3 Things People Who Are Broke Are Tired of Hearing

Lately, it seems like there is a lot of sniping between and even among generations about who is playing the “game of life” better. If you’re a Baby Boomer, Millennials are lazy, overly-educated people who wish all their debts would disappear by magic. If you’re a Millennial, people born before you (especially Baby Boomers) got free tuition and hardly had to struggle to afford a home. And if you’re a Gen Xer, you just don’t like anyone (just kidding, Gen Xers!) :)

While all or none of the stereotypes are true, for many Americans, one thing is common: we’ve all been broke at one point in our lives. Unless you inherited a ton of money, you’ve probably had to struggle to pay the bills – working two jobs, eating less, skimping on medication or doctors’ visits, etc. Right now, more than 50% of Americans have $1,000 or less in savings, meaning many of us are living on the edge – and might be considered “broke.”

Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget what life is like for people who are broke or struggling to afford day-to-day necessities. I don’t consider myself “broke” any longer, because money doesn’t stress me out like it used to when I was working two jobs, but being broke wasn’t that far off for me or many of my peers and friends. In an effort to remain humble and not look down on people who are struggling, here are 3 things people who are broke are tired of hearing.

1. Just Take a Sick Day

Sick leave varies depending on the industry you’re in, and depending on how much money you make. According to the Washington Post, more than 30% of Americans don’t get sick leave. And the less money you make, the less likely you are to get paid sick leave (the opposite is true for those who make more money – mo’ money, mo’ sick leave).

If you’ve ever come down with an illness, like the flu or a much-needed dental appointment, you know it can take a while to get better. If your job doesn’t offer you paid sick leave, trying to get over being sick is much more difficult. The unemployed don’t fare better either: while they may have more “time” to deal with their illness, finding a doctor that they can afford or who takes the insurance they have can eat up time and delay their recovery time.

Taking sick days is an option not afforded to many in the US, and it’s even less likely to be offered to those who make the least. So the next time you think about telling an intern “just take a sick day”, think again!

2. Replace Your Car – Repairs Cost More Than Its Worth

Some common knowledge seems to be that, if your car repairs cost more than your car is worth, you should just replace your car. However, if you’re broke, a $1,000 fix that will keep your car running for two more years might make more financial sense than taking out a car loan for $15,000.

While replacing your car before it completely breaks down and leaves you stranded does make sense, it doesn’t make sense if the following is true:

  • You’ve paid off your car (no monthly car payments)
  • Repairs will keep your car going for more than 6 months
  • Repairs won’t put you in debt

There are, of course, times when you’re repairing your car so often that you should replace it and eat the monthly car payment costs. However, it’s not reasonable to replace a car with 150,000 miles if it’s driving fine and doesn’t cost you much in maintenance.

3. Save Money and Ride Your Bike

This is one comment I continue to hear everywhere, and I just have to laugh when I hear it. For those who can safely bike to work – that’s great! Do it! It will probably save you money.

Unfortunately, there are many places in the US where biking is unsafe or not feasible. In many of the major cities where I have lived or visited, biking is very dangerous and public transit is not convenient. In Phoenix, where I currently live, biking is very difficult, no matter what the biking aficionados would have you believe. If you live anywhere outside of the downtown “core” of Phoenix, you’re facing biking around several freeways on streets that have no marked bike lanes. And don’t even get me started on biking during the summer… you can, quite literally, die (I’m not being sarcastic – 115 degrees and biking do not mix).

While I think it’s worthy to try to become a one-car family, I think for a lot of people that’s a difficult request. Broke people have probably heard this tip before and, if they haven’t become a one-car family or bought a bike, they probably have made the reasonable decision to keep multiple cars so they can get to work.

Every generation has their own struggles (walking uphill both ways in the snow, not having the Internet, having too much Internet, etc.), but one thing a lot of people have in common is, at one point in their lives, being broke. While it’s reasonable to share advice to friends or family members who may be currently broke, there are tips they’ve probably heard that won’t really be that helpful. When my friends and I were broke, the above comments were only a small number of the things we heard that weren’t, surprise, super helpful.

What advice would you have for someone struggling to make ends meet, or what comments did you hear when you were broke that you found unhelpful or helpful?

How to Make a Good First Impression at an Interview

There’s a lot to be anxious about when you’re going on an interview: am I qualified? Will they like me? Have I prepared for the most common interview questions? What about uncommon interview questions? While there are dozens of ways to try to prepare for an interview, there are a few easy ways you can immediately make a good first impression, leading to a hopefully stellar job interview.

The tips are based on the dozens of interviews I’ve attended as an interview panel member for various different jobs in my company. There are just some people who make such a good first impression, their whole interview is off to a good start. And the best part? There’s nothing “special” about them – anyone can make a good first impression at an interview if they follow these tips!

Arrive Early

As the saying goes, if you’re 15 minutes early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. While there’s typically no reason to get to a job interview earlier than 15 minutes, you do need to be there before the actual interview time itself.

Why would interviewers schedule you for a 9 a.m. interview but actually want you there at 8:45 a.m.? While some interviewers will ask you to arrive “a few minutes early”, some won’t, and that’s because they’re just doing the interview. Someone else (usually a secretary) will be the one behind the scenes, collecting your paperwork, asking you to fill out additional paperwork, and/or validating your parking.

These type of administrative reasons are why you’ll want to arrive early. Also, being there early and not making the interview panel wait for your arrival is key to making a good first impression.

Dress Professionally

There is no reason you need to go to the fanciest suit place in town to make a good first impression at an interview – an outlet store or what you currently have in your closet will likely be fine, but there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Style: dress pretty conservatively, especially if you’re in professions like law, government, banking, etc. Marketing, sports and communications may be a little more casual, but it’s always smart to err on the side of looking professional than not
  • Fit: make sure your suit or skirt-suit fits you. That means it’s not too baggy, with your sleeves overtaking your hands, or that it’s too tight and puckers when you try to button your jacket. If you have any concerns, ask a friend! When you get the job, you can take them out for coffee.
  • Color: I generally recommend people buy suits or skirt-suits together, not mix and match. This way you know your black suit is really the same shade of black and not “night black” and “charcoal black.” There’s a difference, and some people may notice.

None of these recommendations are because what you’re wearing matters to the interview panel. No sane person on the panel is asking “is that J.Crew or Ralph Lauren?” Basically, the good impression you’re trying to make is nondescript in clothing choices. You don’t want to be remembered for what you wore, you want to be remembered for what you said and your qualifications. Don’t let your clothing distract from your message.

Bring Copies of Your Resume & a Writing Sample

Even though the interview panel likely has a copy of your resume, bring one anyway. I’ve been on some interview panels where the lead didn’t give us copies of people’s resumes, and I really wished I could look through it after the person left. It always looks professional to bring a resume “just in case.” Plus, if the panel is waiting on the next interviewee to arrive, it will give them more chances to look thoroughly at your resume.

As far as your writing sample, only bring it if you’re a strong writer or they ask for a writing sample. Nowadays, the majority of companies are looking for people who can communicate. It’s hard to find good writers whose work doesn’t need editing, and if you’re a strong writer (i.e. other people have told you you’re a good writer or you received good feedback in college), this will be a selling point.

Smile!

Don’t smile like the Joker, but do remember to smile! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on an interview where people were too nervous to smile, and it was awkward. I know you’re nervous. I’m nervous for you and, most of the time, the people interviewing you are nervous for you. You’ve made it to the interview round because you’re awesome – don’t freeze up and let your nerves do the talking.

If you’re not a natural smiler, practice before the interview. Practice casually smiling with friends, your spouse, your pets. People will give you feedback, pets will look away (if you’re too creepy). If you’re not a natural smiley person, don’t force yourself into it during the interview. Simply give a casual smile when you walk into the room, when you shake hands, and when you exit. Only 3 times is necessary to give a good impression at an interview!

I hope these tips make you a little less nervous on your next interview. As you can see, there’s nothing here that’s really special. You can be tall and good-looking, but if you don’t smile, your suit is mismatched, or you arrive late, you’re not off on the best foot. What we’re trying to do is make a good first impression at an interview so you’re on your best foot possible. Let your credentials do the talking and you’re on your way to a solid job interview!

What recommendations do you have for someone looking to make a good first impression at an interview?

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