Welcome to another installment of IonTuition’s Q&A series with personal finance bloggers. We have Han Chang, co-founder of InvestmentZen, sharing his personal finance advice with us today.
Han is an “engineerial” entrepreneur (as opposed to entrepreneurial engineer) who co-founded investmentzen.com. He has a software / computer science background but has always had a side project business going on in addition to the day job, and has been obsessed with investing ever since reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad his freshman year of college. As a result, he has an interesting mix of both corporate and entrepreneurial experience which is apparently rarer than he had imagined!
What career advice do you have for those who have recently graduated college or started looking into new career paths?
For recent grads, my top piece of advice is to try to think long term especially regarding career paths.
There are a lot of positions that sound like a lot of money right after graduation (and it is a lot for a broke college student, which I can totally relate with), but may plateau relatively quickly and require significant effort to change.
However, since this is difficult to do without the benefit of experience/hindsight, the best proxy is to seek out those who are where you want to be, and reach out to them to ask about their experiences and what they would do differently. Most people are more than willing to help in exchange for lunch/coffee, and the advice and connections you get can be invaluable!
What are your best tips for people who have debt?
Don’t be in denial about debt – tackle it straight on, even if it’s painful, because the longer you put it off, the worse it gets! It sure as hell won’t go away, so just get it handled, even if it means a lot of penny pinching; your future self will thank you. That said, not all debt is bad, particularly if it allows you to control an income producing asset and you have sufficient capital to make payments even during rough periods.
Can you offer some advice for people who carry student loan debt and are working toward repayment and trying to become financially stable?
Since interest rates are historically low, if you have private student loan debt with a high rate (> ~4.5%) then you should definitely look into refinancing to see if you’ll save more going that route. Other than that, unfortunately there’s no real silver bullet besides trying to earn more and spend less! (Although I guess you could also join the military, since there are programs that help you pay off your student loans in exchange for service.)
In your opinion, what are the most important workplace benefits recent graduates should watch for when accepting job offers?
For workplace benefits, here are the big three I strongly recommend making sure a job provides:
- a) Healthcare coverage of some sort, paying particular attention to the providers in the network (check reviews online to see if they’re good or not), how much is covered (percentage wise of each expense), and how much the deductibles are.
- b) 401k matching along with how much the company will match; a 3% match is basically a 3% raise, plus you get all the tax benefits as well!
- c) Last but not least, vacation time – as long as you spend it wisely (building skills and/or relationships) instead of frivolously (going to Disney…) having some time off to decompress and self-reflect is invaluable. Health is the most valuable form of wealth so don’t overwork yourself!
What was your biggest challenge when you entered the workforce (after graduation, if you attended college)? How did you overcome it, and would you do anything differently if you had another chance?
Since I was blessed enough to be in the tech industry, I honestly didn’t really have any challenges entering the workforce… I guess more than anything, it was learning to adapt to corporate culture and becoming aware of the political games that may be going on. Overcoming it was primarily a matter of understanding the incentive structure for each person – once you do that, it’s a lot easier to figure out why certain people do certain things and even make predictions.
Any other advice to help our readers manage their education or advance their careers?
Always be learning – especially in today’s economy, a particular skillset may go stale within a matter of months, and automation is eliminating swaths of jobs but also opening up tons of new opportunities. You’ve got to master the art of learning, which will then allow you to continue to evolve quickly enough to keep up with the times!