Welcome to another installment of IonTuition’s Q&A spotlight with personal finance bloggers. Today we have Jeff from the blog Good Financial Cents.
Jeff is a certified financial planner that got started in the business in 2001 and is currently the CEO of his own wealth management firm, Alliance Wealth Management, LLC. He is also a nine-year veteran of the Illinois Army National Guard that included deployment in 2005. Jeff is the founder of the award-winning blog, GoodFinancialCents.com, and author of the best-selling book, Soldier of Finance. He has been married to his beautiful wife, Mandy, for 12 years and they have four amazing kids.
What career advice do you have for those who have recently graduated college or started looking into new career paths?
Your network is your everything. Most people associate networking with schmoozing, and that is something I definitely struggled with when I was younger. As I’ve advanced in my career, I realized that my network is everything and that doesn’t mean that you’re always trying to get something from other people. You need to invest in your network if you ever expect to get anything in return. That means trying to help others and putting their needs before yours.
What are your best tips for people who have debt?
Stop being in denial. To fix any problem, you first have to admit to yourself that you have one. If you have debt, first off by identifying exacting how much you have to the penny and then calculate how much interest you’re paying on that debt. If those numbers frighten you, that’s a good thing. If you don’t have an urgency to pay off that debt, then chances are you’ll never get out of that debt cycle. Come up with a realistic game plan on how quickly you can pay that debt off and then do everything in your power to make it happen as soon as possible.
Can you offer some advice for people who carry student loan debt and working towards repayment and trying to become financially stable?
If you’re graduating with student loan debt, the best thing that you can do is to continue to live as if you’re still in college. That could possibly mean having roommates, not eating out a lot, still stocking your food pantry with mac and cheese and ramen noodles, and just paying special attention to how much you’re spending on items you don’t need.
In your opinion, what are the most important workplace benefits recent graduates should watch for when accepting job offers?
Health insurance and a good 401(k) are at the top of the list. Other than that, I would be more interested in opportunity for advancement and also paid time off. If a company doesn’t think that you need time away from your work, the chances are they don’t understand the power of unplugging from your job that can potentially make you a better team member.
What was your biggest challenge when you entered the workforce? How did you overcome it and would you do anything differently if you had another chance?
The biggest challenge I had was graduating at the age of 24 but having to represent myself as a mature 30-year-old. I lacked the experience that many other financial advisors had, so I had to do my best to look the part. This meant dressing in proper business attire and carrying myself as an older professional especially in conversations I had with potential clients and in being involved in organizations and activities that were geared for people older than me; such as Chamber of Commerce or rotary functions. I always felt that I had to act as I was 24 going on 30, if I was going to earn the respect of any of those that were interested in working with me financially.
Any other advice to help our readers manage their education or advance their careers?
The education that you receive at college is great, but I feel I learned the most by reading books, finding mentors, and putting myself in situations where I had to learn through personal experience rather than reading a text book. When you have the opportunity, educate yourself by taking action and doing something versus reading about how somebody else did it.