Tag Archives: Quarter life crisis

10 Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Job Offer

29 Apr

By Jessica Robinson

A lot of job-ready, eager millennials are graduating college, interviewing for jobs and looking to start their career.

Source: someecards.com

Source: someecards.com

Millennials are also more likely to change jobs than their older coworker – at a rate of about 3 years so even the working young professional is likely to be on the job hunt today, perhaps satisfying a quarter-life-crisis.

To add to the pressure, millions are still unemployed and new grads are challenged more than any previous generation with finding employment after graduation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, College graduates’ of 2013 have an unemployment rate that is the highest in over 20 years. CNN called them the ‘Boomerang’ kids because 85% of college grads moved home in 2012. All of this sounds really difficult but it doesn’t mean that negotiating desired benefits are off the table or that a job seeker regardless of generation should accept a job that is unsuitable to their career goals.

It’s important to look out for yourself in the workplace because nobody else will do it for you. How do you interview a potential employer while they’re interviewing you? There are some obvious things like salary and benefits but there is more to a satisfying job than that.

First, try to outline your ideal working environment and company culture and how important they are. Are things like casual Fridays important? Is flexible working schedule a must? Is teamwork where you excel? Add that on your list of questions. Here are some other ideas to ask. Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

  1. What is the day-to-day working environment like on the team? Look for things like what types of people you’ll be working with. Ask what the level of individuality is like. Try to understand types of projects or responsibilities that are most common.
  2. What is the room for growth and the time frame associated to that?
  3. If I asked the team to describe their job and the team culture, how would they describe it?
  4. What qualities and characteristics do you consider strengths of your team?
  5. What are the biggest challenges you feel that the team (or company) is facing right now?
  6. What type of person do you work best with, and what type of person doesn’t do as well?
  7. If a team member isn’t performing as expected, how do you react?
  8. On the flip side, how is good work rewarded?
  9. What is the best part of your day to day work?
  10. Ask to speak with others in the company. You need to find out what type of management style your boss or indirect influencers have. Find out who directly impacts and evaluates most of your work (it’s not always the direct report) and find out if their management style is what you would consider desirable. Talking with others will help indicate that more honestly than anyone else.

Do you have tips for job seekers based on your experience or from someone you know? Let us know in the comments!


That Race Car Got Some Air! [Guest Post, Quarter Life Crisis]

17 Apr

By Steve Puvalowski
CEO, Tri-City Motor Speedway

I have learned to expect the unexpected during a race night at Tri-City Motor Speedway. On August 3, 2012, I thought the burned out scoreboard light was going to be the biggest issue to fix that night. When I was repairing the scoreboard, however, I heard over my headset that a Sprint car flipped and went through the fence and landed in the parking lot. At first I didn’t realize what was said and figured the safety crew could take care of it. Then it hit me. If the Sprint car went through the fence and landed in the parking lot, the car must have launched about nine feet in the air and landed outside of the track where fans park. (Before you freak out, this is not the reinforced 15′ fence that protects the grandstands.)

8 3 2012 SOD flipping over the fence

I hopped in my vehicle to find the driver of the Sprint car standing outside of his car, thankfully unharmed, and his car sitting within one foot from a spectator’s pickup truck. The situation now became fixing the 30-foot hole in the fence and resuming races as soon as possible so that racers and fans could still enjoy a night at the track. Amazingly, the safety crew and I fixed the fence and got the races started again with only a 40-minute delay. The Sprint car driver even got a back up car and he continued racing for remainder of the night!

Safety Crew with Sprint car that flipped over fence  landed in spectator parking

Unexpected situations can easily be stressful, frustrating and just plain difficult to deal with. However, there are some helpful steps for working through these situations and finding a solution. Here are some pointers I’ve learned:

  1. Remain calm. Take a few deep breaths and don’t freak out, no matter how bad you think it is. This will help you think more clearly when working through the issue.

Losing my cool wouldn’t have helped anything. I prepared for the worst as I drove to see the accident, but remained collected so that I could think clearly about what needed to be done.

  1. Assess the situation. Try and find out the facts of what exactly the situation/problem is. Making sure you identify the root problem will help you resolve the issue faster.

My first priority was to make sure the Sprint driver and spectators were completely safe. After that was addressed I was able to focus on the second issue, getting the fence fixed so that races could resume.

  1. Create a plan of attack. Think through the steps you will need to resolve the situation. What’s the biggest priority? Then what is next? Spending a few minutes getting manageable steps in order will save you time in the long run.

What are the steps needed to fix the fence? By sorting out the steps I could give clear directions on what had to be done i.e. taking care of the race delay and current racers, getting the right tools and materials for the fence and organizing the safety crew to make the fixes.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes you simply can’t get everything done by yourself. This is when you need to find someone who can help you with the problem or assist you in working through your action steps. Sometimes another person (or people) can make all the difference in helping with an unexpected situation.

I never would have fixed the fence by myself. I relied on my crew to help me get the problem fixed and they did a great job.

Here are some other notable unexpected situations I’ve faced:

– Finding an abandoned coal mine-shaft next to the track while doing renovations.

– The night the generator broke and the whole track went black.

– When another Sprint car flipped several times and the driver needed to be cut out of his car and was airlifted to the hospital.

Oh, the stories I can tell and I have only had three years of operating Tri-City Motor Speedway under my belt. I guess you’ll have to catch me at a MYPro’s event to get the rest of the details!

Puvalowski, SteveSteve Puvalowski is the CEO and promoter of Tri-City Motor Speedway. He purchased the abandoned track in 2010 and work roughly 16 hour days for eighteen months straight renovating the track and property to get it ready for racing again in 2011. Steve grew up around racing his entire life and raced a Prostock car and an auto cross truck before he became the owner of Tri-City Motor Speedway.
Email: steve@tricityracetrack.com
Phone: (989) 316-6804


Moving Day…What to do and not to do [Quarter Life Crisis]

14 Apr

By Heather Litle
Midland Center for the Arts

I just finished the process of buying and selling my first home. Now, I know you must be thinking, “How is that possible? How could I sell my first home, when I am only just now buying my first home?” Well, I guess technically, we are selling my husband’s first home and buying ‘our’ first home. Having never done this before, I immediately started asking myself a million questions, where do we start? How do we find a realtor? Do we buy first and then sell? Where will we live if we sell our house before we find a new one? All of these questions, and many more, raced through my mind and as a first time buyer I really had to rely on my friends and family for advice. I’d like to share with you some of the advice I received that I found helpful (and some that I found not-so-helpful).

Tip #1: Go with what you know…or who you know
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to finding a realtor. Ask friends and family who they’ve used, who they liked or didn’t like, and the results and communication they received from that person/company. Communication is key. Red flags should start waving if someone mentions, “Oh, I didn’t hear from them for 2 months when I was selling my house” or “they were nice but it was hard to get in touch with them. I was always leaving messages and it’d be days before I got a call back.”

Tip #2: Go the extra mile…you won’t regret it
At the advice of our realtor, my husband and I paid the extra money to get both an appraisal and inspection of our house prior to putting it on the market. This helped us in 2 very beneficial ways. First, everyone has an emotional attachment to their home, especially one in which you brought your first child home to, and therefore you may think it is worth more than it really is. Needless to say, we weren’t overjoyed with the results of the appraisal but because we got that unbiased feedback (yes! your realtor is biased…and should be) we put our house on the market at a more realistic price and it sold within 8 days! Second, an inspection is a contingency on EVERY (see Tip #3) sales agreement and can create quite a bit of stress when trying to sell your home. We fixed all the minor things that turned up on our inspection and when it came time for the buyers to inspect our house, it turned up nothing – and man is that a load off your mind!

Tip #3: Always, always, always add a contingency for a satisfactory inspection to your purchase agreement
When buying a home, it is vital that you include a satisfactory inspection to your purchase agreement. Things go wrong with houses all the time, like a leaky kitchen sink 6 days after you move into a new house – yes this is happening to me right now – but you can seriously lessen the number of things by having a professional come in and look over everything prior to you committing 30 years of your life to a mortgage.

Tip #4: Don’t move when you are pregnant…NOT!
Ok, so this one sounds like a good piece of advice but I found it to be incorrect. My husband and I knew prior to having our first child that we would need a bigger house but we were told that we shouldn’t move while I was pregnant. And therefore, we waited – big mistake. Moving with an 11 month old is NOT fun! She is mobile and into everything! By now, she is aware of her surroundings and a big, empty house that she is not used to was not conducive for a good nights’ sleep for some time. She has adjusted nicely and now loves her new home and playroom but it was definitely an experience that I would have done differently had I known what we were getting into. For many this is unavoidable but for those of us whose timeframes are more flexible it’s something to keep in mind.

Tip #5: Do your research and stick to your guns
This might seem like an obvious piece of advice for many of you. Often; school districts, safety of the area, and distance to/from work, school, hospitals, etc. are factors when purchasing a home but sometimes these things are overlooked when presented with an updated kitchen, walk-in closets or amenities, such as that hot tub you’ve always wanted. Things you need to keep in mind when you start to sway are; why did you put certain things on your need/want list in the first place? What will the resale market look like? And no matter how strongly your family/friends/realtor try to sell you on a place, if it doesn’t feel right…it probably isn’t right.


Taxes…I Never Know What I am Doing [Quarter Life Crisis]

3 Mar


I introduced a few weeks ago the concept of our Quarter Life Crisis series. In case you missed it you can click here to check it out, or if you just want to read it over and over again because let’s be honest, it’s pretty well written if I must say so myself ;). Anyway let me be the first to say that I am really glad that we will have some fellow young professionals sharing their knowledge and expertise to us for FREE! If I can be completely candid here, as with many things in my life, I seriously have no clue how to do my taxes. I did do them myself with the help of my parents in college, but since I have been a gainfully employed member of society I have now resorted to a CPA. Seriously BEST decision I have ever made! Especially since getting married and buying a house–that’s when taxes get a little more tricky than what I had to deal with in the past.

Now with an accountant, that whole “doing my taxes” burden is off my shoulders, but I do still have a challenge ahead of me…and that is finding everything to give my accountant. My husband and I attend many fundraisers, donate to church & local non-profits, donate through the 100 YP Club and donate items to places like the Habitat ReStore. All of these great tax deductible items will help us in the end. Now that we have a house we have to keep track of interest paid and other items. My husband travels a lot for work and gets to write off his mileage at the end of the year. So, in trying my best to be a productive member of society, I now have way more things to keep track of and to give to my accountant.

Anyone who knows me or has seen my cubicle knows that I am not exactly the most organized person (if you ever want to hear a story about my lack of keeping track of things, just ask anyone at the Chamber about how I lost my keys for two days and where I found them).

This past weekend my husband and I finally got to the daunting task of locating everything we needed to collect for our accountant. I have about 45 different locations where any of these items could be found. So as am I running through the house trying to remember everything I need. I realized that this is basically the adult version of an Easter egg hunt. It’s not quite as exciting, and there aren’t any chocolate eggs, but there is money at the end of it all when I find all my tax deductible receipts.

Last week fellow MYPro John Haag, a CPA at Yeo & Yeo CPA’s & Business Consultants, was a guest blogger for us and he wrote a very useful, informative and entertaining post with some tax tips for young professionals. If this past year you bought a house, got married, had a child or were paying on student loans and more, be sure to check out his post. He has some great advice to share whether you are doing your own taxes or using one of our great Chamber member CPA’s. (which you can find a list of qualified professionals here) Happy tax season everyone! Now let’s keep pushing for spring!

FREE BEER!!!! [Quarter Life Crisis Guest Post]

28 Feb

By John W. Haag, Sr., CPA/ABV, CVA, CFF
Principal, Yeo & Yeo CPAs

I learned many years ago that if an article has the word “tax” in the title, it will not be read. Please excuse my desperate attempt to draw more attention to this blog — did it work?

If I asked you for $100, what would you say? You would probably want to know why. You would want to know what I am going to use it for, will you get it back, how did I determine $100 was the amount I needed, and do I really need $100 or would a smaller amount do. Yet every day that you earn money, you give a little of it away in taxes. The truth is, most people do not ask what it is being used for, how it is calculated, or how much they will get back.

As a CPA, I meet with young professionals all the time who are starting their careers and going through transitions (jobs, moving, buying houses, getting married, starting families). A common comment that I hear is, “I have never paid much attention to taxes, but figured it was about time to start having a professional prepare them.” And do not feel bad, I still hear a few “Actually, my mom still does my taxes for me.” If that is you, then I have prepared a list of some of the most important things that young professionals should know about taxes.Keep in mind that each individual’s tax situation is different and that many of the items discussed below have income limitations, referred to as phaseouts. In other words, once your income reaches a certain level, some of these credits and deductions go away.

Getting Smart
Chances are you may still be paying some higher education expenses. If that is the case, two federal tax credits may help lessen your tax bill: the Hope Scholarship Credit (American Opportunity Tax Credit) and the Lifetime Learning Credit.
The Hope Scholarship Credit is worth a maximum of $2,500 for 2013. The credit is available for the first four years of undergraduate education and can be used to cover the cost of course materials. In addition, 40% of the credit is refundable, which could enable lower-income taxpayers to get money back from the IRS. The Lifetime Learning Credit, which applies to undergraduate study, as well as graduate and professional education pursuits, could be worth up to $2,000.There is also an above-the-line deduction for tuition and fees if you are not eligible for any of the credits, which can reduce the amount of your taxable income by up to $4,000.
Up to $2,500 of interest paid on student loans may be deducted. Since this is an “above-the-line” deduction, even non-itemizing taxpayers benefit. The loans may be used for qualified higher education expenses, such as tuition, fees, room and board, and books.
Question: $1,000 deduction vs. $1,000 credit…which is better? A deduction decreases your taxable income. So if your tax rate is 15%, a $1,000 deduction would be worth $150 in your pocket. A credit decreases your actual tax “dollar for dollar.” So a $1,000 credit is worth $1,000 in your pocket. Credits win!

Moving On Up
Prior to owning a home, most young professionals take advantage of the standard deduction and do not itemize deductions. Signing for that mortgage changes this, as you may now be able to deduct property taxes, mortgage interest, points, and in some cases private mortgage insurance. This often allows young professionals the opportunity to begin itemizing deductions. In other words, they can now deduct charitable contributions (cash and non-cash), license plate fees, state income taxes, charitable mileage, etc. In today’s world, many young professionals find themselves moving to find work. Moving expenses related to work, subject to a distance and time test, can be deducted on your tax return, provided that they are not reimbursed or paid for by your employer.


Tying the Knot
Once the champagne is gone and you return from the Bahamas with your golden tans, tax time rolls around and you realize that doing your taxes is a bit different. You are no longer a single tax filer, but rather qualify to file married filing jointly. Income and deductions from both you and your spouse are combined on one tax return. I am often asked, “Can we still file separately?” The answer is yes; however, in the majority of circumstances, this will result in you both collectively owing more tax. A common issue is that in the year of marriage, one spouse has been earning a W-2 wage and having an appropriate amount of taxes withheld, whereas the other spouse has been earning a W-2 wage but claiming a large number of exemptions and has very little withholding. The first spouse thinks that he or she will get a large refund, and the other is used to paying in all the time. And therein lies your first argument. To avoid this, it is a good idea to have a discussion with a CPA together, prior to marriage, to get your financial house in good order and make sure everyone is on the same page.

tax deduction

Populating the Earth
Although deducting baby formula and diapers are out of the question, there are some tax benefits for your little one. The child tax credit is available for parents with children under the age of 17, and is equal to $1,000 per child, subject to a phaseout once income gets too high. In addition, you will be able to claim a dependent exemption of $3,900 on your federal return and $3,950 on your state return. Assuming a 20% effective tax rate and 4.25% state tax rate, little Bobby or Suzie could be worth almost $1,950 a year in tax savings. That should cover a month’s supply of diapers, right?
If your company offers a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), do not pass up the opportunity to take advantage. Use this to cover co-pays, prescription drugs, or even those well baby checkups. You can elect to contribute up to $2,500 a year to an FSA, which saves not only federal and state income taxes, but also social security and Medicare taxes. A young professional could easily save $700 or more by participating.


Retirement Planning
Deductions and tax credits are a great thing; however, you do not want to forget about deferrals. This is where you defer taxes on your income, which is primarily done through investing in qualified retirement plans. Retirement vehicles such as 401(k)s and Traditional IRAs defer taxes and allow your money to be invested and grow, with taxes not being due until you actually use the money in retirement. Young professionals these days need to adopt a retirement saving strategy early in their careers and stick with it. Many times I see young professionals drawing from their retirement accounts — and paying penalties and taxes — to fund living expenses. This should absolutely be a last resort. Get in the habit of contributing to a retirement plan and let it grow. As your income increases, so too should your contributions. For example, if you get a 3% raise, increase your retirement contributions by 1%. The days of relying on pensions and social security have passed; young professionals must develop their own retirement savings plans.

Where to Now? My Thoughts
Although this blog is about taxes, I would like to expand it to include all aspects of a young professional’s personal and financial life. Young professionals are faced with a lot of changes when they enter the “real world.” They should not hesitateto seek advice from other young professionals early on in their careers. Develop relationships with an attorney, a mortgage lender, an insurance agent, a financial advisor, a CPA, a real estate agent, a primary care physician, an auto salesperson, etc. By utilizing a young professional for these types of services, you can develop a long-term relationship and grow together as they are learning their craft too. The most successful relationships that I see in my line of work are those that began many years ago and developed over time. Begin developing your professional relationships today. And regarding the Free Beer, if you ever want to talk taxes, let me know and I will buy you a beer.

Haag, JohnJohn W. Haag, Sr., CPA/ABV, CVA, CFF, is a Principal in charge of the Management Advisory Services group of the Midland office of Yeo & Yeo CPAs and Business Consultants. He is a co-leader of the firm’s Valuation & Litigation Support team. John has specialization in business valuations, litigation support, business plans and start-ups, troubled debt restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and management studies. He is a Certified Valuation Analyst and holds the designation of Certified in Financial Forensics from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Contact John via e-mail at johhaa@yeoandyeo.com or call 800.701.3574.

Welcome to Your “Quarter Life Crisis”

18 Feb


So, this year on October 1st I turn the BIG 3-0! Yikes! I have never really been someone that puts much thought into age, nor have I ever thought, that I have ever acted my age (Blink-182’s  “What’s My Age Again?” song comes to mind as I typed that). But for some reason the thought the turning 30 actually kind of scares me. As many of you, I was rushing to turn 21 because that’s when the real fun started, right? And I must say that my 20’s really have been full of fun and lessons. But wow, is life different now in my 29th year of life than it was when I first turned 20. In the past decade I have graduated from college, moved to Virginia, Mississippi, Traverse City and Midland. I have gotten married, had several jobs, adopted a cat & dog (or two), bought a house, learned about the joys of home ownership and have found my dream job! Yes, really I love my job, and no I am not just typing that because I know my boss will be reading this article :).


Now that I am barreling towards my 30’s I know life still has many more surprises, challenges, excitement and decisions ahead; and that I am going to need to call upon those around me to help me out from time to time. One of the best things about working at the Chamber, or as a member attending Chamber events, is that you get to know a plethora of people in a variety of vocations. So when I have a question about something, or need help, I usually know someone that I can call upon personally to help me out. Now I know that not everyone has the luxury of getting out of the office as much as they would like to attend events and meet new people. So that is why the MYPros Communication Committee has come up with a new featured segment we endearingly call “Quarter Life Crisis.” As we have our meetings each month we have come to realize that our age group is at a pivotal point in our lives, and that this is probably a point in many of our lives when there are more things changing and happening than ever! We are getting married, paying off student loans, buying cars & houses, paying property taxes for the first time, starting families, thinking about our children’s future and how to pay for their college and so much more! So with the help of our fellow Chamber member young professionals we will have advice relevant to young professionals from attorneys, accountants, realtors, lenders, insurance agents, financial advisors and more. We will also be sharing some of our own personal stories as we learn all about becoming an adult. I am still not sure I am ready to be an “adult;” I just don’t feel it’s for me! Anyway, I hope that you find this new segment informative, enjoyable and entertaining. Stay tuned for next week, we will have some great tax advice for YP’s just in time for tax season!

If there’s anything you would like to see featured in our “Quarter Life Crisis” segment, comment below and we will do our best to get questions answered and information out that is relevant to you and other YP’s.