Thursday, May 2, 2013

Whiskey Box Millionaire

Lists, of course, are always catchy. Here are 10 things to keep in mind on your new job. The stuff from #2 through #9 are about being on the job. But I think #1 and #10 are crucial, and wayyyyyy too often overlooked.

#1: Keep a portfolio. There is nothing worse than finding yourself laid off, or perhaps deciding that your office is toxic enough to leave, and wondering where you piddled your time away for the last few years. What did you accomplish? How can you sell yourself to a next (and hopefully better) employer?

The answer: from day one, keep a portfolio of really good stuff. It doesn't need to be labor intensive. Two strategies I've found useful:

(a) A daily journal. Spend just a few minutes each day writing down what happened. It may all seem very trivial the day it happens. Over time, however, you get a larger picture. Perhaps you'll even have a memory-jog (if a problem ever occurs) of when Harry in Accounting began harassing you, even if it wasn't visible as such when it started. 

Extra bonus: a word processing document lets you search, using "find." So-and-so says you or your boss never called back? Well--your journal notes you called two months ago at 10:43 a.m. It's not absolute evidence, but if record faithfully, you'll come to be trusted for your assisted memory.

(b) A whiskey box file. Sounds weird. I learned the phrase from a lawyer running his own small office. A whiskey box is a good fit for usual sizes of paper. Every time you write a letter, put a carbon copy in the file. Carbon? Obviously, that's old advice! You can photocopy. When I do something that might be worth keeping, or praiseworthy, or I have a vague inkling might be trotted out later--I make an extra copy. That includes emails. In hard copy, which cannot get accidentally deleted.

#10: Contribute to your 401k, at least the amount to get employer-match funds. Who, me, retire? Heck yeah. Social Security pays only a pittance, and may fold by the time you retire. You are likely to live well beyond 80, even 90. Do you really want to spend 20, 30, even 40 years living in poverty? 

Not only do you need to take responsibility for your own life, but compound interest can make you a millionaire pretty easily if you start now. Don't believe me? Read this:

Plus, consider this: Many employers contribute a % of your salary, matching a % you contribute. If you don't kick in to your retirement plan, you are flushing part of your salary down the toilet. Remember, Human Resources people think in terms of "compensation," not "salary." That can mean health, dental, employer-purchased snacks and coffee. It can also mean retirement. And who ever tried to haggle his or her salary down rather than up?

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