If I Knew Then

If I Knew Then: Credit Cards

Buy now, pay later! No interest for 12 months! 0% interest is a very typical promotional tactic that credit card companies use to entice new customers. Deferred interest is awesome, but this “scheme” leads far too many people into debt… myself included.

If only I knew then…

Credit Cards: Not Free Money
Credit cards take away the physical aspect of spending money, turning the act almost into an abstract. It is harder to fully grasp the magnitude of how much you spend. It is far too easy to swipe a plastic card without fully considering whether one can truly afford the purchase. The situation worsens with the false security of deferred interest for many months. The future is again an abstract that often comes faster than one realizes.

12 months is not long, especially if you carry a high balance and only make the minimum payment. It is extremely easy to overspend when you think “the bill” won’t come for a “long time”.

Balance Transfers: Shifting, not Eliminating
The other big tactic in the credit card companies’ arsenal is balance transfers, which offer deferred interest for many months for a “low” transaction fee. Some people consider balance transfers as a way to buy them more time to pay off an overwhelming amount of debt. Sadly some wind up in a vicious cycle of balance transfers. Transferring a balance is not the same as paying it off. The debt is still very much there and has actually increased due to the balance transfer fee.

My Debt Story
I sadly was prey to both traps. I got caught like a fly on a spider’s web from all of the 0% interest credit cards I accumulated. I spent far more lavishly than I should have, again all because I thought I could pay it all off before the promotional period was up. Because I didn’t budget or keep track of my spendings, I ended up having high balances which I then resorted to balance transfers to avoid interest. I couldn’t believe I had become a statistic, part of the bunch with poor financial planning. It took quite some time, but after budgeting and planning, I was finally able to come out from under.

We Say
Do not become another victim for credit card companies to feast on. They bet against you, hoping to collect interest and fees. Always carefully consider any purchase, regardless of whether you pay cash or credit. Don’t spend more now thinking you can pay for it far later. You will end up paying much more!

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If I Knew Then: GPA Matters

I used to have straight A(+)’s.

Then… school became unchallenging and I thought letter grades were rather arbitrary. I’d rather pursue my own interests. I almost became a rebel in high school. While I still did all my homework (in class), I didn’t care to go above and beyond. I spent my time reading what I enjoyed and writing what my mind imagined.

College was not much different. I didn’t want my character to be defined by a number, a 4.0. For some classes, I didn’t care as long as I remained “above average”. I didn’t graduate top of my class. Sure, I still got a good job. Sure, I still got accepted into grad school. But…

I also got rejected. I applied to an Ivy League to work with a faculty who was very enthusiastic about me. She was on the admissions committee and I was pretty much a shoe-in. Yet, I got denied because my GPA didn’t make the cut; accepting me would mean lowering their statistics.

I also started grad school later than I would have liked because I needed years to build research experience in order to compensate for my less than stellar GPA. While in the end I still got where I needed to be, I can’t deny that my choices have been limited. This was the consequence I paid for not working toward “the grades”.

I admit it still feels silly that a number would have so much power over your career trajectory, but it begins to make sense. After all, employers and admission committees need an easy screening method to filter through thousands of applications. Don’t let a single digit number limit you. Once you’ve changed your attitude about GPA and are ready to work for the grades, read my study tips below:

1) Attend all lectures. You won’t know what materials the professor emphasized (and likely to be on exams) unless you show up to class.

2) Ask questions. No question is dumb. If it’s unclear to you, it’s unclear to someone else. They are thanking you for asking. Be their hero. If you are really shy and prefer to ask questions one-on-one instead, attend office hours!

3) Read. Why pay for an expensive textbook if you’re not going to use it? When you read, take notes on the margins. Paraphrase. Don’t highlight – that’s just an excuse to process the materials later. Process now. Synthesize now. For each paragraph, be able to summarize with a sentence or two.

4) Re-write your notes after each lecture. This may sound time-consuming, but it has saved a lot of students (I’m a TA, I know). When you re-write, you get to organize notes in a way that makes sense to you. More importantly, you get to incorporate the reading notes to your lecture notes.

5) Study at the same time everyday. Staying consistent helps you focus better. Make sure your study area has good lighting and little to no distraction. Avoid placing your desk in front of a window.

6) Write your paper now. There are no good writers. There are only good re-writers. Make sure you start your paper early enough to leave plenty of time for edits. Did you know that we offer free editing services? Take advantage! There is no catch – we simply love writing and helping others makes us happy.

7) Exercise your brain daily. A little brain teaser each day goes a long way. I like to begin my day with a morning latte and some fun brain games to help me concentrate better throughout the day.

We Say
A 4.0 isn’t necessarily a sign of a smart student, but it definitely is a sign of a diligent student. Hard work now pays off later. And everyone wants to employ a hard worker. No matter what career you choose, start with good credentials.

If I Knew Then: Relationships at Work

On Grey’s Anatomy, Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) once said, “… you’re just a bunch of people I worked with, and I can find that anywhere,” to one of her colleagues (who was also supposedly her friend). It was a heartbreakingly cold and rather cruel statement. Didn’t we watch them support one another through trials and tribulations? Weren’t they “family” (since most came from broken homes)?

Little did I know she was just stating the harsh truth/reality.

If only I knew then…

Not your enemy
We all want to advance to the top of our chosen careers. Beginning from the application process to the actual hiring, it is one stiff competition after another to get and keep our job. However, it is important not to feel any animosity towards colleagues. Nothing is worse than a sour working relationship or a tense and awkward working environment. It is not good for company morale or productivity. There will always be office politics and rivalries. However, it is important for your mental well-being to stay neutral and try not to partake (or initiate) such activities.

Not your family
A typical work week is 40 hours. For some, they see their colleagues more than their own family members and friends. In fact, some people regard their colleagues as their “work family”. Friendships at work are a must – they make your job much easier and more enjoyable. However, don’t mistaken these relationships as “replacement” for your “real” family/friends. Unlike your “real” family and friends, most of them won’t be there for you whenever and wherever. You guys see each other, chat, and help one another out at work (or happy hour). Once your shift is over or on days off? Probably not any contact.

Office relationships
Management often frowns upon dating in the workplace. The reason why romantic relationships at work is discouraged is because of the potential for the messiness that can ensue from a break-up. If the break-up is not “clean”, it is very hard to be around someone you used to date, let alone trying to be productive and work with them. Furthermore, it makes others uncomfortable. Even without a break-up, having a romantic tie with a colleague can sometimes be awkward (for example, if you disagree with his/her ideas or disapprove of his/her work) and impede workflow. Nevertheless, dating at work can sometimes be hard to avoid since you see these people for a good chunk of the week. If you do embark on dating from work, try to find someone from a different department (to decrease the chance of you two ever having to work together). However, you never know when/where “love” will hit you, so if you happen to fall for the colleague next door (or boss?), remember to maintain open communication and try your best to clearly separate work from your personal lives/issues.

We Say
Don’t emotionally over invest into your colleagues and bosses. At the end of the day, the main tie of your interactions is the job. Unless there are significant roots beyond the workplace, don’t expect anything more than a superficial relationship. When it comes to work, it is always best to separate your personal life from your professional life.

Do not marry your work either. If you fall ill from over exhaustion, the company can always replace you. But, your family only has you.