Give Me Back My Five Bucks

What do you look for in a job?

Recently I was head hunted for a management position with a different company in the same industry. It would have been a promotion with a higher salary, and with the type of organization I was interested in working with. The opportunity came as a bit of a shock because I’m happy where I am, and haven’t actively looked at job postings at all for the past 1.5 years. So while I was flattered that they were interested in me, I knew I was never going to seriously consider the position. And after talking it out with a few friends and stressing for a few days, I knew I had made the right decision.

This experience got me thinking again about what I look for in an employer, and how much that has changed over the years as my career has progressed. When I first graduated, jobs were pretty easy to come by, and I spent a lot of time chasing dollar signs and job hopping. While I was concerned with the integrity of the company, admittedly I was more concerned with my salary. And because of this, in the first four years of my career, I was able to double my income … but my resume looks pretty horrible. :)

Related: Why I don’t want to be self-employed

Now the job market is a lot tougher, and my career direction has become a lot more focused (which means less jobs to choose from). 10 years ago, I was a marketing generalist by choice. I knew that by not specializing in anything, I could try a variety of different roles to find what aspects of marketing I enjoyed and where my strengths were. Now, it’s safe to say I’ve become a specialist with a somewhat niche skill set. With a decade of experience under my belt, I know that a pay cheque isn’t everything, but I also know that I have the luxury of saying that because my salary is comfortable.

Related: When it’s worth it to take a pay cut

Deciding not to pursue this job opportunity has really reinforced what I want out of my career. I’m also happy to see that the gamble I took by entering into this industry 3 years ago (by taking on a junior position) was a good decision, because this isn’t the first time I’ve been head hunted before. It seems that this type of marketing is always in demand, and there just isn’t a huge pool of people to choose from here in Vancouver.

Aside from salary, here are a few key things that I look for in a job and a career:

  • Work-life balance. Overtime cannot be avoided in this fast paced, deadline-driven industry, but there has to be a trade off. Because my job isn’t my passion, I value my time away from the office. I want a 40 hour/week career and flexible hours because so many things that I love (like freelancing, sports, and travel) happen outside of the office.
  • Good people. I don’t necessarily want to become best friends with my co-workers (and I’m a pretty introverted person), but being able to be social while at work is more important than I realized when I first started my career. When I look back at all the jobs I’ve had, the best ones were where I’ve had friends.
  • A company I can believe in. I want to be proud of the company I’m working for, and I like knowing that they are helping to make a difference. Whether it’s through the work that they do, or through giving back to the community, I love companies that help make lives better. :) AND I find it so inspiring when others around me truly believe in making the company better.
  • Ability to learn. Getting stuck is a huge concern for me. I want the ability to keep on learning and growing as an employee, and if those options aren’t available to me, eventually I’ll have to look elsewhere for employment. And that’s not something I want to do, because I also value…
  • Long-term potential. I want to be able to stay with a company long-term. Job hopping is tiring and stressful. Finding a role I can settle into is something I value, and it looks good on a resume when you have stayed in a position for at least 3-5 years.
  • Location. I’m done commuting long distances, but it’s hard to get by in the city without a car. I drive a lot for field hockey and hiking as it is (where transit is not an option), and where we live right now, I wouldn’t even consider applying for jobs that aren’t located within walking distance of a SkyTrain stop.

What do you look for in a job (and in your career)?

March 2017 Goals: Recap

March was a busy month. We got pre-approved for a mortgage and started checking out open houses, went on a week-long vacation, RD’s parents came into town, lost of visiting with friends, and we also started planning for our trip to Portugal in the fall (I created a rough budget which I’ll share later this month) as well as my family’s annual Blue Jays weekend in Seattle. All of these travel expenses will fall into April’s budget, which I’m not really looking forward to. :)

But I tried really hard to keep saving for my down payment as a top priority in March. We cut back on eating out in restaurants, when we were on vacation, we only went out to one restaurant and opted to cook the rest of our meals in the cabin (we didn’t even go to Tacofino!), and I bought the blazer that I wanted on eBay instead of in-store (which saved me about $100). Admittedly I didn’t need the blazer – or any new clothes, really – so I’m going to put myself on a shopping ban for the next 3 months (April-May-June) to see how that goes. The only thing I will allow myself to spend money on is repairing a pair of shoes (my Birkenstock sandals need to be resoled before I start wearing them every day during the summer). Spending money on clothing won’t make me happier, and will take me further away from my down payment goal.

As for how I did in March? I came in under budget, which I’m pleased about. Here are my numbers:

Over Budget:

  • Household – just a few dollars over budget spending on normal essentials like laundry detergent and cleaning supplies.
  • Car & Transportation – replaced the battery on my car remote, and ended up paying for parking a few times.

Income and Savings:

This month I earned over $10,000 (which is definitely not normal for me), and was able to save 68.5% of my net income. And because of that bump in income, I was able to contribute a decent amount to my down payment fund. :)

For those that are wondering how I’m allocating my savings, the only savings I have automated is for retirement – because that will always be my number one financial goal. After that, every month I put $100-200 into a general savings account, and the rest goes into my down payment fund. I no longer contribute to my emergency fund (it has sat fully funded at $10,000 for the past few years).

  • Current Down Payment Fund: $133,150 / $150,000 (+ $3,400)

March 2017 Goals:

  • Rebrand GMBMFB. FAIL. I bought the theme and have started playing with it, but haven’t implemented it live. Soon.
  • Cash out a portion of my corporate stock program. CHECK! I cashed out about $2,000 in corporate stock and added it into my EQ Bank account.
  • Get pre-approved for a mortgage. CHECK! We’ve seen about 10-12 places and have really narrowed down exactly what we’re looking for.
  • Figure out a good system to combining some of our finances. CHECK! We opened up a joint chequing account, and are ready to merge together our day-to-day finances. We discussed our current system and agreed that it’s working for us, so there’s no need to change it until we actually move.

Thoughts on our open house tour

Last weekend, our Realtor took us on an open house tour in our desired neighbourhood. We wanted to see in person what we could afford, and what we actually wanted in a future home. Because it’s fine to start jotting down a list of condo requirements, but it’s completely different to actually be in the space and figure out exactly what you want.

I mentioned on Twitter a few weeks ago that our mortgage broker said we’d be pre-approved for an $850k mortgage. We both have good jobs, no debt, and a nice down payment, but still I couldn’t help but be shocked. I thought it would be much lower considering I only got approved based on income from my full time job, and didn’t take into consideration my average freelance earnings over the last 3-4 years. In what world would anyone be able to pay a $3,700/month mortgage?

The rule of thumb is that the cost of a home should be no more than three times your gross household income – which would put us firmly in the $475-500k range, which felt a lot better.

So we settled on looking at places in the $400-500k range (which is just a step above entry-level in the Lower Mainland lol) and picked a list of places to look at.

The first Open House was for a 2 bed/2 bath condo listed at around $400k, and it absolutely shocked me. There were literally dozens (!!!) of people lined up to view it by the time we got there. No joke. They had to take people through in waves because we all couldn’t fit at the same time … and who knows how many saw it in the previous 2 hours of the Open House. After we saw it, my Realtor said the condo probably should have been listed at closer to $475k, and we found out later that it eventually sold for well over $500k. Okay… moving on.

After that one, we saw a mix of other condos – some in more “entry level” buildings, some that were used for rental income (one tenant just sat on the couch while we poked around … which was weird), a beautiful (but small) condo in a heritage building, and a nice warehouse conversion loft.

Here are some observations I took away from that day … most of them didn’t come as a huge shock, but it was interesting to see with my own eyes:

  • There were a lot of young people with their parents. I don’t know if it’s because their parents were co-signing, gifting money, or if they just wanted their parents along, but I was definitely surprised.
  • One of the listing Realtors commented that he was seeing a lot of activity from younger buyers because they’re wanting to take advantage of the BC Government’s Home Partnership program, which provides loans up to $37,500 (or up to 5% of the purchase price) which are interest-free and payment-free for the first 5 years.
  • Most listings were going to multiple offers.
  • Most listings were being sold above asking price.
  • Since most people are getting priced out of the detached housing market here in Vancouver and the surrounding area, that’s putting a lot of pressure and competition on the condo market.
  • Most condos seem to be selling within 7-10 days of being listed. FAST. Not at all like when I was buying my first home back in 2011.

Personally, I was a little turned off by how competitive the market is. I’m annoyed at how listings are purposely priced low in order to push the price tens of thousands of dollars above asking. I hate the idea of multiple offers and bidding wars. I hate how crowded and busy Open Houses are. And I hate that look of desperation I can see on the faces of prospective buyers.

But I also see how easily it can be to get carried away. Emotions get involved when it comes to buying a home, no matter how much you swear you’ll think and act logically … and when you’re faced with a decision to bid $5-10k more or risk losing your “dream home,” all of a sudden it doesn’t seem like such a big deal to slap some more debt onto your back … even though $5-10k could represent an entire year (or more) of savings.

I know that RD are lucky in that we can afford to buy exactly what we’re looking for, even in this over-heated market. But it doesn’t mean that we’re going to. Maybe we’ll end up buying this year, or maybe we’ll just keep watching the insanity from the sidelines.

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