Thursday, October 31, 2013

How to Develop Strategies for the Implementation of your Goals

Strategy refers to the way we organize our plan of work, and is directly linked to our action. It´s in the strategy that the activities of the work are detailed, giving us information about how the activity is performed, and in which way we wish to reach the goal.

            In our daily tasks, strategy formulation is essential because it lays out the steps required, and outlines what we still have to do to achieve our goals.
            A good strategy should take into consideration, the following points:
·         An examination and analysis of the activity you want to develop;
·         Strengths and purpose of the activity;
·         Whether the task is really viable for the moment;
·     Question the main benefits that this action will bring, and which people will be involved
·         The risks and limitations related in the development of the activity

     Strategy is a key step in goal setting, because it´s through development of a strategy that  guidelines to achieving our goals are determined. A strategy is action based: what to do; when to do it and who will complete the tasks. Remember, the practice of strategy is constant, and any strategy needs to be monitored and adjusted when necessary.So take a moment to think of a goal.  Now what is your strategy to make this goal a reality?

Daniela Silva is married, Brazilian, and currently resides in Sao Paulo, where she works in her home office with research and projects in education and the third sector.  Graduated in Pedagogy, she has qualifications in: Pedagogy and school management business.  And an MBA in Managing People.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

7 Job Hunt Rules to Ignore

This post originally appeared on The Daily Muse.
The world of job hunting moves fast. Once, you’d scour the newspaper for openings; now, you have your choice of online job boards. Resumes used to be printed on thick, quality cardstock, and now, they’re usually not printed at all. The standard uniform of a suit and tie isn’t even required anymore.
And it’s not just that the rules have changed. The new rules are: There are no rules.
So, if you’ve been following some dated (er, traditional) job search tips, it’s time to think again. Here are a few rules you may have heard, why you should break them, and when—on some very rare occasions—you should follow them anyway.

Rule #1: Cast the Widest Net Possible

Years ago, it was standard to print up several copies of a one-size-fits-all resume and mail it out to as many potential employers as possible. In theory, this game of odds made sense—the more resumes you sent out, the more chances you had for an employer to call you back.
But that strategy simply doesn’t work anymore. Between applicant tracking systemsthat filter for specific keywords and companies that are hyper-focused on culture, hiring managers are looking for a perfect fit. A generic resume points to a generic candidate—and that’s not what companies are looking for.
Instead, focus on fewer jobs—but make them count by tailoring each application to your target company.

Rule #2: Call or Stop By to Check on Your Application After a Few Days

If there was one piece of advice from my parents that I constantly raised an eyebrow at, it was this. To them, calling or stopping by a business to check on your application showed persistence and enthusiasm. But I couldn’t imagine that it did anything except annoy the hiring manager—and ultimately hurt my chances of landing the job.
In general, let your resume and cover letter speak for themselves. If you have a killer application (or better yet, a company connection that you made through networking), you’ll have a great chance of catching the hiring manager’s eye without the pestering follow-up.
That said, it can be OK to follow up if you applied blindly (i.e., you had no personal connection or applied through an online applicant tracking system) and haven’t heard back in a couple weeks. But via email. Please, only email.

Rule #3: Include an Objective Statement at the Top of Your Resume

Objective statements made a bit more sense when they were combined with Rule #1—as you were widely distributing your resume, your objective statement gave the company a better idea of what kind of role you were after.
But now, not only do they come across as vague (“I’m interested in a position where I can use my experience to expand my skills”) and generic (“I’m looking for an entry-level position with potential for growth”), they just don’t make much sense. if you’re tailoring your cover letter and resume to apply for an inside sales position, there’s no need to make a blanket statement that says the same thing at the top of your resume.

Rule #4: Use a Traditional Letter Format for Your Cover Letter

When I first learned how to create a cover letter, the format was standard. You’d include all your contact information first—including your full street address, home and cell phone numbers, and email address—then the same information for the hiring manager or company you were addressing the letter to. Only after all that (whew!) would you get to the meat of the letter.
The thing is, you don’t actually send your cover letters in the mail anymore—so the formal letter format isn’t necessary. Most times, you’ll either attach your cover letter to an email or use it as the body of your email, which has your resume attached. Yes, your contact information should be accessible, but skip the traditional formatting and put a line at the top of your resume and bottom of your email. They’ll find it—promise.

Rule #5: Write Your Resume and Cover Letter in Formal Language

Most cover letters used to start with a standard opening phrase along the lines of “Enclosed please find my resume as an application for the position of Marketing Director, as advertised on” Some even used the opening line of “Dear Sir or Madam.”
While hiring managers’ general opinions on cover letters vary widely (i.e., some prefer them over resumes, some refuse to read them at all), it’s best to start with something conversational and polite—then, depending on how well you understand the company culture, you can get a little creative.

Rule #6: Always Wear a Suit to an Interview

When it comes to interviews, the way you dress will play a big part in the first impression you make—which can set the stage for the rest of your interview and, ultimately, even play a role in whether or not you land the gig. And so, it’s not surprising that a suit is the go-to standard for such a high-stakes situation.
But it only takes one start-up interview to figure out that a suit can actually make you stick out in a bad way. If everyone at the company wears jeans and t-shirts on a regular basis, your suit is going to make you come across as stuffy and formal—or worse, a total mismatch for the company culture.
It’s more important to find out how company regulars dress on a daily basis, and then step it up just a notch for that first meeting (e.g., if everyone wears jeans, don a pair of pressed khakis). You’ll easily prove that you can fit right in.
One caveat: Follow this rule anyway if your target company is truly a business formal environment or if you can’t adequately gauge the dress code pre-interview. Too dressy is always better than too casual.

Rule #7: Always Send a Handwritten Thank You Note

A handwritten thank you note probably won’t hurt your chances of landing a new job (who doesn’t like receiving non-bank statement snail mail?). But to be honest, it’s not a necessity anymore. In fact, you can make just as good of an impression with a speedy (i.e., same day) email thank you. Plus, you’ll make it a lot easier for the interviewer to respond directly to your email, while a handwritten note will likely go unanswered.
Of course, use your best judgment here. If your interviewer comes across as fairly traditional or formal—or has beautiful notecards displayed visibly in the office—he or she may appreciate the charm of a handwritten note.

Monday, October 28, 2013

How Wanting it all Can Make you Unhappy

Are you ready for this?
Back in the ’70s, all we wanted was to “have it all.” A happy marriage, a good job, healthy kids—and a little bit of work/life balance. Ever since, working moms have put up the good fight, struggling to juggle a career and a home life without dropping the ball (any ball!).
Now a new study suggests women who want it all—and believe it’s possible to achieve—are actually unhappier. According to a study out of the University of Washington, working mothers who profess that their home and office lives can be seamlessly juggled are at a greater risk for depression than their more realistic colleagues.
Working moms who attempt to achieve “Supermom” status are more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression.
In other words, the happiest working moms are “willing to let some things slide,” reports Katrina Leupp, a sociology graduate student and the study’s author.

How We Got Here

The study has tracked the same set of 1,600 married women—a mix of stay-at-home and working mothers—since they were between the ages of 14 and 22. Way back when, researchers started by asking for their reactions to a series of provocative statements, such as:
  • “A woman who fulfills her family responsibilities doesn’t have time for a job outside the home.”
  •  “The employment of wives leads to more juvenile delinquency.”
Now, as adults, Leupp analyzed the women’s answers, as well as their comparative levels of depression (while controlling for marital happiness and hours worked). Her calculations turned up two key findings: First, the research confirmed earlier studies which have shown that moms who are employed generally report better mental health than their stay-at-home counterparts. On the other hand, working moms who attempt to achieve Supermom status—in other words, those who try to have it all, without admitting that it’s difficult—are more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression.

What It Means

While working appears to have positive effects on women’s health and the health of their kids, the study also reveals that facing the fact that being a working mom in America isn’t easy may be your best chance at happiness. “The research findings point to the mismatch between women’s expectations about work and family and the actual structure of the workplace and family care,” Leupp tells LearnVest. “American parents receive little childrearing aid in the form of paid parental leave or subsidized childcare, and women do the bulk of the housework and childcare, even when employed full-time.”
As a result, supermoms who internalize the issue (read: “It’s me. I should do better.”), as opposed to admitting that the problem is real—and something nearly every working mom struggles with—wind up feeling guilty or experiencing a sense of personal failure.

How You Can (Almost) Have It All

According to Leupp, the key to work/life balance is facing the fact that you can’t do it all. But “letting things go,” isn’t easy, especially when you have two to-do lists. So how do you stay on top of everything while accepting that it’s OK to be less than perfect?
“A large part of the depression that women feel stems from a sense of being overwhelmed,” says Cathy Greenberg, Ph.D., author of What Happy Women Know. “To help combat that, focus on small changes you can make in your daily routine.” Consider these ideas:

Feed Well-Being

An act as simple as switching from coffee to green tea, or deciding to drink more water, can literally impact your mood. While it’s easy to medicate with lattes, both caffeine and sugar set you up for adrenal fatigue, which leaves you more exhausted, instead of energized.

Cross Things Off

Take one or two minor items off your to-do list, or delegate those responsibilities. Ask your husband to make dinner once a week, recruit another mom into the carpool or have the kids feed the dog before you get home. Enlisting support not only whittles your list but will also make you feel less alone.

Embrace Healthy Multitasking

When it comes to fitting in exercise, get creative: Grab the dog or the stroller, or ask an older child to walk and talk with you. Maureen, 36, a web editor, bought a fitness DVD and works out at home instead of going to the gym. “I pop it in after my daughter Clemens, 4, has gone to bed, so it’s less time away from her,” she says. “Every minute counts!”

Focus on the Good Stuff

Many of us have a tendency to run what psychologists call a “negative loop.” Focusing on what went wrong, or what we should have done, is a definite trap for tapped-out moms. Instead, decide to replay the happiest five to ten minutes of your day to remind yourself of what went right. At the end of the week, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at all you’ve accomplished.
Don’t Assume She’s a Supermom
Just as we pay more attention to how much our friends earn than our own bottom line, it’s easy to measure yourself against other mothers. As Bonnie, a tax accountant and mother to three-year-old Ryan, puts it: “I feel guilty for not showing up to all his school events. His preschool teacher actually said it was ‘nice to see me’ the one time I read to his class because, according to her, I’m the only mom who doesn’t.” Remember: You don’t have to do it the way other moms, your sister or your best friend does, let alone the way anyone else thinks you should. Now we have proof that there’s no such thing as a “Supermom”—and that trying to be less of one will actually make you happier.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Work Benefits that Save You Money

by , September 9, 2013 
The Benefits That Save Money
If the only time you looked over your employee benefits was when you picked your healthcare coverage during your first week on the job, chances are you’re missing out on a bunch of other things your company can do for you. In fact, more and more employers are offering benefits, discounts, and savings plans that help you keep more of your hard-earned paycheck in your bank account.
If you’re not taking advantage of these benefits (or not even sure your company offers them) check with your HR team now. Open enrollment is typically offered during the fourth quarter, so you don’t want to miss out!

Grow Your Retirement Fund 

Although many employers have switched to DIY style retirement planning for their employees—and pensions are pretty much a thing of the past—some companies still offer to match a portion of your 401(k) contribution. If yours is one of them, not taking advantage of this benefit is akin to walking away from free money. Contribute at least enough to your 401(k) to qualify for the full match.
Not sure whether that’s enough to fund your retirement goals? More and more companies are providing their employees with free or reduced cost services from a financial advisor or counselor. Find out if yours is one of them (or suggest it to HR!).

Get in Shape

In an effort to contain rising healthcare costs, many businesses promote a healthy lifestyle among their employees by reimbursing for the costs of health club memberships—or even by providing onsite gyms, free yoga, or wellness consultations. While these services will obviously save you on your monthly fitness costs, taking care of your body now can save you even more in reduced medical costs in the future.

Sharpen Your Skills

Want to earn an MBA, but not looking forward to the cost of tuition? Many companies will reimburse you for coursework related to your line of work. Before you sign up for classes, check with HR to find out what expenses are covered and any other qualifications you need to meet. For instance, you may need to stay with the company for a year or two to qualify; if you move on sooner, the company may require you to return the funds.
Your company or department may also cover the costs of conferences, seminars, and webinars, or other opportunities for you to grow in your role, as well. Often, these opportunities aren’t always advertised, though—so it’s definitely worth it to ask!

Keep More Pre-Tax Dollars

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) let you set aside your pre-tax earnings to cover your out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare, childcare, or the costs of your commute. (Not all companies provide FSAs for each purpose; ask your HR team for your options.) You enroll in the plan at the beginning of the year, determine how much you’d like to contribute to your account, and have a portion deducted from each paycheck. Then, as you incur those expenses, you submit your bills or receipts for reimbursement.
The benefit of an FSA is that it reduces your income taxes, as your FSA contributions are deducted from your pay before federal, state, and Social Security taxes are calculated. Just be careful not to overestimate your expenses—you’ll forfeit any funds remaining in your account at the end of the year.

Ask About Additional Benefits 

These are the basics, but your employer may provide you with additional industry-specific benefits. For example, since I work for a credit union, I get a nice discount on my auto loan rate (and will on a mortgage when I decide to buy a home). My husband, an engineer with a major appliance company, gets significant discounts on washers, dryers, refrigerators, and more. The discounts specific to your company can add up to huge savings (or more temptation to spend—as I found while working in a bookstore café during college!).

So, take a peek at your HR website and see what might be offered to you. Going from leaving these benefits on the table to taking advantage of the savings can be almost like getting a raise!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Are You Losing Money by Staying in Your Job?

This article is from our friends at LearnVest, a leading site for personal finance.

With the unemployment rate still hovering at 7.4%, those of us who are fortunate enough to have jobs tend to see it as a victory. In fact, according to a joint survey conducted by LearnVest and Chase Blueprint™, six in 10 respondents felt lucky to be working in this economy.
That said, just because you have a gig doesn’t mean that you should stay in it forever. Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees today average 4.6 years at any given job. That’s a far cry from the days of putting in your time and retiring from a company that you joined fresh out of college.
But while moving around too much can give hiring managers potential pause, staying at one place of employment for too long can also raise a red flag on your resume. Translation: Employers sometimes equate job longevity with laziness, lack of flexibility, or worse—fear of change. Plus, part of being mindful about your financial progress is reassessing your earning potential, which is hard to do when you’re stuck on one predetermined salary track.
So when is the best time to leave a steady gig? We asked three long-term job holders to grant us a glimpse at their employment history—and then asked Colleen Georges, a career coach and co-author of 101 Great Ways to Enhance Your Career, for her expert input on how much they’ve truly sacrificed in earning potential—and whether it’s finally time for them to move on.

1. The Tried-and-True Tech Gig

Paul Diaz, 36, IT Project Manager
Years at his job: 14
When I first started as a contractor at my company in 2000, I was expecting to just work a one- to two-year gig before jumping from company to company, which was typical of the IT field then. But they liked me, so I was offered a permanent job after just one year. At the time, this was great news—one of the biggest things that I liked about the company (aside from having a nice salary fresh out of college) was the fact that they hadn’t had a single layoff in years, which made me feel very secure.
Getting a job at such a large company also gave me the added bonus of being able to bounce around internally. I started off taking support calls for the company’s help desk. Today, I’m a project manager for several multimillion dollar projects, managing up to 50 contractors. Of course, times have changed a bit, and we’ve gone through many rounds of layoffs since I started. The scariest thing is that my wife works in the same department, so we literally have all our eggs in one basket—and run the risk of us both being laid off.
Yes, I sometimes feel like I’ve been here too long. And now that I have my master’s, I could probably make at least $20,000 more, with who knows how much in possible raises elsewhere. But I like my work and my company. Every five years, I also get a few more vacation days, and there’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to summer hours and the ability to work from home—which was especially helpful when my first child was born.

Our Career Expert Weighs In
Paul has found a company that has allowed him to progress in titles, compensation, and responsibilities. For him, remaining at the same place for 14 years hasn’t been stagnant—rather, it has facilitated continuous growth. But since his company has seen many layoffs, and he and his wife both work in the same department, exploring new opportunities may not be a bad idea. A new position at another company could help allay Paul’s fear of getting laid off simultaneously.
The other challenge is that Paul is now 36, and there’s a host of research indicating that well over 50% of professionals’ lifetime earning growth occurs during the first 10 years of a career. If Paul does decide to stay at his current company, he certainly holds the credentials now to start a technology consulting business on the side to make up for this loss in earnings—and provide some additional financial resources for his family.

The Time Cap on Staying Put
Paul is just four years shy of his 40s, when salaries often hit their plateau, making it much more challenging to catch up financially. If he is contemplating a move, now is likely the time to make it, providing that he finds a role with monetary opportunities and personal benefits that are at least equal to those afforded at his current company.

2. The Low-Paying (But Beloved) Nonprofit Job

Tracy Lavelle, 28, YMCA Membership Director
Years at her job: 6
I graduated from college in 2007 with a degree in sports management—and just a few months later, I started working at the YMCA. Most days I love my job, especially interacting with members. After two years I became eligible for retirement, and my vacation days have also increased from a mere five to a respectable 15.
I feel as though I have job security—I have a good gig when others have none—but there are definitely times when I think that I should move on. It can be difficult to do the same things for six years in a row, so I keep requesting new responsibilities and tasks to combat boredom.
I also think that the YMCA takes me for granted as an employee, seeing as I put in extra hours and effort for nothing in return. And there’s the fact that I’ve missed out on monetary compensation. Over the years my salary has increased by $11,000 through a combination of raises and salary readjustments. But if I worked at a for-profit, I would most likely be making $15,000 to $20,000 more. But I can’t see myself leaving the nonprofit world just yet.

Our Career Expert Weighs In
We often carry with us a lot of shoulds about jobs and careers. “I should keep trying to move up the ladder.” “I should seek more money.” “I should leave to get experience with another organization.”
I definitely believe that when you feel unhappy in a position, dissatisfied with the company you work for, or undercompensated in a role, you need to listen to these shoulds in your mind. However, if you love your job and the work environment, as Tracy indicates that she does, staying can sometimes makes sense. So many people feel unhappy at work, and so few can say that they love their jobs—that’s a luxury to hold onto.
That said, it’s important for Tracy to keep requesting new responsibilities—it’s a resume builder that will show she has continued to grow and evolve in her role. Tracy is already six years into the most critical wage-growth period of her career, and since she has a passion for nonprofit work, perhaps she could explore higher-level management opportunities at other nonprofits. She could also investigate non-corporate arenas, such as higher education or sports and recreation management jobs, which may have better salaries and benefits. This would allow her to continue doing work that makes a difference—and increase her earning power.

The Time Cap on Staying Put
Your 20s are a key time for saving. If she’s not putting enough into retirement savings now, Tracy will need to double her efforts in her 30s to reach the same rate of return by retirement. Furthermore, there’s a point at which staying too long at one job—around eight to 10 years—can raise questions about how a professional will adapt to a new environment. With six years already under her belt, Tracy probably shouldn’t wait more than two years to make a career move if she wants to diversify her experience—and make a more sizable financial contribution to her future.

3. The Comfortable Corporate Gig

Ruth Chin, 36, Business Analyst
Years at her job: 13
I started out as a summer temp at my company when I was in college. Since then, I’ve had a bunch of different positions and titles. My company has also paid for continuing education courses that have helped my career evolve; about five years ago, I went back to school for a certificate in business analysis, which turned out to be one of my best career decisions.
The skills that I’ve gained and the historical knowledge that I have about the company make me very valuable. In fact, I’ve survived several rounds of layoffs. But I do wonder what I’m missing out on by not moving from company to company. Are there different or better ways of doing things? Am I limiting myself by not being exposed to other corporate cultures?
Yet what I have now is so good that it’s going to take a lot for me to leave. I like the people I work with, and I have lots of opportunities to learn new skills. I also now make more than double the salary I had when I first started. The company also matches contributions to my 401(k), offers fantastic healthcare benefits, and still has a fully-funded pension plan, which is rare these days! Moreover, I’m eligible for a yearly bonus, and as I rise through the ranks, the percentage of my salary that I’m eligible to receive as a bonus gets larger.
I probably could make more money as a consultant, but I don’t want that lifestyle. I live within a reasonable distance to my job, and I like that I don’t have to fly in planes and live in hotels. Plus, I don’t have the ambition to be a senior executive—I don’t want to miss out on life for the sake of climbing the corporate ladder. Maybe my perspective is too myopic, but I’m happy.

Our Career Expert Weighs In
Ruth seems to have found amazing perks with her company—both from a monetary and personal perspective. How many people can say that they’ve doubled their salary in just over 10 years, and receive annual bonuses during this economic downturn? Plus, her employer has paid for her continuous education and provided excellent health, pension, and vacation benefits. It sounds like Ruth has hit the jackpot all around.
If the negatives of her position ever begin to outweigh the positives, it will be time to look elsewhere. But since Ruth still feels good about where she is and what she’s doing, staying put for now may be a good choice.
In the meantime, to expand her experience and skills and diversify her resume, Ruth could consider starting a consulting practice on the side, taking on just one small project at a time that wouldn’t overwhelm her current lifestyle. Plus, it would give her experience with a variety of other companies, which will show a broader scope of experience to future hiring managers.

The Time Cap On Staying Put
At 36, Ruth is still at a prime hiring age. However, as professionals edge past 45, it can become more challenging to secure new opportunities—and it becomes advisable to shave off titles and education showing one’s age. If Ruth plans to look for new opportunities, she should consider doing so in the next two to five years.

More From LearnVest

Monday, October 21, 2013

Time for A Menopause Tune Up

Last week, my husband reminded me it was time for my car’s regularly scheduled tune up. The brake lining, fluid levels, tire alignment, balancing—it all needed to be checked out.

For both David and me, maintaining safe, well-running cars is a huge priority. After all, we spend a tremendous amount of time in those cars, commuting to work, meetings, family gatherings, and just running errands. Then it hit me (a question, not a car!): why are so many of us incredibly organized and attentive when it comes to the wellbeing of our cars, but not when it comes to the wellbeing of our primary vehicles (the bodies that we ride around in 24/7)?!?!

If our cars groan, sputter, or smoke, we take them into the mechanic without a second of hesitation, but when our bodies are flashing, flushing, overheating, and experiencing many of the more than 30 symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, we far too often suffer in silence! Many women, even if undergoing hormone replacement therapy, don’t get rechecked when they find themselves experiencing old or new symptoms. 

Just like our cars need adjustments from time to time, so do our hormones and healthcare.

Our cars have all kinds of flashing, blinking, chirping alarms for a reason: to tell us to attend to their needs. Our bodies are built with alarms, too. When we don’t feel right, it’s our bodies’ dashboards telling us that something is wrong. So why don’t we pay attention to them? Why do we wait until we find ourselves on the equivalent of a highway shoulder? When it comes to caring for our perimenopause and menopause symptoms, we all too often wait for a crisis to hit us before attending to them. It’s as if we had been waiting for AAA to come and give us a menopausal tow into the nearest garage! (Bad visual, right?)

It’s time for some preventative care—a tune up, if you will. Preventative care is the true foundation of living and being well. Every 10,000 miles or so, we take our cars in for a looksee from our friendly mechanic. The same should be true for our bodies. Why check the lining of our brakes, but not the lining of our vaginas?

It’s way too common for women to not check their estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and other hormone levels. We need to do this in order to make sure that all of our “equipment” is working well. We would never think of driving with anything less than a well-oiled engine and plenty of fuel, but when was the last time you asked your gynecologist to screen you for vaginal atrophy? Is your vagina lubricating and running right? If not, your health, sex life, enjoyment, and romantic relationships can suffer.

Here are my five steps to getting on the road to hormone happiness:

1. Listen to Your Body.
Listening to our bodies’ dashboards is the first and most important step in our bodies riding smoothly during perimenopause and menopause. Until you pay attention to those flashing lights, you can’t do anything about them.

2. Find a Menopause Specialist. Gynos are great, but they often aren’t trained in the specifics of perimenopause and menopause tune ups. To find a specialist near you, consult my Menopause Doctor Directory, get a referral from your primary care physician, or ask the women in your life who’s guiding them toward hormone happiness.

3. Chart Your Menopause Symptoms. To help track your symptoms, sign up for my free Menopause Mondays Newsletter to receive my Menopause Symptoms Chart via email. Each day, chart the frequency, duration, and severity of your perimenopause and menopause symptoms and take this chart in with you to your appointment with your menopause specialist.

4. Know Your Numbers. Ask your menopause specialist about receiving a complete blood workup, including a hormone panel. The proper testing together with your completed Menopause Symptoms Chart will enable your doctor to create an individualized program just for you. There are lots of numbers involved, but don’t worry, no algebra needed!

5. Stay on the Path. Remember, one tune up is not enough. Constantly listen to your body, monitor your symptoms, and maintain an open dialogue with your menopause specialist.

As we continue on with our summer travels and get our cars all ready to roll, let’s remind ourselves to put our own personal health needs on our tune-up list. After all, without that our bodies can’t properly take us where we want and need to go. So turn up your car’s volume and heed the wise words of the Beatles…

Baby you can drive my car
Yes I’m gonna be a star
Baby you can dive my car
And maybe I’ll love you

Ellen Dolgen is a Health and Wellness Advocate, Menopause Awareness Expert, Author, Speaker, and health blogger. 

Ellen is the author of Shmirshky: The Pursuit of Hormone Happiness -- a cut-to-the-chase book on perimenopause and menopause that's filled with crucial information, helpful guides, and hilarious and heartfelt stories. Known for her humor, compassion, and sassy personality, Ellen has appeared on numerous television and radio broadcasts, including: the Rachael Ray Show, The Doctors, Oprah Radio, Playboy Radio, “Tell Me More" on NPR, Doctor Radio, and dozens of other regional and national media outlets. Ellen is a frequent guest on the popular radio show, "Broadminded," on Sirius XM Radio (Stars XM 107) and is a regular contributor on Huff/Post 50 along with blogging for many leading women’s health sites. Ellen has dedicated herself to women’s wellness through a wide breadth of activities ranging from being a founding board member of the UCSD Student Wellness Center, working with pharmaceutical companies in helping them to effectively address women’s health needs, serving on hospital advisory boards, and advocating for cardiovascular health.

Ellen’s motto is: Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!

For more from Ellen Dolgen:
Visit her at and subscribe to her Menopause Mondays newsletter. 
Follow Ellen Dolgen on Twitter:
Like Ellen Dolgen on Facebook:
Find Ellen Dolgen on LinkedIn:
Watch Ellen’s videos on YouTube:
Follow Ellen Dolgen on Pinterest:
Follow Ellen Dolgen on Klout:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Calculate Your Retirement Number

The “million dollar” question many of those preparing for retirement ask themselves is simply stated but not necessarily easy to answer – “how much money do I need to save to secure a comfortable retirement?” In some circles, this is referred to as “the number” – that magical figure that tells pre-retirees how prepared they may be.

A recent survey from Ameriprise Financial found that working Americans ages 50-70 with at least $100,000 in investable assets estimated that what they needed to comfortably retire was, on average, $930,000.*

But what does that number really mean? How important is it? What assumptions must you make to arrive at a number – and how many rapidly changing factors impact your number? Preparing for retirement is about much more than arriving at a number, but some calculation is necessary.

Calculate your retirement expenses
When determining how much you’ll need to save for retirement, it’s helpful to think in terms of how much income you’ll need to withdraw to cover expenses. But projecting future spending is an inexact science at best. Some expenses might go away (mortgage, FICA taxes, retirement plan contributions), but you may also have more time and energy to spend money on the things you need and want to do in retirement. There are also expenses that could greatly increase in retirement like medical costs.

Using your current spending habits as a starting point, draw up a realistic list of anticipated living costs in retirement. There are two primary categories to review in this regard:

Essential expenses
These are the required costs associated with daily living – food, shelter, utilities, transportation, insurance (health, life, long-term care) and taxes – that most likely will persist throughout retirement.

Lifestyle expenses
This is the “fun” part of retirement – interests that you want to pursue such as golfing, travel, owning a vacation property or starting a business. To make these lifestyle choices a reality, enough money needs to be in place to finance them. But separating out lifestyle expenses from required expenses can help you prioritize using funds from your nest egg too quickly and jeopardizing your long-term financial security. Note that spending on lifestyle needs can be adjusted as needed throughout retirement, as these are considered discretionary expenses.

Match assets to expenses
Rather than trying to assess whether a single lump sum amount is sufficient to meet income needs in retirement, a more practical approach may be to match specific assets (or sources of income) to various expenses.

The highest priority is the essential expenses category. Your goal should be to enter retirement with a virtual guarantee that required living costs are going to be met without interruption no matter how long you live. There are two clear sources of guaranteed income for retirement: Social Security and a defined benefit plan - when available. Of course if you’re still far from retirement, Social Security shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a long-term guaranteed source of income due to potential changes as budget discussions unfold in Washington. If these income sources don’t produce enough income to meet required expenses over time, additional income could be generated in another way such as an annuity providing a guaranteed income stream. Note that using this approach, future income is not subject to the variability of the markets1.

Your remaining available assets can be used to fund lifestyle expenses. You may choose to invest this money more actively with a strategy of drawing down assets over time using a sustainable withdrawal rate.

A true number may be elusive, but using this process, you may have a better sense of what your ultimate savings goal is. It may be useful to set multiple goals – or “numbers” – to reach enough to cover essential expenses and then lifestyle expenses. Beyond these goals, you might also consider the amount you’ll need to cover unexpected expenses in retirement and to leave a legacy.

Planning financially for retirement can be complex. Taking the appropriate steps to calculate your retirement income needs is a great first step, but with an economic and political environment that is constantly evolving, it can become even more complicated as you near retirement. Consider working with a financial professional who can help you work toward your short- and long-term goals.

Renée A. Hanson, CFP®, CEP®, CDFA™, CFS, is a private wealth advisor with Hanson, Ayala & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Her passion is in helping women achieve their dreams and financial goals, regardless of life’s many obstacles. Renée is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of AZ, CA, CO, GA, IA, IL, MI, MN, MT, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, SC, TX, VA, WA, WI. Please visit: to learn more.

* The Retirement Check-In® survey was created by Ameriprise Financial utilizing survey responses from 1,000 employed Americans ages 50-70. All respondents have investable assets of at least $100,000 (including employer retirement plans, but not real estate) and are planning to retire at some point. The survey was commissioned by Ameriprise Financial, Inc. and conducted via telephone interviews by Koski research from October 31- November 14, 2012. The survey was conducted  among a targeted sample of households. Cell phones were approximately 25 percent of the sample. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

1 However, inflation risk may remain, depending to some extent on the features of the specific annuity.

Annuities are not government or FDIC insured. All guarantees are based solely on the continued claims-paying ability of the issuing company.

Ameriprise Financial cannot guarantee future financial results.     

Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC.

© 2013 Ameriprise Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.                                                                                      File # 657903