insider article, Americans just aren’t saving enough for retirement. Based on a study of over 5,000 individuals conducted by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, one-third of all adults have zero retirement savings and 23% have less than $10,000 tucked away, an insufficient sum to last through one’s retirement years—especially considering that advances in health care and elder care are making it easier to live longer lives. The article reports that the average American’s retirement goal is to have “security and the ability to live comfortably without fear of running out of money,” yet they are not doing the type of planning and saving required to make that a reality. Business Insider reports that the major reasons why so many folks struggle with retirement planning are as follows:

  • Most people don’t have any financial role models. Half of pre-retirees age 50 and older say they don’t have any positive role models when it comes to handling finances. Though some say they can turn to a parent or financial adviser for advice, 40% still don’t understand basic terms associated with retirement savings, such as IRA and 401(k).
  • Most people consider money too taboo to discuss openly. Even in the era of Facebook oversharing, 57% of Americans still consider money a distinctly private matter. However, this mindset is shifting: In every category, millennials were more open to discussing taboo topics than people 50 and older.
  • Financial decisions are second-guessed more than any other major life decision. The study found that 39% of people think twice about money decisions more than anything else. Only 18% of people give pause to career-related choices above all else, and even fewer—a mere 15%—second-guess decisions about their health the most.

You don’t have to have all of the retirement planning answers when you’re just starting out, especially since your financial needs, plans, and resources will likely evolve over time. That said, it is a good idea to start building responsible financial habits and behaviors early on and to always operate under the mindset that the money you earn is a valuable commodity and resource that you should treat responsibly. And above all—don’t forget that time tends to fly by faster than you think. Retirement isn’t quite as far off as it might seem.

Consider taking advantage of the following strategies to help you jumpstart your retirement-saving planning.

Get comfortable with saving.

There’s an unfortunate tendency among young adults who are just starting out in their professional paths to treat each paycheck as a reservoir of disposable income, a specific amount of money that they have to spend until the next paycheck arrives. It’s a bad idea to get used to treating your income this way. But once it becomes a habit, it’s a tough one to break.

Instead, try getting used to saving a percentage of your paycheck each week. 10% is a good place to start for most individuals. It’s okay to start small; the goal here is to get comfortable with the notion of saving. Try increasing the amount you save over time, or whenever your take home pay increases. Do your best to avoid dipping into this growing pool of money for discretionary purposes. However, if you do hit an unexpected and unavoidable life expense, you’ll have this money to help see you through if needed.

Explore workplace retirement savings options.

The good news is that many companies offer retirement savings options as part of their employee benefit packages. Do you know what your options are? If not, spending some time researching your benefits or talking to an HR professional at your company is a wise investment. If your company offers a 401(k) savings plan, and any sort of fund matching benefit (even better), it’s certainly in your best interest to take advantage of the plan as soon as possible. Once you get through the initial paperwork to enroll, your contributions will be automatic—all you need to do is keep an eye on it periodically and make adjustments as needed. The value of your 401(k) will build over time, so it stands to reason that the earlier you start, the more money you’ll have saved for retirement down the road. Trust us, you’ll thank us later.

Explore additional retirement savings options.

Contributing to your company 401(k) is a great idea, but it’s often not enough—depending on your retirement needs, your plans should include some level of diversification. Although your may just be beginning to explore your retirement savings options, it’s never too early to get comfortable with the various investment vehicles available to you. These include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and a Roth IRA account, in addition to your personal savings and 401(k). Once again, the key is diversification—spreading out your money in various areas in an effort to reduce your overall risk exposure in any one area.

We recommend that you learn about how these investment tools work in general and how you can make them work for you as part of your long-term investment portfolio. There’s a wealth of research and information available online, and you may want to consult a financial professional to help you get started. As your savings grow, consider using one of these investment tools to allow your money to grow over time.

Are you ready?

Just thinking of retirement can be scary, let alone trying to figure out how to make it financially feasible. If you’re just getting started in your professional journey, the good news is that you do have some time to thoughtfully prepare for how to save for retirement—but the sooner you start, the better off you’ll ultimately be. Use the strategies presented here to help you kick start your retirement planning. Best of luck!

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employment news

5 top customer service jobs for 2018

Are you looking for your next great job opportunity? If so, then you may want to consider a position in customer service. It’s a growing field with lots of opportunities in a variety of industries and settings, and the great news is that as a customer service professional you’ll build key transferable skills that you can use across the industry and even in other professions if you ever decide to make a major career change in the future.

Need more reasons to consider pursuing a customer service job? According to the most recent Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings for customer service representatives span nearly every industry imaginable and are projected to grow approximately 5% over the next decade. There are positions available in a variety of settings, including telephone call centers, offices, and retail stores, and both full-time and flexible part-time positions are possible. In addition, on-the-job training is often provided for individuals interested in pursuing employment in the field.

The following are five of the most promising customer service jobs, based on available opportunities and forecasts for projected growth over the next several years.

1. Computer support specialist

Are you a whiz with computers and enjoy helping people? If so, then consider a position as a computer support specialist. These customer service professionals provide guidance and assistance to individual computer users, companies, and organizations. They help troubleshoot problems, support computer networks, and provide technical assistance as needed.

Although the majority of computer support specialists work in full-time positions, there are a variety of different opportunities and arrangements available, including part-time work, contract work, and overnight work. Most professionals in the field have extensive computer experience and a college degree. The typical salary range for computer support specialists is between $49,000 and $63,000, depending on your location, industry, and experience level. Good news—the field is expected to grow approximately 10% over the next decade, and since individuals and companies routinely upgrade their computer equipment and software, you can count on there always being a need for qualified individuals.

2. Financial clerk

Do you have an interest in working in finance? Although financial clerks typically hold support roles in the industry, if you have a capacity for numbers and an interest in the world of finance, then perhaps a position as a financial clerk is a good idea for you. Financial clerks are typically responsible for handling the administrative responsibilities of the organizations that employ them, including recordkeeping, customer assistance, and basic financial transactions.

Most financial clerks are employed in full-time, 9-to-5 positions and are found in bank branches, government agencies, and medical offices, as well as a variety of other industries. Educational levels for financial clerks can vary depending on the field and responsibilities of the role. The average salary for a financial clerk is approximately $38,000 and can vary depending on location, industry, and experience level. Over the next decade, the employment outlook for financial clerks looks promising, with growth around 9% expected over the next decade.

 3. Information clerk

In many ways information clerks serve as the backbones of the companies that they work for, providing vital services such as record-keeping and maintenance, data collection, customer assistance, and more. Nearly every industry employs information clerks to help them operate efficiently, so if you choose to pursue a job in this field you’ll likely encounter a wealth of opportunities.

Most information clerks are employed in full-time positions; education levels required to enter the field can vary depending on the responsibilities of any given role. The average salary range for an information clerk is approximately $32,000 and can vary depending on location, industry, and experience level. Over the next decade, the employment outlook for financial clerks is expected to grow around 3% over the next decade.

 4. Insurance sales agent

Do you have an interest in working in the insurance industry? If so, then pursuing a position as an insurance sales agent might be a good goal for you. Agents often work on the front lines and serve as the crucial primary point of contact with customers who are interested in obtaining various types of insurance products. In addition to explaining the options available to them, agents answer questions and provide guidance during the entire process—which hopefully ends in customers obtaining the right insurance plans to meet their needs.

Insurance agents typically work full-time positions in office settings and travel as needed to meet with clients. Typically, a high school diploma or some level of college is required to enter the field. The average annual salary for an insurance agent is right around $50,000, and the long-term outlook for the field is promising—employment is expected to grow around 10% over the next decade.

5. Wholesale and manufacturing sales representative

A great option for those looking to establish roots in the customer service industry is to go after a position as a wholesale and manufacturing sales representative. Individuals employed in this role typically sell products for wholesalers or manufacturers to other businesses or organizations. They’re expected to handle a wide array of customer service responsibilities, from serving as the primary point of contact to answering questions, to enticing potential customers, to negotiating prices.

Individuals in this field often work on a commission basis; although they constantly feel the pressure of meeting a sales quota, salaries for successful sales representatives can make the effort worthwhile. The typical salary range for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives is between $57,000 and $79,000, depending on the type of products sold, location, industry, and experience level. Typically, a high school diploma or some level of college is required to enter the field for non-technical product sales; for more technical or scientific product sales, a college degree is typically needed. Long-term outlook for the field is promising—employment is expected to grow around 6% over the next decade.

If you think a job in the customer service field might make sense for you, consider pursuing a position in one of these five top customer service jobs—each has an excellent outlook for 2018 and the foreseeable future. Good luck!

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Ask these questions when negotiating a job offer

If you’re on the job hunt and you’ve played your cards right, then perhaps you’ve found yourself in the following scenario: you’ve successfully made it through a series of interviews, waited patiently, been contacted by a hiring manager or HR representative, and been made a job offer. Often, this is absolutely fantastic news—the end result of a challenging job hunting process filled with ups and downs, excitement and disappointment. Now, after a long journey, you’re faced with an offer for what could be the next great opportunity along your career path.

But hold on for a second—are you absolutely certain that this job offer is the right one for you?

Most people fall into one of two camps when making a decision about a job offer. On one hand are the impulsive deciders, those who blindly and quickly latch on to the first available offer made to them. While it can be good to show that you’re eager and enthusiastic, there are some very good reasons for deciding to slow things down a bit and take some time to weigh a job offer before accepting it. After all, accepting an offer that may not completely align with your best interests may actually set your career trajectory back, and it may be difficult to make up any lost ground—either in salary or job title. Furthermore, if you do quickly take an offer that you come to regret later, you may be sowing the seeds for a passive-aggressive workplace attitude down the road.

On the other hand are the overthinkers—those who spend way too much time and effort weighing and overweighing every small detail of the offer in an attempt to reach a clear and decisive decision about whether or not to accept. These folks can count on a few restless days and sleepless nights as they struggle to reach some decision. And in the end, the exhaustion and worry that these people generate make it hard for them to feel good about whatever decision they reach. That’s not a good recipe for happiness either.

There is a middle ground between making an impulsive decision and overthinking a job offer, and for most folks it’s right where they should be when trying to decide about whether to accept a job offer. Thankfully, there are some strategies you can take advantage of to help you negotiate your next job offer. Envato recently published an article highlighting the key questions you should ask—either yourself or someone at the company—before accepting a job offer. Let’s take a closer look at some of these.

Questions to ask yourself

What are my non-negotiables? When we’re looking for our next job opportunity, most of us have at least a vague, and possibly a concrete, sense of what we’re willing to be flexible about and what are deal breakers. This will vary by individual, based on one’s specific needs and goals. You should have a set of non-negotiables in mind when you’re on the job hunt to help you to determine if a job offer is right for you or if some additional negotiation is required.

Am I happy with the salary offer? This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many people, either out of desperation or overeagerness, quickly accept the first offer made to them, even if it’s below what they were hoping to make—and once this happens it can take a long time to make up any lost financial ground. The truth is, most offers are within a flexible salary range and there is often some room for additional negotiation, especially if they really want you on their team. Just remember not to be too aggressive here or you could wind up talking yourself out of an offer completely.

Is the company reputable and stable? The last thing you want to have happen is to jump onto a sinking ship. Even if the offer is great, what good is it if the company implodes before you can really reap any benefits? Before you agree to accept an offer, do your homework and make sure that the company has a good reputation in its industry and seems stable for the foreseeable future. There are even websites available for you to learn about what other employees thought about the company while they were there. The more information you have at your disposal, the more informed your decision will be, which is always a good move.

Can I see myself getting along with my future colleagues and bosses? This one’s a bit tougher, as you’ll never truly know the answer until you start working there, but do your best to use interviews and office visit to get a sense of what it might be like to work there. Does there seem to be a friendly and collaborative vibe with good energy, or does something less positive and productive seem to be in the air? If possible, engage with whoever you run across or are introduced to and see if they seem like the sort of people you’d click well with. For most folks, this matters a lot—and could be the difference between a quick unhappy job hop and a satisfying and extended stay.

Questions to ask an HR representative or hiring manager

When do you need my decision? If you want to make the most of your time to weigh a job offer fully, it helps to know how much time you have to decide. Politely asking this question will help you know what timeframe you’re working with, and then you can go from there.

What benefits are being offered? In addition to basic information such as salary—which is typically provided upon receiving an offer—knowing what else is included in the offer (i.e., vacation time, retirement savings, insurance coverage, gym membership, etc.) will help you to weigh the full offer and determine if any additional points need negotiating.

What will my everyday responsibilities look like? Hopefully, you have a clear answer to this question after interviewing, but if you don’t its okay to ask for a little more detail before accepting an offer. Remember, accepting a new job is a major life commitment, so it stands to reason that you’ll want to know all the parameters of the deal so you can choose wisely, including what your average work day will be like—especially if some of these details are on your non-negotiable list.

Consider asking these questions when you’re weighing your next job offer and before you accept—because once you do, you may be closing the door on any further negotiating. Choose wisely and good luck!

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Change your daily routine and find happiness

It’s a new year, and like most of us you’re probably eager to get it started off on the right foot—which might include figuring out how to increase your daily happiness. After all, life is short and no one wants to spend their days needlessly unhappy, especially when you can make a few easy life adjustments to get you smiling again.

Even making some small tweaks to your daily routine can make a world of difference. Is your usual routine relaxed and well organized, setting you up for a positive and productive day? Or is it more chaotic and anxious, setting you up for uncertainty and a greater likelihood that things will go wrong? Setting your day off on the wrong foot—and keeping it there with the wrong daily routine—is a clear recipe for unhappiness.

Inc. recently published an article that highlighted 7 easy-to-implement changes that you can make to your daily routine that can improve your overall mood, productivity, and health—key components of lasting and sustained happiness. Use the strategies presented here to make positive changes to your daily routine and increase your level of happiness.

Write down your thoughts and feelings.

Keeping a small notebook or journal to jot down your daily thoughts and feelings can make a world of difference. Not only is it an excellent way to calmly work through the tangle of ideas that continually fight for primacy in our crowded brains, it’s a good way to slow life down for a bit, relax, and allow some quiet time for thoughtful reflection. Beyond this, it’s also a good way to ensure that you don’t forget things, which can really ruin your day.

Chat with a fellow commuter.

Many of us go through significant portions of our day feeling isolated and disconnected from the world around us, which can be a real recipe for routine unhappiness. Forging a new, meaningful connection with someone you encounter each day—like a fellow commuter—can help reconnect you to the world at large, and with any luck you’ll make a meaningful and lasting friendship. Who wouldn’t be happy about that?

Take a beautiful photo on your way to work.

When we get stuck in a rut, we become desensitized to things around us as we mechanically go through the motions of our daily routine. When we can no longer recognize the beauty in the world, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay happy. Do yourself a favor—take a moment to stop and find something beautiful around you each day and take a photo, which will serve as a lasting reminder that life is filled with wonderful moments. Chances are, those photos will make you smile whenever you look at them.

Plan something joyful for tomorrow.

In many ways, humans are predictable creatures—we feel happy when we have something to look forward to. Take advantage of this quirk of human nature by taking time each day to plan something joyful for tomorrow. It doesn’t have to be something big; even a small bit of future happiness can bring a smile to our faces. Give it a try.

Set one goal for the day.

People also feel good when they achieve goals they set for themselves. Each day, set one achievable goal for yourself—and make sure you give an honest effort towards achieving it. Once again, the size of the goal isn’t the main thing here; even achieving a modest goal that you set for yourself can bring you a measure of happiness, not to mention help make your day productive.

Consider outsourcing a chore.

Life is full of responsibilities that we as adults must devote our time and energy to each day—whether we want to do them or not. That said, there are some chores in our lives that we don’t necessarily have to do ourselves. Try letting yourself off the hook for a chore you can just as easily pass along to someone else. Chances are, you’ll breathe a small sigh of relief and have a little extra time for something that makes you happy.

List something you appreciate.

Although it’s easy to take the good things in our lives for granted at times, it gets much harder to do so when we write them down. Try thinking of something you’re grateful for each day and write it down. The act of doing so can really solidify its importance and can serve as a powerful, tangible reminder that there are things in life worth being happy about.

There you have it—ideas you can incorporate into your daily routine to make your life a little brighter. It may take a little effort, but isn’t your happiness worth it?

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