Thursday, December 4, 2008

Unemployment and Mitigating Debt

I discussed investing in yourself during unemployment in my last post, and I believe the best way to invest in yourself is developing streams of income that will deliver without your direct attention, even after you find employment. However, even the employed folks out there can take advantage of the following proposal.

Another reason for developing this avenue is mitigating debt. During a prolonged period of unemployment or underemployment, you will accumulate debt. I am speaking from experience about unemployment. Debt will really start accumulating when the unemployment insurance payments stop. Yes, you may ween yourself down to the bare essentials. However, you still have obligations like the mortgage, your family, the car payment, and the utilities that must be maintained. Therefore, accumulating debt is most likely unavoidable. Developing a stream of income may not totally replace your lost income, but any income will mitigate your debt, i.e. you borrow less to pay for your essentials. When you do acquire employment, use the income stream to help pay off your debt.

Dave Ramsey has a great plan in his book, The Total Money Makeover. The plan includes a method called the Debt Snowball where you devote all available income to pay off debts in an ispiring way. Your alternative stream of income can help you build the snowball.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Invest in yourself while unemployed

In a past post, I advised people to invest in themselves while unemployed. This advice is even more pertinent now given the current recession that I heard officially announced on the news tonight. I've seen many layoffs in the triangle area of North Carolina over the past several months, and it will get worse over the next several months. The job market will be an employer's market because it will be saturated with unemployed job seekers. I experienced this state when I was unemployed back in 2003 to 2004.

I am building the Triangle Networking Group to assist businesses and professional during this time and have been recruiting volunteers. One unemployed professional I am recruiting stated to me today that she was just so busy trying to find employment 24/7 that she hadn't had a spare moment. I imagine people will go crazy if they spend 24/7 looking for a job because there are only so many stones to turn over, and open positions will be bombarded with a multitude of candidates. Therefore, you should create leverage for yourself that allows you to turn over stones while adding other value. Like in billiards, why not pocket two balls with one shot or make shots that align for the next shot. Spend some time to increase your value like learning, volunteering, or developing an alternative stream of income.

I mentioned in a past post that I have an alternative stream of income and offer the opportunity to others with no financial commitment on their part. I believe investing your time in this option is worth it. The period of unemployment will probably be more than expected. I was unemployed for a year during 2003 to 2004 and applied to about 600 job posts. A little extra income would help during this period and you may even make up your lost income. Furthermore, building an alternative stream of income that will deliver income without your direct effort increases your leverage. When employment is finally offered, the salary will probably be lower than expected. After all, it will be an employer's market. A stream of income that doesn't require direct effort while employed at the new job will supplement the lower salary. Furthermore, a safety net will exist for future unemployment. As I mentioned in a past post, North Carolina is an "at will" state with skewed legislation. Employers can fire employees within 90 days without reason.

However you invest in yourself, just do it. Don't focus all your efforts in increasing a potential employer's value. Your value should count, so don't devalue yourself.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Consistency and Authenticity: Do as you Say and Say as you Do

I believe consistency and authenticity are important traits for successful people. I've recently been reading about these traits in a book entitled "Speaking the Truth in Love: How to Be an Assertive Christian" and see commonality in what I've read about enduringly successful people in the book entitled "Success Built to Last: Creating a Life that Matters."

Truly successful people believe in something and assertively act. They don't act aggressively such that they push beliefs or agendas, but they act and react with situations in ways that promote success. They speak honestly and act consistently with what they say. They authentically relate with people. They act, assess, and adjust if necessary.

As an avid networker and professional, these traits are important to me in relationships. I want to work and deal with people that are honest and speak authentically. They do not act inconsistently with what they say. I realize that factors may change outcomes such that people are unable to deliver what they say. However, a true professional should communicate this change. I believe it is proper etiquette because the lack of this communication weakens relationships. This integrity adds value to the relationship because they accept accountability. Therefore, I respect people that do what they say and honestly say what they do.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Keep Going and Adjust: the Train is Coming

My faith keeps me going. It's taken me a while to let go of burdens and realize the nonfulfillment or unintended results of my plans are not ultimate failures. There are various factors, many of which are unknown to me, beyond my control. Instead of stressing over what I cannot control, I continue to focus on what I can control. I control my actions, not those of others. I cannot make someone hire me. I cannot make someone believe my ideas. I cannot make someone support my business ventures. I can plan and be ready when the opportunity is available. If something happens, I reassess the situation and adjust. It’s almost like I don’t have a train yet, but I can lay the track to the destination. I come upon obstacles like mountains. I assess the situation and either go around or through it.

The Prosper loan I created to personally focus on building the Triangle Networking Group didn't work. The bidding closed with only 1% funded. This is surprising considering I created a blog article stating my intentions and emailed about 450 of my LinkedIn connections requesting assistance getting the word out about what I'm doing. I know many of the 2700+ TNG members see value in the organization and many verbally support what I'm doing.

It is easy to feel distressed and neglected. However, a friend reminded me that I don't know all the factors. I don't know how many people read my email nor had the time to investigate what Prosper is. Many people may have misunderstood what I was doing. As a friend recently told me, and I have observed repeatedly in the 3 years I have led the TNG, people probably will not act if what you’re asking is not easy to understand.

People, especially professionals, will not take the time to investigate if the value is not apparent. This reluctance to investigate will hinder professional success. Have you ever heard “if I had only known it was that easy” or “I didn’t know you could do that” before from someone that didn’t take time to investigate something?

Ironically, one of my objectives for the Triangle Networking Group is to reduce the “investigational” burden on professionals through the leverage of a network. I want to support my professional community, but I need the support of my network and professional community to do so.

I will continue to lay the track in anticipation of the train. The passengers need to get to their destination.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Triangle Networking Group and Financing an Opportunity

I have been a member of the Triangle Networking Group since December 2003 and assumed leadership of the organization in April 2005. I have worked diligently in a volunteer capacity to create and sustain an organization that enables professionals to succeed in their professional endeavors through connections with opportunities, information, and people. This has been a cumbersome and sometimes daunting task as a volunteer with a fulltime job and a leadership team comprised of fellow volunteers.

My goal is to build an enduring organization that provides tangible value for professionals, specifically in the Triangle area of North Carolina, seeking to achieve professional goals. I believe this is a noble cause and deserves a concentrated effort; an effort of which cannot be effectively realized with volunteers that have limited time to devote due to other responsibilities. The TNG exists to reduce burdens on professionals, and I cannot effectively build an organization to do so for professionals with burdens of my own.

I would like to increase my effort. To do so, I would need sustaining capital. I have a plan that requires temporary capital to get things going. I believe that I could get the TNG operational in a sustaining fashion within two months. I also have other endeavors, which I have discussed in other blog articles, which would produce income given some time to devote.

I have set up a loan to be funded at Prosper. I ask your assistance to get this loan funded. Please pass the link for my loan ( and possibly the link to this blog article to your contacts. If so inclined, please invest in the loan. I will not get the loan unless it is funded for the full amount by Thursday, 9/18. Please understand that this loan is an investment vehicle through Prosper to allow me to build the TNG. This loan is my obligation, not the TNG's. This is the catalyst to get things going.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Financial Hardship: the key phrase

I saw an infomercial the other day about a debt reduction book where the author said there is a two word phrase that will change the conversation with creditors. However, he didn't give the phrase during the infomercial. He has a book to sell. I know this phrase. After many months of past unemployment and degraded credit, I've dealt with many creditors. This includes the mortgage company that started foreclosure proceedings on my house.

The key phrase is "financial hardship." This will turn the conversation. I believe they won't even discuss a relief plan until you say this phrase. On top of that, the mortgage company didn't even propose a "short sale" until I mentioned my attorney told me about it. When I told the mortgage company that my unemployment caused my delinquency, their solution was referring me to a staffing firm. Another option my attorney told be about is the "deed in lieu of foreclosure." However, a mortgage expert told me that the latter option would have the same effect on my credit as a foreclosure.

By the way, I avoided foreclosure by selling my house through an approved short payoff with my mortgage company. It was a wild process. The mentality of lending institutions and the way they operate is bewildering.

Affiliate programs and referrals: the value of a customer

I have been looking at referral programs for subscription services in the past few months. I find it really unfair that some of these services give referrers a one time credit for their referrals that result in a continued customer. The service continues to profit from the referred subscriber while the referrer doesn't.

I have been looking at the independent associate opportunity from Pre-Paid Legal Services. I've discussed the benefits I have received from my personal legal and identity theft protection plans in previous articles. I've also discussed the opportunity I can provide people by giving them a business at no financial cost and handling referrals from them. The referrals would offset the cost of an associates personal plans. It is possible to earn enough to pay for the personal plans, if not earn additional income.

Imagine having an attorney or identity theft investigator through your Pre-Paid Legal membership available at your discretion for no cost. Imagine if the cable tv, telephone, or auto insurance companies would do this for customers?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Empower Yourself: Think employed while unemployed

I have experienced my fair share of unemployment. One period lasted a year and the last period lasted 5 months. Through my participation with the Triangle Networking Group, I have associated with many unemployed people in transition. I can understand their frustration and anxiety. They have lost their main source of income and possibly their sense of worth. I've been there. I've been a member of the Triangle Networking Group (TNG) since December 2003 and Executive Director since April 2005. I have associated with many unemployed professionals in transition and attempted to assist them. The main obstacle I see is mindset. For some reason, the unemployed people I've encountered think they have to spend all their time looking for a job. I understand this attitude for those that are new to the unemployment scene because they are optimistic that they will quickly find another job. There are also those folks that are in panic mode to replace the income source they lost. I have heard repeatedly that they didn't expect to be out of work this long. I have learned that you can't make the hiring authorities give you a job. There are many factors and hurdles involved, so why concentrate all your time in your job search.

If you can spend 40 hours a week just on your job search and keep your sanity, more power to you. Some folks would rather add value for someone else rather than increase their own value. In other words, they devalue themselves. Don't think like you are unemployed; think like you are employed as the head of your career. You can add value to yourself through education, establishing another source of income, and volunteer work. Now spend 20 hours a week on your job search and 20 hours a week, or a proportion that makes you comfortable, increasing your value.

I had a legal plan and identity theft plan from Pre-Paid Legal Services for months previous to the abrupt end of my last job. While unemployed, a friend and colleague on the TNG leadership team was looking for assistance educating people about identity theft. I needed to get my mind off of my job search, so I agreed to assist her. I because an independent associate for Pre-Paid Legal Services with my friend as my sponsor. This was one of my greatest decisions, because I learned so much more about my plans and the value they can provide to others. I learned how I can provide peace of mind to others, but I also gained some peace of mind as well. I was in a business I could control and this complemented my job search because I wasn't obsessing over the lack of jobs available or nonresponsive employers and recruiters. I could relieve the anxiety caused by something I couldn't control with the satisfaction of something I could control. I'm now back in a fulltime job. However, now I have an extra source of income. Furthermore, I have a contingency plan for future unemployment.

However, the mindset of the obsessed unemployed folks still prevails despite the opportunities I have devised and proposed. I can give people a business at no cost with varying degrees of commitment. I can put people into a business at no financial cost to them helping other people protect themselves and their family. They can pursue the business actively or use it as a referral vehicle where I am their partner (or employee depending on your point of view). I can also offer my services as a LinkedIn consultant as a benefit of purchasing legal or identity theft plans.

Basically, I offer to provide unemployed folks with a side income at no financial cost and little commitment with my continued assistance. I am amazed that folks decline my offer, yet they are still unemployed and complaining.

The opportunity I present unemployed people may not be attractive, but my message is to relieve your anxiety by doing something positive with your time that will add value financially or your career.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Who's interest does the state of North Carolina serve, employees or employers?

I had a dispute several years ago with a staffing firm that contested my unemployment after my assignment ended through them. They failed to find me another assignment, but they contested my unemployment based on a technicality in my work agreement. However, the Employment Security Commission of North Carolina (NCESC) ruled against me and upheld the decision through two appeals. I also lost in Superior Court. I guess the judge didn't want to overturn the state government, even though the NCESC had no case for precedent in North Carolina and their attorney referred to a dissimilar case from Nevada. During this process, I came to the conclusion that the NCESC is biased. They support the companies in North Carolina above the employees that are constituents of North Carolina.

When I first contested the staffing company's claim of my ineligibility for unemployment insurance, I had a telephone hearing that lasted 45 minutes. Prior to the hearing, I received a letter from an attorney that wanted $400 to represent me. I didn't have that kind of money available and thought I had a good case. The letter from the NCESC about the hearing stated I could have an attorney present during the hearing, but it wasn't necessary. I tried to see what the attorney that sent me the letter thought, but she wasn't helpful. She was actually somewhat demeaning. I went into the hearing without any advice and no representation.

Here is what I learned to pass on to others. The hearing is very important because all appeals are based only on the hearing. All arguements and materials must be presented during the hearing. Be prepared.

Later after this farse, I got a legal plan from Prepaid Legal Services to protect my family. I also became an independent associate so I could help others get affordable legal services for their needs. I thought about how that attorney sent me a letter about my hearing, so my hearing must be public record. I contacted the NCESC and learned that I could get notices of upcoming hearings, but it would cost me $300 for 20 days of service. I suppose this service is printing the notices and faxing them. I contemplated using this service to contact these people with upcoming hearings to simply tell them to seek some kind of advice. However, I learned that I couldn't contact these people because I am not an attorney. It would be against the law.

Speaking of the law and employment, the state is further biased towards companies as an "at will" state with skewed legislation. Employers can fire employees within 90 days without reason. The employees are not due any severance. There is an artilcle at FindLaw about this.

What is the North Carolina's state government considering their best interest, the employers and lawyers in North Carolina, or the working constituents of North Carolina?

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Daily Bread

My Sunday school class has been watching the movie "Flywheel" over the past few Sundays, and it reminds me of how fortunate I have been over the past several years with all the ups and downs my family has gone through. I am still amazed that we made it through a whole year while I was unemployed without any significant hardships. It was during this period that I grew stronger in my faith and realized I am a steward of what I have. I realized God's will is what matters, and whatever happens will have some kind of purpose. I stopped worrying about the future and put my faith in God to provide daily.

I have read some reviews from people about the movie on that don't understand the concept of turning control over to God. Someone remarked "If I turned my business over to the lord, I'd be bankrupt in a week." This person neglects the fact of stewardship. Another person remarked "Most people are not going to be facing foreclosure and act so calm." Well, my home is in foreclosure status after another period of unemployment. After acquiring another job, we found somewhere affordable to rent closer to my new job. With foreclosure hanging over heads, we pushed forward and put the house on the market with the intention of a short payoff agreement with the mortgage company. We had an offer within days of having the house listed. Now we just need approval from the mortgage company. I'm so appreciative of my legal plan membership from Prepaid Legal Services. My providing law firm told me about the short payoff in the first place, which the mortgage company certainly didn't volunteer. My providing law firm has also helped me expedite the mortgage company's approval process. God provides the resources, so I can be calm.

However, I can be concerned. My son was born after 26 weeks. He weighed 1 pound 14 ounces at birth. He had a tough time with infection, and had an ileostomy after NEC was discovered. He had an ostomy bag when we took him home from the hospital, after 4 months in the NICU at Duke Hospital. I prayed and put him in God's hands. I am so happy to hold and play with him 2 years later.

I don't stress over what I cannot control. I plan accordingly to achieve goals and mitigate risks. However, plans change and I defer to a grander plan. It has all worked worked out, and I look forward to tomorrow.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Protecting My Rights

I don't understand why people I speak with about a legal plan do not see the use or benefit. I've been told that I don't need those services. I can't believe everyone lives a charmed life or would rather pay for the hassle as it comes. It's not just about the trouble we cause, but what others do to us. We don't get comprehensive car insurance because we are reckless drivers. Many wealthy people have attorneys on retainer not because of the trouble they may get into, but because they want the ability to effectively react to situations and capitalize on opportunities. That is probably how they became wealthy. I can't afford an attorney on retainer, but I have a law firm I can call upon. Here is how I have benefited from my legal plan.

I consulted my providing law firm concerning the decision to create a LLC or corporation for my business. Based on the advice, I formed a LLC because I can easily transition to a corporation if needed. I eliminated the analysis paralysis that stifles success and made something happen.

I consulted my providing law firm concerning my mortgage after I received a letter from my mortgage company concerning their move to foreclose. The attorney advised be to see if the mortgage company would consider a "short sale" or "deed in lieu of foreclosure." After I brought up the conversation with my attorney, the mortgage company disclosed that I could apply for a "short sale." This information was never conveyed by the mortgage company before I brought it or the attorney up.

I consulted my providing law firm concerning 3 fees charged by my bank for 3 simultaneous scheduled transactions that overdrafted my account, but I had funds in my overdraft protection account to cover one of the transactions. The customer service representative at bank basically gave me no explanation except for that is the way their banking system works. The providing law firm sent a letter and the bank refunded the fee.

I consulted my providing law firm concerning bad treatment I received from a collection agent at my auto loan provider to see if the agent violated any law. The firm conducted research and determined that no violation had occurred, but he would have violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act if he represented a third party collection agency. I used this information to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The company apologetically responded and deferred payments for two months.

I consulted my providing law firm concerning an idea to raffle my house, an idea I got from family and the web. I learned that I cannot do this in North Carolina. This saved me time spent pondering the idea and possibly getting in trouble.

I consulted my providing law firm concerning bad information I received from my bank that caused me to miss a credit card payment. I reported an erroneous charge, possibly fraudulent, to my account and was told that I had to submit a form to receive credit back to my account because the charge was made by ACH instead of debit. I was told the form would be mailed to me, should receive it in 7 to 10 days, and return the signed form for credit back. I called the bank after 10 days and told them I hadn't received the form. I learned that I could have downloaded the form online or gone into a branch. During this time, I missed a credit card payment which resulted in fees. The bank would not help me with the fees despite their bad guidance. The law firm sent a letter. I then received a phone call from an executive assistant of the bank's president. He contacted the credit card company, explained the bank's error, and got my account credited for the fees.

I should add the confidence a legal membership adds. It adds incentive to protect my rights. Based on my previous experience using the Better Business Bureau, I filed a complaint against a credit card company because they would not work with me personally on reducing the balance on my closed account that has a high balance and interest rate. Instead, they kept referring me to a nonprofit organization. I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and later received a call from the company about a program I qualify for that will eliminate interest for 60 months and reduce my monthly payment to a constant payment about $45 less than I normally pay.

With my legal plan membership, I've saved my home and about $1400 this past year. I don't consider myself a high roller or risk taker, but I still have rights to protect.