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An MBA May Be Worth the Effort

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Investment Tips For Young Professionals

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For a lot of people who are just getting the hang of their careers and beginning to generate income or savings, financial management can be something of a foreign concept. Generally, the first instinct is to simply hoard as much money as possible in the early days of a career, and there’s certainly some logic to this. That’s particularly true given that many people starting careers have yet to start families, purchase houses, etc., and may therefore have more of an opportunity to set some money aside.

The sensible alternative in many cases, however, is to invest any excess income so that it may grow over time, rather than simply setting it aside in your bank account. Often, the only downside to taking this route with financial planning is that it sounds complicated—and it is! But as a private investor with a career to occupy your day-to-day attention, it’s important to recognize that there are ways to invest your money without delving into the complex economic labyrinth that is the ordinary stock market.

For this reason, alternative investment methods, while not necessarily stronger or weaker financially (that depends on the situation and the specific investment), can be very appealing for a lot of young people starting careers. They’re simply easier to manage while you’re focused on a day job.

Here are a few such methods to consider.

Real Estate

The term “real estate” simply sounds pricey, and for a young person starting a career, it may not seem like an option. But that’s because most of us hear the term and think immediately of ordinary homes and vacation properties as opposed to the broader concept of “living space.” Most young professionals are not in a position to rent out entire properties to earn side income.

However, plenty of young professionals find extra income by subletting a spare bedroom, or even by taking advantage of Airbnb to rent out their apartments for weekends or extended periods of time spent away from home. These may or may not work for your particular situation, but they’re nice reminders that “real estate investment” is a very broad term.

Forex Trading

The simplest way to explain forex trading is that it’s essentially the exchange of currencies in pursuit of a profit. For example, someone who bought up a bunch of U.S. dollars years ago with euros could now exchange those same dollars back for a lot more euros, because in the past few years the dollar has come a lot closer to equaling the value of the euro. In fact, this is one reason that forex may be a more appealing alternative investment method to Americans than it has been in years.

FXCM’s Euro/USD charts, which show the relationship between the euro and the dollar, display that 1 euro is now worth about $1.12, as opposed to about $1.25 at the beginning of 2015 (and even more than that in recent years). This means U.S. investors have the opportunity to buy euros (as well as other currencies) at nearly even prices, and potentially re-exchange down the line if the euro bounces back up to become worth more the dollar. All of this can be done with a few simple transactions and over time, meaning it requires fairly minimal attention from an investor busy with career pursuits.

Precious Commodities

This is sort of a broad category, but generally the term “precious commodity” is used to describe gold and silver, as related to investment. And basically, the practice is similar to that of forex trading: transactions are simple, investments are often meant to be left alone for a long period of time, and you can do it all while completely avoiding the hassle and confusion of the stock market. Because of the aforementioned strengthening of the U.S. dollar, as well as other factors around the globe, gold in particular is at a particularly appealing buying price these days.

However, expert opinions differ as to where it’s headed from here, and perhaps the best way to keep tabs on the market is to watch the dollar closely. Forbes contributor Jesse Colombo explains that he’s “waiting for a catalyst” for the dollar to surge or fall, and he will approach precious commodities appropriately thereafter.

Financial Trading Apps

If you’re more interested in trading actual stocks, but you don’t have the time or money to put into creating a portfolio or hiring someone to manage your investments, there are a few new and fairly well regarded apps designed just for you. Acorns has gotten a lot of good publicity and essentially lets you pick a prearranged investment bundle into which your spare change is put automatically (for example, if you buy a $3.75 latte, the $0.25 leftover from rounding up to the nearest dollar goes into Acorns). Similarly, RobinHood is a brand-new app that basically lets you invest from a single platform without fees or complicated setups. Both may be of interest to a young professional looking to invest for the first time.

Ultimately, this is one of the trickiest things to manage for a lot of young professionals: you have real income for the first time, but you don’t have the time or experience needed to invest strategically. With these alternative ideas, you may find a way to help your savings grow without making things too hard on yourself!

Post-MBA Job Interviews: Addressing Your Failures

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If writing about your weaknesses seems difficult, then talking about those same flaws must be tough too, right? Absolutely. You will most likely feel a bit of a post-MBA adrenaline-like rush now that you have your degree and are looking to start your career (and in doing so, you should check out the job search tools at The Undercover Recruiter). However, that does not mean you won’t get bogged down in the minutiae of job interviews—and that goes for even the most seasoned folks out there. Like with any challenge worth facing and conquering, though, all it takes is the proper amount of training and confidence. Then, you will be sure that you can both identify and address the weaknesses or failures in your career that are worthy of discussion. That’s where this post can help.

To be blunt, before anything else, you need to be honest with yourself and your interviewer. For that reason, you should dig into your work history, perhaps even with co-workers you have kept in touch with, to recall a particularly challenging moment that you may have even wanted to forget about. Well, don’t forget it, because it’s how you faced that challenge that made all the difference, both at that particular point in your career and in your future.

As a freelance writer, plenty of my past weaknesses have been identified and pulled apart by editors, which any writer knows is a crucial part of the editorial process. However, it’s when I stepped into an editorial role myself, and a small one at that, that I realized the difficulty of this position. However, I was in my early 20s and full of youthful confidence, so when I saw the opportunity in front of me, I grabbed it and jumped right into my newfound responsibilities.

Over the ensuing months, I realized that the website I was helping run was treading water and actually beginning to take a hit. Yet, because I took on nearly every role possible and thought I was doing solid work, I placed the blame on everyone but myself. After some introspection and more than a few difficult nights, I realized that I was to blame. Why? My inability to delegate. I was so worried about making sure everything was being done “correctly” that I just took it all on by myself. Even though help was all around me, I didn’t let anyone take on the myriad duties I was performing every day. Instead, I just watched a site that I had cherished—it’s seen been shut down—take a hit when it should have been doing the opposite.

Now, in addressing this one-time weakness in a job interview, it’d be easy to say something like, “I cared too much and let that get in the way.” No. Wrong. I was unable to delegate, simply put. However, once I realized that and began enlisting the available help of others, everything changed. I took the time to train the staff rather than simply do the work for them and, almost suddenly, everything improved. I was sleeping better at night and relying less on caffeine while (more importantly) the business was doing better.

Coming to this conclusion wasn’t easy. It was one that required plenty of research and personal growth. In addition to reading through a number of articles on tips for post-MBA job interviews, I stumbled upon a similarly minded blog post by Alice van Harten of Menlo Coaching. In looking into how to investigate your failures, she wrote that you must address a “genuine failure” and not something that you overcame with ease. Again, this is where the much-needed introspection and/or discussions with co-workers could help. Later on, she noted that it’s important to showcase how you learned from your failure and put it to good use. Exactly. It’s one thing to be aware of the fact that you failed. However, realizing how you applied what you learned from that failure will demonstrate deeper, more critical thinking on your behalf. It also demonstrates that you’re capable of looking outside of yourself, a necessary quality in a (potential) leader.

While being completely prepared for a job interview is basically impossible—you never know what they may ask—it’s feasible to ready yourself for those questions that you know are coming. Anyone who’s been through their share of interviews knows how often the question of weaknesses/failures comes up, so it’s only right that you can dominate it. After all, it may end up being the most crucial one, especially if you’re fully capable of demonstrating how you eventually triumphed over your failure.

The Rise of Mobile Wallet Tech

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Note: This post was written in April 2014, when I was doing some research on mobile wallet technology. The topic interested me two fold—I’m tired of carrying around so much stuff in my purse and I’m constantly intrigued by how our smartphones can handle so many tasks.

Cash transactions have already become all but a thing of the past with the surging popularity of credit and debit cards in the world, and now cards might be phased out of existence too. Much like the VHS, credit cards might simply be a transitional technology, bridging the gap between paper and digital transactions. While there is no reason to start throwing out your cards (or even your cash) just yet, the growth of mobile wallets is something to keep track of in the coming years.

According to Verizon Wireless, their mobile wallet “ISIS” includes over 200,000 locations worldwide—you can get the app for your own phone here—and it is growing even faster each month. This goes to show how quickly this new technology is booming, as vendors begin accepting swipes of a phone, rather than a card, for transactions. This offers many benefits to users; beside the obvious being able to leave the array of cards at home, mobile phones are more secure to use and easier to lock down and locate if lost. Perhaps most interesting about the increase to mobile payment technology is the inclusion of vending machines.

While this might have seemed a bit radical a few years back, much of the world has dropped using cash as a transaction medium completely, and use of vending machines has subsequently dropped as well. However, an article by MobilePaymentsToday explains that vending machines are getting upgraded to accept mobile phone payments as well. No longer will patrons need to keep a pile of singles in their wallet for the occasional drink or snack.

Not only will mobile technology allow users to pay for anything in the future simply by using their phone, many of these programs are linked with banks to provide users with purchase incentives. Even the vending machines come with a “buy four get one free” deal in an effort to promote mobile phone use. Getting a free one-dollar drink now and then might not be the biggest deal in the world, but it’s better than nothing! Service providers will likely compete with deals like this in the future to encourage customers to choose them over their competition, and with the addition of common deals from credit card companies and banks, people will have a lot to choose from in the coming years.

The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing releases numbers on the amount of bills printed each year, and it is literally in the billions. Replacing cash transactions entirely would certainly be a great benefit, and technology could easily replace the need for money printing. The amount of paper and ink that could be saved is staggering, not to mention the difficulty in counterfeiting through a digital medium.

As more and more mobile wallet compatible locations are opened every year, we grow closer to the reality of a paperless world. The only thing we have to worry about in the next decade is how hard it will be to show off our wealth. After all, waving around a stack of mobile phones just won’t have the same effect as a fat clip of money.

Paper money being phased out of existence might be the biggest culture shock of the next generation. The convenience of being able to put the wallet to rest for good might take a bit of the sting out, at least.

Welcome to My Portfolio!

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Hello readers!

I’m Patti Conner, a freelance writer with an MBA based out of Seattle, Wash. with an interest in researching the latest news related to MBAs, national news, and (most recently) technology. On this site, you’ll find articles that I have written in my spare time about topics I’ve found particularly interesting, whether it’s the rise of mobile wallets or how businesses can most effectively use their Facebook pages. I hope you enjoy my work and thank you for reading!

You can find out more about me in my upcoming articles or at my About page.