Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

It’s my blogoversary! October 27, 2008

Well, that’s not exactly true…

I started blogging in general in 2005, when I mostly discussed happenings around MIT.  I started discussing personal finance related topics in May 2007, and made the transition to WordPress in October 2007.  So it’s been about a year since I’ve started writing on this blog.

I suppose, as is the trend around the blogosphere on your blogoversary, you take a look back at your year of blogging.

So let’s begin!

Financial achievements and changes:

Opened my Roth IRA in July 2007, met goal of fully funding it for 2007.  (somehow didn’t post about that one).

Enrolled in my company’s flexible spending account (and did that again at my new job).

Got laid off

Got a new job

Bought a car

Since December 2007, through saving, paying down student loans, and contributing to my retirement funds (and getting a salary, of course), my net worth has gone up approximately $17,000.  I’m pretty impressed by that.  Though I have to keep in mind that my method for calculating my financial net worth also includes my car, both the Kelly Blue Book value for how much it’s worth (assets) as well as my loan amount (liability).  So currently, that number pretty much cancels itself out (since the car is still valued pretty highly, but I haven’t paid off much on the car yet).

I’ve continued to make most of my financial transactions automatic if possible.  My ING accounts take money from my other accounts a few times every month, my Roth IRA also deducts from my checking account once a month, as does my student loan company, my insurance and 401(k) contributions are taken directly from my paycheck, my car payments are withdrawn from my bank account, and some of my utilities are also withdrawn directly.  However, I do go online and pay my other utility bill every month, cable and rent I have to transfer myself every month, and I sign online to pay my credit card off each month.  I think with these expenses, they change a bit each month (or there is no automatic option available) and so I’ve chosen to pay those off in that way to make sure I have enough money in the correct account.

I have to attest that I think making the monthly expenses automatic is pretty key.  You make sure that you pay your bills on time, which means you don’t have to pay unnecessary fines/fees.  You just have to be careful not to go on autopilot in terms of spending.

Okay, to prevent this from going on too long, I think I’ll talk more about other blogoversary-type things in another post.

Woo, blog blog blog!

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Rolling over my 401(k), and other transitions May 16, 2008

Well, I got the official paperwork today telling me about all the options I have for the money in my former employer’s 401(k) plan.  They’ve given me plenty of options, some of which I think are not so good (i.e. taking the money out for myself), and the two that I’m mostly considering:  roll over to an IRA or roll over to a new 401(k) plan.  The problem with the latter option is that I don’t have a new job yet, and I don’t know if I’d even be able to roll over the 401(k) with them (it differs for different companies).  So it seems that my best bet is to open a Traditional IRA and roll my 401(k) into that.

I’m going to open up an IRA with the same company that I have my Roth IRA with, and presumably buy a life-cycle/age-based/target-date fund with a target date of 2050 or so.  My one concern is, even though these funds are supposedly diversified, I am thinking of investing in both IRAs in that fund…that’s not very diversified!  However, there are minimums for purchasing a fund in many cases, so perhaps I’d just let my money grow using those funds (and continuing to invest in my Roth IRA), and slowly build until I have more money to spend on different funds.

At any rate, I’m thinking it’s still my plan to roll over to an IRA.  I’m a bit ticked off that my old company’s 401(k) company is going to charge me a $40 processing fee, but hey, not much I can do.  They charge it for pretty much every option that I would do.

As for my other transitions (since I got laid off), I’ve filed for unemployment and been informed of how much I’ll be earning each week, and of course, looking for a new job.  And as I look at different job postings, I’m starting to understand what I do and don’t want to be doing.  This is a pretty helpful development, since I was so overwhelmed initially thinking of all the different career paths I could follow.

I’ll keep you updated!

 

I got laid off…now what? May 6, 2008

Yep, you read it here first folks. I got laid off. Thank that beautiful economy of ours, I guess. But now that I’m unemployed, what do I do?

Be thankful for the emergency fund

Remember that emergency fund that every personal finance guru, blogger, author, etc. tells you about? You’ll be very relieved when you find out you have that nice cushion to fall back on. And really, that whole “pay yourself first” idea really works. I never noticed the money was gone (every month I had an automatic transfer over to my ING account), and now that I need it, it’s sitting there waiting for me to draw from when I need to.

Take care of the transitions

Depending on what your severance package provides (or if you didn’t get one at all), you’ll probably look at a few things. Did you get any severance pay? Congratulations. Stash that into your bank account ASAP, and be thankful that your company was nice enough to help you out there. My company did provide some severance pay, but a friend of mine got laid off recently and got pretty much next to nothing. It’s really dependent on your company.

What are you going to do about insurance? Again, some of this depends on your company; they may immediately stop paying the premiums for your insurance, or provide you a grace period. Either way, you should learn about the COBRA. This is where you are given the opportunitiy to continue your insurance plan, but you must pay the premiums, at up to 102% of the cost. Many people can just find alternate, often cheaper plans that still cover their needs. Depending on your state, you might be required to have insurance (which is the case in Massachusetts). From what I’ve heard, if you don’t elect to continue through COBRA, but then something happens and you need insurance, you can retroactively get it taken care of. Don’t quote me on that, I’m looking into it.

Were you enrolled in a 401(k) or similar program? If so, you have a few options that I know of. They are summarized rather nicely in Get Rich Slowly’s page. I am most likely going to either roll my 401(k) over into an IRA, or, if I find new work soon enough and it’s a feasibility, I will move my 401(k) to my new company’s 401(k). What I will NOT do, and I don’t recommend you do it either, is cash out my 401(k). You have to pay a penalty, and taxes right then for your money, and now you are back to square one with your retirement planning.

And if you had an FSA account (I did), you’re probably going to have to just submit the rest of your claims ASAP, and lose any money that you didn’t spend. I guess this wasn’t something I considered when I initially signed up, but I guess that’s something to think about…how quickly you’ll spend the money in your account. I’m not sure what happens if you spent more than you accumulated, if you have to pay back the extra. I’ll have to check on that as well (for you guys, not for me).

Looking ahead

It’s rough, but it’s time to get back out there! Let your friends know that you are looking. I went ahead and listed it on my facebook profile…which worked out nicely, because a friend saw that and offered to talk to someone in his company that works in my desired area of research. Having good friends willing to help you out is definitely a plus. This is not the time to start networking with people you’ve casually met in the past…hopefully you’ve been networking all along…of course, if you haven’t, you might as well start now! It just looks a little fishy when you suddenly talk to someone you sort of know who can help you find a job. But don’t be afraid to. Update your profiles on your social/business networking sites, and confirm that the available information and connections is accurate and represents you in a positive light. My next step is to look at companies that interest me, and then determine if I have a personal connection to that company, either through friends or through my alumni network.

In the meantime, I’ve also started looking at the assorted job posting sites out there, like monster.com and career builder. There are plenty of others that I’m looking at, and if you want, I can post those, too, though I’m not sure how popular of a site they all are.

Well, hopefully you aren’t all in the same boat as me. Let me know what you’ve found helpful, or if you’re looking for information that I didn’t include, since I probably just omitted it for no useful reason.

[Edit: I forgot to mention applying for unemployment. There’s a good overview here, and for Massachusetts, you can find out how to file claims and such here. If you have trouble navigating that site, let me know. I managed to figure it out.]