Suze Orman hasn't always been a personal finance guru. Her father, a Russian immigrant, owned a deli on the South Side of Chicago and when she was older, she moved to Berkeley, Calif., and became a waitress. When she was able to borrow enough to start her own restaurant, she lost all her money in about four months.
But Orman learned from her mistakes. She found out that the broker who had financially ruined her was dealing illegally, and she sued. She got all her money back and got a job at the very brokerage she'd sued, Merrill Lynch.
She went on to work at Prudential Bache, then started her own firm, and began writing books and giving financial advice on PBS and others until she got where she is today -- with her own show on CNBC and frequent appearances on Oprah's network (OWN), along with a shelf-full of best sellers and a wall-full of awards and honorary degrees.
Orman specializes in simple, no-nonsense personal finance advice, and recently gave some exclusive tips to AOL Jobs readers:
Q. What's the biggest salary mistake people make when getting a job?
A. You think that your salary is what it's all about. But it isn't. Here's the key: Don't go for the money. You are to make those that you are dependent on for a salary dependent on you. If you're out there and you're looking for a job right now, you shouldn't care about what they're going to pay you. You should care that you land the job. You're not asking about money, so you're not like everyone else. Get that job, then make them dependent on you!
You come in at 7AM if you're supposed to be there at 8AM. You stay until 6PM or 7PM if you're supposed to leave at 5PM. You make everybody stand up and take notice of you. Once they've done that, once you've shown them how invaluable you are, once they are dependent upon you, then you have them exactly where you want them and then you can name your salary. But don't go into a job thinking, "Oh, it's all about the salary." No. It's all about the job to begin with.
Q. Can you give us some advice for making the most of our benefits?
A. One of the biggest mistakes that many of you make is this: You work for a corporation, they offer you a retirement plan, known as a 401K, and they match your contribution -- you put in a dollar, they give you 50 cents. But you think, "I can't afford that! I have to pay my bills. I don't have enough money to save that much." Are you kidding me? If you put in a dollar and they give you 50 cents, that's an automatic 50 percent return on your money! You can't pass up free money! However, here's some advice: You are only to contribute up to the point of the match that your employer makes. If your employer will match up to six percent, that's what you save.
One of the other mistakes you make, is when you do have money in your 401K plan and you're needing money, something's going wrong, and you think to yourself, "I'm going to take a loan from my 401K." Don't you dare! Why? Simply put, money in your 401K is money you have never paid taxes on. When you take a loan, you pay it back with money you've already paid taxes on. Later on in life, when you go to take the money out again, guess what? You're going to pay taxes on that money again. For joy! You've just double taxed yourself! Also, if you happen to lose your job, guess what? The loan is due and payable. And if you don't have the money, you'll owe ordinarytax and perhaps a 10 percent penalty if you're not of age.
Q. Can you share some tips for stretching an unemployment check?
A. All right, so you've lost your job and now you're on unemployment. Here's the problem: Even though you're on unemployment and you probably have somewhat of a savings account set aside, you don't change your ways. You keep thinking, "I'm on unemployment, but I'm gonna get a job sooner rather than later." So you continue to spend as if you weren't on unemployment. You continue to go out to eat, you continue to go to the movies, you continue to do everything that you want to do. Maybe you're depressed because you don't have a job so you continue to spend even more than you did when you did have a job.
The way that you stretch unemployment checks is just stop spending. Stop spending, people! Act as if you aren't going to get a job for at least eight months to a year, because you know what? That may be true. So cut everything in half. Cut everything off that you can. But just save, save, save, and you'll see that your unemployment check will go further than you ever thought.
Q. How about some advice for negotiating better pay?
A. OK, so here you are, you've been working for a company, and you want a pay raise. But you're hearing all over the place, "We're not giving any pay raises, we're not giving any promotions, we're doing so horrible right now, all of you should feel lucky just to have a job." Don't you believe it! If you want a pay raise, you need to learn how to ask the question correctly. So many of you go in, and you say to your boss, for example, "I want a $5,000 raise." When you ask a question like that and your boss says no, what are you going to say?
You need to ask the question this way: "I would like you to give me either a $5,000 per year or a $10,000 per year raise." That is not a yes or no question. You've caught your boss off guard. Walk in there with all the confidence in the world.
Q. How do you determine if you're being paid fairly, and what do you do if you're not?
A. We're still not in a good economy. And I don't think we're going to be in a good economy for a number of years yet. So you might ask yourself, "Am I being paid fairly? Am I being paid as much as I think I should be paid? Is somebody else being paid more than me?" That is not the attitude at this point in time that I would adopt. I would adopt the attitude of "Thank God I have a job. Thank God I'm being paid at all." Do you know how many people are out there would take your job in a heartbeat if they could?
There are millions and millions of people out there that lost their jobs and they can't get another job. Productivity has increased, corporations have found ways to do things without you, so now they're making more money with less people. You need to reevaluate how you're thinking at this point in time. Does it have to be this way forever? No! Years from now maybe you can go in and renegotiate.
But for right now, are you happy? Are you satisfied with where you're working? Don't compare what other people are making. Do you feel like you're being respected? It's all about you right now. So if you feel good, if you're happy, leave it alone.
- State of the Union: Investing in America's Future [The Huffington Post]
- 3.9 Million Run Out Of Unemployment Benefits In 2010 [The Huffington Post]
- How to Get What You Want At Work [CNNMoney]
- Avoid Scams That Target Job Hunters [Walletpop]