Monthly Archives: June 2010

5 Best Websites for Job Seekers

 

It can be difficult to discover careers in an unstable economy, but without the power of the internet, job searching can become even more difficult.  Some job sites can help:  these five job search websites make the process easier for the unemployed or underemployed – or even someone simply looking for a better opportunity.

1) Monster.com is the largest and most commonly used job search website that operates as a tool for potential employees to browse listings directly from employers.

  • Pros:  According to the Wall Street Journal, 73 percent of employers spend a considerable amount of time browsing the database for potential employees. According to Greenfield Online, 61 percent of online job seekers choose Monster.com over competitor websites.
  • Cons:  Creating a resume that stands out can be difficult because of Monster’s inflexibility that forces the job seeker to stick to its strict format. Also, some Monster listings are outdated or come from questionable sources. Some users have reported that they never received a response from the employer, not even an acknowledgment of a successful inquiry; this occurs because listings are often posted by recruiters and not actual employers.

2) Indeed.com is a job search engine that monitors listings from other websites. Indeed does not require the user to submit a resume, but opens up a window to job listings from other major websites.

  • Pros:  Simple interface. Indeed does a great job at making the job search process simple and efficient. Also, users can subscribe to job searches which will notify them of any new listings.
  • Cons:  Because Indeed is simply an interface to search for job listings, it doesn’t have a system implemented that allows the user to apply to the jobs without setting up an account with the website where the listing stands. This can be time-consuming and inefficient.


3) LinkedIn.com is a business-oriented networking site that connects potential employees to employers through a unique database.

  • Pros:  LinkedIn’s unique networking capabilities can lead to interesting results. Reaching to one employer will lead to another, which leads to another. LinkedIn acts like Facebook for the job search market.
  • Cons:  LinkedIn is typically utilized by professionals in any given field, so it is not as welcoming to those looking to break through in a new career.

4) Careerbuilder.com is a job listing database that allows the user to apply for jobs right through its website.

  • Pros:  Like monster.com, Careerbuilder details job listings through a search that can be narrowed to suit the job seeker’s needs. The interface is simple, efficient and noteworthy because the site makes job recommendations for the user.
  • Cons:  Not much makes career.com stand out from its major competitor Monster. Monster has a higher installed base of recruiters and job listings.

5) Dice.com is a job search hub website that is specificially taliored to jobs in the tech field.  I’m not as familiar with this site as others, but tech-y friends of mine refer to it all the time.

  • Pros:  If a user is seeking a job in an information technology field, for instance, this is the best website to start at because it details recent firings at firms, wage standards, advice, as well as job listings.
  • Cons:  Dice’s advantages are also its downfall. There is nothing here that stands out from its major competitors other than a focus on tech jobs. Users may want to search other job listings, which they cannot do on Dice.

Although each website provides a service that can benefit job seekers, some are tailored for specific audiences while others have a broader appeal. Job seekers need to figure out what they are searching for before they create an account at any given site. The beauty of the internet is that they can sign up for more than one website.  Personally, I’ve found one job through Careerbuilder, two through Monster and one through LinkedIn.  The other two came from my college and from a cold call I made to a company I really wanted to work for.  These days you’ll hear a lot of disparaging remarks about certain job sites – particularly Monster.com – but I’d still recommend keeping half an eye focused on them.  They still exists because people can, and have, found jobs through them.  Don’t discount any avenue towards finding work.

 

once more into the breach, and links

King Henry V:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean….

Read the rest.

One of my favorite poems/sonnets/monologues/sayings/etc., right along with “Kill them all, God knows His own“, “”I pray thee, then, Write me as one that loves his fellow men“, “anyone lived in a pretty how town” and “Annabel Lee“.  I bet you weren’t planning to get a list of Steve’s top five poetry/quotes selections, were you?   Oh, and I’ll throw in almost everything this dude said, too.

Once more, I’m off into between-contract land; my current contract is ending and no new one is in sight. Thankfully I have my go-to-hell fund ready and no panic whatsoever on the horizon. I’ll work more on self-employment and blog monetization, and see what comes next, without fear. It’s a better feeling than being laid off while living paycheck-to-paycheck, I bet.

You Can Be Rich Without Being Smart: Amen. This is something that’s not discussed often enough. I know a lot of smart middle class people and a lot of less-than-smart upper class people. It’s neither good nor bad – there’s no harm in being middle class – but book smarts are completely and utterly unrelated to “wealth smarts.” Far too many book smart types – like me – become risk-averse and complacent based on the idea that employment in a highly skilled position is “success.” Let me tell you – it’s not. Success is doing something you want to do, not just having the brains to do something you hate (but are good at doing).

The much maligned Robert Kiyosaki: Amen. Here’s the best quote, as far as I’m concerned: “His book – at the time – inspired me to look into the field of personal finance a LOT further.” I couldn’t agree more. He spouts a lot of junk, but his statements (like “a house is not an asset”) really struck a chord in me and made me think a LOT more about personal finance. Take everything he says with a grain of salt, but he will make you think…without a doubt.

Increasing Penalties for Health Savings Accounts: An interesting series, especially since I’m making the transition to an HSA account for my family.

Financial Challenges for the Class of 2010: I am very, very grateful I’m not a grad. Good luck to the 2010 grads, but man… the times they are a-changin’… and not for the better.

Watson Inc: Millionaires Make a Return To Boom Levels: Eliminate Consumer Debt and Build Wealth: Some interesting stats here. Rich (or rather, I should say “wealthy”, since that conveys a mindset/lifestyle rather than a purely numeric status) people make money even in “down” times.

8 Critical Steps Every Family Should Be Taking to Prepare for the Next Financial Crisis: There will be another financial crisis. The US is not in any way, shape or form situated for the rapid growth so many of us grew to know and love in the 90s and mid-oughts. Maybe there will be another bubble, but next time there won’t be as much money for a “stimulus” package. The money is running out. Inevitably, there will be a stopping point for Citi and AIG and all the other boondoggle spending.

Caretaking As a Career Option – What’s In It For You?: Huh. Well, not a career path I knew much about – it sounds interesting.

Live Sports: One More Reason to Get Rid of Cable: Er…not quite. The day the NFL shows up on Roku, though, I’ll be fairly close to killing my cable subscription.

Why It’s Frugal to Live in Colorado: I’ve never been there, which is weird to me. I’ve been to Siberia, Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, the back country of Romania, etc. – and never to Colorado. I’d like to go, though – I have seldom heard anything but good about it.

And a few more:

And of course, the greatest poem of all time (except, possibly, this one):

OZYMANDIAS

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Poetry started and stopped for me with that poem.  Amazing.  For the most part poetry and Shakespeare and the lot bore me, but once in a while, when I’m in a reflective mood, it blows me away.

the iPhone sickness (2010 and counting)

$599 to $399, 68 days after product launch.  Remember that, back in 2007?  I wrote most of this post back in 2007 when the iPhone first came out, and found that much of what I wrote is still true today.  Here it is:
the iPhone, circa 1986
It was bound to happen. Like a million consumer electronic devices before it, Apple dropped iPhone prices from $600 to $400 68 days after product launch. Angry first-adopters screamed about refunds (and got one). Breathless wait-and-see types are now vibrating with barely repressed joy at the thought of claiming one of these ‘bargains.’

I am no fan of Apple. I know there is a cult behind Apple but some of the frenzy behind iTunes, the iPhone, the iPod and the Mac has always eluded me. I get the general principle. They look nice and they do their stuff with flair and they aren’t Microsoft. But let’s face it – if I told you I had a great car that wasn’t susceptible to typical car problems, and looked really cool, but at the same time used a different kind of gasoline that wasn’t widely available, needed car parts that only one manufacturer produced and cost twice as much (or several multiples as much) as your current car, would you be in a hurry to upgrade? Since 99% of my computer time is now online, it’s hard for me to understand why I would want to pay a premium (and suffer so much incompatibility) for an Apple. I am sure someone reading this on an Apple will have a good argument why Safari browsers are better than Firefox or Chrome… ?

But when I had to really stop and wonder was when a $600 phone became a source of such consumer bloodlust. Is this what America has come to? $600 phones? Are there that many people out there with that kind of money to spend on phones? That’s a rhetorical question, since I know that many people will buy an iPhone while ignoring their upcoming credit card payment or saving for retirement. But just stop and think about that statement: something you can get for free like a cell phone is being sold for $600 because it adds functionality so you can play YouTube videos from lonelygirl15 on a one-inch screen!

The concept of something-for-nothing that comes out of offering an after-the-fact refund for a price change when none was implied in the sale is terribly annoying to me. Should I get a break on my house if the prices in the neighborhood don’t go up as fast as they did the year I bought the house? Should I be able to go back to Pathmark and ask for $1 off a carton of milk if they offer a sale the day after I bought it?

Of course I can ask. That’s my right as a consumer. I am willing to bet more stores would consider whether it was worth their trouble. I remember buying a video-editing device from amazon and seeing a rebate offered before it even shipped that wasn’t available at my time of purchase. In that case, Amazon acted quickly to grant the rebate when I pointed it out, because it was a matter of hours. I just don’t understand why Apple felt a need to cave in to demands for refunds 2 months later. You can’t convince me that your average Apple first-adopter isn’t going to rush out and buy an itouch or an iToaster the second it’s offered, no matter how many times they get screwed. Apple should have said hey, $200 is your instant gratification premium! This is your premium for being among the touched – the divine – the ubercool!

It’s this kind of consumer mentality that leads almost directly into consumer debt. I can whip out a credit card and buy something now for $400 but pay $200 on it in interest because I don’t have the cash on hand to pay for it. Or, I can wait 2 months and pay $400 in cash. I know that this seems obvious to most of the people who read personal finance blogs, but I think a large segment of America just doesn’t get it. At all.

I have learned that you have to stop and think before you buy stuff. I have also learned that rushing out to buy stuff is a good way to retire poor. The iPhone and the iPod and so many of Apple’s products have become so trendy and so cool I continue to wonder when a backlash will come and they will become uncool, and people will realize that there is no need to pay a premium simply based on design. I suppose it will happen when someone else comes up with a neater, cooler product and not before, rather than when the American consumer suddenly realizes Apple – like a million other “brands” – is giggling all the way to the bank.

the sick, and links

Here’s a quandry. Since we’ve moved to Florida, almost exactly a year ago, my family’s been sick.  A lot.  Allergies, infections, miscellaneous bugs – it has gone on and on.  My son got sick last week, then just as he recovered my daughter went down – hard – with the same bug, throwing up and feverish for a few days.  Just as she calmed down, I woke up in the morning with pinkeye (conjunctivitis) and Bubelah came down with an ear infection (and both of us had the same cold our kids had).

Now you could argue that it’s simply the difficulties of having a small child in preschool (Little  Buddy) or maybe I have sickly work colleagues, or maybe it’s just bad luck. It’s infuriating not knowing, of course, because if I knew that our family was simply allergic to the plants of the climate or otherwise poorly dispositioned to the region I might be thinking of moving on.

On the other hand, we love the area, the schools and the climate (hot, but cool and breezy on the beaches).  So it’s an annoying development to be sick more times in the past year than I’ve been in the past five in New Jersey.

Link it up:

Don’t Be A Sucker: Why Private Schools Are Financial Rip Offs: Said it before and I’ll say it again – the gains to be made from going to a private school don’t offset the loss of cash. Unless your kid is studying to be a musical genius or something, it’s a waste.

6 Easy Ways to Save Money without a Budget: I don’t budget (although perhaps I should) and the main point is simply to be aware of your spending.

Are You Ready For A Social Security System Overhaul?: Dreading, but ready.  I don’t think any reasonably sober person expects Social Security to remain unchanged long-term.  Something will change.  My hope is simply that I’ll get something out of it – anything, really – before it disappears.  I’m not an alarmist (and I think most politicians are) but based on the way the system’s built it’s hard to see us surviving the Generation With The Greatest Opinion Of Themselves – aka the Boomers – without some changes.

Health Care Bill Impacts: Insurance Options for Young Adults, and related Health Savings Account (HSA) Basics: Health care’s just going to be a continuing pile of bureaucratic horrors in our country. I’m a fiscal conservative in many ways, but not in this one: single-payer government-provided health care (or a slightly modified version) is the way that every single other modern democracy has chosen to go. The US is bringing up the rear in this debate.

Are You Celebrating the Sex and the City Movie?:  Does the sun rise in the west?  I’ve complained for years that these characters are hideous people with awful behavior and almost psychotic obsessions with superficialities.  I would be embarrassed for any of them to be my friend.

And a few more…

the dead end of home ownership

the American dream

I’ve known more than one guy with the following life story: working at a corporate job as a middle manager, married with young-ish kids and settled in normal sized house in an acceptable neighborhood. Maybe the kids are really young, even though he’s in his forties; like me, a lot of men (and women) are waiting until later in life to have kids. The house is comfortable but small. The job is OK but if the guy’s honest with himself he knows he’s not likely to soar to the CEO floor in the 15 or so years of working life he has left to him.

So here’s the question: if you make X dollars at age 40, say, and 40% of your income goes to your mortgage that you took out at age 38 – a 30 year fixed mortgage – and you’re expecting a 5% raise every year (if you’re lucky) – when will you reach the finish line?

I know the common perception is that if you own instead of renting there will come a blissful moment when you burn the mortgage documents and skip off into sunset worry-free. In my mind, two things will be happening in 30 years when my mortgage is paid off that will throw a big monkey wrench in those plans.

Property taxes

Perhaps you live in Cheyenne, Wyoming. If so, your property taxes are the lowest (on average) in America, probably around $1000 per year. That’s $83 per month, a doable figure. However, if you live in places like Garden City, New York, your taxes run closer to $9000 per year, or $750 per month. One thing I can guarantee about both Cheyenne and Garden City that holds equally true for both is that 30 years from now, those taxes will be higher. Will they have grown at a rate faster or slower than your annual raises at work? With the strains looming on the US economy – an enormous national debt, rapidly ageing population, and so on, I’d be willing to bet those taxes will eat up a big chunk of your post-retirement income after you’ve paid off the mortgage.

Shoddy construction

On this point I only have my own limited experience to go on, but I remember laughing out loud every time someone asked me in New Jersey if I expected to pay off my mortgage on my townhouse in 30 years. I laughed because I really didn’t expect my townhouse to last 30 years. We moved in while construction was going on in the community, and I saw how these homes were built: pressboard and 2 by 4s. Not stone, not metal. K. Hovnanian put them up fast, using what (ahem) APPEARED to be workers who might not have been entirely legal citizens. These were not structures built to last. These were not cheap places, either; it was a very expensive gated neighborhood with fancy homes (think elevators installed in the homes, riverfront views, etc.) Most American homes will need substantial and continuous maintenance and repair work in 30 years. So think about that mid-70s guy dealing with a crumbling home. Again, no mortgage, maybe, but those bills can mount up quickly.

…the dead end

I still think you ought to own if you want to own, and you ought to work for a corporation if that’s what twirls your pigtails, but this scenario just looks like a dead end to me. This house I’m in now needs to be my last one, or else I’m going to need to move into a place where I can pay off the mortgage substantially sooner than 30 years or I’ll be working to pay the mortgage (and other costs) into my 80s. If you don’t think that’s a dead end, I don’t know what is. I for one don’t want to be struggling away at age 75 to finally pay off my mortgage just to get stuck in a crumbling house paying exorbitant property taxes. Figuring out how to stay out of this dead end ought to be a high priority for anyone who looks to buy a home in their late 30s or later.

the world cup and links

As I post this, the World Cup is kicking off. My once-every-four-years interest in soccer will briefly flare up, and I’ll pay attention for a week or two, then forget about it, then get excited about it towards the end. Or maybe not. It’s hard to get too excited about it, but I do realize it’s probably the biggest sporting event in the world.  And one of my links is related: Money and the World Cup

On to the links:

Are You Cut Out for a Freelance Job? Is Anyone?: I thought this was a very interesting expansion on my post, “Job Junkie.” I left a couple of lengthy comments…

How to Stockpile Food for Survival: I guess as westerners we never think of a time when we might not be able to readily obtain calories, but I suppose that Katrina should have taught us that natural disasters can occur. I have this on my permanent to-do list, though, and have yet to take any action on it.

Should The U.S. Banking Industry Be Regulated? Thoughts On Financial Reform:  I won’t get into details, but count me as someone who’s opposed to the current reforms being proposed.  They don’t go far enough and everyone’s going to walk around patting themselves on the back if they are enacted, and we’ll forget about it.  It’s not going to work.  There are still far too many institutions that are “too big to fail” and their risk-taking activities will be far worse than ever before – because now the precedent’s been established.

Drive-in Theaters – A Money-Saving Movie Experience: I haven’t seen one of these in years, and I can’t see how any survive except as complete and utter novelties, but I guess they do.

job junkie

Dr. Drew – the famous radio/TV addiction-specialist doctor of Loveline, Sober House and Celebrity Rehab fame – has a layman’s definition of addiction: it’s any activity that you continue engaging in despite adverse conditions. Hits it right on the head, I think. If you keep drinking after a DUI, you’re addicted. If you keep doing drugs after going to jail, obsessively playing online bingo after your spouse has threatened to leave you, eating sweets after developing diabetes or smoking while you have a cold, you’ve got a problem. You don’t have to experience the adverse condition to be addicted, of course, but the adverse event is the proof, if you will.

I like this definition because you can apply it to many other areas of life. For example, if you keep charging crap on your credit card after you’ve started being charged interest for past purchases, you’re continuing in the face of an obvious adverse event. The interest is a fine, a continuing adverse event that would cause a normal, non-addicted-to-credit person to stop using the product. And many, many people have a far more severe addiction: the addiction to their job.

Just to prove I’m not preaching, I’ll use myself as an example. I have a good job – although, strictly speaking, it’s not a job. I do contract consulting and I am able to charge substantial rates for my work. I flatter myself sometimes that it’s because I’m just that good, but the real reason is that I offer my services to giant corporations for whom my fee is a footnote to a footnote to a rounding error. They don’t mind flinging some cash in my direction to avoid the hassle of hiring a permanent employee to finish their projects; they don’t have to train me, give me benefits and then file endless mounds of paperwork before they let me go. I can come in, do the work with a minimum of supervision, and leave with no fuss. So I get paid at a premium.

And because of that I’m addicted to my job. I’ve continued doing it for years, despite many adverse events and conditions, some obvious, some not. The job is stressful due to boredom, physically uncomfortable working conditions, long commutes, inflexible working hours and sometimes unpleasant coworkers (overworked, underpaid, and overstressed themselves). Audit often results in uncovering illegal, unethical or simply incompetent work by other employees. Stress comes easily when others around you are constantly suspicious, frightened or hostile that you are “out to get them.” And despite being freer than the the average employee to direct my work, I still have the adverse work conditions that arise from a direct exchange of my time for the client’s money: my income increases and decreases directly in proportion to the hours I work. Stress if I work too much and stress if I earn too little. Could you pass some cheese, by the way? I need it to go with my whine.

But how many people are addicted to their jobs? I know the argument is always that a job is a job in this economy. Fine. I am sure all of the people who stuck with their “good jobs” at now-shuttered assembly lines throughout Michigan are patting themselves on the back that they stuck with a good job instead of getting out and getting training in a new field before GM and Chrysler imploded. I’m sure that all of the finance guys who were putting in 80 hour weeks at my Wall Street clients are happy they put in all that unpaid time doing a job they hate before being laid off in 2008. Sometimes clinging to a job to the bitter end is a bad thing, even if it provides some temporary financial security.

It’s not just financial security; that job addiction can impact your long-term health. Many of us are happy to be moderately fit, moderately overweight and to have a job that doesn’t make us throw up before going to work every morning. Whitman’s quote about most men living lives of quiet desperation is not any less true for being massively over-quoted by people like me. I don’t think any parents dream for their kids to grow up to slog through life delivered in two-week increments when a paycheck arrives. Nobody wants to have a slow trickle of stress poured down their throat for 40 years. Your health – physical and mental – will inevitably suffer. True health is being free of addiction to any behavior that hurts you – be it alcohol, gambling, drugs, violence, TV, a bad job, on and on. It’s not enough to be fit and hate your job, either. It’s not enough to hate your job but endure it simply to make money. Whether you’re literally prostituting yourself for another puff off the crack pipe or figuratively prostituting yourself to break your spirit for 40 years so you can visit the beach twice a year for a week, you’re a junkie.

photo by Dominic’s pics
http://www.drdrew.com/

networking is not about quid-pro-quo

rome

Quid-pro-quo means “something for something” and in a capitalist society we’re trained to think about this rule governing almost all transactions, both commerce and personal. Just as we expect to hand over $1 for a pack of gum, the guy selling the gum expects to receive that $1. Most people say “I love you” with the expectation that it will be returned with “I love you, too.” Very few transactions escape the quid-pro-quo “law”: maybe doing things for your children, or working overtime for your employer (but even there, you might argue you’re hoping to keep your job in exchange for unpaid work).

But networking isn’t (exactly) like that. You can’t expect someone to return something of equal or greater value every time you help someone through networking. If someone puts you in touch with a new client that generates six figures of income for you, do you owe that person a six-figure client? Do you owe them anything? No, you don’t, but you do owe someone something. At the risk of sounding like I’m using a movie to establish my point, you have to pay it forward.

If all networks operated on a quid-pro-quo basis, many people would find large networks a full-time job. The advantages to helping out newer members of an industry or smaller businesses would be minimal, because you couldn’t count on them to return your help quickly or easily. That’s not how a network should work, though. You’ll often read in career advice books/blogs/columns that you should give help in a network (or on Twitter or whatever the social media darling of the day is) without expecting an automatic equal return of the favor. That’s true to a point: you should give help without expecting a return of the favor from that person, but you do have every right to expect a return of the favor from the network as a whole. It may not be immediate – and it certainly may not be obvious – but that return over time has to occur to make the network worthwhile.

Look at how you help people in your network, be it social, professional, educational – whatever. If you aren’t receiving at least equal value back out of your network compared to what you put in, your network is broken. There will always be those who take more than they give, but on whole the network has to provide more value to you than you put into it. If it doesn’t, get out.

Of course value can be companionship or fun, not something as quantifiable as clients or services. But value has to be there. If you find yourself putting more of yourself into any of your networks – and I’m including ‘social media’ such as Facebook or Twitter as well as traditional networks like professional associations, churches or friends – then maybe you should consider finding a new way to spend your time and effort. If it doesn’t make you money, then it should be fun. If it doesn’t make you money and it’s not fun, why are you doing it? There are many other activities you could be doing that make you money or let you have fun instead. Go do them.

photo by ** Maurice **

full-time employment is uncertain, and links

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that most people want to hold on to their own idea of reality as long as they can. If you believe in a particular religion, or you have particular political beliefs, or dietary beliefs, etc. – you cling to it as a matter of fact rather than opinion. Even in the face of reason or fact, most people will choose belief over reality. It’s a sad phenomenon, for the most part, although it’s comforting in the short run. You want to think that what you believe is true, regardless of the facts opposing those beliefs.

I see this in my work environment all the time. It’s a tired story, but for the millionth time I’ve been asked how I can stand to be a consultant despite “all the uncertainty.” I had to hold my breath and then point out that I’ve outlasted 50% of the employees in the department I’m in. Employees are uncertain. Full-time employment is rapidly becoming a burden to companies – short-term expert consultants are far more valuable and cost-effective than full-timers. I’m not saying that’s a good thing – but it is what it is. I’m just amazed, again and again, that I have to explain to employees that my job as a contract consultant is just as secure, if not more secure, than theirs is.

A few links from around the web – including congratulations on this one, Blogging for U.S. News & World Report; frequent commenter Syd has a cool new gig going at a “real” media publication – go check it out!

work-life balance is a false choice


Creative Commons License photo credit: pshutterbug

Everyone understands that being engaged in your work, life, family and self is key to a happy life. Nobody thinks that you’ll be perfectly fulfilled without a balance – everyone needs to be happy with their family, but you also need outside interests. Everyone needs to feel like they are a contributing member of both a family and a society. It’s not an easy balance for most of us.

I struggle with it – I make good money but I still have less free time during the week than I’d like. Bubelah struggles with it, too – she spends a lot of time devoted to child care now that we have two kids, although having my son in preschool has helped. This imbalance is something many single-income families face, because the roles end up being so sharply divided.

Yet at the same time most of us feel that we have to struggle with work/life balance. You will not gain financial independence quickly as an employee.  Employees are performing a straight-up swap of their time for money; the possibility to increase the money-to-time ratio is at the employer’s discretion, never the employee’s. If you want to be rich and therefore gain some measure of independence in your financial choices – and therefore in your life, you have to start a business or buy real estate or become a person who understands the market in its current sickly state. Alternative income is key to building wealth. But I am not just talking about figuring out a way to get rich.

Why is it that we view work/life balance as a struggle, a conflict to be resolved? I worry about it more than I worry about most things in my life – and I’m a worrier by nature – but I am trying increasingly to focus not so much on work/life balance but on how to move towards integrating work and life together in the future. I don’t think balance is truly possible. If you work a long commute away from home, most of your waking time is spent away from “life.” If you spend all of your time at home, it’s hard to develop your career or interests. Again, figuring out a way to get away from selling your time for money is key. The key is not to strive for balance, but to find work you enjoy and can integrate with your “life,” instead of working hard then retiring early, or thinking that working an eight-hour day with a three-hour commute and having a few hours at home is balance. Figuring out a way to do it in a blended way is better than trying to figure out a balanced way – because if you sell your time for money, there will never be balance.