Author Topic: Another Update!: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?  (Read 20942 times)

SwedishChef

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I'll start off like many do: I've been a lurker here for a while, soaking in as much wisdom as possible. I'm breaking my silence now to seek some general advice and guidance about our financial status, plus audit our future plans. I'm younger and really just starting out in the world, but was raised in a financially savvy household -- I want to start off on as strong a foot as possible. My parents, however, are pretty tight-lipped when talking money, so while I can seek advice from them, it's difficult to talk straight numbers. I'm looking for more candid and transparent advice.

Background: I'm 25F, my husband is 28M, married two years this coming July. Fully merged finances. We're both in technical/STEM fields in a low COL area of the Midwest. I've barely been in the work force a year as I went straight to graduate school after undergrad. My husband has nearly 10 years of professional experience in IT (he worked his way through school).

Income:

Gross Annual: $103,000 + my bonus
Monthly Take-home: $5730

Income/Benefits Breakdown:

Me: $2400/month, contributing 5% to 401(k) w/ 4% match
I'm paid biweekly, so there's a couple "bonus" paychecks floating around the calendar year. Performance-based annual bonus. Definite upward mobility for me: just got a 6% raise to keep me happy, and my bosses know I'm still being underpaid for my skill set. Likely a big raise to come.

Him: $3330/month, contributing to HSA (employer also contributes 50% of max), plus contributing 9.8% to the state education retirement system. The district matches the contribution at 101%. If he stays with them long-term (which he probably won't), he can retire at 55-56 with a full annuity.  If/When he leaves, he can't take any of the employer contributions with him (so we usually write that off...).

Average Monthly Bills:

Rent: $960
Groceries: $400
Car Payment: $210
Gasoline: $150 (I have a 45-mile commute -- so 90 miles roundtrip -- but I work two days a week from home.)
Phones: $113 (We're switching to Republic Wireless later in the year; Verizon's termination fee makes it cost-prohibitive at the moment.)
Insurance: ~$100 (Two cars, plus renter's; we pay the six-month premium upfront)
Utilities: $100 (Electricity and gas)
Internet: $53
Netflix + Amazon Prime: $16.84

Consumer Spending:

Eating out: $200
Clothing/Personal Care: $200
Misc: $50

This constitutes our "fun money" and is variable month-to-month, depending on what comes up (a wedding, a birthday, unforeseen purchases, etc.). Some months hardly any of this gets spent.

Total Monthly Expenses:
~$2553, leaving $3177 left over

Assets:
Cash: $11,000 (doesn't include the money we see from paychecks each month)
His Rollover Trad. IRA: $13,500
His State Retirement Contributions: $7140 (does not include employer contributions)
My 401(k): $2300
My Roth IRA: $1050 (Just opened it earlier this year, $1000 contributed for 2014 tax year.)
HSA: $4600 (Husband's employer hasn't put in the remaining $2050 toward the max yet; apparently they do it in chunks throughout their fiscal year.)

Total Assets: $34,990
w/ HSA: $39,590

Debts:
Car 1: $9k at 0.9% (I make just over minimum payments right now since the interest rate is so low.)
Car 2: $7500 at 3.1% (This was just purchased...I know, I know...didn't like doing it. But our previous car was really becoming unreliable and a money sink. We want to pay this off ASAP.)

Total Debts: $16,500

No other debt. Credit card balances are paid in full every month, and we aggressively paid off my husband's nearly $30,000 in student loans in 18 months.

Currently, our goals look like this for the next 12 months:

1. Pay off Car #2 ASAP
2. Fully fund both of our IRAs for 2015
3. Start a downpayment fund for a house 

We have ~$3177 each month left to play with. Knowing what you do know about our situation, where should we go? Do we attack each thing individually, or do we proportionally allocate that $3177 each month? We're back and forth on a few different strategies for the short-term, but I'm also looking at how to strategize for the mid and long-term once these goals are met.

I'm just hoping to pick everyone's experienced brains. Thoughts and feedback are welcome and appreciated!











 
« Last Edit: July 24, 2015, 09:41:42 AM by SwedishChef »

DrF

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2015, 01:21:19 PM »
Please read all of MADFIentist, especially this.

http://www.madfientist.com/retire-even-earlier/

rubybeth

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2015, 01:35:41 PM »
A few random thoughts:

I think you're doing well. :)

Do either of you have access to a 457b? I ask because you mentioned the education retirement thing, and some schools also offer 457b. It's like a 401k but you can access the funds at any age, as long as you leave the employer.

I'd pay off the higher interest car, too.

If interested in buying a home, I'd probably save up like crazy for that 20% down payment next. Depending on how soon you want to buy (like summer 2016 as a goal?), figure out how much to save up, and the rest can go into retirement savings.

I'd sock away as much as possible into the 401k, IRAs, etc. to get your taxable income down, after the down payment is saved.

MDM

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2015, 01:47:45 PM »
Gross Annual: $103,000 + my bonus
Total Monthly Expenses:
~$2553, leaving $3177 left over

We have ~$3177 each month left to play with. Knowing what you do know about our situation, where should we go? Do we attack each thing individually, or do we proportionally allocate that $3177 each month? We're back and forth on a few different strategies for the short-term, but I'm also looking at how to strategize for the mid and long-term once these goals are met.

I'm just hoping to pick everyone's experienced brains. Thoughts and feedback are welcome and appreciated!

With $103K gross, you could contribute
$  6,650 to an HSA
$11,000 to traditional IRAs
$36,000 to 401k/403b/whatever the "state retirement" is
  --------
$53,650 total to tax-deferred investments.

This would drop your federal tax to ~$2,700/yr and, depending on state tax, leave you ~$3,100/mo for all expenses. With $2,553 identified, that's $550/mo for taxable investing or loan pre-payment or down payment accumulation.

How does that look to you?

YTProphet

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2015, 01:48:01 PM »
I think you're doing great. All your expenses seem reasonable (although I'd generally recommend paying for all cars in cash everytime, regardless of whether you can get a dirt cheap interest rate).

I think my main piece of advice would be to max out both your 401ks and Roth IRAs and then back into what you'd have leftover to spend. I think that with your combined salaries you should be able to do it and stay within your existing budgets. Once you do that, you'll probably have a bit left and you can do with that what you wish (pay down debt, beef up emergency fund, spend it, create a "big future expenses" fund, taxable brokeragea account, etc).
« Last Edit: April 24, 2015, 01:51:13 PM by YTProphet »

Sibley

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2015, 01:59:39 PM »
You want to pay off the car - it'll take you 3 months to do so just with your excess income, less if you use some of your savings. I'd throw your excess cash at that car loan for those 3 months, pay it off and be done with it.

Next, throw that cash at your IRAs and fully fund them.

Third, down payment savings.

Spondulix

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2015, 02:06:27 PM »
I agree you're doing great and it's just a matter of goals. Pay off the car, fully fund IRAs, save for house. You're at a point where you're not really paying off debt anymore but starting to accumulate wealth!

The house downpayment - we saved 20% for our first house at a similar age, and had it all in savings accounts (and CDs). I regret not putting some of that money into a brokerage account (like index funds) cause I think it would have gotten us to our goal sooner. It's also good to just start getting used to seeing money go up and down. Once you get your other goals out of the way, I'd suggest putting most in savings and starting to invest a little. Another reason it's good to start now is you'll avoid short term taxes if the money has been in more than a year, so the earlier you can start, the better!

mulescent

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2015, 02:07:16 PM »
Some things to think about:

-You've engineered an extremely large expense into your life: the commute.  More importantly, it's a sucky way to spend your time.  Do you both commute?  If so, can you move to reduce/eliminate it?  If not, why do you need two cars?  Can you find a job near where you live?  You say you're underpaid, which is another incentive to ditch the 90 (!) mi roundtrip commute.

-Ting offers to pay part of your early termination fee, so you could switch now and save some cash...

-I would prioritize retirement savings much more highly.  Maxing your IRAs is a no-brainer, but you should also try to boost your 401k savings as much as possible.  Buying a house will, at best, not actually help you that much in the long term.  In my experience, house buying leads to lifestyle inflation and extra spending.  Buying also locks you into a single location which, at your age, could cost you lots of opportunity.  Rapidly accruing lots of long-term investments (e.g. stock index funds, etc) will pay ridiculous dividends in a decade or two.  Plus, they don't tie you down or obligate you the way a house does.

Check2400

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2015, 02:12:56 PM »
If you're 25, and have essentially 16,000 in retirement right now, and are saving almost 40 grand post tax right now, then I know what I'd do in your shoes, in a ideal world. 

If you both max out 401k and IRA, that is essentially 50k a year considering your employer match.  (I don't get state pension growth, to be honest, so I may be off on this).  If you do that until you are 29, in only four years, then you'll have around $125,000 at age 30.  7% rate means double every ten years, so 250 at 40, 500 at 50, and 1 million at withdrawal age. 
See: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/11/11/how-much-is-too-much-in-your-401k/

Essentially you're 4 years from only using IRA's to minimize your tax basis and way overpad your retirement.  Plus, every raise is yours to take home, you artificially lower your cost of living which forces you to budget, and you gain the envy of everyone here who wishes they had an extra decade of compounding interest working on their retirement. 

But that is just my rose colored view.  Debt for people like you will go away soon enough and means an unintended raise with each payoff and gives you a fun secondary goal to be proactive on while true retirement saving is on automatic, but the ability to get 30 years of compounding growth shrinks every year... literally. 

 

TPGW

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2015, 02:22:40 PM »
Quote
$11,000 to traditional IRAs
$36,000 to 401k/403b/whatever the "state retirement" is

With 103k in joint gross income I don't think they qualify for a full IRA deduction.   

http://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/2015-IRA-Deduction-Limits-Effect-of-Modified-AGI-on-Deduction-if-You-Are-Covered-by-a-Retirement-Plan-at-Work

Please correct if I'm wrong about that. 


MDM

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2015, 02:27:22 PM »
Quote
$11,000 to traditional IRAs
$36,000 to 401k/403b/whatever the "state retirement" is

With 103k in joint gross income I don't think they qualify for a full IRA deduction.   

http://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/2015-IRA-Deduction-Limits-Effect-of-Modified-AGI-on-Deduction-if-You-Are-Covered-by-a-Retirement-Plan-at-Work

Please correct if I'm wrong about that.
Yes, you are incorrect.  Although, the word "gross" gets used in multiple ways so you are likely not alone.  The HSA and 401k amounts get subtracted from gross income to get Modified Adjusted Gross Income - and MAGI is used in the tables you reference.

SomedayStache

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2015, 06:14:58 AM »
If I could rewind my life to where you are (because this is very similar to my situation eight years ago) I would start maxing out your 401k options.  That's what I'm trying to do now but it's a hard scrabble fight because we bought a house, have kids, and I'm not looking at any more easy raises.  Max it out now, then as you get raises you can use them as you choose, but knowing there is no more room to fill the 401k.

hexdexorex

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2015, 10:21:01 AM »
1. Pay off Car #2 ASAP
2. Fully fund both of our IRAs for 2015
3. Start a downpayment fund for a house 

There I know the feeling of paying off a car is great but 3.1 is a low interest rate as well. If it were me I would probably move that to #3 and push buying a house to #2. Locking in mortgage rates at this point is historically a pretty great bet.

lhamo

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2015, 10:45:20 PM »
Agree that you are doing pretty good given your ages, but I'd love to see you do even better :)

1)  Push for the raise from your employer.  The earlier you start bringing home more, the faster you will get to FIRE.
2)  If they can't budge on the raise, or even if they can, see if you can negotiate working 3 or even 4 days from home.  Putting pressure on them on that front, citing your ridiculous commute, may also be a way to pressure them into paying you more (assuming they will want to do what they can to keep you
3)  Seems to me that you still have plenty of room to cut back on expenses while remaining comfortable.  I would look at the following:

A)  Rent -- $960 seems high for a young married couple in the low cost Midwest.  Can you downsize or move somewhere less expensive?  Or find someone/another couple to share housing with?  You don't have to obviously, but a couple of years of minimizing your costs on housing before you have kids (should you be planning to have them) will give you a bigger nest egg with which to buy a house, or choose to have one of you stay home full time or part time, or whatever.

B)  Groceries -- $400/month for two people in the Midwest seems high.  Are you doing everything you can to optimize spending in this area?  Lots of threads here about eating well on a lower budget, developing cooking skills, etc.  Check out Budget Bytes and the Good and Cheap cookbook (available here:  https://8b862ca0073972f0472b704e2c0c21d0480f50d3.googledrive.com/host/0Bxd6wdCBD_2tdUdtM0d4WTJmclU/good-and-cheap.pdf) for some great recipes and shopping tips.

C)  Netflix/Amazon Prime -- evaluate whether you really need these.  Check out your public library.  Consider at least putting both on hiatus for awhile and trying out free options.  Even if you only stop for 3 months and then restart, that is nearly $50 you saved for your stash.

D)  Make sure you are regularly getting quotes for other services, as you can sometimes save money by switching

E)  See if your local utility offers an energy audit, and try to bring down electricity use.

F)  Personal spending budgets seem a bit on the high side, especially for clothing/personal care.  Two adults who have already established a professional wardrobe should be needing to spend that much on clothes. I only budget $1200/year for our family of four.  We spend most of it on shoes, which the kids wear through/grow out of extremely quickly.  If it was just me and DH I don't think we'd spend more than $400-500 between us. 

I bet if you really try you can cut at least another $200-300 off your monthly spending without much effort, and if you put in more effort you can probably get up to $400-500 off what you are currently spending, especially if you can work from home more and get the raise you deserve. 

Good luck and keep reporting back!

Hey It's Me

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2015, 05:39:26 AM »
You're in the perfect situation for some mustachian advice, because you're already doing a lot of the right things, and can really supercharge your savings by making a few key changes.

Step 1: First, max out your 401(k)s at work. At this point, each dollar you put in automatically returns to you 25% in the form of tax savings. For example, if you contributed an extra $500/month to your 401(k), your take-home would only drop by $400. Where did that other $100 come from? Uncle Sam, baby :) Maxing out both of your 401ks (or whatever equivalent your hubby has) effectively means a $9,600 raise for you in 2015. (Ask me about the math if you'd like.)

Step 2: Stay away from Roth, and contribute to a traditional IRA instead. You're in the 25% bracket, and with your spending levels a Roth doesn't make sense at this time. Maxing out both traditional IRAs means saving another 2.2K in federal taxes.

Step 3: Max out your HSAs for additional tax savings. (Great article about the significance of an HSA: http://www.madfientist.com/ultimate-retirement-account/)

With these 3 steps, you will save $53,650 in deferred income in 2015 (not even including any employer matching). You will also have reduced your combined federal taxes to a poultry 4200, as compared to nearly $14,000 (!!!) if you didn't contribute to these tax deferrals at all - that's a nearly $10,000 savings in taxes alone.

After these and paying off taxes (fed, SS and Medicare taxes), you'll have ~$39,000*. Since you spend 30K, that means you'll be able to invest another $9,000 per year in taxable accounts.

Put another way, by making these strategic changes, you could have invested over $62,000 (+ any employer matching) in 2015, with no change to your lifestyle, putting on you the fast track to retirement in 10-12 years.


* All calculations made based on 103K gross salary, and $6K bonus (complete guesstimate.)
« Last Edit: April 26, 2015, 05:51:48 AM by moe_rants »

MDM

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2015, 11:43:55 AM »
You will also have reduced your combined federal taxes to a poultry 4200, as compared to nearly $14,000 (!!!) if you didn't contribute to these tax deferrals at all - that's a nearly $10,000 savings in taxes alone.
Don't be a chicken - you can do this!

SwedishChef

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #16 on: April 27, 2015, 12:46:30 PM »
I wanted to wait a few days before responding. The feedback so far has been exactly what I was looking for – thank you! There’s a lot for my husband and me to chew on.

A couple of thoughts now that I’ve had a chance to read through everything…

The big one: My commute and current job.

I am absolutely aware that my commute is too much, no question. I’m at an impasse on what to do: on the one hand, I genuinely like my job, my coworkers, and I have a lot of flexibility as far as how/where I work and what I work on. Plus, my benefits are very good for someone just entering the workplace – for example, I have four weeks of paid vacation. I also have built-in time during working hours to skill-build and make myself an even better and more knowledgeable hire once I decide to jump ship. The low base salary and the commute are glaring problems, though.

For context, I work in data science/analytics – with a master’s degree – doing advanced statistics, predictive analytics, and programming (R, Python, SAS, plus some Javascript and SQL). I’m painfully aware that I should be making more than $43,000 a year, but it seems my company (a large multinational corporation) has an overly rigid promotion structure. My manager has been fighting with HR from the start to get me more money. Unfortunately, she has to go through our UK offices to do this, and it’s very hard to convince them of giving someone a $15,000-$20,000 raise in what is (to them) their “cheap” office in a low COL part of the U.S.

Jeeze, just getting two days a week at home was an uphill battle. But my performance review put me in the top 1% of the company, so they HAD to give me something to supplement the measly 6% raise. The hope is that someday they’ll reorient our U.S.-based analytics team back under the U.S. reporting structure. But who knows? Needless to say, I’m a bit frustrated by the whole thing…I think the only way they’ll all of a sudden “find some money for me” is if I tell them I have another job offer.

My husband thankfully has a very short commute, so that helps. He does, however, need a car for work – running the IT department for a large school district means sometimes driving from building-to-building around the city, hauling equipment. (He’s comp’d for gas, at least.) We’re also renting a place on the very edge of town, right next to a major interstate. I’m basically commuting to another city via that interstate, so we’re already situated as close to my work as possible without sitting in empty farmland.

****

As far as saving and investing goes…

The one consistent piece of advice I’m seeing is for us to prioritize our retirement savings – which is what I figured. Once that second car is paid off, I’ll up the contributions for my 401(k) – especially now that my paycheck saw a small boost. Start at 10% and go up from there, and continue lessening our tax burden. The remaining difference will go between funding the IRAs and getting that housing downpayment off the ground.

Buying a house seems like a natural short-to-midterm goal for us; housing costs are low here – a great starter home will cost around $175k in a desirable part of town, and our mortgage payment will be cheaper than most rents. Real estate is also appreciating at a steady rate. There’s a bit of a housing shortage though, and pent-up demand is beginning to flood the market. We’ll have to put together a 20% downpayment and a strong bid before we dive in.

Quote
Step 2: Stay away from Roth, and contribute to a traditional IRA instead. You're in the 25% bracket, and with your spending levels a Roth doesn't make sense at this time. Maxing out both traditional IRAs means saving another 2.2K in federal taxes.

I do see several of the arguments for contributing exclusively to Traditional IRAs: the immediate tax deduction, potential taxation of Roth accounts in the future, eventually exceeding the income limit, all that jazz. Personally I had begun to lean more towards mixing up our IRA accounts so as to have a healthy mix of tax-free and tax-deferred accounts while we can still contribute to a Roth. There are obviously a lot conflicting opinions out there about this, and each household is a different case study, so I am genuinely curious as to your reasoning.

I’ll keep updating when I can, and I’m hoping to participate more around the forums! Thank you again!

Jeremy E.

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #17 on: April 27, 2015, 01:13:06 PM »
You seem to be doing great, unlike most people I don't think getting a loan for a car is a big deal for financially savvy people, especially at rates as low as 0.9% or 3.1%. Historically you can make an average of around 6%/year after inflation if you invest in the US total stock market, and at the same time, inflation eats away at your debt, so I wouldn't worry about making more than minimum payments on your cars unless you hate debt or want to save money by switching to lower coverage insurance.

Other than that, try and max out as many tax advantaged accounts as you can, I think the vanguard total stock market or any low expense ratio S&P 500, are the best places to invest your money.

As far as buying a house, I would do research to make sure it's something you really want to do, here is a post that talks about the financial aspects of whether or not it's a good idea, http://jlcollinsnh.com/2012/02/23/rent-v-owning-your-home-opportunity-cost-and-running-some-numbers/
Personally I regret buying my house, it would of been cheaper for me to rent, but I thought since I would be getting equity then it would be better than renting.

For your budget, there are a lot of places you could spend less, groceries, clothing, dining out, etc.. but if you don't mind working for 12 more years then don't worry about it too much, if you would like to shorten that, then read up some more on MMM and follow his advice. Ex) spend $1/meal, don't dine out as much, reduce the ridiculous clothing budget, save on electricity etc.

These are all just nit picky things, regardless what you do, you're already on the fast track and I think you will do great, Good Luck!
« Last Edit: April 27, 2015, 05:34:14 PM by Jeremy E. »

RexualChocolate

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #18 on: April 27, 2015, 02:04:59 PM »
If you're in the top 1% of a company with international offices and not clearing 100+ in analytics right now, you're criminally underpaid. You have a masters to boot? Jesus.

The field is as hot as it is ever going to be. Find a new job. Yesterday. Your opportunity cost is insane every second you sit at this job.

Don't buy a house there(or anywhere), move somewhere with potential. You could retire in 1/3 the time if you were paid even 3/4 of your market value.

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #19 on: April 27, 2015, 02:19:47 PM »
Get a new job.  I work in data analytics too.  You should  be able to double your salary (or come close).

I've stayed in jobs before because of loyalty to my boss or my coworkers or the projects.  What's important to note is that they don't have the same loyalty to you, as evidenced by the fact that your salary in now way reflects your skills.

Look for a new job, get an offer, and bring it back to your boss.  They can match it, or you can walk.  The great part is that since you like your job you don't have to take the first offer you get - you have the freedom to look for a job that is a better fit for you.

You are too young to settle. 

MDM

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #20 on: April 27, 2015, 02:25:50 PM »
If you're in the top 1% of a company with international offices and not clearing 100+ in analytics right now, you're criminally underpaid. You have a masters to boot? Jesus.

The field is as hot as it is ever going to be. Find a new job. Yesterday. Your opportunity cost is insane every second you sit at this job.

Don't buy a house there(or anywhere), move somewhere with potential. You could retire in 1/3 the time if you were paid even 3/4 of your market value.
That was more or less my thought as well.  Maybe not $100K straight out of school - you do have a few things yet to learn ;) - but certainly a lot more than $43K. 

How much job hunting have you done?

BBub

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #21 on: April 27, 2015, 02:28:51 PM »
If you're in the top 1% of a company with international offices and not clearing 100+ in analytics right now, you're criminally underpaid. You have a masters to boot? Jesus.

The field is as hot as it is ever going to be. Find a new job. Yesterday. Your opportunity cost is insane every second you sit at this job.

Don't buy a house there(or anywhere), move somewhere with potential. You could retire in 1/3 the time if you were paid even 3/4 of your market value.

+1

At least shop around for offers.  Take the best one to your boss & explain in a very professional way that you are considering making a move to achieve fair, market-rate compensation.  The company will either come close to matching the offer or they won't - in which case you already have an offer in hand.  It's not a card you want to play every time the annual review rolls around, but playing it once or twice with strategic timing can really boost your income trajectory.

Also, a small tip to deal w/ corporate bureacracies: request a title change when asking for a considerable raise.  For whatever reason, the home office usually requires this to justify a pay increase.

Edited to add:  Also, sharpen your sales and negotiation skills.  Read books on these subjects.  Your job may not directly require these skills, but your income most certainly does ;)
« Last Edit: April 27, 2015, 02:37:26 PM by BBub »

SwedishChef

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #22 on: April 27, 2015, 02:55:59 PM »
Thanks, everyone -- honestly. I really needed to hear a lot of this.

Being fresh out of grad school, I forced myself to temper my expectations. I didn't want to come off as entitled or unreasonable; but, hearing this from objective, outside sources is really making me reconsider a lot of things. I had already made a few steps to network about other jobs, but I'll be doubling -- heck, tripling -- my efforts now.

Quote
That was more or less my thought as well.  Maybe not $100K straight out of school - you do have a few things yet to learn ;) - but certainly a lot more than $43K. 

Haha, I'm definitely not expecting $100k -- there's A LOT I want and need to learn about my field, and just being a professional in general.

We literally just got off of a division-wide conference call to go over monthly numbers, etc. There's a Q&A session at the end of those, and someone anonymously sent a question regarding this very thing: when are we going to be paid according to fair market numbers? They threw out the "Well, we're an at-will company..." That started solidifying things a bit more for me.

Good God, my coworker, who has a bachelor's in mathematics and statistics, barely makes $36,000. It's just wrong...
« Last Edit: April 27, 2015, 02:58:22 PM by SwedishChef »

MDM

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #23 on: April 27, 2015, 03:16:43 PM »
Good God, my coworker, who has a bachelor's in mathematics and statistics, barely makes $36,000. It's just wrong...

Right or wrong, the pay you can command will be related to the amount of money you can make for the company paying you.  E.g., petroleum engineers (often the highest paid among all engineers) aren't necessarily smarter than other engineers but they can make more money for oil companies than their counterparts can elsewhere. 

Thus you might want to look for niche groups within Fortune 100 companies, in which your skills can provide a higher return.  Just a thought - there are certainly other paths you might take.

Check with various sources (e.g., http://www-classic.monster.com/, http://www.payscale.com/, http://www.salarylist.com/, the Career Services office at your grad school, etc.) to get information on salaries you might expect.  Good luck!

RexualChocolate

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #24 on: April 27, 2015, 03:44:19 PM »
Its not wrong. Why would they pay you more than they have to? Clearly they can get away with sub market wages. I think you'd have a talent flight, but apparently not if their top talent is sticking around. Their management would be idiotic to raise wages if attrition is that slow.

Inertia coupled with fear of change is an incredibly powerful force on the company's side. Stop treating it like a morality issue. Its straight business.

lhamo

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #25 on: April 27, 2015, 04:04:16 PM »
It's business, but how they choose to do business tells you a lot about them and what you can expect.

One of the reasons I am walking away from my organization is that exactly when they were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a revamp of our HR and "talent management" system they asked me to do a job 2-3 levels above my paygrade for 1.5 years for minimal additional compensation.  Oh, and at the last minute, without any prior discussion of it with  me, they increased my required work hours by 14% in my new contract with no additional compensation.  This is a large global non-profit, and the excuse they always give for why they can't pay more is "we're a non-profit."  That is bullshit.  I did the office budget the last two years and there was plenty of money budgeted for the higher level role.  They just didn't want to pay it to the person who was doing it.  Meanwhile, I know how to read a PF-990 and know that for the last 5 years at least, people at the Deputy VP level and above have regularly been getting mid-four and sometimes five figure bonuses and significant raises.  And that happened even when we were hit hard by the economic downturn, in years when the organization posted million dollar losses.  And as far as I can tell all most of them do is sit in endless meetings that accomplish very little most of the day. 

Definitely step up your job search.  Don't let yourself be taken advantage of.  Go to your library and look for books on negotiation and career development.  Learning to negotiate well now will pay off handsomely for the rest of your career (and even after you FIRE -- those skills work across the board).
 

mm1970

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #26 on: April 27, 2015, 04:41:34 PM »
Quote
(R, Python, SAS, plus some Javascript and SQL)

Will you be my friend?  Just kidding, this is an area that I've thought about switching to - I'm a semiconductor engineer who dabbles in data, and I have an interest in it.

Anyway ... It's somewhat "criminal" to be paid too low, but you get what you demand.

I'm probably going to come off as sensitive, bitter, or bitchy.  But hey, if the shoe fits...

Start negotiating and looking for other jobs right now.  It's never bad to see what is out there - it's the only way to really know what companies want, need, and are willing to pay.

As a woman, you are at a disadvantage.  The salary gap is real - it tends to hit harder as you age.  In your 20's is where you should be negotiating hard - as you get older, it just gets harder.  I aimed to negotiate salary young (pre-kids) and flexibility later (post-kids).  When I hit my 40's is when I really felt the gap.  (I don't care if it's "only 7-10%", at my level that's a good $7 to $10k or even a little bit more.  That's real money.)

Companies, for the most part, are trying to get the best people they can for the least amount of money.  It's nothing personal.  It's your job to do the best you can.

SwedishChef

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #27 on: April 27, 2015, 05:00:43 PM »
Quote
Its not wrong. Why would they pay you more than they have to?

Very, very true. I understand it is purely business at the end of the day, and they obviously don't see the need to pay us any more. I'm really just venting at the moment: this epiphany has been a few months in the making, and it hit me like a ton of bricks earlier. Now I'm trying to channel all the emotion into job-hunting energy. I'll stick it out for another month or two (cross the one-year mark, plus take the vacation we've already booked), and then hit the market hard.

Quote
I think you'd have a talent flight, but apparently not if their top talent is sticking around.

Eh, I don't know if they are: just in the last two weeks, we lost several higher-level executives and directors to a competitor. It's caused some tremors. Plus, if you look around my office, it's pretty...well...middle-aged (no offense). It heavily skews late 40s, early 50s -- plus many have been with the company a while. Of the 120 people in our office's location, I'm one of only a handful of people under 35.

 
« Last Edit: April 27, 2015, 05:59:49 PM by SwedishChef »

Spondulix

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #28 on: April 28, 2015, 12:52:12 AM »
As a woman, you are at a disadvantage.  The salary gap is real - it tends to hit harder as you age.  In your 20's is where you should be negotiating hard - as you get older, it just gets harder.  I aimed to negotiate salary young (pre-kids) and flexibility later (post-kids).  When I hit my 40's is when I really felt the gap.  (I don't care if it's "only 7-10%", at my level that's a good $7 to $10k or even a little bit more.  That's real money.)
The salary gap doesn't exist because we are women, though. It exists because we don't know how to negotiate (or choose not to). OP is a perfect example: despite being in the top 1% of the company, she doesn't feel it's appropriate to ask for more (when its clear to everyone else she's in an ideal situation to get more). Women choose not to negotiate (especially for raises once in a job) because they don't want to rock the boat. Women want to be viewed as team players, and asking for a raise (putting yourself first) doesn't support that. So, instead, a lot of women just don't push it, and they lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over a career. It's like handing money over to your co-workers and back to your company cause you don't want to make yourself uncomfortable.

The reason the salary gap exists is because over time, the discrepancy gets worse - if her male counterpart (in the top 1%) is asking for an extra 4% raise every year, over time he's going to be exponentially increasing his salary (vs hers). Now picture them interviewing for a new job - OP says that she's currently making $46k, and a male candidate (with the same experience) might already be at 56k. If the job description says 50-70k, they might make her a starting offer at $50k and him 60k. She might settle at 52k and him at 65k. It has nothing to do with her being female, but that HR is going to try to get talent for as cheap as they think they can. That's why it's so crucial to learn to negotiate early on in your career, and to be confident enough to ask for what you are worth - or above.

SwedishChef - listen to this podcast episode:
http://www.listenmoneymatters.com/negotiating-side-hustle-student-loan-stephanie-halligan/
And maybe try this:
https://getraised.com

Hey It's Me

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #29 on: April 28, 2015, 05:22:24 AM »
You will also have reduced your combined federal taxes to a poultry 4200, as compared to nearly $14,000 (!!!) if you didn't contribute to these tax deferrals at all - that's a nearly $10,000 savings in taxes alone.
Don't be a chicken - you can do this!

Haha, nothing gets past you, MDM.

Jouer

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #30 on: April 28, 2015, 08:29:01 AM »
In my experience, data analytics positions do not pay great in the first couple of years out of school. There is much to learn in those years. But after those first couple of years, you should see a bunch of large raises, though you may need to change employers to make that happen.

The most important part of your job in the first 2-3 years is learning. The more you learn on the job, the better your future salary will be.

mm1970

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #31 on: April 28, 2015, 08:44:23 AM »
Quote
The salary gap doesn't exist because we are women, though. It exists because we don't know how to negotiate (or choose not to). OP is a perfect example: despite being in the top 1% of the company, she doesn't feel it's appropriate to ask for more (when its clear to everyone else she's in an ideal situation to get more). Women choose not to negotiate (especially for raises once in a job) because they don't want to rock the boat. Women want to be viewed as team players, and asking for a raise (putting yourself first) doesn't support that. So, instead, a lot of women just don't push it, and they lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over a career. It's like handing money over to your co-workers and back to your company cause you don't want to make yourself uncomfortable.

It's not only that though. Studies have shown that when women *do* negotiate (like a man), it doesn't work.  The types of direct negotiation are frowned upon, and women are often seen as "uppity" (for lack of a better word), rather than "direct".

I mean, it's getting better - I'd say about 1/3 of the bosses at my current company are "gender-blind" when it comes to negotiations, promotions, and raises.  Sadly, that leaves the other 2/3...

mm1970

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #32 on: April 28, 2015, 08:46:29 AM »
In my experience, data analytics positions do not pay great in the first couple of years out of school. There is much to learn in those years. But after those first couple of years, you should see a bunch of large raises, though you may need to change employers to make that happen.

The most important part of your job in the first 2-3 years is learning. The more you learn on the job, the better your future salary will be.
I find this to be true in engineering also.

No offense taken to the middle-aged comment by the OP.  Depends on your location and the company, but a lot of "middle-aged" people at a company have gotten there by job-hopping a few times (plus promotions), and that's when you get the "real" money.

SwedishChef

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #33 on: April 29, 2015, 07:50:16 AM »
Well, interesting update:

Found out this morning that our UK bosses changed their minds about me working from home. My manager is currently arguing with them, but I think this is the final nail in the coffin...

I've already started applying to other places.

Axecleaver

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #34 on: April 29, 2015, 11:26:28 AM »
Hi SwedishChef,
 
I worked in a Fortune 500 as a director for seven years over a department 110 people. I have to disagree with the status quo advice in this thread so far. I think you should hang in there for one more year, because you have so little experience.

Big companies do not give significant raises, no matter how awesome you are. A 6% raise is unusually high, especially for someone with less than a year of experience. The way to get raises is to change jobs, ideally every two years.

I would guess that you got the top performance rating, which is usually 1-2% of the workforce. In my company, we rated every person from 1-5, where 1 was awesome, 3 was average, and 4 and 5 were performance problems. The distribution was:
 1-2% 1's,
20% 1s and 2s
98% 1s, 2s and 3s
2% performance problems

The raises looked like this:
1 3.5-5%
2 3%
3 2-2.5%
4 & 5 nothing

Keep in mind this is with an average inflation of 2-3%, and increasing benefits costs every year. Top performers do not make much more than the rank and file folks calling it in. It's a lesson we all had to learn as we started our careers.

The standard ask when you move jobs is 20% improved pay. It's common to be in the 10-15% range. While 43k is pretty low, your problem is that you don't have much experience. Unfortunately, it is very tough to get a better job with a year of experience. Your Master's degree may not be that helpful to you today, it's going to be more useful mid-career as a differentiator from other candidates with similar experience.

You should always be looking for a better job, but be prepared to continue exceeding expectations and doing the best job that you possibly can today... For one more year. Then hit the job search super hard and (this is really important) do not tell anyone what your current salary is. This forces your job offers to be offered at market rates, rather than a 10% bump from your current role (this is standard hiring practice). You should be willing to talk about what you want, but go into that conversation armed with glassdoor stats and the like.

When you get a new offer, it's polite to allow your current employer to provide a counteroffer, but always get this in writing and do not permit yourself to be swayed by "maybe down the road" promises. You have just seen how "business conditions have changed" and your WFH privileges were canceled, which is an effective cut in pay for you due to the commuting cost. You should also get the new employer's offer in writing before talking to your current employer, because most companies cannot provide a counteroffer without a written offer in hand.

RexualChocolate

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #35 on: April 29, 2015, 03:20:39 PM »
Hi SwedishChef,
 
I worked in a Fortune 500 as a director for seven years over a department 110 people. I have to disagree with the status quo advice in this thread so far. I think you should hang in there for one more year, because you have so little experience.

Big companies do not give significant raises, no matter how awesome you are. A 6% raise is unusually high, especially for someone with less than a year of experience. The way to get raises is to change jobs, ideally every two years.


This sounds like you work in a typical low margin industry, not analytics.  Starting salary is 60k+ out of undergrad. Not unheard of for 80+ with a masters.

Its all talent based and is as hot as its ever going to get. 43k means the employee isnt getting the experience you need to accelerate your career.

Move. Immediately. Before its obvious you're cheap to hire.

nottoolatetostart

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #36 on: April 30, 2015, 03:55:40 AM »
Buying a house will, at best, not actually help you that much in the long term.  In my experience, house buying leads to lifestyle inflation and extra spending.  Buying also locks you into a single location which, at your age, could cost you lots of opportunity.  Rapidly accruing lots of long-term investments (e.g. stock index funds, etc) will pay ridiculous dividends in a decade or two.  Plus, they don't tie you down or obligate you the way a house does.

Lots of great advice. Be done with the car, max out retirement, and "save". If you don't have kids, enjoy your "freedom". Don't tie yourself to one place. Sure, keep saving, but sock it away in a low cost index fund after you have maxed out all your retirement options. Our biggest regret is buying a house before we had kids...it  "settled" us down, we had to buy more stuff (lawnmower, more furniture, etc) than keeping a small lifestyle. Instead of dining and dashing off to do something, we suddenly had to clean a larger house and mow the lawn. Don't. DO. IT.  It's the great American nightmare that no one talks about.


ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #37 on: April 30, 2015, 06:07:31 AM »
I am your age, with less relevant education (I know fewer languages), but also in data. I make nearly twice your salary working from home 100%. If you want to have a career, you need a new job.

midweststache

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #38 on: April 30, 2015, 06:31:42 AM »
It's business, but how they choose to do business tells you a lot about them and what you can expect.

One of the reasons I am walking away from my organization is that exactly when they were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a revamp of our HR and "talent management" system they asked me to do a job 2-3 levels above my paygrade for 1.5 years for minimal additional compensation.  Oh, and at the last minute, without any prior discussion of it with  me, they increased my required work hours by 14% in my new contract with no additional compensation.  This is a large global non-profit, and the excuse they always give for why they can't pay more is "we're a non-profit."  That is bullshit.  I did the office budget the last two years and there was plenty of money budgeted for the higher level role.  They just didn't want to pay it to the person who was doing it.  Meanwhile, I know how to read a PF-990 and know that for the last 5 years at least, people at the Deputy VP level and above have regularly been getting mid-four and sometimes five figure bonuses and significant raises.  And that happened even when we were hit hard by the economic downturn, in years when the organization posted million dollar losses.  And as far as I can tell all most of them do is sit in endless meetings that accomplish very little most of the day. 

Definitely step up your job search.  Don't let yourself be taken advantage of.  Go to your library and look for books on negotiation and career development.  Learning to negotiate well now will pay off handsomely for the rest of your career (and even after you FIRE -- those skills work across the board).

This.

The BF works in data analytics, and because of the local competition for his skill set, he received a very hefty raise last year (to keep him and his coworkers at market value). But in LCOL Midwestern areas, I can imagine that there is not the market for your skill set that more urban areas have--companies can get away with underpaying employees because without competition, their employees (particularly those tied to the community through children/family) have no where to go.

But that's not you (at least, that doesn't sound like your situation). It sounds like your husband is not looking to stay with his current position long-term (it sounds like he teaches - you're SURE there's no retirement vesting in his district? That sucks hardcore...), so look for jobs outside of your current community. Make your current company realize you're not just staying with them out of complacency, and that should they continue to not pay market value, you'll walk (and then be prepared to do so).

Best of luck, SwedishChef. (Love the username!)

SwedishChef

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #39 on: April 30, 2015, 07:13:07 AM »
Quote
I am your age, with less relevant education (I know fewer languages), but also in data. I make nearly twice your salary working from home 100%. If you want to have a career, you need a new job.

Ack -- that's tough to hear.

Quote
But in LCOL Midwestern areas, I can imagine that there is not the market for your skill set that more urban areas have--companies can get away with underpaying employees because without competition, their employees (particularly those tied to the community through children/family) have no where to go.

See, what sucks is that I'm commuting from the Midwestern city with some competition to a smaller city with less competition. So yeah, there's probably a lot of truth to that observation.

Quote
But that's not you (at least, that doesn't sound like your situation). It sounds like your husband is not looking to stay with his current position long-term (it sounds like he teaches - you're SURE there's no retirement vesting in his district? That sucks hardcore...

He's actually back-end IT and helps run the server, network, and virtual environments for big public school district (30,000 students and faculty). Most of his IT experience comes from running academic environments -- his dream is to one day run a university IT department. He has a pretty senior position where he is now (for his age -- he's the youngest guy there by nearly 15 years), so my guess is he'll be able to do that one day.

As far as vesting goes, there's something about being "vested" in 5 years -- but I don't think it's the same "vested" we're thinking of. My understanding is that he can start withdrawing from the annuity -- but obviously a tiny, tiny amount.

Quote
...so look for jobs outside of your current community. Make your current company realize you're not just staying with them out of complacency, and that should they continue to not pay market value, you'll walk (and then be prepared to do so).

Both my husband and I have expressed a desire to move to Colorado (particularly the Front Range area), and for a while that was "the plan." But we've been scared off by the extremely tight housing market there -- it doesn't seem like a practical financial move at this point. We genuinely like our home city, though (we're only a state away from Colorado...which may give away my location ;) ) -- it's going through a boom, and it's invigorating to be here. Plus the cost of living really can't be beat.

Spondulix

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #40 on: May 01, 2015, 09:33:02 PM »
Both my husband and I have expressed a desire to move to Colorado (particularly the Front Range area), and for a while that was "the plan." But we've been scared off by the extremely tight housing market there -- it doesn't seem like a practical financial move at this point. We genuinely like our home city, though (we're only a state away from Colorado...which may give away my location ;) ) -- it's going through a boom, and it's invigorating to be here. Plus the cost of living really can't be beat.
Have you run the numbers of cost of housing in CO when you're making double the income? (theres 5 states that border CO - 6 if you count Arizona at the 4 corners... so not that much of a giveaway! ;)

SwedishChef

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #41 on: May 02, 2015, 09:45:40 AM »
Quote
Have you run the numbers of cost of housing in CO when you're making double the income? (theres 5 states that border CO - 6 if you count Arizona at the 4 corners... so not that much of a giveaway! ;)

Haha, well, I did say I was in the Midwest -- so that narrows you down to two. ;)

Spondulix

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #42 on: May 03, 2015, 06:01:13 PM »
Quote
Have you run the numbers of cost of housing in CO when you're making double the income? (theres 5 states that border CO - 6 if you count Arizona at the 4 corners... so not that much of a giveaway! ;)

Haha, well, I did say I was in the Midwest -- so that narrows you down to two. ;)
Lol. I know Eastern CO well, so if you live in an actual city in one of those 2 states, it narrows it down to about 3 areas. I'm guessing you're not in the one with a known tech industry if you're having trouble finding jobs.

But in all seriousness, I would be interested to know the cost comparison of where you are to the suburbs of Denver. The great thing about the Front Range is that it's a HUGE part of the state. There are a lot of housing options in a wide price range.

SwedishChef

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #43 on: May 06, 2015, 07:39:01 AM »
Well, just to update everyone...

I tossed several applications and resumes to various places and making calls within my personal and professional network. I already have two interviews this week -- had one yesterday, which I think went okay. Interview was scheduled for one hour, and we ended up talking for two. Sounds like I've moved on to a second interview for that position -- and it's one I'm excited about.

The second interview is scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday). So far I've gotten callbacks on each of my applications within a day or two of submitting them...I'm cautiously optimistic!

Neustache

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #44 on: May 06, 2015, 09:29:41 AM »
Congrats on the two interviews! Following along to see what happens.  Excited for you!

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #45 on: May 06, 2015, 07:05:48 PM »
This thread encouraged me to ask for a raise today. Thank you to whoever posted the 'get raised' website. I put in a request for a 12% raise. Though I do work at a Fortune 50 company, so we will see if that actually produces anything.

Spondulix

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #46 on: May 07, 2015, 11:21:20 PM »
This thread encouraged me to ask for a raise today. Thank you to whoever posted the 'get raised' website. I put in a request for a 12% raise. Though I do work at a Fortune 50 company, so we will see if that actually produces anything.
Woohoo!! Definitely give us an update on that :)

Neustache

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #47 on: May 08, 2015, 12:22:32 PM »
This thread also inspired me to learn SQL - on lesson 28 at sqlteaching.com  - thanks OP!  Hopefully you have good luck with a new job!

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #48 on: May 08, 2015, 01:15:02 PM »
This thread also inspired me to learn SQL - on lesson 28 at sqlteaching.com  - thanks OP!  Hopefully you have good luck with a new job!

Awesome! It's amazing how often it comes up. You can even use it in Excel.

FIPurpose

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Re: Younger couple starting out -- can we pick your brain?
« Reply #49 on: May 21, 2015, 11:50:39 AM »
This thread encouraged me to ask for a raise today. Thank you to whoever posted the 'get raised' website. I put in a request for a 12% raise. Though I do work at a Fortune 50 company, so we will see if that actually produces anything.
Woohoo!! Definitely give us an update on that :)

So the story is not by any means over, but I thought I would give the details up tilll now.

I left a note on my boss's desk that I got from the 'get raised' website and a few modifications to it that I thought were particularly weak.

My boss met with me 2 days later to tell me that he has been trying to get funding for a raise for the past month, and that this letter may help swing corporate to make a decision quicker.

So no official raise as of yet. The bureaucracy only reviews requests once a month, so I'll have to wait on an official review until then,  but I know that I've done everything I can save get a job offer and that my boss has done everything he can. Definitely glad I went through with it.

I'll be back to report how the salary gods answered my petition.