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KF #17. Financial Acumen

449: Leaning Out with Marissa Orr

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Marissa Orr shares fresh, actionable wisdom on the workplace gender gap and reframes how alleged weaknesses can actually be strengths.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The problem with the ‘lean in’ mentality
  2. How power and money trigger value judgments when it comes to gender differences
  3. Why strengths depend on context

About Marissa

Marissa Orr began her Google career over 15 years ago as a founding member of Google’s Sales Operations & Strategy team, after which she worked as Vertical Marketing Manager at Facebook. She has conducted talks and workshops for thousands of people at diverse organizations across the globe. Originally from Miami, she now lives in New Jersey, with her three children.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Marissa Orr Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Marissa, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Marissa Orr
Thanks, it’s great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your perspectives. I think it will be provocative in a fun thought-provoking kind of a way. But maybe before we go there, let’s hear about your love for reality TV.

Marissa Orr
It’s a great way to start out in terms of setting my credibility, but that’s okay. It’s my escape. I actually have – I don’t watch it as much as I used to. Years ago I lived on Bravo – a steady diet of Bravo TV, Real Housewives of New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, LA, wherever. I’ve always been a big fan of The Bachelor and things like that.

In the past few years, my time has been crunched and I haven’t gotten to watch nearly as much as I would like to, but I’m still a fan. I’m not going to lie. I’m not ashamed.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, my brother loves The Real Housewives as well. You articulate from your world view and preferences and values and such, what is it that you dig about the show? No judgment. I genuinely want to understand you.

Marissa Orr
Yeah, yeah. No offense taken. Like I said, no shame here about it. I think if I’m really kind of digging into why these shows appeal to me so much – and I don’t mean to turn it into something highbrow because it’s certainly not – but I have always just been fascinated by the drama of humanity. These women on the show are such caricatures of people that we all know in some way that I just find it fascinating in terms of even just like observing people and how they act.

For example, on The Bachelor, I also love to guess based on what I’m reading from The Bachelor and the contestants or whatever, their body language, what they’re saying, it’s fun for me to guess who’s going to make it on to the next round it sharpened my ability to sort of read people’s behavior. When you’re right, it feels great and when you’re wrong, you learn something. That’s really The Bachelor.

But Real Housewives is just an escape. It’s drama. It’s kind of like why do people like to watch sports. They’re not participating in the sport. It gives them a little kick to root for a team. I think it’s a similar thing. It gives me a little kick. It’s fun. I find these people crazy and hilarious. I work so much. I make so many decisions every day. It’s fun to just watch other people and kind of laugh at them or with them.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear that. Sometimes at the end of the day it’s like, “I want to do the opposite of thinking.”

Marissa Orr
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
What is that?

Marissa Orr
Yes. There’s nothing wrong with it I think as long as it’s in moderation I suppose.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I want to hear about your book, Lean Out. What’s the big idea here?

Marissa Orr
Lean Out is really, quite obviously, a counterargument to lean in, but really a counterargument to most of modern-day feminism because we have been throwing the same solutions at the gender gap and at women at work for 20 years and virtually nothing has changed in terms of the numbers.

The first part of Lean Out really explains everything that modern feminism and conventional wisdom, frankly, has gotten wrong about women at work. One of those things, a broad theme, is that equality doesn’t mean we all have to be the same. We don’t have to like the same things, want the same things, get the same things. After all, diversity is about diverse set of interests, talents, strengths, perspectives and experience.

That’s one of the big themes. There’s a lot more underneath that, but I don’t know if you want me to go further or-

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure. Well, we’re going to talk about all kinds of things.

Marissa Orr
Okay.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d say one of the themes in your book is you say that there is a systemic dysfunction in our workplaces. Can you kind of paint the picture there? What is it that is broken?

Marissa Orr
Well, let me set that answer up first with a little bit more detail around the difference in the premise lean in and lean out. The general premise of lean in really pins the blame on women for the gender gap.

The prescriptions for success hinge on women acting more like men, so being more ambitious and assertive, whereas lean out really pins the blame on our institutions, which have not changed since the Industrial Age, at a time when there were no women – virtually no women in the workforce. Since then, our entire economy has transformed and the composition of our workforce, but these structures, these competitive hierarchies have remained exactly the same.

One of the things that I ask in the book is what makes more sense, rewiring women and their personalities and what they want or rewiring a system to better meet the needs of a more diverse workforce?

Part of my problem with lean in and that whole school of thought is that it dismisses women’s wants and needs as a product of culture. I think instead of dismissing them as needs, we should embrace them because men and women a lot of times want different things at work. We should embrace those differences instead of sort of dismissing what women’s concerns are and attributing it to a product of cultural oppression.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. All right, there’s so much good stuff to dig into here. First, I just want to get really clear on terms here. When you say ‘the gender gap’ what are we talking about here?

Marissa Orr
I refer to the gender gap to explain the fact that there’s four percent of Fortune 500 CEOs for example are women or a highly disproportionate amount of the C-suite and executives in corporate America are men. It’s a great question because at the beginning of the book, I really define the scope, which is corporate America, which has very different dynamics than small businesses or-

Pete Mockaitis
Education.

Marissa Orr
Education or even things like being a doctor or lawyer. One way to look at that is through the lens of academia, which you mentioned. Women dominate academia. They have for many, many years. A big question is why doesn’t that dominance last after graduation.

The conventional wisdom, again, points to culturally reinforced behavior of women bodes well in school, but not in the corporate world, whereas, my argument is that that’s not the explanation. What’s really happening is in school, performance is graded objectively. You get 94 out of 100 questions right, it doesn’t matter what your personality is, it doesn’t matter how long you study, you still got a 94.

In the corporate world, especially in today’s knowledge economy, it’s really hard to tell who’s doing a good job. We don’t have grades, so we grade instead of on competence, we grade on visibility, who is talking about their work the loudest and the most and all these really visible behaviors that correlate more highly with men.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s interesting how the grades go. When it’s subject to a human interpretation like, “Oh, I like that behavior,” “I don’t like that behavior,” then that can work against women in your worldview.

I guess, now I’m intrigued I guess when it comes to sales. That’s one of the grand sort of fair zones of performance. It’s like, “How many sales did you make?” We’ve got a number, so we can compare that there. Do women fair better in sales? I don’t actually know that answer.

Marissa Orr
I don’t actually know that either, but I think – it’s a good question – but I think there’s so many kinds of sales and so many industries. I think the context is really important, but it’s a really interesting question. I haven’t looked at it through the lens of just sales.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so I’m with you. That is intriguing. I remember when I was at my cousin, graduated from high school a couple of years ago. I was beholding all of the valedictorians – and I was a male valedictorian in high school – but they were outnumbered like four to one. It was like 80% of the valedictorians were women. It was like interesting.

Marissa Orr
It is interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
Then the numbers in terms of colleges, in terms of getting into college and then not flunking out of college are also more so in favor to women. I guess I’m really intrigued. We talk about the systemic dysfunction. You had a great video in which you shared some statistics associated with how many men versus women want to be the CEO. Can you share that piece for us?

Marissa Orr
Yeah. One of the statistics that I cite in the book is the fact that only 18% of women aspire to sort of executive or C-level roles versus 35% of men. I think what you’re talking about – is it when I said that means that the majority of the population doesn’t want to be CEO.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Marissa Orr
Why don’t we look at what’s wrong with the job instead of all the people who don’t want it?

Pete Mockaitis
Indeed. I think that’s a compelling point there. So what is wrong with the jobs and the systems and the hierarchies and the competitiveness? You say it’s old. It’s from the Industrial Revolution. What about that is suboptimal here now today?

Marissa Orr
There’s just so many things to talk about with respect to this, so if I go off on a tangent on any of them, just rein me back in.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure thing.

Marissa Orr
But I did want to dovetail off that earlier point quickly because it is obviously relevant. Of it is not just the systems, it’s how we’re measuring female progress because obviously one of the measurements that we use is positions like CEOs and corporate executives.

Only 18% of women desire to be a corporate CEO. That means the majority of women don’t want to be one. If we push them to do it anyway and they get the corner office, but they sit there sad and alone, can we really call that success? I think that goes back to what I mean about embracing women’s stated desires.

If we did a study on how many men want to run their household and do the majority of chores and domestic tasks, I wouldn’t think it would be much more than 18% either, but we don’t sort of make nationwide campaigns to push up those numbers. We judge sort of what women do in a way – or what women want in a way that we never really do with men.

Pete Mockaitis
That is intriguing. You talk about the campaigns and I’ve sort of wondered we’ve got sort of the gender wage gap with I don’t know the number of cents now – 72-ish cents on the dollar – but sometimes I wonder about the gender child time gap, like men only spend 41 minutes on the hour with their children as compared to women. But I don’t see that campaign being made.

Marissa Orr
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
So I think you’re really onto something. Discrimination and bad behavior totally happened, but you’re saying, “Hey, let’s take a look at what people actually want as a way of evaluating things.”

Marissa Orr
Yeah. What a revolutionary idea, right? Actually measure female progress based on what women say that would make them happy or make them sort of improve their wellbeing, which is a whole other chapter, which is in the book called Well-being Versus Winning, measuring female progress on wellbeing instead of winning, how we’re winning against men or in the corporate world. But should I go back to your question about what I mean with-

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, please go. Please continue.

Marissa Orr
Okay. I was going to go back to the original question, which is I think how the systems are broken. One of the ways is what I mentioned about grading on visibility versus competence because in a knowledge economy – and anyone who works in a big corporation knows that it’s really hard to tell these days who’s doing a good job.

When your job is to create marketing campaigns and strategies and even service customers, most people don’t even agree on what success looks like, let alone know who’s achieving such success or making an impact. We talk about creativity and imagination, but those things are really hard to see and measure.

One of the ways that it’s broken is that we really use these subjective and emotional measures, which are riddled with biases, to determine who’s doing a good job and we default to these proxies.

But another way is the reward system. Once you get past a certain level of management and make a certain salary, the only reward really that’s there to motivate people to climb higher and higher up the corporate ladder is power, more power over more people. But-

Pete Mockaitis
Right because you’re saying money – you’ve already got more money than you need, so it doesn’t do much for you to go from two million to two and a quarter million.

Marissa Orr
Exactly. When you look at what’s driving those people to keep going, it’s power. Research is fairly conclusive that that kind of power – power has a lot of definitions, but I’m talking about professional authority, power that’s based on your position in a hierarchy. It’s not universally motivating. A lot of women are less sort of unsatisfied.

It seems so obvious. We learn in kindergarten, everybody likes different things, but at work there’s only that one thing, so naturally the winners are going to be the ones who like that one thing more than anybody else. If you-

Pete Mockaitis
Power lovers get the power.

Marissa Orr
Well, I mean, yeah. What kind of – one of the things I joke about, but have you ever seen a corporate CEO that is kind of more like a hippy than a Gordon Gekko? No. The profile of winners are always going to be the same if you’re only motivating a very narrow subset of your workforce.

One of the things I talk about is increasing the variety of incentives. There’s other ones too, but I’ll pause here if you want to go in a different direction or have a-

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool, yeah. It’s a good point. Just while we’re there, what are some of the other incentives that should be on the menu?

Marissa Orr
Well, research also shows that women have less – their life goals are – fewer of them are focused on this kind of power. They have more life goals and they’re more varied. Some of that is balance. I would have traded 50,000 dollars’ worth of my salary for increased flexibility.

But those things in the corporate world are looked at as let’s say weakness. If you’re not in the office as much as somebody else, you’re not going to get the work assignments, the recognition and the respect if you’re only there part time. It’s not only just the incentives; it’s really how those incentives are viewed, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Marissa Orr
That’s one example. The truth is when I talk to women who’ve read the book, one of the things that really resonates with them is a part where I say that people say women lean out or don’t want to lean in once they have kids or childcare and all that stuff. That’s all very true, but I think there’s another reason.

[18:00]

I think when women start having kids and get into more of their middle to later 30s, with their time squeezed, they have dramatically lower tolerance for the office politics and BS frankly. So many women I know want to go to work and do a great job and they want work that’s meaningful, but there is just so much politics and bureaucracy and stuff that really doesn’t matter.

I think that’s another big reason that you don’t see women wanting to climb higher and higher. It’s just not – good, competent work is not rewarded, so what is left there for women at the office, but these power games that they have no interest in playing.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, certainly. That makes sense, especially if you have less time, your opportunity cost is increased and you see that junk, you’re like, “Why am I spending my life in this way?”

Marissa Orr
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
“I can do something else.” That makes sense.

Marissa Orr
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Then let’s share a bit about strengths that are more often associated with women and more often associated with men.  I want to get your take first of all just because some folks aren’t even on board with that notion that men and women are different. In fact, I found an American Psychological Association brief entitled Men and Women: No Big Difference. What’s your take on this one?

Marissa Orr
Yeah. That’s interesting. I have so many things to say on this point, but with respect to that study, I have to look at it and see what that headline really captures because sometimes there are nuances, but I think what it’s probably referring to is the fact that men and women largely are the same when it comes to personality traits. I think it’s something like 60% overlap, so yeah, that makes sense.

However, at the extremes – and 40% is not insignificant – there are differences. After all, testosterone is proven to run – we all know that that – men have more and women have more estrogen and that those hormones influence our behavior, so I don’t think that we can sidestep that sort of biological fact.

But the other thing is we all – I don’t know – I have two boys and a girl and everybody talks about freely, “Oh, boys are like this. Girls are like this.” There’s certain elements of their behavior and personality that are different. We joke about it. If you say to your mom friend or whatever, “Oh, my boys are so wild. Your girls play so nicely. Girls are – they’re not as rambunctious, whatever,” nobody accuses you of being sexist for saying that. It’s kind of something we all intuitively see with our own eyes.

But the second you put an element of power into the equation, people go crazy and take a lot of issue with that. For example, when the book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus came out all those years ago, I don’t recall that being a controversial thing. It was focused on the therapeutic and communication aspect to it. We accept that in a way.

But when it comes to power and money, I think people really take issue because they believe that if we say men and women are different, that it’s implying one’s better than the other or one’s weak and one’s strong. If you say, “More women like red and more men like green,” there’s nothing offensive about that.

Pete Mockaitis
How dare you, Marissa.

Marissa Orr
Right. People would accept that without an argument if that’s what a study said. People wouldn’t bat an eye. But it’s when you put in things like, “Women don’t want professional authority as much as men,” people start to see that as – they start making value judgments on it. I think that’s really people’s issue is the value judgment.

When you report on things like this, if they perceive that one is better than the other, it makes people defensive. But when I say women don’t want professional authority as much, I don’t mean women don’t want power. Power is a much broader concept and that’s just one kind of power.

I think women wield incredible amount of power in this world. They just – it’s not the power through a male-world view. Men have a very different relationship to power. The power men and women wield are different in a lot of ways. The only reason that would be offensive is if someone’s making a value judgment on one being better than the other.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s an interesting perspective there. Folks tend to get really riled up when it has to do with power, but if it’s about boys and girls and what they do on the play yard or color preferences, then it’s no big deal.

Marissa Orr
Or if you say, “Men like sports – watching sports more than women. Women-”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s outrageous.

Marissa Orr
Right. Nobody cares when you say it on things that they don’t believe is superior.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s intriguing. When you talk about sports, now if we’re talking about consumer activity, now these are just facts that every marketer knows. Well, yeah, this product is interesting for women or for men, which is why we’re pursing advertising in particular channels because those are also consumed disproportionately more so by women, more so by men. Fun fact, the vast majority of my audience is women.

Marissa Orr
Hi girls.

Pete Mockaitis
Isn’t that interesting?

Marissa Orr
Hi ladies.

Pete Mockaitis
But we also have about a quarter of gentlemen, so hello to you as well.

Marissa Orr
Hi men.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so with that being established, then what are some of the research findings about the strengths that show up at work that are more so tend to be represented more frequently in women and then more so represented among men?

Marissa Orr
Yeah. Something is a strength only in context because let’s take the corporate world, which is mostly competitive. At Google and Facebook it was a zero-sum game. It was very intensely competitive. We think of these companies as sort of progressive, new wave organizations, but their structures are exactly like any other corporation. These are very intense zero-sum games.

If my teammate gets a promotion, it means I didn’t. Even performance scores are graded on distributions, where you can’t be equally amazing as your peer. You have to be a little more amazing or a little less amazing, so it’s all very intensely completive. In that context, some of the strengths – some of the common behaviors and traits of men show up as strengths.

Men are more motivated by competition. Research shows that in competitive scenarios they perform better. In the corporate world you see that as a strength.

But research also shows that women are more collaborative and they are not as satisfied or motivated by these zero-sum games. They prefer win-win scenarios, but in the corporate world there’s not many – you don’t come by much of that. In that context, even though collaboration is a strength in many respects, in the corporate world it becomes not a strength.

Research shows that women perform worse in competitive environments. Their performance suffers. They become less creative. Then the opposite happens when it’s collaborative. That’s what I mean by strengths depend on the context.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s an outstanding example. Could you lay it on us? What are some other strength representations that we see more so with men versus women and vice versa?

Marissa Orr
There’s a thing I talk about in the book, a story, there’s a book called The Confidence Code. I really sort of try and unravel its premise, but one of the stories from the book that I talk about that they have is there’s a women giving a presentation in a room. She sort of starts to hesitate before she moves on to the next point. She tries to get a temperature of the room so she knows which way to go next in her presentation.

And a man – it was I think her manager – was a man talked to her afterward because he saw that hesitation as lack of confidence. He said, “These things hurt women. They show up as less confident.”

When I read that story, my first thought was she’s demonstrating empathy. More women have a talent for taking the temperature of a room, building consensus. That was my interpretation of what she did there. If the goal was to really build a consensus as a team moving forward, she was doing great. If the goal is to act like you know everything and that you have this infallible certainty and are decisive, then she failed at that.

“What do we want from people at work?” is the question. But that consensus building is another strength that, again, can be interpreted as weakness depending on your perspective.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. Give us some more of typical men’s strengths, typical women’s strengths.

Marissa Orr
Let’s see, another example. Again, context. There’s times when you need a really authoritative voice, where certain situations call for a display of dominance in a room to align people towards something. Research shows that men communicate with the intent to establish sort of authority. In situations that call for it, that comes out as a strength for many men.

I want to make one thing clear too, when I say men are like this and women are like this, I’m obviously not talking about all men and all women. A good portion – could be upwards of maybe 30% of men have some strength that’s female dominant. These aren’t black and white things. I just talk about them that way because if I created all those nuances are conversation would be ten hours long.

It also doesn’t mean that men should behave one way and women should behave another. The goal is to behave authentic to who you are. These are just more reports of – observations on patterns of behavior. That’s an important distinction. Maybe it’s obvious. I don’t know.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s handy. Sure. Thank you. What else have we got there?

Marissa Orr
Wow. Let’s see. Empathy, cooperative, consensus building, win-win for women, that’s a lot, no?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, absolutely. Yeah.

Marissa Orr
There’s more in the book.

Pete Mockaitis
… for men. Do men have …?

Marissa Orr
Oh, oh, I mention-

Pete Mockaitis
Competitive, authoritative, dominance.

Marissa Orr
Yeah. Assertiveness, things like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, then given that how do we go about leveraging these strengths optimally, both to get great results as well as to look good doing it, to get our props and advance?

Marissa Orr
Yeah. Well, there’s a few things. One is just how we frame this conversation. First we need to stop measuring women against what men have. We need to stop thinking about female progress in terms of winning and really kind of reorient to wellbeing because then we’re serving the largest issues for women for people who need it most. It’s really about how we measure it.

I think also people are diverse by their very nature. The reason that diversity is not reflected at the top of the corporate world is because it rewards a subset of that behavior. I think first, we need to recognize that our institutions, as they are today, are limited. They’re not built to fulfill lots of people’s needs.

For women, I think the first step is always to turn inward and really kind of untether yourself from how your company defines success and how your peers define success and really better understand how you as a person define it. What is most important to your wellbeing?

If a promotion is going to get you a rung higher, but you’re playing more politics, which you hate, and you’re working longer hours, which you don’t want, that is not your definition of success and it’s okay to set the terms for what you need and what you want.

A lot of this is really on an individual to learn more about what their own strengths are, how they can put those to work in a corporate setting while understanding that that setting might not be designed to capitalize on those strengths. A lot of is about figuring out how your institution/organization can meet your needs, how they can’t, and then how you, yourself, can fill the gaps.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, I dig it. Well, then when it comes to some of the stuff that’s broken, do you have any kind of short-term tactics like, “Okay, you’ve got a broken system?” What are some maybe self-defense tactics or things that you’ve got to do just to make sure you don’t get an unfair shake?

Marissa Orr
Yeah. Well, I go into a whole chapter about this in the book. There’s so many things to say to all these great questions. But I think ultimately we have to own our own path and our own success. For people suffering – can you be more specific so I can give you kind of maybe a personal story of how I handled something of that nature?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure. Well, so for example, if there’s tons of subjectivity going on and you’ve got the right stuff. You’re bringing it and delivering good things, but it doesn’t seem to be kind of noticed/appreciated/rewarded, what do you do?

Marissa Orr
Yeah. Well, I think people need to get really clear with their management team or their direct manager about how their success is being measured. It’s a conversation we rarely have with our manager at the beginning of performance season. We talk more about – or at least in my experience at Google and Facebook – we really talked much more about what our goals were more so than what success looked like.

Pete Mockaitis
So your personal goals as an individual professional.

Marissa Orr
No, no, your work goals.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, the work goals.

Marissa Orr
For example, if you talk with your manager at the beginning of every quarter about what your goals are for the quarter. Let’s say you have five of them. Let’s say we build this new order entry system and we get 50% there by the end of the quarter. That’s your goal.

One important question to ask is how are you measuring if we get to 50%. What does 50% look like? What does 100% look like? What does a bad job on this specific goal look like? It’s a question we rarely ask, but at the end of the quarter, if you get a bad grade, if you haven’t asked how you’re being measured, you don’t really have anything to stand on.

But if your manager at the beginning of the quarter says, “Well, if we get X, Y, and Z in place, then we’ve reached 50%,” then at the end of the quarter you can show whether or not you’ve reached X, Y, and Z. That’s a much more objective way of communicating how well you did that quarter. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Right, understood. So you want to get crystal clear on okay, these numbers, what’s the numerator? What’s the denominator?

Marissa Orr
Or what the expectations are. What does success look like? Paint me a picture. What are the five things that need to be sort of very clearly accomplished for me to exceed expectations this quarter? I think the more specific and objective things that you can get from your manager, the easier it is to make a case for your performance.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great. More tips like this please. Lay them on us.

Marissa Orr
Yeah. Well, it’s hard though because in most positions in corporate America, your manager has absolute power over you and your livelihood. Even when you get a bad grade and you don’t deserve it, there’s really no recourse. Sometimes all of this advice is meaningless because you are basically – your career is at the whim of this person with total power over you. It’s kind of like tyranny by another name.

I think until our corporations have better systems in place to – like checks and balances on some of that power so that if you did do those five things and you still got a bad grade, there’s something in the company that you can – a team – HR is really mostly there to serve the people in power. I would say HR, but they’re not set up with any real authority to help.

I think part of the onus is on the organizations to rebalance that power a little bit to the employees so that if you do a good job and you do get a bad grade, if you have these objective measures – I don’t want to say a court, a trial, but there needs to be some recourse. Showing these objective metrics helps that as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool.

Marissa Orr
I just want to be real about it because so much business advice that people give in theory is great, but when you’re in a power structure under somebody with total power over you, it kind of doesn’t matter.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I hear you. Well, Marissa tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Marissa Orr
Nope, I think we covered it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well, can you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Marissa Orr
I hoard quotes. It’s a little like asking to pick favorite children, but one quote that I love because I think it has a lot to do with kind of the story of me and my work life and how I came to write this book, it’s a proverb, “Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.”

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Marissa Orr
One thing that’s in the book that I love is research showing that disagreeable people, so people that are not very likeable let’s say – and disagreeableness is one of the – or agreeableness one of the five big personality trait categories. So disagreeable people are more likely to get ahead in business than agreeable people, so people that are – agreeable people are more warm and likeable. It’s actually a detriment to getting ahead in the business world.

Being unlikeable, being disagreeable is a better predictor of who rises to the top. By the way, the authors of these studies always say it doesn’t mean they’re better in that job, it just means they’re more likely to get it.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Yeah, I can just think of so many examples in which folks who were less agreeable are just all the more comfortable demanding the thing they want or the goal is, whereas I’m pretty agreeable.

Marissa Orr
I am too.

Pete Mockaitis
Where sometimes I’m just like, “Well, okay, I guess we can do that your way.”

Marissa Orr
Yeah, I’m actually-

Pete Mockaitis
As opposed to “No, this is not optimal per the objectives. Fix it now.”

Marissa Orr
Totally. Absolutely. By the way, in every person – I’m like the highest on the continuum of agreeable that you could possibly be, which says a lot about why I never made it to the top in that world, but it is what it is. I’m happier now.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. How about a favorite book?

Marissa Orr
Again, it’s hard. One book – can I say two books?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Marissa Orr
One book that gave me sort of some of my best foundational understanding of behavior is a book from the ‘80s from a psychologist called Nathaniel Branden. The title is terrible, clearly needed some marketing help, but it’s called The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. It really opened my eyes and was a paradigm changing book for me. I understood myself and people in a totally new way, so I love that book.

Then when I was going through a hard time at Facebook, I read this other book that really got me into sort of another paradigm shift and it got me into meditation and changed my life in other ways. That is called The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

Marissa Orr
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool, something you use to help you be awesome at your job?

Marissa Orr
Does meditation count?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure.

Marissa Orr
I would say I wouldn’t have been able to write the book without meditation because it was a foundation for me to learn discipline and a host of other life skills that I wouldn’t have been able to write the book without.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. How about a favorite nugget, something that you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks and they say, “Yes, that is so right and wise. Thank you, Marissa.”

Marissa Orr
Nothing I ever say to my kids that’s for sure because that’s never their reaction.

I would say that if you really get the fact that at the end of the day all people want is to be heard, I think a lot of problems in this world would be solved because we’re always trying to – we speak to other people, we listen with the intent to sort of control them or control the situation and everything is about control. Things work in the exact opposite way.

When you try and control people, they rebel in ways big and small, but if you really try and understand people, things have a way of working themselves out. When people feel heard, they are empowered. They’re empowered to fix their own problems and whatever. I think that’s a very underestimated concept when it comes to communication.

Pete Mockaitis
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Marissa Orr
They can find me on Twitter at MarissaBeth. It’s M-A-R-I-S-S-A Beth B-E-T-H Orr O-R-R, @MarissaBethOrr, on Medium, it’s just @MarissaOrr and LeanOutTheBook.com, but also it’s on Amazon for preorder, but LeanOutTheBook.com is the book’s site.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Marissa Orr
Turn inward. Know who you are and hold on to that regardless of what those around you are doing or saying. Just be you. How’s that for a clichéd ending?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, it was fun. Well, Marissa, I wish you all the best. Keep on doing the good work and have fun with it.

Marissa Orr
Thanks so much. This was a lot of fun. Thanks for having me.

386: How to Earn More, Spend Less, and Build Wealth with Mindy Jensen

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Podcaster and real estate investor Mindy Jensen shares strategies for building wealth.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The number one tip for earning more at your job
  2. The power of tracking your spending
  3. Tips for optimizing big expenses

About Mindy

Mindy Jensen is the Community Manager for BiggerPockets.com, and the co-host of BiggerPockets Money, a podcast for anyone who has money or wants to have more.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Mindy Jensen Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Mindy, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Mindy Jensen
Pete, thank you for asking me to be on How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast. I’m super excited.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, well me too. It was so fun to meet you at Podcast Movement. I’ve been a Bigger Pockets fan for a while. It was a bit of a celebrity sighting, like, “ooh!”

Mindy Jensen
Well, I am glad we could get together.

Pete Mockaitis
Me too, me too. I have huge thanks and appreciation for what you’ve done in my world of accumulating money and wealth in terms of did my first house hack, is a term I learned from you guys, which refers to buying a multi-unit property and renting out some units and living in one of them. It’s awesome to have tenants pay your mortgage for you. It’s a treat.

Mindy Jensen
You know what, who wants to pay their own mortgage when somebody else can pay it for you? If anybody wants to pay my mortgage, feel free.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s an open invitation. Well, I want to go back into time a little bit and hear a fun story about you took a distance bike ride from Seattle to DC. What’s the story here?

Mindy Jensen
I used to work at a gym and I was flipping through some magazine and on the back cover was this advertisement that had a picture of the United States and it had a drawing from Seattle to DC. It said some people would do this on an airplane. Then I started reading and I’m like, “Well, yeah, how else would you get from Seattle to DC?” I’m looking and I’m like “This is a bike ride? That sounds awesome.”

I did a little more research. It was a fundraiser for the American Lung Association. And I just thought, “I’m young, I’m not married, I don’t have any kids. This would be a super fun thing for me to do.” I called them up and they said, “Oh, that ride started yesterday, but we have another one next year.” I’m like, “Okay, good because I’m not in any sort of shape to actually be doing a cross country bike ride.”

I mean I didn’t spend a lot of time getting in shape before the next year. I just hopped on my bike and did it. Not the recommended route. But it was an amazing experience to be – I didn’t really have anything to do all day long except get to the next camp. I met a ton of really great people. I raised a lot of money for the American Lung Association. It was a really great experience. I’m super glad I did it.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. That’s great. Was there a big old group of you all? How many were making the trek?

Mindy Jensen
I think there were 140 of us that year.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. So there was like support vans and camping and that?

Mindy Jensen
Yes. There were support vans. There was breakfast provided and dinner provided. Then everything else was – like, souvenirs and drinks and everything else was on your own.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool, very cool. Well, kudos for that achievement and discipline and advance planning and some of those topics and themes come up on Bigger Pockets. Could you orient listeners who are not familiar with Bigger Pockets? What’s it all about?

Mindy Jensen
Bigger Pockets is a website where basically you can learn how to invest in real estate. There’s a right way and there’s a thousand wrong ways to do it. If you do it the right way, you can most likely make money, definitely not break any laws.

You really don’t know what you don’t know. Something might sound really easy and then you start diving into it, you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t think of that. I didn’t think of that.” Our site exists to help you think of that and think of that. We have a blog and a forum and now two podcasts, the real estate investing podcast and the money podcast because not everybody is in a financial position to just start investing right away.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s true. When you say financial position, I’m reminded—my wife and I, we watched all the videos on buying your first property. I believe it was Scott Trench was the man on camera. He kept saying strong financial position with hand gestures. My wife and I, we kept alluding to that. “Do we have a strong financial position?” It’s wise advice as opposed to no money down stuff, which can up your level of risk.

Mindy Jensen
It can. Although, we do have a book called How to Invest with Low and No Money Down. No money down means none of your own money down, not no money down. Nobody’s going to give you a house without anything in it, except – actually there’s two.

If you can qualify for a USDA loan, which is more for a rural area or a VA loan if you are a veteran. Those are the only two loan programs that I know of that come with 0% down. But for the most part, you should have money to put into the property or at least have a cushion in case something goes wrong.

Pete Mockaitis
That is good. We ended up going with a Freddie Mac Home Possible program in a neighborhood that I guess they thought they wanted to encourage people to invest and move into from the last census track, but I’m sure when they update the census track it will probably no longer qualify. It was good timing.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah, that’s really good timing. They do lag – the government is the government. It is a huge slow-moving beast, so a lot of times what they think is rural, is no longer rural. I have a friend who got a USDA loan in one of the hottest areas in Northern Colorado, which is still considered technically rural, but they’ve got subdivision after subdivision popping up all over the place.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good. Well, we’re starting to get into the tactical and that’s fine because I wanted to hear just one to orient folks. I think one cool, innovative thing that you do, which I had never even heard of is you purchase a home, you live in it for a while, while you’re renovating and then you resell it. What’s the story? How does it work?

Mindy Jensen
This is called a live in flip. I have done this eight times. I buy a house that is cosmetically ugly, but structurally sound so that I’m not moving into something that’s going to crumble around me. You’re not looking at something like a meth house or something with mold or something with significant issues.

I buy it. I move into it. It is my primary residence, so I get a lower mortgage rate because owner occupants have the lowest mortgage rates – owner occupants with the best credit have the lowest mortgage rates.

I fix it up for two years. Two is the magic number because if I sell it after two years, I pay no capital gains taxes on the increase – the difference in the value between what I bought it at and what I sold it for minus repairs. I pay no capital gains up to $500,000 because I’m married and up to $250,000 if I were single.

The house that I’m in now, I bought it for $176,000. I put roughly $100,000 into it. Currently I could put it on the market and sell it in a hot second for $500 or $525. There’s a significant amount of capital gains that I have realized in this home and I will pay no taxes on it when I sell it.

Pete Mockaitis
That is brilliant. That’s the kind of stuff that you pick up over at Bigger Pockets. I think that’s so cool. I just wanted to get that out there, so we can learn a little bit about you and sort of how you do your thing. But maybe let’s kind of get a broader perspective in terms of when we talk about financial freedom, how do you think about that and define it and what does that mean in real lived terms?

Mindy Jensen
I consider myself financially free, which to me means I don’t need to work in order to pay my bills, in order to feed my children, in order to put food on the table and have a roof over my head. I have enough money that I have saved up and invested so that I would never have to work again. That means that I can choose to work in a passion project, in a thing that doesn’t make me much money because the money is now out of the equation and now I can just do what I love.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. What are you doing then?

Mindy Jensen
Well, I work at Bigger Pockets. I talk about real estate all day long. You alluded earlier, we’re kind of getting into the weeds, please reign me in because I can literally talk about this all day. And I do, that’s my job. I really love doing that. While I am well compensated, I could work there for free, just don’t tell my boss.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really cool. You hear that sort of enthusiasm for real estate on the podcast in terms of folks that they just eat, sleep, breathe and live it and love it.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah. I think that real estate is a really great investment. There’s a quote – I can’t remember who said it, “Buy land, they’re not making any more of it.” Real estate is – it’s not a totally finite amount or what am I trying to say here? Real estate isn’t a finite – there isn’t a finite amount of real estate in the world, but it’s still almost always rising in price.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right and we have population growing. That’s another reason I’m a fan of farmland as investments go because we continue to eat year after year and there are more people doing it.

Mindy Jensen
That is absolutely true. Farmland is not something I really know all that much about.

Pete Mockaitis
Anyway, so we talked about the two-year strategy, the house hacking. I’d love to get your take both on the earning more and the saving more sides of things. You’ve learned a ton from your work and your research and your enthusiasm and reading and talking to people. What have you discovered to be some of the most effective approaches, we’ll start with earning more, that you think would be applicable for professionals working in a job right now?

Mindy Jensen
You want to make yourself invaluable. You want to be the go-to person for fill in the blank. Whatever it is, you want your boss to think, “Oh, I’ve got a project. I’m going to give it to Pete because I know Pete’s going to do it. He’s not going to give me excuses. He’s not going to be late.”

There’s kind of a shortage of people who do a good job. There’s a lot of people who do an average job, who do a mediocre job. There’s no shortage of people who do a bad job. But the people who are really, really awesome at their jobs, that’s not all that common. If you can stand out, you can be so much more valuable.

Then when you are invaluable to your boss, you go in and you ask for a raise. This is something that so many people struggle with. They don’t want to ask for a raise. What’s the worst that can happen? Is your boss going to fire you because you asked for a raise? He’s not the right person to work – he or she – sorry, I don’t want to be sexist – isn’t the right person to work for anyway.

If you go in and you have solid data to back up why you deserve this raise and what you’ve done in the past year, in the past six months, how your job has changed or whatever, the worst that can happen is they say no or they no not right now. If they say not right now, ask them when. But I think so many people leave so much money on the table simply because they don’t ask for a raise.

Pete Mockaitis
I like a lot of what you’re saying here and to dig into some more. But that point about it’s kind of rare that people are awesome at their jobs, I second that. In doing the research for, “Hm, would anyone listen to this podcast?” I collected three different survey tools, which is pretty cool, and I got a sense that between 4 and 18% of people in the US were highly interested in listening to a podcast that would help them be awesome at their jobs.

It’s funny because sometimes I have guests who say, “Who wouldn’t want to be awesome at their jobs?” It’s like, well, it’s kind of the majority. We are a minority, so thank you listeners. It’s great to have you and be in a cool kids club.

And I was chatting with my buddy, Carl. Carl, he was working for actually it was a mortgage company. Carl was getting promoted quickly. I was like, “Carl, what’s your trick. What are you doing?” He just said, “I’m doing my job. I’m supposed to follow up on these leads so that’s sort of what I do all day. Then other people they do that for maybe half of the day.”

The other half they’re kind of – well they’re sort of chilling out in whatever way with chitchatting with people or Facebook or their phones or sort of whatever distractions enter their world. Yeah, awesomeness is rare and valuable and can get you paid.

I want to hear a little bit about the data point. What are some of your favorite resources or kind of pieces of information and numbers you would point to when you’re armed to have that ‘please give me a raise’ conversation well?

Mindy Jensen
This isn’t a conversation you can plan for in five minutes. If you are going to ask for a raise, you need to plan that out because you want to start keeping track of what you’re doing every day. I’ve got a couple stories. I don’t want to get too far into the weeds.

But I had a friend whose boss came up to her one day and said, “I don’t think you’re doing what you say you’re doing.” She went home that day and called me up and she got all mad. She’s like, “I can’t believe she would ask me this.” A couple of month later she got fired because her boss kind of gave her a head up, “Look, I think you’re not doing what you say you’re doing,” and she never proved her boss wrong.

At almost the exact same time, my husband’s boss said the same thing to him, but my husband’s boss said this because my husband was working – living in Colorado, the boss was in Chicago. He was working from home. My husband started keeping track of absolutely everything he did every single day. He turned it in every week to his boss. His boss didn’t ask him to do this. He just did this on his own.

After 18 months – he worked for the government, so it’s kind of a long, drawn out process – but after 18 months, the boss came to him and he said, “You don’t need to send me these anymore. I totally believe you’re doing what you say you’re doing.”

Your boss gives you money in exchange for the job. You should be keeping track daily or weekly what you’re doing. Your boss doesn’t want to see a list of 365 days’ worth of stuff you did, but you can kind of keep track every day. “Oh, today I did this. Today I did that. I worked on this project,” so when it comes time to ask your boss for a raise, you can show them your log.

They’re not going to read it. They’re just going to like, “Holy cow, I can’t believe you did this.” Then show them some bullet points. “I got that big contract that you were looking for,” “I increased my sales by this,” “I did that,” or whatever it is. Having proof that you did it goes a long way to getting the raise.

Your boss is going to see how dedicated you are to the job just by showing him all the things that you have – all the things you’ve been doing. Another place to start looking is Glassdoor. It’s a good place to get a comparison of what people in your area are making for doing the same job that you do.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Mindy Jensen
If you’re making $50,000 and everybody else in your area is making 55, you can ask for 60. I would always overshoot. Ask for 60 and say, “Look, everybody is making this, but here’s all the things that I’ve been doing and here’s why I deserve it.” Just going in and asking for a raise is not necessarily going to get you anything.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot. That practice associated with keeping track of what you’re doing I think would be so helpful on numerous dimensions. So many guests have said sort of their top habit for being awesome at their job is just having a simple list of okay, these are the one, two, three, limited number of things I’m going to do today, so they have that focus before emails or distractions sort of suck them into other agendas.

That practice one, gets you focused day by day and two, let’s you capture those bullets of achievement, whether that goes into a resume when it’s time to update it or for the annual review. You just have that ready to go and repurpose any which way to serve your needs.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah. I have one more quote that I’m going to butcher. It’s from George Carlin. Obviously he’s a comedian. He says, “Think of how stupid the average person is and realize that half of them are stupider than that.” Take out stupid and replace it with lazy. Think of how lazy the average worker is and realize that half of them are lazier than that. A very small amount of work will yield so many results just because you’re so much better than your peers.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, nice perspectives on the earning side. Any other favorite approaches you’d like to mention?

Mindy Jensen
No. There’s side hustles. If there’s no way to make more money at your current job, a side hustle is a great way to bring in extra income without committing to a totally second job. There’s – that, the sky’s the limit. What are your passions? What are you excited about? What do you want to do? Some side hustles pay more than others. Some are not so exciting. It depends.

I really think that at your main job, you’re most likely leaving a lot of money on the table simply by not asking for a raise, a specific dollar amount. “I’m making 50. I want to make 60, so I’m going to ask for 65. They win by giving me 61 and then I win because I only wanted 60,” or however that works.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh perfect. Let’s talk about the savings side of the equation. What are some of your favorite approaches there?

Mindy Jensen
My absolute favorite approach to saving money is to know where your money is going. You can’t know where to cut back, if you don’t know where it’s going right now. I used to say that your step number one is to check your spending, but really your number one step to having money should be to write down what your life goals are. What are your goals with money? What do you want to do with what you have?

After you’ve written that out, thought about what you really, really want, then start tracking your spending. You will be probably surprised at how you’re spending that you haven’t been tracking doesn’t really align with your goals. It might a little bit, but there’s always room for improvement.

One of the easiest ways to track spending is my friends over at WafflesOnWednesdays.com wrote up this amazing article. It is called How to Make Your Own Mobile Expense Tracking App in 30 Minutes. It’s free. They give you step-by-step instructions on basically how to take a Google form and create it to – customize it to your spending needs and put it on your phone. Every time you spend a dime, you track it in the spender – in the tracking app.

And what you will discover is “I do this too many times a month. I want to cut that back,” or “Wow, I didn’t know that about my spending. I’m glad I had this look at what’s going on.”

The first time I tracked my spending, I discovered that I went to the grocery store literally every single day. I was just picking up one thing. I was just picking up one other thing. When you go to the grocery store, you don’t just buy one thing. You buy one thing plus two others. But if you do that every day, that adds up to so much money spent. I was just going in, “Oh, I could use this or I could use that.”

It was between my house and the gym. I would go to the gym every morning, so I would just stop by on the way home. Once I started tracking my spending, I realized that’s not really what I want to be doing is throwing all of my money at the grocery store. I cut that back and my spending was cut – I’m not sure exactly how much I cut out of my spending, but it was significant and it was noticeable the next month.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d also love to get your take – so that mobile tracking app, that’s very clever. I’ve made something like that once to track my energy levels to sort of see, “Hm, are there some patterns associated with when I should do creative work versus focused detailed work.” That’s been very helpful. And so zippy, just push a button on the phone and boom, there’s a Google form and five seconds later you’ve got the data collected.

But for the lazy listener, who will say, “Mindy, can’t I just see what I’ve got on Mint.com. Won’t that sort of transaction log be sufficient for me when I use my credit cards?”

Mindy Jensen
You can if you like. When we first started tracking our spending, we had a spiral notebook with a pen and it was right by the door as I walked in, so I would see it and remember to mark down my spending. Whatever you can do to track your spending, whatever tactic works for you is the best option.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. We mentioned Mint.com. What about, any other sort of software or solutions that are helpful for folks. We’ve got the Google form approach on your phone, we’ve got the notebook, we’ve got Mint.com. I’ve heard of YNAB, You Need a Budget. Do you know people who love that? Are there any other solutions you’d point to?

Mindy Jensen
I know people who love YNAB. I believe it has a bit of a learning curve, but I know they’ve got really great tech support that can help you through that. I haven’t personally used it, so I don’t – I can’t say that it’s great or it’s terrible or whatever. I’ve never used it.

What worked for me the most was that notebook on the counter because it was in my face as I walked in the door. Whenever I walked in, I walked in through one door, so having it there – whatever you can use to remind yourself.

Now that I have this on the phone, it’s kind of fun to have it on the phone and I don’t even leave the grocery store or the parking lot, wherever I’m at, before I track my spending just so I don’t forget it. Having it on my phone makes it really easy to – it’s in my head all the time and it’s a game. Now it’s a game, “Oh, how little can I spend?”

Pete Mockaitis
I’m also intrigued by you’re keeping this practice alive and well, though you mentioned earlier, you’ve done eight houses worth of these living in flips and you are currently at financial freedom. It kind of reminds me of Warren Buffet, who continues to live modestly and thoughtfully about his expenses even though he’s got massive wealth.

Can you give me a view into that mindset of you’ve got more than enough money and you continue these practices? Some might say that’s unnecessary, what’s your take?

Mindy Jensen
When I was doing a little bit of research for your podcast, I heard you ask people about their favorite quote. My favorite quote for decades has been from Coco Chanel. She said, “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.” She’s really sassy.

But I don’t care what other people think of me. If you don’t like my car, I don’t care. If you don’t like my clothes, I don’t care. I don’t have the latest phone. I have the phone that I have figured out. I don’t want a new phone because I don’t want to have to figure it out. I’m not the biggest techie person on the planet.

I have a house that looks nice, but it’s also – it looks nice because I’m getting ready to sell it to somebody who cares what their house looks like. I don’t care that you think I live in a dump when I move from here to the next place, which will be a dump when I move in, because it doesn’t affect me  what you or what other people think of me.

I think that’s a really big part of financial freedom. I’m not trying to keep up with the Jones’s. I don’t even know who the Jones’s are. It’s just a mindset. It’s a confidence thing. I would rather spend time with my children than have the latest phone. I’ve got a really good bicycle that I’ve had for something like 17 years. It still gets me where I need to go, so why do I need a new one just because they came out with a new version of it. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. I think a large part of that is you’re really clear on what you want, what you value and the priority and thusly, the other stuff falls away.

Mindy Jensen
It kind of does. I buy what I want to buy and it’s because I want – I buy for quality when I’m buying something where quality means something to me. Like coffee, that’s a big one in the financial freedom world. “Oh, don’t go to Starbucks.” I don’t go to Starbucks. I don’t particularly love the taste of their coffee, but I buy good coffee and I make it at home. It’s good and I don’t care that I don’t have a green cup in my hand or I don’t have the red holiday cup or whatever they’re doing now.

Pete Mockaitis
When you talked about buying for quality, that reminds me of the book, The Millionaire Next Door, which is so great and full of research.

They mentioned that the average price of shoes for millionaires, like what do they spend on their dress shoes, I will not remember the number and it probably needs to be adjusted for inflation, but it was something like 200 bucks. It was not like 600-dollar crazy luxury brand, but it was also not the cheapos. It was a shoe that they hoped to resole it and wear for a decade or two or three.


Mindy Jensen
I will say that if you’re a man, you can get away with that. Lady’s styles go in and out. But again, if you don’t care – I’m trying to think what – I don’t even know if I have any dress shoes right now because I don’t dress up and go anywhere. That’s not something that I enjoy. I don’t go to the opera, the cinema – not the cinema, the theatre.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, the theatre.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah. I don’t do any of that. I don’t – that’s not something I enjoy. I really loathe the opera. I’m not a fan. I’ll just leave it at that. I’m sure it’s beautiful and whatever. It’s just not something that I want to go to. But I do go to the symphony, the local symphony, which is held in the high school auditorium. You could – as long as you have on clothes, that’s all they need you to be wearing. That’s more my speed.

Pete Mockaitis
The dress code is clothes.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah, having a good quality item that – you spend on what is important to you. You save money on things that don’t matter, so you can spend on what’s important to you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well said. Let’s hear about some other approaches for the saving. Once you’ve got a clear picture on where your money’s going and some of the mismatches, you make some adjustments. What have you found to be some common recurring opportunities for lots of people overspend on this and there’s an easy way to stop doing that?

Mindy Jensen
A lot of people overspend on their phone plan, on their insurance, on recurring charges that they don’t really think about.


Okay, one thing that I have heard – one recommendation that I have heard from a lot of different people is to go through your credit card statements every single month and make sure that the recurring charges are the least amount that you can spend for the level of service or quality that you want.

Let’s say you have a phone plan from your big name phone company and it’s $100 a month and it includes unlimited texting and unlimited data. I don’t even know what’s available because I don’t use any data on my phone. But I use Ting, T-I-N-G.com. They run over the Sprint network. There’s a couple of different ones. Republic Wireless is another one. I think Cricket Wireless is also a low cost, but don’t quote me on that.

Where my plan, my basic plan is $15 a month. That includes unlimited Wi-Fi, phone calls, and a few other things, and like a gig of data or something that I never go over because I hardly ever use it. But they have different levels of plans and you only pay for what you’re using.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fascinating. You can just sort of take your existing phone once your contract is up and say, “Hey, Ting me up.”

Mindy Jensen
It depends. You would have to talk to Ting to make sure that your phone is compatible. I think that not all phones are compatible. This is something that I don’t do a lot of. I got on Ting and then I never look at it again. I have the same phone for a long time because I don’t want to learn a new phone. I just want to have Google maps and the ability to text and make a phone call.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Mindy Jensen
Then everything else is bonus.

Your insurance, your car insurance, your home insurance. One thing that I have noticed is that your premiums go up every year. If you shop around to other companies, you might get a teaser rate or you might get a lower rate simply because your insurance company is kind of banking on you to be lazy and not-

Pete Mockaitis
Like the cable companies do. Yeah.

Mindy Jensen
Kind of like the cable companies do, yeah. Do you need everything that’s in that list of insurance? When I first starting driving, I had full coverage. Now I have pretty basic coverage because I’m a good driver and I don’t hit people. I’m covered if somebody else hits me. I have enough money to cover the old car that I have, which I probably wouldn’t get anything for anyways.

I don’t have coverage if I hit somebody. I don’t coverage for my own vehicle. But I also haven’t been in an accident that was my fault since like 1992 or something like that.

Another thing to do is raise your deductible. My deductible when I was a kid was like $100 because I couldn’t scrape together anything more than that. Now I think it’s $2,000 because I can come together with $2,000 and have everything else covered.

Just review your recurring charges, ask for discounts everywhere you can. Again, what’s the worst that they’re going to do? They’re going to say no. Then you threaten to cancel the account or you cancel it and go someplace else that gives you a better price.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s nice. I also like one takeaway I picked up from Bigger Pockets is to focus in on the big areas of spending and to not stress so much, like the latte, “Oh I love the latte. I don’t want to give up the latte.” Well, the latte matters less than what you’re spending on your home, your domicile, your living arrangement, your transportation or car, and your food, your groceries, what you’re consuming, whether it’s out or in. Do you have any pro tips on optimizing those big ones?

Mindy Jensen
I do have pro tips on optimizing those big ones. Let’s start with your car. Do you need your car? Do you need it all the time? Do you have an alternative way to get to wherever it is you’re going in the car? Most people use their car to get to work. How close do you live to work?  Could you walk? Could you bike? Could you get a ride with somebody?

We have a guy at bigger pockets named Craig who used to rent out his car on Turo and made a lot of money doing it. He would take his bike to work. He would get a ride with somebody if he needed to. He just rented his car out all the time. That’s a way to get rid of your expense when you don’t really need the item.


Housing, you can – Airbnb, you can rent out the unused portions of your home. You can have a roommate. How much space do you have that’s just vacant and not being used ever? You house hack.

There’s a lot of ways to cut down your expenses, eliminate them, even make money on your previous liability, now it’s an asset, simply by tweaking something. If you don’t want to move, you could just rent out a room in your house. Maybe you’re not having your entire mortgage paid, but any portion of your mortgage that you don’t have to pay is a win.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. How about on the food side of things?

Mindy Jensen
On the food side of things, I would absolutely recommend to plan your meals. Look at inexpensive food ingredients. Sweet potatoes are inexpensive and potatoes are inexpensive. Look for ways to build your meals around inexpensive staples with a pinch of something else.

If you are a meat eater, maybe you have a small amount of meat with your very vegetable heavy meal. I am a meat eater, so we do have a lot of meat. But I do have a daughter who saw this movie called Free Birds, which is a cartoon. That was the first time she equated turkey that you eat with turkey the bird and has never eaten a piece of meat since, so I have learned to do a lot of vegetarian meal planning.

Beans are cheap. Canned beans are cheap, but dried beans are even cheaper. You can buy in bulk. Plan your meals around these protein sources that aren’t meat, which is fairly expensive.

Pete Mockaitis
I love if you have dried beans, if you throw them in an Instapot, you can get them raring to go and eat pretty quickly without the whole soaking process, so there’s another one.

Mindy Jensen
That’s what I’ve heard. I don’t have an Instapot, so I can’t speak to that. But there’s – go to – excuse me – go to Pinterest.com and look up 50 billion recipes for insert ingredient here. “What I can do with canned beans?” or “What can I do with dried beans?” “Oh, here’s 47 recipes for you.” Chile is a super hearty meal that you can make and – you just throw in a bunch of stuff in that pot.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s wild just how far you can take this. The Wall Street Journal recently had an article about the FIRE movement, Financial Independence Retire Early. They profiled someone whose monthly grocery bill was $75 and that’s what does it for eating for one for a month, $75.

Mindy Jensen
That is not my budget. Good for her for being able to do it. She had tips like buy produce that isn’t optimal. I think there was this quote that was kind of bandied about in the FIRE community, “Oh, she eats brown bananas.” So what? That’s when they’re the best. The Chiquita banana song, “When they’re flecked with brown and have a golden hue, bananas taste the best and are the best for you.” I don’t know, sorry.

Pete Mockaitis
I love it. Any musical number is welcome. We’ll take them all.

Mindy Jensen
Great. My grocery store has a dented aisle. It doesn’t matter if there’s a dent. It doesn’t matter that something – the can is – the box is crushed on the corner unless it’s taco shells. Those are always just disintegrated. Don’t buy those in the dented aisle. But everything else – like I have a box of cereal it’s got a dent in it, so instead of $4.99, it’s $0.99. I’ll take that every day.

Pete Mockaitis
This is handy in terms of earning more and saving more. What do you see are sort of the most common mistakes or difficult decisions that folks are really wrestling with when they’re trying to get their financial house in order?

Mindy Jensen
Personal finance is personal. It means it’s what happens to your finances. If you want to go to Starbucks every morning, then go. Put that into your budget and cut back on other things.

What I see people doing is reading – there’s a guy who’s been blogging since the beginning of time called Early Retirement Extreme. He lives on beans and rice and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He’s okay with that. I’m not okay with that. I don’t live on beans and rice and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I see people thinking that it’s got to be this extreme thing when it doesn’t really have to be this extreme thing.

One of the things that we hear a lot on our podcast is “What did you do when you first discovered financial independence?” “Oh, I cut out everything.” Then month two, they add things back in. It is a good exercise to cut out everything to see what you really, really, really want, what means more to you than you thought it did and then add that back in.

But another way to do it is just cut out one thing at a time. Do you watch a lot of TV? We actually don’t watch a lot of TV, so we don’t have a TV plan. We just have Netflix. If you watch a lot of sports and it’s a big part of your life, then cut out something else that doesn’t mean so much to you. But don’t try to live my life because my life isn’t your life. You need to live your life. It all goes back to writing down your goals. What do you enjoy? What do you want out of this life?

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it. Well, Mindy, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Mindy Jensen
No, you’re pretty thorough, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh shucks. Thank you. All right, well, we heard your favorite quote, so how about a favorite book?

Mindy Jensen

My favorite book is called The Richest Man in Babylon. It was written in 1920 by George S. Clason. As you read it – it’s written in like King James Bible language, Shakespeare language. It’s – I love Shakespeare and I love that language, so it was fun for me to read. You don’t get a lot of books like that anymore, but it can be a little bit difficult to digest just based on the language.

But he talks about don’t spend every dime that you make. Don’t invest with people who really don’t know what they’re talking about. Pay yourself first. What’s really telling about this book is it was written almost 100 years ago and it’s all still true. There isn’t any bit of this advice that isn’t still valid.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s a good one. I remember I listened to an audio version of the book. I don’t know why, I’ll just remember it forever, the way the narrator did, it’s like, “The Richest Man in Babylon. Pay thyself first.” It was a good memory. Thank you.

Mindy Jensen

That is hilarious. Yeah, he probably sounds just like that. That’s a great-

Pete Mockaitis

It was very regal. It was like Patrick Stewart doing a Shakespeare thing.

Mindy Jensen

But it’s a really great book.

Pete Mockaitis

And how about a favorite tool?

Mindy Jensen

A favorite tool. I’m going to go back to that Waffles on Wednesday spending tracker, just because I don’t have a lot of tools that I use and I use that one all the time.

Pete Mockaitis

And a favorite habit?

Mindy Jensen

Favorite habit. Write down what you did that day. It’s really easy for Monday to turn into Friday and you get to the next Monday and you’re like, “Oh, what did I work on last week. I don’t remember.”

But get in the habit of writing down what you have accomplished, what you have worked on, even some failures, what you tried and didn’t work so that you can learn from that too so that you can represent yourself when you go to make a request for a raise, so you can represent yourself when you change jobs.

Do you remember what you did four jobs ago? I don’t. Four jobs ago was a really long time ago. But I don’t remember what I did four jobs ago, at least not day to day. “Oh, I entered products into the system.” That’s not exciting. What else did you do?

Pete Mockaitis

Very good. How about is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get retweeted?

Mindy Jensen

Save on the things that don’t matter so you can spend on the things that do.

Pete Mockaitis

If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Mindy Jensen

I am all over BiggerPockets.com. You can find me on Twitter at MindyAtBP, M-I-N-D-Y-A-T-B-P, for Bigger Pockets. My email is Mindy@BiggerPockets.com. I am slow to respond. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m inundated, but if somebody has a question about anything I love talking about everything I just talked to you about.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh cool. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Mindy Jensen

I would just challenge everybody to start tracking what they’re doing with their life, what they’re doing in their job, what they’re doing with their spending. Just start keeping track of stuff. It doesn’t have to be some detailed minute-by-minute account of what you did at your job that day or penny-by-penny accounting of your spending, just a general overall picture will give you a lot of insight into how you are living.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, Mindy, this has been so much fun. Thank you for the good work you do at Bigger Pockets and sharing the good word. I wish you lots of luck in all you’re up to, the next house sale and purchase and all the rest.

Mindy Jensen

Pete, thank you for having me. I had a really, really fun time.

363: Three Ways to Increase Your Pay (and Make it Go Farther) with Andy Hill

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Andy Hill shares how he got his pay bumped in three different ways…and how to keep that money from flowing out.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to figure out when you should change companies
  2. Tips to boost the trait that helps you get a pay bump
  3. The best mental trick for saving money

About Andy

Andy Hill is award-winning corporate event marketing professional that has managed programs for luxury brands such as Gulfstream, Bentley and Audi of America. During his 15-year career, he’s grown from entry level to Director level by exceeding his client’s and his management’s expectations each year.

Andy also hosts a podcast called Marriage, Kids and Money that helps young families grow their wealth. The podcast was nominated by Plutus as “Best New Personal Finance Podcast” in 2017. He has partnered with brands such as Quicken Loans, Credit Sesame and Tomorrow to spread a message of financial wellness and security. 

His podcast and blog can be found at MarriageKidsandMoney.com and you can connect with Andy professionally on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewrussellhill  

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Andy Hill Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Andy, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Andy Hill
Pete, thank you so much for having me, man. This is awesome.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy. Well, I’ve been looking forward to having this chat for a while, and I think I want to start where the conversation really needs to start, which is your role in an ‘80s cover band.

Andy Hill
Oh, you did dig deep, didn’t you now? Okay. So, in my 20s…

Pete Mockaitis
Aren’t you still in your 20s? You look so youthful and handsome.

Andy Hill
That’s just the picture I still have on there. It’s totally 10 years ago. Overall I just like to try random things every five or six years just to kind of shake things up a little bit. So, I had an opportunity to go into an ‘80s cover band with a few of my friends. I was out at the bar, drinking and having fun and doing karaoke with one of my buddies, and maybe he was drinking too much, but after we finished our little set there, he goes, “Hey, you’re not too bad. We should start an ‘80s cover band.” And I was three sheets to the wind or five sheets to the wind, “Whatever you say.” And I said, “Oh yeah, let’s do it.”

So, he could play the guitar, I could sing, kind of. Then we found a random dude on Craigslist that could play the drums, and we were all set, man. So we started booking the local dive bars, after we practiced for about six months learning all the great ‘80s songs, ‘90s songs. And honestly, Pete, it was probably one of the most fun things that I’ve ever done in my life. Getting up there, making a fool of yourself, having some fun with your friends. And we blew some of these dive bars away, because we’d get a slot booked at like 1:00 am on a Wednesday night, and we would pack the place – something like 45 people there that’d be like, “You could come back whenever you want.” They don’t even care how we sounded, but no, it was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life, honestly.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is excellent. There really is just a thrill associated with performing and being in that groove. So, that’s really fun. So what was the name of the band?

Andy Hill
It was called Vermont Response. The street that we lived on was called Vermont, and it was sort of our response from living there. It was kind of lame, but it was fun.

Pete Mockaitis
And how would you characterize the message of that response?

Andy Hill
It was epic, I would say, mind-blowing and transformative. Talk about those for some career awards for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Those are nice. Speaking of things that are epic, mind-blowing and transformative, you’ve got a podcast that checks those boxes, called Marriage, Kids and Money. What’s the show all about?

Andy Hill
So again, in the spirit of trying random new things every so often, I started a podcast a couple of years ago because I wanted to start a conversation with young parents who want to build their wealth and give their families the best life possible.

Pete Mockaitis
Hey, that’s me.

Andy Hill
Exactly, exactly. You’re a young father, you’ve got a nine-month-old and you’re married and you’re looking at building your wealth, so you’re my exact demographic, my friend. I wanted to start that conversation and gather some like-minded individuals who want to figure out how to grow their wealth. But also it’s an opportunity for me to interview some really smart people who are millionaires, entrepreneurs that are doing so great by their family, and I get to share all those incredible nuggets with everybody who’s listening. So, it’s been a real treat for me, and the podcast has had some good growth over the past couple of years.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Well, kudos and congratulations, and thank you for inviting me on the show. That was a good time. What really caught my eye about you and the show is when we met back in Podcast Movement over in Philadelphia. You had a few specific things you did that bumped up your income in the course of doing some smart career planning and maneuvering. And so I thought, “This is perfect”, because that’s one of the things my listeners are into, is making some more money from being awesome at their jobs. So, could you lay it out for us? What’s your story, and how did you do it?

Andy Hill
Yeah, so I’ve been in the experiential marketing world for about 15 years. So experiential marketing, just so you know, it’s anything that’s in-person manifested marketing for a brand. So instead of a TV commercial or an online ad, this is the stuff you’d see in-person, and call it like a conference or a trade show or a business meeting. That’s the type of stuff that I’ve been doing for the past 15 years. So, within that industry, I’ve had an opportunity to grow my salary in three key moments throughout my career. And I thought that would be kind of fun to share with your listeners today.

Pete Mockaitis
Please do.

Andy Hill
So a time, again, in my late 20s – and I’m very glad that you think I’m still in my 20s, thank you for that – I had the opportunity to go from manager to director. So this was a promotion opportunity within the company that I was in. And there was a position that was open. It had been vacated by somebody who was not on the team anymore. And I was in a more junior role, but I had developed a good reputation, working, going above and beyond my expectations both with my clients, as well as my management.

So, when that opportunity arose, I jumped at it. I expressed my interest, I set aside a time to speak with the president of the company and tell them why I would be a good fit, all the things that I had done up until that point, my experience with the client. And this was a coveted position at the time, so I wanted to do my best and put my best foot forward for it. So, I applied, I went through a review process, an interview process, and I got the job.

And with that, since I was a young whippersnapper, I didn’t think that they were going to probably give me the dollars that I thought were required for the position, because I had an idea of what the person who was in the position before was making. So, I made a suggestion on salary and they met me in the middle. But it was essentially a 46% increase in my salary, which when you’re not making a lot, that, call it a 3% increase can be very little.

So, if you get the opportunity to go from a manager to a director position, what I did is I tried to understand the landscape of what a director was making in that position, and I made the request for that salary increase, knowing the responsibilities that were going to be associated with it, the hours that were going to be associated with it, that travel that was going to be associated with it. And I was able to get that increase. So, that was the first bump up that I had within my first company at the same company.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very cool. So let’s dig into the magic behind it then. I guess you already had some good foundational points to work with, in terms of you had already been proactively overdelivering for clients and for management. And then when you saw the opportunity, you didn’t just click, click, apply. You went after it with some gusto, in terms of talking to the president of the company, saying that you’re very interested in it and making your case. And then you also did some proactive research, in terms of getting after what is the number, so that you can proactively suggest it and do some anchoring, as opposed to letting them just do what they cared to do with that number.

Andy Hill
Absolutely. And I think that since I was my best cheerleader… I know that sometimes the companies are doing their best to make as much money as possible, and yes, give fair raises or fair increases in salary, but you have to be your own advocate. So I was in that case, and that really helped.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent, cool. Alright, so that was one good move. And you had a couple more.

Andy Hill
Yeah, a couple of years later. So that was 2010 when that happened, and 2013, about three years later, I had the opportunity to go from one company to another. So this is another opportunity when you can make more money in your career. So, I was very active on LinkedIn. When I say “active”, I mean I consistently shared information about my industry, information about my company, I constantly updated my profile based on experience that I had, awards that we were able to win as a company, and my volunteer efforts, things like that. So I wanted to be out there and create conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
So when you’re talking sharing – like every day, or what kind of frequency are we talking about here?

Andy Hill
I typically do about two times per week, and I’ve read some articles, I think HubSpot recommends no more than five times per week, just because it gets a little bit overdone, and also based on LinkedIn’s algorithm it touches quite a bit of your network between that two to five number per week. So, usually I take an opportunity to talk about my company’s services or my business accomplishments, things like that, that are relevant to keep people in the know about what’s going on, what’s going on with Andy, what’s going on with my company. And that helps keep the information going.

Pete Mockaitis
And in your world of experiential marketing, you are in a sales or business development function?

Andy Hill
Correct, yeah. So, another reason for me to put ourselves out there. I’m going put my company out there because we are constantly trying to earn new business. So that’s a big part of my role.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. So, you rocked at the LinkedIn, and what happened?

Andy Hill
So, I get contacted by a recruiter. And I really wasn’t actually looking to make a shift at that point, because I was pretty happy with my role. I was doing pretty well in it, and growing the business. But I took the call anyway, because I was interested in understanding what am I worth out there, what other opportunities are there out there, because it’s not bad to make a change every once in a while. So I got an offer from a competing company. I was at maybe a 30 or 40-person company, and then the company that was offering me the job was essentially the largest experiential company in the world. So I said, “Oh yeah, I’ll take that conversation. I’ll take that call.”

And through that conversation and the negotiations that went forward, I had the opportunity to make about 25% more than what I was making at that point. And luckily, at that same time I got two other offers on LinkedIn, at the same time. So, I essentially had three offers in front of me at one point, on one weekend, when I could review them with my family and make a decision that would obviously impact where we would go as a family, but also our income level. So, based on reviewing those three offers, I decided to go with the original offer because I was very excited about that company, working with the industry leader.

And at that point I let the other two companies know; one of them said, “Congratulations, good luck. We could never pay you that.” And the other said, “We’ll match it. Come over with us.” And at that point I had a decision to make, but I again stayed with the original offer because I was excited about working with that company. So, I would like to say that being active on LinkedIn and spending a lot of time on there and making my profile well known helped me to get those three offers at one time, because those were all not me seeking them; they were inbound offers from recruiters. So, that really helped me to jump up another 25%.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. So, in the LinkedIn game, do you have any tips, in terms of when it comes to the content that you’re sharing? You could do that well, you could do that poorly. Any pro tips on how do you find and determine, “Yes, this is worthy of my imprimatur, my sharing of this broadly”?

Andy Hill
I try to make it industry-specific, specific to my company or specific to the industry that I’m in, to start to create conversations around that area. I might not be an influencer in experiential marketing, but I at least want to start some conversations that create that type of environment there. And with that, I’ve started some conversations, I’ve asked some probing questions: “What are your thoughts around this area?” And it starts to get engagement from people who are at least partners in the industry or potential clients.

And there’s a lot more people that are engaged on social media than ever before, so you’d be surprised at how much engagement you can actually get from those types of connections. So, I don’t have hundreds of thousands of connections on there; I’ve got maybe 2,500, but over the years that’s really helped me to expand my network, expand conversations, and then really do outreach both on a sales platform, as well as just opportunities like this to get a new job.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. And could you share an example of a probing question? I’m wondering what the hottest, most controversial topic might be, or if that’s something that you shy away from, or something that you go for, like, “Yeah, this’ll get them lathered up!”

Andy Hill
Well, I still feel like LinkedIn is like being in the office. You might not say things that you would say on Twitter or on Facebook that you’d say on LinkedIn. I like to think of LinkedIn like I’m having conversations within the office, so I steer clear of political conversations, religious conversations, anything that might steer people in the wrong directions.

But as far as a probing question, one of our clients is Ally Bank, and I just posted something today about… They had a celebration yesterday for Online Savings Day as essentially a holiday that they created on Monday. So I threw out a probing question based on one of the articles that they had been a part of: “Do you think that you could go all online and not have a brick and mortar bank?” So having conversations like that not only helps to promote my client, but it also starts to create conversations. And a little conversation started to happen out of it. So, people understand who my client is, what we’re talking about within our industry, and then discussions start to happen. So, that’s just a little example.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. When I mentioned controversy, certainly we’re not going to go, “Do you think Trump sucks? Why or why not?”

Andy Hill
Exactly. There’s some of that happening on there, unfortunately.

Pete Mockaitis
That would be ill advised, I think, as a career pointer, I’d suggest, because you’re going to infuriate half of the people that you’re engaging with. So there’s that. But that is a nice example, because I guess that could be a little bit, I don’t know if “touchy” is the right word, but if it’s a purely online only bank, then they’re hoping the answer for everybody is “Yes.” But not everyone does have that opinion. So, in a way that makes it kind of spicy, kind of interesting. It’s more, I guess, real instead of the polished branded advertisement messaging, in terms of, “We’re going to have a real conversation, in terms of there are some pros and cons about moving in this direction, and let’s hear what people think.”

Andy Hill
Absolutely. It’s fun to see the conversations being facilitated. Sometimes it’s just like a video or an article saying, “Here’s something that our company wrote”, or you just post the article. And that doesn’t really start any conversation or facilitate any conversation. So, I like to ask some questions like that, that are a little bit more engaging.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very cool. And so in so doing, you meet some new people and they think, “This Andy guy is pretty sharp. He seems to be plugged in to the right stuff.” And then over time that just makes people think of you when they’ve got an opportunity to dole out.

Andy Hill
Absolutely, yeah. And I’ve even had people reach out to me that asked me to post something on our company’s behalf, as opposed to our company, just based on the engagement that I’ve had on LinkedIn too. So, it pays, it shows, and that gives the opportunity to continue to expand conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. Do you have any other quick do’s and don’ts for LinkedIn?

Andy Hill
Yeah, let’s see. No, I think we covered it.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, very good. So then there’s a third step in your rise to wealth, and what was it?

Andy Hill
Yeah, so we touched on the opportunity to get a promotion within your current role, and then moving from one company to another. And then the last one is getting a salary increase in your same role at your current company. And that’s what I was able to do recently as well. So, the steps that I took to make this happen, especially when you get up to a director role and you continue to have more responsibility and expect more out of you for the increased pay – I wanted to not only request the additional salary increase, but I had to show that I was worth it. So for the couple of years prior to that, I worked on exceeding all of my goals and making sure that they were measurable, because sometimes it’s hard to go in and ask for more money if you can’t show how you measurably made change within the organization.

So, with that armed information, I had that actually written down, specifically what accomplishments or what expectations were asked of me, how I exceeded those, and how I did that consistently year over a year. So, I included that not only in an email, but also in a written letter that I in-person supplied to my supervisor, and then also verbally shared those expectations and accomplishments, and had that meeting face-to-face, and did it with confidence, because I was proud of what I had done. And when you’re able to sit down there and share what you feel like you deserve, based on some research that you could do maybe on Glassdoor or some conversations with people who are in your position, maybe at other companies or maybe some people you’re really close with at your company to get an understanding of what the going rate is for your role, so you’re not asking for something ridiculous.

I was able to go in there and have a good conversation, supervisor to subordinate, on what was fair for my role. And based on that conversation and the detail, I had asked for 10%, I got 8%, which was totally fine because I was happy with 8%. So, as you can see, as the roles continue, the percentage decreases just based on where you are and as your salary level increases. At least it has in my case. I’m very happy with that increase though recently. So, those are the three ways that I’ve increased my salary over the years, originally being in the five-figure range to now the six-figure range – from moving internally with promotion, from going one company to another, and then just asking for a straight up salary increase in the same role.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s really cool. And so then, for the request of the salary increase in the same role, it seems like it was very clear what you were doing, in terms of there was some advance notice in terms of, “Hey, here’s the letter, and I want to set up this meeting.” And then away you went. Is that right?

Andy Hill
Right, exactly. Catching the supervisor off-guard maybe is something I didn’t want to do. So I had sent the email beforehand, had a phone call with the person just saying, “Hey, this is a meeting that I’d like to set up with you and discuss further”, so that they had time to think about it. And then obviously after the meeting concluded, it wasn’t like, “Yes, here you go!” There’s some time for the supervisor to consider it and think about it, and then speak to their senior management about it and then go from there. So, having some patience with the process and understanding that it might take a little bit of time is definitely suggested.

Pete Mockaitis
I like your point about the patience with the process, and I’m thinking about a listener who shared a story in which she’s asked a few times for a raise or a title shift because of generating some outstanding results, with regard to acquiring funds for the organization. And it’s really weird, because the response seems to be like, “Yeah, we really appreciate all your contributions. These are really great results. And yeah, we’re very excited and it’s important. But because of this upcoming reorganization or the way the budget is established…” There seems to be a force outside of strictly meritocracy and results generated that seems to slow it down. And I don’t know if you’ve got any pro tips for how do you handle that one and when do you say “Enough is enough” and you start looking elsewhere?

Andy Hill
I don’t know. I think for that person, if it were me, I would really analyze how much do I really like where I’m working. If I really like where I’m working and a raise would make me feel much better about where I’m working – that’s okay. But making a jump to a new company, you’ve got to think about a lot of other things besides just salary. You’ve got to think about your commute – is it shorter, is it longer? What are the benefits are associated with my role? Is there a flexibility with my schedule right now in the company that I’m in, and then the one I have to go to I have to kind of go crazy 10 to 12-hour days just to prove my worth in the beginning? Who’s my supervisor going to be? What’s the work environment like?

There’s lots of other factors besides salary if you were to move to another company. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t, but I would say do it for the right reasons. If you feel like you are kicking major butt and then you are not getting the money that you feel like you deserve and comparing that to some stuff on Glassdoor, maybe some conversations with other people who are in your role – then it can’t hurt to look. We’re in a good economy. Start some conversations.

A great thing to do is even just take some calls from recruiters or have some conversations to build up your confidence being like, “You know what? I am worth this. I’m marketable out there for this rate, and my company is not giving it to me.” So, I don’t know, maybe it’s some internal conversations to say, “How much do I really like working here?” And if you really like working there, outside of some of the salary type situation, salary conversations, it’s something to consider.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, excellent. So Andy, you shared a number of cool fundamentals, associated with your three steps to higher compensation at work. Are there additional principles and tactics that you recommend, you’ve heard, you’ve seen effective for others in practice, that folks should tackle if they’re looking to bump up their pay at work?

Andy Hill
I think a lot of it before you ask for that money or before you take that next jump is, a couple of things. I think you just have to establish credibility. You’ve got to be somebody that people can rely on. Your reputation really matters in the workplace. If you’ve developed a reputation for somebody who says they’re going to get something done and they do it well and they do it above and beyond – that’s a great place to be as an employee, because people are going to have that…

Especially whatever industry you are, sometimes it’s smaller than you think it is. People know who you are at different companies. People are aware of who you are within your larger organization for being a leader. So, going above and beyond your job description, being reliable – I think those are great ways not only just to live personally, but also just to set yourself up for those raises and salary bumps.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. So, we talked about the “earning more money” side of things. I’d love to get some of your pro tips on the savings side.

Andy Hill
Sure, absolutely. With regard to being an employee, there are so many great opportunities to save for your future at your workplace. So, a great place to start, and it’s something that I ignored immediately when I was in my 20s is your office place 401(k). So, taking advantage of any match that might exist from your employer with 401(k), and also taking advantage of compound interest as early as possible. So, for those folks that haven’t signed up for their 401(k), you’ve got to start as early as possible and take advantage of that growth, because over time the more you put in it, the more it grows. So, taking advantage of the 401(k) is a great way to go.

Some companies have an HSA program – Health Savings Account – and this is also sort of a stealth way to save for your retirement as well, but it also is a great savings vehicle to help protect you in case of any health emergencies as sort of a savings backup as well. Outside of those two routes, an IRA – Roth IRA or traditional IRA, depending on your income level – are great ways to save for retirement. And then outside of that, if you need to trick yourself to save a little bit of money just in a savings account, you can also work with your employer to divert some of your salary straight into a savings account so you’re building up an emergency fund, so emergencies turn into inconveniences.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. And it’s amazing how that works, in terms of your mindset: “Okay, this is the money I have available, because it’s the money that I see in the account that’s in front of me or that I’m logged into it.” And I remember at Bain, where I was working previously, it was so funny how this would happen again and again. You had the option to divert a portion of your paycheck into the travel fund. So, you could have pretax dollars funding your, here in Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority CTA card, to ride the “L” – elevated line, or the bus.

So that’s kind of cool. It’s like, if we’re commuting with the train into work, why not use pretax dollars, save 30% plus. That sounds like a good move. But what was so funny was, because it was so easy to forget about, and people often for one reason or another didn’t use it, because they were traveling, out of town for a week here or there, or they ended up taking a taxi – that was back in the day – or something into work, given certain circumstances, or working from home, whatever.

It would just pile up such that two years, three years later when these employees are headed off to business school, they would have these epic transit account balances, and they would sell it at a discount. Like, “Hey, I’m off to Harvard Business School. Anybody want $800 of credit for the CTA? I’m selling it at a discount. Let the bidding begin, the auctioning.” And it just kind of cracked me up. I was like, that is the power of money quietly just being siphoned away that you don’t even see or think about until you open up the account a couple of days before you’ve got to move.

Andy Hill
Well, think about that CTA example with a 401(k) then – so it’s quietly going in there, but it’s going to build compound interest. So that $800 is going to be, I don’t know, it’s going to be a lot more than what you had. So, CTA example – that’s probably not the best, but definitely do your 401(k).

Pete Mockaitis
I guess what was so kicking – or I don’t know if that’s the word – it was so striking and surprising was how again and again and again, folks were surprised that this happened. They’re like, “Whoa, there’s a lot of money in there. Oh geez.”

Andy Hill
There needs to be an eBay store for the CTA cards.

Pete Mockaitis
I did buy one, but then go figure. I didn’t manage to use it all.

Andy Hill
That’s so funny.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Any other sort of ninja tactics or tricks when it comes to saving the money? One way – great, out of sight, out of mind. That’s a good one. Anything else come to mind?

Andy Hill
I love the automation side of things. If you can trick yourself into thinking that you don’t actually have that money coming into your account, you can’t spend it. I think that’s just a great way to trick yourself into saving money, both for your retirement, as well as for an emergency. And I think a lot of times if you have that money built up in your retirement, you have that money built up in your emergency fund, or just general savings, it gives you more confidence at work, it gives you a little bit more pride walking around. You don’t feel as timid to maybe ask for a raise, or ask for what you feel like you’re worth. So, I think there’s sort of an intrinsic pride that comes in there with having your money situation set. It also allows you to ask for some things you need, for some things you think you deserve, and gives you that confidence to walk around the office like you deserve it.

Pete Mockaitis
I think that’s really powerful. And I’ve been reflecting on the work of Chase Hughes, who I hope to have on the show shortly. He’s talking about those very things, like when you’ve got control over your environment, your time, your appearance, your finances, you just naturally have this extra confidence and status, and just ready-to-go-ness with you everywhere you go, whether you’re asking for more money or for a date, or for whatever you’re seeking.

Andy Hill
I agree, and I think your employer sees that too. They want to work with confident people, especially if you’re in front of clients. They want to put their best people forward. So, have that confidence and yeah, take care of your money.

Pete Mockaitis
I also want to get your take on – so, your podcast is called Marriage, Kids and Money. We’ve talked only about money, but I want to hit the marriage and kids part there for a bit. Boy, this is a tricky one. I don’t know if anyone has the foolproof answer, but the challenge associated with what some call work-life balance and others call work-life integration, can be that folks feel this guilt associated with, “Boy, when I leave work, maybe it’s at a reasonable hour, maybe it’s early, maybe it’s late – I feel guilty, like I’m letting down my boss or my colleagues. But I need to be there for my family. But when I have to work more at the office and I’m away from family, then I feel like I’m letting them down.” And so it’s like we’re committed to two important things, and some people are plagued by guilt they’re abandoning one of them. What’s your take on navigating this beast?

Andy Hill
Oh yeah, that’s a tough one. I think a couple of things. One thing that pops into my mind is just setting expectations, both for your family, as well as your workplace. So there are times that my wife understands that work is going to be nuts this week – I’m going to be traveling out of town, I’m going to be traveling globally, I’m going to be working until midnight. If I set those expectations up beforehand, there’s less family strife at home. Now, if you work until midnight every night with a regular salary job, that’s a different scenario. That’s maybe a conversation with your supervisor, or a lifestyle change, or a job change. But I think if you set expectations with your family, when those tough times happen, the conversations can be a bit easier.

The same thing can happen with your employer – setting expectations with them about when you’re available, how you’re going to be able to work. And yes, maybe this is more how you roll, but some things that I’ve done, when I get home on Friday at 5:00 pm, I’ve tried to do this as a practice for the past couple of years – I turn my phone off, I turn my email off, because I want to focus on my family. That can be different for everybody else, but the place that I’ve chosen to work is good with that, they’re okay with that. And yes, sometimes there are things that happen that require my attention over the weekend, but 90%-95% of the time it’s a practice that’s appreciated from other people that I work with, my supervisors.

I’m actually very proud to work for a company, to work for a supervisor that is a family man, that understands the things that I’m going through. I’ve worked in the past, and there’s nothing wrong with people in different situations, but I’ve worked with people in the past that are single and they live for their work. They work 80 hours a week and that’s all they can think about and they can’t understand why people need anything else. I don’t strive well in work environments like that. I like working with people who have a family, that have hobbies, that have things outside of their work life in order to be a fulfilling individual, to have something else. That’s where thrive.

And I think that’s actually a good thing for offices. That’s where creativity comes from, if you’re not just on email all the time, or your nose in work. If you go out, you spend time with your family, you experience culture, you experience music, different types of things that you can bring into your work life that actually excite clients or excite the individual projects that you’re working on – I think that’s a good thing. So I think setting expectations with your family, setting expectations with your workplace is a great place to start.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, very well said. And that’s good to note, in terms of, I remember one listener mentioned, “My boss and my boss’s boss and my boss’s boss’s boss – none of them have kids. And I do.” And I can kind of see that there’s a disconnect. Not to say that of course you must have the same life priorities and station in life in order to connect and resonate and understand and be flexible, but it does make you think in terms of, “Okay, are we aligned on this point? And if not, are you cool with this being a priority for me when it’s not for you?”

Andy Hill
Right, exactly, especially I understand you have a good female contingent that listens to your show. There’s going to be some time where if you want to have children, that your life is not going to be very close to somebody that doesn’t decide to have kids. Having a baby, going through the three months after having a baby, all the things that go through your life physically and emotionally – I feel like it’s a great opportunity to work at a place where you have people that understand your situation. And yes, it can’t be a quick change to switch jobs, but thinking about that and then putting yourself in the shoes of your employer – are they somebody that understands your situation? Did they have a wife in that situation? Did they have kids? I think it’s something to note for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. Well, Andy, tell me – anything else you want to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Andy Hill
I think you did a great job, man.

Pete Mockaitis
Aw shucks, thank you. Cool. Now, could you tell us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Andy Hill
Absolutely, yeah. One that I like is from Benjamin Franklin. It’s, “Diligence is the mother of good luck.” And I think that kind of talks about a little bit of what we talked about today. I think we can hope and pray for good things, we can hope and pray for good fortune to come our way, but we have to put the work into it, we’ve got to put the action into it. We have to fail. We’ve got to do some trial and error to get where we need to go, but you have to put action to it. So, I like that quote a lot. I end a lot of my shows with the quote “Carpe Diem” too. It’s all about action. What can we do to take action today to have our best life? So, that’s one of my favorite quotes.

Pete Mockaitis
And can you share a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Andy Hill
Yeah. I don’t have a lot of experiments, studies or pieces of research that fit into a lot of what I’ve done at work, but one thing that I read about from Scientific American, which is a cool article that got me jacked up about fatherhood. There’s this magic moment when expectant fathers see that mid-pregnancy ultrasound for the first time, and instead of thinking of cuddling or feeding the baby, the dads’ brains go straight to, “What can I do to provide the future needs of this child?”

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Andy Hill
“What can I do to save for their college? What can I do to help them with their future wedding?” And this is a research study by the University of Wisconsin. I thought that was super interesting, because that’s what happened to me. A lot of this drive to increase my salary, or to take care of my money, all happened around the time that I found out I was going to be a father. And I kind of went nuts on it. I kind of went, “Okay, wow, I need to protect my family. I need to go into Papa Bear protection mode.” And I guess there’s some science around it. So, I kind of thought that was interesting to share.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that really is interesting. And I remember the very day my wife told me that we’re pregnant, and it’s on video. I sort of figured something was up when she was videotaping me opening a little gift bag with the pregnancy test in it. At first it was like, “Oh wow”, tears and joy and excitement and gratitude and “Wow.” And then, just moments afterwards, it I was like, “We’ve got to buy this house.” [laugh] I’m on video saying this, so it’s dead on. It was like, “We can’t keep frittering away $2,000 a month on this absurd rent. We’re going to buy a multifamily home and get our tenants to pay the mortgage for us”, which we pulled off, and it’s been quite pleasant. I recommend that strategy as one option for folks.

Andy Hill
That’s awesome. So you went into straight, “What can I do to protect my family? I want to give them the best.” That’s awesome.

Pete Mockaitis
We were kind of going to some showings here and there. And it was like, “No, this isn’t a hobby anymore.”

Andy Hill
“We need the nest.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And how about a favorite book?

Andy Hill
For my career, I would say one book that I read early on that I refer back to every once in a while is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a 100-year-old book, and I love the advice. It’s still super applicable to everyday life and my work life. It just has some very simple nuggets that can help you get by with everything that you do, especially in an office environment.

I try to do my best to smile, I try to do my best to remember people’s names. Even just at the local store, if you see somebody’s name tag, just saying their name. Everybody loves hearing their name, right? So you can do that at work – makes people feel good. Going out of my way to give thanks and appreciation to people. We have an opportunity at our office where we can essentially do a shout out for somebody who’s done something really great at our office. And we get the opportunity to fill out this form, and they get an award for it.

I love being somebody that goes super detailed in that form, and then hoping one of my colleagues gets the award. And luckily, I’ve been a part of, I think, three awards that have been given out because of the responses that I’ve given, and I love that. I love being able to give thanks and appreciation for people that I work with and that work really hard. A lot of those principals that came from that book, I still apply in my everyday life.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome, thank you. And how about a favorite tool?

Andy Hill
Favorite tool. So, there’s a couple of them right now. I’m big into apps lately, so I like this one called Forest. It’s essentially a productivity app. So, I get a little bit cell phone crazy sometimes, where I’ll go on Twitter or Facebook or something like that. And if I really need to focus, I put on Forest, and it essentially gives you a timer on there. And if you say, “I need to focus for two hours”, you set the two-hour timer, and then the app will not let you do anything else on your phone. Essentially it’s growing a tree over those two hours. So if you decide to go outside of the app, then you kill the tree. So, don’t kill the tree. You’ve got to keep being productive and get your work done. So that’s helped me to sort of stay focused and not look at other things outside of work.

Some other things – I set some daily reminders in my Outlook. This is not really super techy, but I use Outlook like crazy. So, all the things that I need to do during the week, I set some daily reminders to get them done. So, those are dictating my day instead of email dictating my day, because sometimes you go super deep into email and then you don’t leave email hell until whatever, 7:00 pm, and you’re like, “I didn’t get any of the things that I was supposed to get done today.” So I use those Outlook reminders as sort of my reminder of what I need to do every single day.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite habit?

Andy Hill
Favorite habit. So, I guess I would say just generally effective time management. So, my colleagues and my superiors know that they can always rely on me, because I manage my time well. I think that I’ve gained their trust and their partnership because I can manage my time well. So I guess short and simple – time management.

Pete Mockaitis
And what are some of your practices in time management that make the difference?

Andy Hill
I would say getting a clear understanding of what I need to do each day in order to get it done right. So one practice that I’ve been doing that I actually got from Curt Steinhorst, who wrote the book Can I Have Your Attention? – he said at the beginning of each day, write down three things on a board or on a piece of paper that you have to get done today. Three things. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but with all of the distractions that we have at work – the pop-in meetings, somebody opening your door: “Hey, do you have a second”, or all the emails that come by – as long as you know, “I need to get these three important things done today, because people are relying on me” – that’s just one simple practice that I do daily that helps me have a complete day.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks and gets them quoting it back to you?

Andy Hill
With the podcast, again, I end each show with the same “Carpe Diem”. And that is something that the listeners of the show and also some people in my life have enjoyed from me. So I guess that would be something that I share, because without action we’re not moving forward, right? Seize the day and take advantage of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Andy Hill
Check me out at MarriageKidsAndMoney.com. I’ve got a website there, as well as a podcast you can find on any major podcast player by the same name – Marriage, Kids and Money.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks who are seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Andy Hill
Well, I guess it would come from some of our conversations today, Pete. I would say if you for a fact know that you’re exceeding expectations, you can prove it and you feel like you deserve a raise or a promotion – go for it. Yes, definitely look up the comparable salary on Glassdoor.com, have some conversations with colleagues that are in a similar area, find that fair number that you feel you deserve, and outline your accomplishments. Sit down with your manager and discuss it, but do it with confidence, because if you feel like you deserve it and you’ve earned it, you should be able to do it with confidence and pride, because you deserve it.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, Andy, this has been a whole lot of fun. I wish you all the best, rock and rolling with experience marketing and all you’re up to!

Andy Hill
Thank you very much, Pete. This was a lot of fun.

222: The Quickest Ways to Earn an Extra Half Million Over Your Career with Rich Jones and Marcus Garrett

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Paychecks and Balances Podcast hosts Rich Jones and Marcus Garrett share some of their biggest money lessons learned from guests, experiences, and past mistakes.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Pro-tips on getting hired for your dream job
  2. The critical thing to do before sealing the deal on your new job
  3. Why 90% of people become stagnant in their career by age 45… and how to avoid that

About Rich & Marcus

Rich Jones, along with Marcus Garrett, co-host Paychecks & Balances, a funformative podcast covering work and money for millennials. They leverage their experiences to provide entertaining insights and helpful tips on money management, professional growth, and other topics relevant to 20 and 30-somethings trying to get ahead.

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197: Getting and Growing Mo’ Money with Joe Saul-Sehy

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Personal finance podcaster Joe Saul-Sehy lets us in on the secrets to making more money, handling it properly, and watching it grow.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The first key to making more money
  2. Important benefits that you might have overlooked
  3. The top money management lesson that rich people use

About Joe

Before starting Stacking Benjamins Joe Saul-Sehy was a financial planner for 16 years and a media representative for one of nation’s biggest financial companies. He leads a team of people who are located across the United States. He communicates difficult concepts in a way that makes them accessible to the average person. He also gives presentations at major companies and to large audiences. Joe is a huge fan of exceptional customer service and loves to model companies like Disney, Nordstrom and Cherry Republic.

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