Shopping 
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Precise offers and the art of haggling

Specific offers might make haggling easierNegotiating prices is an important skill to have, and not just for those times when you visit countries where haggling over small purchases is common practice.

While most day-to-day purchases aren’t negotiable in this country in the same way they are in Latin America and Asia, most of the really significant ones are. In many cases, skillful haggling can knock thousands of dollars off the price of a car and tens of thousands off the price of a house, which can have long-lasting effects on your finances. And when you’re sitting down for an interview with a potential employer and talking salary, you’re really negotiating arguably the most important price out there: the price of your labor and, ultimately, your time.
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 Career 
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Are women really paid only 77 cents for each dollar men are paid?

Do women really earn 77 cents on the dollar compared to men?It’s fairly common to hear that women are only paid 77 cents for each dollar that men earn. While this number comes from the Census Bureau and is based on solid data, it’s important to understand that it doesn’t account for factors such as education and experience.

Indeed, when you start digging into the data a little bit, you find that there are a number of causes that influence the pay gap between men and women. And, while it’s definitely there, it might not be as big — or quite as sinister — as we think.


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 Career 
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Petroleum Engineering Tops List of Best Undergrad Degrees

PayScale.com periodically updates their list of Best Undergrad College Degrees by Salary and earlier this year the list was led by Aerospace Engineering – rocket scientists. It’s not surprising to see that much of the top ten is unchanged, it’s still filled with engineers of all varieties, from Chemical to Electrical to Nuclear, but this was the first time I’ve seen Petroleum Engineering on the list.

My lovely wife graduated with a Chemical Engineering degree several years ago and many of her friends went to work for large energy companies working with petroleum. I don’t know how Petroleum Engineering differs from Chemical Engineering, other than being a specialization, but it’s been a poorly kept secret in the Chemical Engineering world that the best salaries are in working with oil.

Does this mean you should rush out to get a petroleum engineering degree? PayScale.com looks at median starting pay as well as “mid-career” median pay, so it’s a little more balanced, but a lot can change in four years. Petroleum engineering may be hot now but unless you love it, it may not be what you expect in four years. Or ten. I went to school for computer science in 1998 because it was the hot thing, fast forward three years and you hit the point people remember as the dot com bust (March 2001). So here I was, graduating early into a busted market and everyone in lockdown mode. It’s since recovered but it still hasn’t reached the excesses I was hoping to enjoy back in the day!

That being said, I’m now of the mind that if you work hard and do what you enjoy, you will succeed. You may not uncork untold fortunes but at the very least you’ll enjoy the ride. If that happens to be Petroleum Engineering, then PayScale.com thinks you’ll be pulling in over $150k a year by mid-career.


 Career 
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Decode and Understand Your Paycheck

Pay StubI remember when I received my first real pay stub, it was a mixture of happiness and absolute horror. It was my first summer internship after my freshman year of college. I was earning something like $12 and I was pumped that in my first week I’d earn $480. Then I saw my paycheck.

At first glance, your paycheck is a lot of numbers in tables. If you spend a few minutes, you can generally decode and understand what’s going on. However, sometimes it takes a little extra work because your company will use acronyms you aren’t 100% familiar with. When I looked at my first paycheck, I was able to decode it pretty easily… the Feds got their piece, NY state got their piece, and then this weirdo named FICA took a little slice. What? Who the heck is FICA?

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 Career 
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2010 Fortune’s 25 Top Paying Companies

Fat Stack of BenjaminsEvery year, Forbes puts out it’s full list of the Top 100 companies to work for and every year I look for the two employers I’ve ever had… only really expecting to see one of them (and fairness, there aren’t any major defense contractors on the list). This year, my last company, Booz Allen Hamilton, retained the 52nd spot on the list despite going through some huge organizational changes. I have nothing but good things to say about the organization and the people I had the pleasure of working with while I was there.

But, enough about why *I* look at the list, let’s see which companies stack up where it matters most – pay.

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 Career 
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Fortune’s Top 25 Top-Paying Companies (2009)

Fat Stack of BenjaminsI always enjoy looking at these lists because they give a little glimpse into some of our nation’s most storied firms. I think these are more for entertainment purposes, much like the top paying undergraduate degrees, because the average total pay isn’t something you’ll get right out of the gate.

It’s fun to read are the various perks employees get because often times the companies that compensate the best tend to have great benefits as well. A popular company to talk about when you list slick benefits is always Google’s plethora of employee benefits.

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 Education 
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Salary Breakeven for Private vs. Public College Graduates

Bachelor of Arts English DegreeI had lunch today with a few friends and the topic of private versus public college came up, a topic they recommended I put on my blog (so to appease them, I did!). As the graduates of private colleges, we were all curious what the difference in salary between graduating from a private college, paying $30,000+ a year for tuition/room/board/etc, and graduating from a public college, paying $10,000 a year for room, board, etc. The impetus of the conversation was that one friend knew someone who was graduating as a radiation oncologist and did a similar analysis between doctors and typical engineers (his analysis said it took twenty years for the doctor, a radiation oncologist, to “catch up” to an engineer, after accounting for typical raises, college loan debt, and other factors). So what’s the break-even point between private and public college graduates?

The answer …?

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 Your Take 
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Your Take: Knowing Everyone Else’s Salary

PaycheckThe New York Times posted an interesting article about salary transparency in late August and I thought it would make some fantastic Your Take fodder.

Salary transparency doesn’t bother me because my primary goal is to complete my job and ensure that my team completes our job. If someone on the team isn’t pulling their weight, it doesn’t matter what their salary is – they’re overpaid. If someone is pulling their weight, you can pay them more! I believe my salary is tied to my performance and my performance is tied to my team’s performance, so as long as all the cogs in the wheel are running well together then we all win.

Can I see a scenario where people are pissed off that someone next to them, doing the same job, is being paid more? Yes, but remember that people don’t set their own salaries (unless you’re in Congress!). If you feel you deserve more, you need to appeal to your boss, not be upset with your coworker.

I’m not saying transparency is a great idea or a terrible idea (I am aware that emotions do come into play) but I think that getting to a point where compensation isn’t such a big deal would be kind of nice.

Your thoughts?

(Photo: oyf)


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