Thursday, April 30, 2009

OK...She's Officially On My Nerves...

Suze Orman's recession rescue plan

(OPRAH.COM) -- Do you know what your family would do if you lost your job -- or worse, your home? (Yeah, shake my head in smug dissatisfaction) Financial expert Suze Orman is ready to help you devise a recession rescue plan to survive -- and possibly thrive -- during this deepening financial crisis. (Oh, thrive? Yes!)

Suze Orman says you should pay the minimum on credit cards until you have eight-month emergency fund. (And I get this emergency fund while not working how?)

Families are also losing their homes at a staggering rate. Each day, another 10,000 homes are foreclosed, forcing families to turn to shelters filled to capacity. Left with no place else to go, some people are putting makeshift roofs over their heads in tent cities. (John Steinbeck is writing a book about them)
As the crisis continues, it's easy to let fear take over -- but it doesn't have to. (It is more fun, however.) Orman's five-step plan can help you rise above and take control. "There's only one person that's going to save you right now, and that's yourself," she says. (Oh, God, that's great. Affirmations. That's all we need!) "You have got to get on what I'm calling the 'save yourself movement.' Each and every one of you has to have your own personal financial stimulus action plan." (There it is! Stimulus plan. I knew it was coming!)
Step 1: Live on half
Whether you're single or in a double-income household, Orman says you need to live on only half of what you're used to -- and put the rest in the bank. (Does that include buying a half tank of gas to get to work?) "If all of a sudden you find yourself without a job -- or your partner finds themselves without a job -- you are now going to have your income cut by 50 percent almost immediately," Orman says. (Wow. That's some incite, there, Suze.)
Unemployment also only makes up about 50 percent of your income, Orman says.
By living on half now, Orman says you'll know whether you can really afford to pay your bills if the worst happens. "When you are freaked out, that is not the time that you go through your expenses and go, 'Should I cut here?'" she says. (But it is what has to happen in many cases. But that's for a different time.)
Orman says to try living on half for six months. "Chances are, it will take you six months to eight months to one year [to find a job]," Orman says. "See what would happen if recession really hit into your lives. Would you be able to make it?" (Better yet, rent half your apartment to a squatter)
Step 2: Stash your cash
In today's economy, cash is king -- and your credit could be shrinking daily.
Before this recession, credit cards could always be used in case of emergency. Now, Orman says credit card companies are making it more difficult for people to use their cards. (By putting glue on the stripe) Afraid people won't be paying their bills, Orman says companies are closing accounts with zero balances, reducing credit limits for those paying a little at a time and hiking up interest rates. (They can't turn a profit on government bailout money alone? Have a heart!)
If your credit card is no longer available, what do you do if you lose your job and have no savings? "You will be in serious trouble," Orman says. (Gets paid millions for this sage advice, folks. Millions.)
Before the recession, Orman says she would advise anyone with a severance payment or a small lump sum to put it toward debt. But as the economy changes, so must your financial strategy, Orman says -- which is why she's changing the advice she's been giving for years. (No spine.)
"If all you currently have is a very small emergency fund and you have unpaid credit card debt, ... you are only to pay the minimum amount due on your credit cards," she says. "Stash the cash till you have at least an eight-month emergency fund." (Huh? I thought people who only paid minimum were getting their cards devoured?)
Paying only minimums doesn't give you the license to rack up a bigger balance. "No credit card usage, everybody," Orman says. "Pay for things in cash." (But only pay half. Lanlords love that.)
Step 3: Make the stimulus package work for you
Part of the intention behind the economic stimulus plan passed by Congress is to create millions of jobs for Americans -- but it's also designed to lend a helping hand to those out of work. (Unemployment insurance was around a long time before this)
Many people who have been laid off qualify for COBRA health coverage. (Oh, yeah! Anybody who has ever been on COBRA will tell you how fantastic it is!) "If you happen to get laid off, you lose your job, you have 18 months where that company has got to cover you with health insurance," Orman says.
COBRA can be very expensive (no shit), but Orman has good news -- the government is now subsidizing your premium. For nine months, you only have to pay 35 percent of the monthly premium. After the nine months, you're back to paying 100 percent. (So when that baby comes, you're on your own..)
This coverage is available to anyone who was laid off between September 1, 2008, through the end of 2009 -- as long as your company provides COBRA. You have 60 days to enroll, and you can get it even if you declined your employer's initial offer. Employers and employees can learn more at the Department of Labor's Web site
Another aim of the stimulus package is to give the economy a much-needed boost -- especially in the housing market. Part of the plan includes an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers. "This is for only homes purchased in 2009," Orman says. "If you owe $10,000 on taxes, you're going to only owe $2,000 after it's over. It comes off your actual taxes that you owe." (Thanks, Captain Obvious)
In order to take advantage of this incentive, Orman says you have to qualify. "You cannot make more than $75,000 a year of adjusted gross income if you are single; $150,000 in adjusted gross income if you are married, filing jointly," Orman says. (I think she's just reading off a government website. Seriously, punch in "New home owner 2009 taxes" in Google and you get this same info.)
But it may not be a great deal for all first-timers.
Step 4: Make your home affordable
Skyrocketing foreclosure rates and plummeting home prices have brought the country to the brink. If you're about to fall behind on your mortgage -- or even lose your home -- Orman says there's a way to keep a roof over your head.
The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan hopes to help as many as 9 million American families afford their homes. It's comprised of two parts -- the Home Affordable Modification program and the Home Affordable Refinance program.
The loan modifcation program is designed to help families dangerously close to foreclosure. The government estimates it could help 3 to 4 million homeowners keep their homes and reduce their monthly mortgage payments.
Orman says there are two things you have to do to see if you qualify:
• Go to The government site will ask you a series of questions and assess your eligibility. (Do you have any living heirs? Can we take some tissue from the back of the neck?)
• If the site says you are eligible, contact your bank to see if they will give you a modification. (Oh, yeah, those banks. I'll hold my breath.)
So who will benefit from the Home Affordable Refinance program? People who aren't in danger of losing their homes now but still want to lower their mortgage payments. (hmm...that sounds like that could be EVERYBODY!) The government estimates this program will help 4 to 5 million homeowners who hold mortgages through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and are current on their mortgage payments. If they qualify, these homeowners will be able to refinance at a better interest rate -- even if their homes have lost value. (sounds fool proof)
Orman says there are two things you have to do to see if you qualify:
• Make sure your mortgage is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Visit or to find out.
• Go to The government site will ask you a series of questions and assess your eligibility. (Same as before except this time they really mean it!)
Step 5: Look at what you have, not what you had
How much longer should we expect times to be tough? "Things will get better, get worse. ... [In] the next two or three years, it will start to turn around," Orman says. "But I'm so sorry to say it will be, in my opinion, 2015 until every single person feels hopeful again." (And she grabs a rabbit out of her ass! How the fuck does she know?!)
Which is why Orman says it's so important to look at what you have and be grateful, instead of looking at what you've lost and feel angry. "If you continuously look in the rearview mirror while you're going forward, you're going to get in an accident. And the victim of that accident is going to be you," she says. "Don't compare. You'll feel stronger, you'll have more energy and you'll be able to turn this around." (Tony Robbins said the same thing at the "Bullshit Affirmation and Platitude Seminar at the Oakland Civic Center last month!)
Be grateful for the savings account you do have or the family that has helped you through. Although she knows it isn't easy, Orman urges everyone to see what they've been through as a kind of blessing. "When you are grateful -- when you can see what you have -- you unlock blessings to flow in your life." (Living underneath a bridge really brought us together..)
From The Oprah Winfrey Show (Naturally)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Try Not to Hurl....

Boo Fuckin' Hoo

Boston Globe
April 21, 2009

CAMBRIDGE - They have managed to get into one of the world's most selective (most expensive) colleges. Opportunity is knocking at their door.

But at some point in their life, though perhaps later than most, Harvard students will face the stinging slap the rest of the world feels regularly: rejection. (shake it off, twit)

The dirty secret is out. Harvard students fail sometimes. They are denied jobs, fellowships, A's they think they deserve. They are passed over for publication, graduate school, and research grants. And when that finally happens, it hurts. Big time. (there's a support group for that. It's called "Everybody")

To help students cope (weep), Harvard's Office of Career Services hosted a new seminar last week on handling rejection, a fear job-seekers are feeling acutely in the plummeting economy. The advice from panelists could have come from a caring, patient (incredibly wealthy) parent. No rejection is the end of the world, they said, even though it might feel that way at the time. (I think my dad had the same fucking speech after I lost our Little League championship. Not kidding)

Participants, who wore snappy buttons with the word rejected stamped in red (scarlet?), also received a road map of sorts on handling failure, a pink booklet of rejection letters and personal stories from Harvard faculty, students, and staff members. (one story: "I got turned down for a job and I went out and tried for another one." End of story. Wasn't that helpful?)

Among the tales of woe: the 2004 alumnus and aspiring actor rejected for a barista gig at a Los Angeles Starbucks for being overqualified (um....everyone who works at Starbucks is overqualified. They pour coffee. No offense baristas....Baristas....jesus. Really? We're going to give this term to these workers as if they're a sommelier) and the medical school professor who was wait-listed at every medical school he applied to.

Senior Olga Tymejczyk (Irish?) arrived at the seminar early. With just a month and a half until graduation, Tymejczyk has applied for 10 jobs, but has no offers. (ten job applications? Fuck. You're toast. That's it. Just give up.)

"Rejection is inevitable sometimes, even if you go to Harvard," said Tymejczyk, a Latin American studies major who wants to work in higher-education administration or healthcare research. She has two more interviews this week, and she is hoping for the best but bracing for more bad news. (Expect the worst. That'll get you the gig. Employers LOVE underconfidence.)

Panelist Pat Hernandez knows a thing or two about setbacks. The 2004 Harvard graduate was rejected by all three graduate schools she applied to two years ago, after losing out on numerous consulting jobs.

"It's something many people are ashamed or reluctant to talk about," said Hernandez, who serves as a resident tutor for Harvard undergraduates. "Those who deal with rejection more frequently take it in stride and bounce back better." (Harvard-educated, indeed)

Hernandez spent the last two years conducting academic research and applied to graduate schools again. She plans to attend Harvard Business School in the fall for a doctorate in organizational behavior and management. ('s an idea: LEAVE SCHOOL! If it's so fucking awful)

Another panelist, Harvard statistics professor Xiao-Li Meng (Jewish?), took a humorous approach on the sore subject. His two-page take on rejection (that's a good use of your time, Xiao) , printed in the pink booklet, starts with this theorem: "For any acceptance worth competing for, the probability of a randomly selected applicant being rejected is higher than the probability of being accepted." (humorous? How about downright fucking hilAAAAARIIIIOUS!!!!?!? He should write for Conan!)

Hernandez and Meng said students should learn to see rejection as an opportunity to improve themselves, so that by the time they summon the courage to try again, they will be better candidates. (This is a revolutionary idea....wait...I think I heard this on Oprah) Or they can view failure as a blessing, like the would-be barista who reconsidered his goals and launched a tutoring company called, appropriately enough, Overqualified. (read: snobby)

But how does one move forward, implored another graduate student facing rejection after rejection, when everyone else in the world thinks: "Surely, you have a Harvard degree. You'll get a job." (how does one move forward? Jesus Christ on a cracker....grow a pair, would ya'? Love to have you in a foxhole with me. Damn.)

Abigail Lipson - director of the Bureau of Study Counsel, which cosponsored last week's seminar - had some advice in the pink bulletin: "We learn to recognize our bad feelings as an indication that we care, we have high standards and high hopes, and we expect a lot of ourselves and of the world, rather than assuming that we are hopelessly untalented or unworthy." (turn that statement around and you might get closer to the truth. Recognize your bad feelings that you might actually not have the fucking cajones to pull off the job. Just a thought.)

Hard as it is for some to believe, there are candidates more worthy than Harvard students, Professor Meng quipped, in language befitting his field. "Statistically you are rejected, and probablistically it is fair." (Professor Meng needs to be slapped. Hard....often)