Getting Yourself Organized in 2014

by Gerri Willis

By Gerri Willis

 

Mea culpa. I am writing a blog about getting yourself organized, and as anyone who’s ever been to my office can attest, it’s not my long suit. It’s not even my short suit. I just struggle to keep things and ideas in their place. Everything seems too valuable to pitch. Having confessed to that, I decided to go on a search for the very best ideas for getting yourself together. Here we go:

 

  • First, there is Julie Morgenstern. She wrote the popular book, “Organizing from the Inside Out,” and has become a go-to expert on organization. She’s a great motivator and she doesn’t require that you buy a lot of hanging files or outboxes. She coaches you step by step. Here’s what she told me was key to getting organized: “Make a master list of all the organizing projects you would like to tackle, and then select an order of attack, starting with the smallest areas that will have the biggest impact on your daily life.  Don’t start with the most daunting project.  It’s fine to start with your sock drawer, cabinet of plastic containers in the kitchen, or toiletries in the medicine cabinet.  Getting one or two small projects done completely will fuel you with a sense of accomplishment and control that will create momentum and energy to keep going. Pretty smart stuff.

 

  • But let’s face it, you don’t get organized just to see pretty piles of paper on your desk or sweaters sorted by color in your closet. You want to get organized so you become more efficient in your personal and professional life. You want to be organized so that when your husband asks, “What’s your frequent flyer number for Delta?’ you don’t stare at him blankly. (Okay, maybe that’s a personal digression.) The reason you want to organized in so that you can more stuff done – maybe even attack that bucket list.

 

  • That’s where David Allen comes in. The author of the best seller, “Getting Things Done,” is a guru to professional workers. Companies hire him to present his theory of being productive and much of his philosophy has to do with clearing away the mental and real clutter that is constantly getting in the way of getting anything done well. For that reason, Allen recommends that your start by organizing everything in your life – from the need to stop at the grocery store to the bookcase overflowing in your office. Everything, according to Allen, has a place. This is harder than it sounds, but people who practice the message of “Getting Things Done”  are converts. Allen told me his philosophy boils down to this, “Your head is for having ideas, not holding them.” Clever, right?

 

  • I do have one trusted organizing tool – Evernote, an app that gives everything a place, automatically. Everywhere I go, I see segment and guest ideas for the Willis Report, all of them go into Evernote. The power of the tool is in tags. Every idea, every recipe, every contact can be tagged so that later you can sort by tags and find that information again. You’d be surprised just how useful this is. In Evernote, I keep just two give folders. The first is for items that have yet to be tagged and the second is for items that have already been tagged. The Evernote people save your stuff on the cloud, so that if your IPad gives up the ghost (as mine recently did), all your precious information is safe. Genius!

 

Ultimately, how you organize is a very personal thing. Some people like real world, hard files, while others like the ease of virtual ones. Either way, getting your stuff in its place will go a long way to making your life easier and I am all for that.

 

Don’t miss The Willis Report starting 6pmET on FOX Business

 

 

How to Land That New Job in 2014

by Gerri Willis

By Gerri Willis

 

People always ask me how I managed to make the leap from print journalist to TV journalist. Truth is I considered it more of a hop than a leap. So much was the same about my new job when I first moved to television. I was covering the same personal finance topics, even talking to the same personal finance sources. The biggest difference was that those interviews were conducted on air instead of over the phone. The move also eliminated all that pesky writing and crafting of sentences. (To be honest, I still like doing that). But my experience is similar to many people who transition into a new gig – they take something of their old life with them, preferably the part they liked the most. For me, it was talking to people about topics I found compelling.

More and more folks these days are asking themselves whether they could transition to a new career.  A new survey from Career Builder shows that one in five workers wants to get a new job this year. And, it’s easy to see why. Job satisfaction is on the wane. Forty-five percent of folks are dissatisfied with advancement opportunities in their current job, while 39 percent don’t like the work/life balance their job requires.

The good news is that many people are capable of transitioning to a new career. But the successful switcher will have to figure out whether they want to start from scratch, get more education and begin again on the wage scale or transition to something that is similar, but different. Consider: If you’re a successful salesperson, your Rolodex would be highly valuable to a not-for-profit looking for donors. Worked as an accountant for years in a big firm? You could simply put out your own shingle. Not every job switch requires a complete transformation.

Here are some ideas for making the change:

  • Unless you have already figured out what’s next, you need to do some soul searching. Robert Stephen Kaplan in his best-selling book, “What You’re Really Meant to Do,” advises readers to find a role that allows them to utilize their strengths instead of trying to hide their weaknesses in a job that isn’t right for them. By the way, Kaplan successfully transitioned from Goldman Sachs vice chairman to Harvard Business professor. According to Kaplan, if you don’t like what you’re doing now, you automatically limit your possibility for growth and advancement.
  • Making that transition may mean additional education but you may not have to go for a four-year degree. Some specialties can be learned by achieving a certification or training. That kind of work can be done at a community college or online. Remember in some fields getting a full-blown degree can be considered a bad thing, like computer programming. If you’re not sure what field your skills might translate best, check out careeronestop.org and onetcenter.org.
  • Learn the new rules of the job search. The traditional CV just isn’t as important as it used to be. According to Anita Attridge, a Five O’Clock Club career coach, 80 percent of new jobs come from networking and direct contact. Companies receive hundreds, if not thousands, of applications for the average professional job. Standing out in a pile that big is difficult. Worse, if you’re searching using one of the many online job sites, your resume may never be read by a human. Companies increasingly use computer programs to reduce sky-high resume piles, trolling for key words or phrases that they think the best candidates would include. Bottom line, expanding your network and talking to friends and family is key to landing a new gig.

 

Don’t miss The Willis Report starting 6pmET on FOX Business

 

 

2014: Another Big Year For Housing?

by Gerri Willis

By Gerri Willis 

 

2014 could be the year for housing. Sure, 2013, was good, but this year could be even better. That’s because market activity may be dominated – not by investors – but by first-time buyers who’ve been sidelined and the trade up market. And, trading up means selling. Unloading your home is never easy, but his year could be the best in a while if mortgage rates remain under control and inventory stabilizes. The National Association of Realtors forecasts that home sales will be similar to last year’s blistering pace of 5.1 million while prices will  rise 5.3 percent.

So, if you’ve been waiting to sell your home because you owed more than the house was worth or you believed that purchase demand just wasn’t strong enough, now is the time to start running the numbers, checking your equity and putting a toe in the water. Check your local realtors’ association website to get a sense of how well the market is doing. Zillow.com can and Trulia.com can give you a sense of pricing in your neighborhood.

If you decide to take the plunge, you’ll want to be sure your abode is in tip top condition. Here are four suggestions for sellers:

  • Consider staging the home if you lived in it for more than 10 years. We collect so much stuff over time that it is nearly impossible to see your home with fresh eyes and that is exactly what a buyer wants to see – your home without the golf trophy or bass photos. Take down the personal photos on the wall. Reduce the number of pieces of furniture in each room – less furniture makes the room look bigger. If there is a smoker in the house, have carpets cleaned and vacuum upholstered furniture.
  • Painting interior walls that have been neglected is a great idea. Just don’t go crazy with color. Deep hues may be the flavor of the moment, but a neutral cream or white will make your home look clean and well taken care of. Likewise, if your exterior is drab, consider painting your door a bright color like red. Prune the landscaping and make sure exterior fixtures work. Few things are as off putting as a buyer as trying to turn on a light and nothing happens.
  • If your home is older, consider upgrading the wiring. It’s not sexy, but young and technologically savvy buyers know that their demands for juice are high. A 200 amp panel is the minimum typically, but panel size is governed by the National Electrical Code. Hire a licensed electrician to do the work.
  • If you have time before you’re planning to put your home on the market to upgrade, check out Remodeling Magazine’s list of remodels with the biggest bang for the buck, here http://www.remodeling.hw.net/2013/costvsvalue/national.aspx. After years of major storms, installing a backup power generator is a top performer for mid-range projects.

 

Don’t miss The Willis Report starting 6pmET on FOX Business

 

Must-Have Financial Apps For 2014

by Gerri Willis

By Gerri Willis

 

I blame my overspending on modern life. Let's face it, who hasn't looked at a mysterious one or two dollar fee on our credit card statement, shrugged our shoulders and just paid it? Who has the time to fight every nickel and dime? Then, there's my health insurance provider. After every visit to my doctor, I get an itemized bill of costs for each service and test rendered. By the time the bill does come weeks or even months later, I've lost track of the charges I was sent.

Fortunately, there is a better way. And, it comes via modern life -- apps that can save you time and track your money. Here are some worth investigating:

  • Billguard: This iPhone app has the time and discipline to scour your credit card bill for unwanted "grey" charges, even if you don't. It watches for those recurring items that you never intended to order by consolidating the experiences of other consumers. The app connects with your credit card providers using the name and password you use to connect to your account online. One downside: You can add two cards for free, but any more and you'll pay a one-time fee.

 

  • Simplee: This app brings together data from your health insurance accounts. If you are spending a fair amount of time at the doctor's office, or even if you aren't, Simplee can help. The app tells you your total medical costs, tracks how much you've paid out of pocket, your deductible and total doctor visits. You can make your payments directly from the app. Many of the major insurers, Aetna, Anthem, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Delta Dental support the platform.

 

  • SigFig: It happens all too often -- you have retirement and investment accounts with a number of different brokers and investment managers and seeing the total pie is impossible. This app can bring it all together by connecting your accounts to this service. You can see your total asset allocation and performance with a single click. I hear mixed reviews on the investment recommendations. Having said that, though, the app's ability to alert you when you are paying high fees for funds compared to competitors in the same category is worth the price of admission.

 

  • Mint: This is the grandaddy of personal finance apps that integrates info from all major banks and institutions. It's easy to get started, and all your info -- every transaction -- automatically appears in the app. You can set financial goals and budget and explore ways to invest all from this single app. It calculates your net worth and updates your personal financial situation every single day.

Of course, it's not all about a comprehensive look at your personal financial situation. Some apps have much more modest goals. GasBuddy is a go-to app for consumers trying to find the cheapest gas in their neighborhood and relies on consumer reporting to get its info. We often recommend RedLaser, a barcode scanning app for price comparisons. The app helps you find out whether there is a cheaper price for the item you are shopping for at nearby retailers.

 In the end, though, even apps require some effort to stay updated. You'll need to monitor what's going on and enter new information. Alas, they haven't completed automated your financial life. Not yet, anyway.  

 

Don’t miss The Willis Report starting 6pmET on FOX Business

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