Why Corporate Camo Is Necessary For Gen-Y

22 05 2008

It’s no wonder that many boomers and gen-xers think we are the worst generation.   We’ve had our helicopter parents swoop in and save us when we’ve gotten into rough situations, we’ve been told our whole lives that we should dream big and that we have the power to change the world (and we believe it!), and most of us have never seen our parents struggle so we “don’t know what it takes.”

Our elders look at those of our generation who decided to take “a year off” to travel, are still jobless because they haven’t found the right fit, on the 5-6 year plan, or moved home to live with their parents after graduation and they tell us that we have “failed to launch.”

I am not defending my generation in this regard.  I’m almost 23 (next week!), I have a wife, two dogs, and I’m buying a house.  At times I’m disgusted by my own maturity, but at other times I’m disgusted by the lack of maturity that many of my peers show.  I have made my decisions, and I am happy, others have made their decisions and I hope they are happy, but in order to change the world like we have been told and taught that we will do; some of us need to camouflage ourselves.

There are some great companies who realize that they need to adapt and appeal to us in order to thrive, you know who they are because you most likely researched them as a place you want to work.  But when the reality of being a college grad steps in and you don’t get your dream job, you’ll learn that at most companies it will be a struggle to make the company more gen-y compatible.  It will be a struggle that will last until we are in positions of power and can effectively fight for what we believe.  Until then we must fall into line, we must play the game, we must appeal to Gen-X and the Boomers.  We need to act more mature than we are and we will climb the ladder.  Then, when the time is right, we can grab the reigns and make the changes that are needed.

What this entails:

  • Do not allow your parents to involve themselves in your workplace.
  • Dress up.  If your dress code is business casual, wear dressy casual.
  • Stay clean cut.  Shave and get a haircut, long hair is not boomer compatible.
  • Imitate.  Older people love younger people that remind them of themselves.
  • Go out of your way to impress them.

I know this goes against much that we believe to be true and what many people try tell us about ourselves, but unless you work for one of the few companies that is truly gen-y compatible this cammo will be necessary to make the changes we want.  Our fault as a generation is thinking that we can have our dreams now, but we must realize that in order to achieve our dreams and the changes we wish to see we need to plot out a realistic path and work towards acheiving them.

Is It Possible To Be Young And Frugal And Still Have A Vibrant Social Life?

14 03 2008

Mathematically being young and frugal makes a great deal of sense; save as much as you can now, and let the compounding interest build up over the course of your life. 

In theory if I were to invest $50,000 in a decent mutual fund at the age of 23, assuming it earns at least 10% a year (slightly less than the historical average of the stock market), I would have $2,262,962.00 by the time I’m 65.  That sounds great, and the numbers don’t lie, however it’s not that easy.

Achieving this goal, while feasible, means that we need to continue living the way we are now (very frugally) and save for over two more years before we would be back in good financial shape to buy a house.  We could do it, but it wouldn’t be fun, and we are already committed to the house.  

The fact of the matter is that being young and frugal comes with many opportunity costs; the biggest being a social life.  Personally, it’s in my nature to not be able to rationalize going out to bars and paying big bucks for a drink I can make at home for a fraction of the price.  Plus I’m not a big fan of loud crowded spaces.  I do however love hanging out with friends and meeting new people…who doesn’t?

In college I hated going out to bars, I would much rather have hung out with a few of my roommates or thrown a party at our house than go out.  As a bonus we would host the parties, charge a cover to get in, drink for free all night, and have money left over to pocket or pay the resulting tickets.  It was a pretty good setup :)…until we lost about 80% of our deposit when we moved out.  

I know there are always alternatives to going out to bars, but for the most part, when you are hanging out with friends, meeting new people, or even networking you will most likely be doing so while spending money.  Whether it be at a bar, a movie, the golf course, or over dinner, you’ll be spending money.  It’s called social spending, and it’s a fact of being social.

To be honest, this aspect of being young and frugal is less than fun.  It especially sucks in the office because everyone I work with goes out for lunch at least 3 times a week.  The frugal train of thought on this is to take your lunch to work and it will save you a ton of money, so this is what I do, and it does save a great deal of money.  On the flip side, I’m certain that I am missing out on a great deal of good networking (and the male bonding) that comes with going out to eat with the guys.  Also, I’m wondering if my being social with my bosses at lunch could have an effect on an increase in my salary, thus offsetting going out to lunch.

Mary and I have kept room in our food budget for us to each go out to lunch with our co-workers once a week.  At the time we set the budget it was a reasonable expectation, and while it is a reasonable expectation, it’s getting to the point where I feel bad telling them I won’t be going to lunch today.  I love that I am always invited, but I know that there becomes a point where you are turned down so much that you don’t ask anymore. I’m hoping that I am not approaching this point.

Outside of work it’s hard for us to make new friends right now because of our extreme frugality and location (both will hopefully only be around for the 2-3 more months).  We live 45 minutes away from work, and we are more than 45 minutes away from “uptown” where any sort of nightlife in Dallas occurs.  On top of that all of our childhood friends from the area no longer live here!

So with all this, is it possible to live frugal and still have a vibrant social life?  I’m sure it probably is, but for Mary and I, and our extreme situation, it seems that we have struck out.  Our saving for our house and preparing to be house poor is strike one, our current location is strike two, and being married seems to be strike three because all of our peers are still single. 

I am more than open to suggestions on how get our social lives back on track while still living frugally, so if you have any please post them in the comments section. I’d love to hear what you have to say!

The Curse of a Jack-of-All-Trades

5 03 2008

I’ve always been a jack-of-all-trades, never afraid trying to do something on my own, and always watching and learning how to do things.  I can’t help it, was raised this way. 

From a young age I pushed a toy lawn mower behind my dad as he mowed the lawn, in elementary school I spent afternoons with my grandfather who taught me about woodworking and tools as we built (yet never finished) a rocking chair, in junior high I hung out with carpenters and contractors everyday after school as they remodeled both my grandparents and my parents houses.  I was an early adopter of HGTV, yet This Old House remains my favorite home improvement show.  In high school I, like most teens, was infatuated with cars, and as a result I can, and have done just about everything on a car, short of body work.  Through all of this, I learned and did even more as I became an Eagle Scout.  I watched, I learned, I did.

I loved these aspects of my childhood, and these aspects built a foundation for me to know how to do an extreme variety of things, and as much as I love (and Mary loves) this about me, it’s a curse.

I constantly have internal struggles as three aspects of my life make it nearly impossible for me to make a decision on any variety of things.  These three things that alone are great, seem to deeply conflict each other.

  1. I’m a DIY type of guy, born and raised, for the sake of being constructive, and seeing a finished product that I created, saving money is just a bonus.
  2. I’m Frugal.
  3. I’m a perfectionist.

As the saying goes, “jack of all trades, master of none.”  I’m a perfectionist that can’t do any of the things I love to do perfectly, yet I hate the concept of paying someone when I can do it myself, but since I know how things should be done (even though I can’t do them perfectly) I monitor to make sure things are being done right.  As Fat Bastard in would say “It’s a vicious cycle.”

This internal struggle is one of the major reasons that Mary and I decided to build a new house instead of buying an older home and having projects.  We’d rather move into a house already done the way we want it than have to live with imperfect DIY project after project.

JD at Get Rich Slowly, posted an interview with Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.  I have not read the book, but in the interview the concept of a “low information diet” is brought up.  Tim explains that the people who excel with this type of lifestyle don’t overload on information.  Instead they outsource what they can, and don’t feel the need to stay caught up.  Tim calls them “selectively ignorant,” not really knowing more than they need to.  In other words, they are the opposite of me.

I am going to try being selectively ignorant because in many aspects of my life I feel that because I know how something is done, I should do it myself.  As a result I have a handful of half finished projects, and quite a few that would look much better if I would have paid someone else to do it.

What it comes down to is focusing on the things that you truly thrive in.  If you can focus on these things, and outsource/outchore the rest to others, in theory you’ll be doing quite well in your career and in your life.  This concept is one that was first brought to my attention in the book Strengthsfinder 2.0, which has the reader take a personality test and then tells you the 5 things that you thrive in, and what type of people to surround yourself with in order to be most successful.  It is a great test/book and I highly recommend it, as it was the first publication that I read which focused on strengths and not weaknesses.

I have to begin accepting that just because I can do something myself, it doesn’t mean I should. I am excited that I won’t have any large or highly visible projects once we move, and I’m looking forward to being able to focus more on what I’m good at (like looking towards the future, advising, and teamwork), and getting better at a select few things I truly enjoy but am not great at (like writing). 

Frugality Increases Earning Power (And Saving Power!)

25 02 2008

I want to share a story about how being frugal can help you make more money, and not just help you save it. 

Ever since Mary and I decided to build our new house we have been living frugally for the first time, and I feel that it has opened my eyes.  I’ve always hated inefficiency with a passion, and I pride myself on trying to find the most efficient way to do things, but lately with frugality on the mind I’ve been seeing waste everywhere.  For example, this waste has forced Mary and I to become active instead of passive about recycling.  But it isn’t just at home I’m seeing waste and inefficiency, I see it on an everyday basis at work. 

The company Mary and I work for is not exactly known for being a leader in employee benefits, and it’s no secret around the company that the employees aren’t thrilled with the 401k.  But by being in the unique situation of working at the same company as my wife, and by talking with some friends, I was able to uncover something that could save the company upwards of two million dollars a year… 

From my Human Resource classes in college I know that an employees health benefits can cost the company around $4,500 a year if they are enrolled.  Because Mary started her job before I started mine, I have been under Mary’s benefits.  Each additional person on an employees benefits costs the company a fraction of that amount more, so assuming that it costs the company $2,000 a year extra to insure me under Mary’s plan, I’m effectively saving the company $2,500 a year by not being enrolled for my own benefits.  Unfortunately for Mary and I, it is more expensive for us to be on the same plan ($480/year more) so it isn’t cost effective for us, even though it’s cost effective for the company. 

In speaking with a friend who works at the same company as his wife, he mentioned that  his company offers a $500 incentive to not be enrolled in their benefits.  An incentive like that would make being on one plan cost effective for us!  So I ran some complicated numbers and realized that if a small percentage of our workforce decided to accept an incentive to not be enrolled in the company’s healthcare system and instead be enrolled in their spouses, the company could save millions of dollars! 

I took this idea, and I approached my boss, I showed him the math, and he loved it.  The next thing I know, I’m in the Treasurer’s office pitching it to him.  He also loved the idea, and even came up with the idea of re-allocating the saved money to improve the 401k (which would double the matching they do now).  After his office, I got an appointment to meet with the Senior V.P. of Human Resources, who also loved the idea!  

They will be passing it through the ranks and may be implementing the idea for the next enrollment period. By looking at things like this with a frugal eye, I have potentially saved the company money and/or doubled the retirement plan our company offers!  And while it’s nice to think that I’ve done this for the company, I’ve really done it for myself.  I got great visibility out of it, and now the executives know who I am and say hi to me in the halls, which is pretty cool for being in my first job out of school.  Hopefully I’ll be able to leverage this later on when it comes to my evaluation! 

I’ve also found that our company doesn’t recycle, and I probably throw two reams of paper away a month as part of my job.  My next task is going to be saving my paper instead of throwing it away, so I can approach my boss with a large stack of paper from only a weeks worth of saving, plop it on his desk, and ask why we don’t recycle!

2 Week Anniversary Update

9 02 2008

Young and Frugal is officially 2 weeks old today, and I haven’t provided an update, so here it goes in a very random and unorganized fashion… 

First off, I would also like to thank you for stopping by, it’s been two weeks, and I have had over 250 page views! OK, I really don’t know if that’s good or not, but celebrating this little milestone makes me feel good! I’ve also gotten a few nods on some websites from people who apparently like what they see, which is very exciting for me.

I have changed the tag-line to add business to the blog, because business is a passion of mine, and I don’t know how I could not incorporate it when writing about personal finance. Most of my business related posts will also be entrepreneurial to help keep it more interesting.

We haven’t earned any extra income that I spoke about in my first post.  But we have thrown around some great ideas that I know we will be pursuing.  I might give tutoring a whirl, and Mary and I are both going to get certified to be personal trainers, though she will make a much better one than I will.  (If anyone knows of any good personal training certification programs, please leave a note in the comments or send me an e-mail through the contact section.) 

I’ve also toyed with writing a business and personal finance column for a community newspaper, it’s something I think I’d be good at, they are my two passions, and I really enjoy writing, plus I could use it to promote Y&F. 

Another idea is my pet product that I want to develop a prototype of this weekend.  If it works for Lexi (our 2 year old Lab) I would love to see how far I can take that!  

Between writing posts, running, and working my day job, I have been able to stay very busy, which has proved to be a blessing to me.  Before I started the blog, and before I was running and working out 4+ times a week, in my spare time I would watch TV and surf (shop) the internet.  Now that I’m busy, I’d be willing to say I have definitely cut down my spending, and my mind doesn’t feel as numb!