This week was "Bike to Work Week" in Atlanta, and today was specifically "Bike to Work Day." So I made the first leg of my first commute to work on my bike! It's a pretty good way to start off the morning, and it's nice getting in early.
The first leg of my journey is about one mile of uphill, so I was pretty out of breath as I was nearing the end of this stretch. So out of breath that some pedestrian walking by asked if I was okay. My goal is to get in shape enough to not cause concerns for passersby on future commutes!
I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I didn't notice many extra bikers on the streets this week, or this morning, so I guess ride your bike to work day may not be a famous event in town. But I'm glad they made it, since it motivated me to finally try it!
Happy tax day everyone! A time for me to celebrate getting everything done last week, so there were no stressful surprises today! Actually, I filed most of the extensions for my clients back in March, so last week was just a couple clients who wanted a return by 4/15.
Sad about the bombing of the Boston Marathon today - such a loved tradition, to be marred by this act of terror.
Hopefully no one lost their lives in the blasts!
Number 9 on the Stuff Accountants Like website is "Throwing people under the bus."
This phrase comes up all the time in public accounting, and seems to come from a slightly desperate need to make sure everyone knows that what went wrong wasn't your fault. Of course, this conflicts a bit with the desire to be loyal to and friendly with your coworkers.
Typically, when something goes really wrong, it is ultimately the partner's responsibility. They didn't allow managers sufficient time to provide appropriate guidance and training to staff, for example. Before a final report or tax return goes out to a client, it is reviewed by managers and then partners. Most partners at our firm do seem to accept this responsibility.
What's interesting is when a partner plays the "throwing people under the bus" game too. I always wonder what makes them feel that they must toss all blame into someone else's lap - they already own part of the company! Rationally, the junior staff are much more at risk of punishment if they are blamed for a partner's mistakes than a partner is when they accept responsibility for a junior's mistakes.
Do you work in an office where people are always quick to play hot-potato with the blame when something goes wrong, no matter how small?
My first mortgage payment came out of my bank account on May 1st. The required payment is $986.06 - $369.96 towards escrow, and $616.13 towards the mortgage.
For this first payment, $200.38 went to principal, and $415.75 went to interest. Crazy to see how much I'm paying in interest per month...
I rounded up to $1,000 each payment, so I am putting an extra $13.92 towards principal each month.
According to the mortgage company's "amortization estimator" my maturity date, if I make the required 360 payments, will be 4/1/2042. With the extra $13.92 with each payment, the maturity date is moved up to 2/1/2041 - so it saves me a whole year of mortgage payments.
Once my student loan is paid off, I will evaluate how much additional I will put towards paying off the mortgage.
The principal balance is now $132,824.70.
After looking through 134 entries, the winner is Deborah. Congratulations! Look for your $75 prize arriving in your inbox any minute now!
Other giveaways to enter now:
- My Personal Finance Journey is giving away $205! ($105 straight to readers, the other $100 to your favorite charity.)
- Frugal Toad's Fall Giveaway - win $50
- 20's Finances is giving away a $50 gift card
- Investorz Blog is giving away $25
- Money is the Root is giving away $25
- Invest it Wisely is giving away some wise advice - In Defense of Food
- CoupleMoney is giving away a Tablet
Review of 3rd Giveaway
I listed the giveaway on Online-Sweepstakes again, with many more entrants than last week's, although not as many entrants as the first give away.
Giveaway visitor stats:
(Visits) [Page views]
0. Week before any giveaways (736) [2,194]
1. Week of first giveaway (996) [3,295]
2. Week of second giveaway (776) [2,416]
3. Week of third giveaway (926) [2,964]
The total number of visits this week still do not rival the visits in the first week of the giveaway, but the increase from week 2 to week 3 is 150 visitors, but the number of visits driven through Online-Sweepstakes.com is only 108 in week 3, so at least 42 of the new visits seem to have been generated through other means.
My alexa ranking has been hovering around 250k since the contest began. I've seen it at 248,000 - today it is at 253,000. So the giveaway gave it a poke, but I'm not sure if it has sticking power.
Thanks for participating, and look for the next contest announcement on Monday!
I've written about billable hours and realization before here, but this post deals with some examples of billable hours targets, and situations that I've run into recently where it can be tricky to decide how much to bill.
Hitting the magic number
At my firm, we are expected to reach 1,600 billable hours per year. This may be lower than some other firms (anyone care to comment on their firm's target?), but quite a lot of our people hit this target, or even get a few hundred hours over. I know at some firms, they try and set the target out of reach a little, so that few people hit it, but based on how many people reach the goal, it seems reasonable to assume that we're really expected to get the full 1,600.
Working the hours
Last month I set up an excel spreadsheet to track how many hours I have so far, and how many I think I can get for the rest of the year. The spreadsheet my company sends out to us assumes that you will get 12% of your hours each in January - April, and 7% each other month (this adds up to over 100% by the way.)
However, I know that in October through December, we have very little work to do. I maybe lucky to to 150 total during the fourth quarter.
So instead of 112 hours for each month of non-busy season (1600 * 7% = 112), I have figured out that I need to work 140 billable hours each month for the rest of the summer, and then 70 hours each month of October, November, and December.
How many billable hours per day?
With 19 workdays in July, in order to hit the 140 hours target this month, I'll have to bill about 7.5 hours per day. That's trickier than it sounds, since in a typical busy 8 hour day at the office, I may only get 6 billable hours. When you start tracking how much time you spend working on client projects, you realize that it's pretty tricky to spend every hour you work on something billable when you by necessity need to spend some time asking around for more work, or get new projects explained to you. Especially during the summer when we have a few hours of training every couple of weeks, it can really easily eat up the time left for billing.
However, I think it gets easier to bill more consistently when you have more experience, and don't have to spend as much time asking around for work (which invariably results in getting sucked into chatting with the people you ask for work from.)
Fudging the numbers
I have heard folks from other firms talk about how it's the norm for the staff to bill more hours than they actually work on jobs. (See this post here from "Last Year's File" about how he got fired when he started billing his true hours.) I don't think that happens at our firm - I see that my coworkers around me are legitimately busy all day long. I also see (when I asked how many hours I could expect to get during our slow months) that people really did record their low billable hours during those months.
Unlike at Last Year's File's firm, if you do the work in half the time here, you will be given more work, rather than just being fired for not billing enough. You do have to go out and let people know you're available BEFORE you run out of tasks though - this can also be tricky to manage because you can feel completely swamped all week, and then come Friday realize you made it, you finished it all, and now you have no work and no one wants to assign you a new project on a Friday afternoon!
Tracking your time
I treat billable hours like my budget - keeping a close eye on my numbers keeps me motivated. Sometimes I feel like I've been working a ton, but if I really track the billable hours I find that I'm still falling short quite a bit, so it keeps me more aware of how late I should expect to be staying, and if it's worth it to come in on a Saturday to finish up some projects so that I can get new ones on Monday (yes, it's worth it.)
I believe that part of finding your ideal career and achieving success is the ability to be flexible, and take advantage of opportunities that come along when you least expect it.
The ability to jump at a great opportunity takes both financial and mental flexibility. What if a recruiter contacted you out of the blue with a job that was exciting and stimulating, especially compared to your current daily grind? But what if that job required a 5k pay cut (at first) and was on the other side of the country?
Would you be too indebted from a mortgage, or unable to take the paycut? Maybe you couldn't afford for your spouse to be out of work while finding a job in the new location.
On the other hand, even if you are financially stable, the lack of mental flexibility could hold you back. I know that I take a long time to adjust to a new employer and job - if I was offered a job tomorrow, I probably wouldn't consider it as much as I might in 3 years. Right now, I feel like I haven't given my current employer enough of a chance, or really gotten much experience from my few months here. Moving jobs now would seem like a waste - but that mentality could keep me from being open to some really great opportunities.
If these simple facts can hold me back, what does having other commitments like a house and family do?
When I was a little kid, my parents made the decision to leave South Africa for a country with more opportunities. They could have stayed there, where they had friends and family, and a network of contacts that could provide them job opportunities. Instead, they took the chance of moving our family to the U.S., where they knew that myself and my sisters would have more opportunities than we would in South Africa.
They had the mental flexibility to leave their comfort zone, and take a chance on a better life.
Do you feel like you have the mental and financial flexibility to take advantage of opportunities that cross your path?
In the process of switching my hosting account to this new domain, the host copied all of my OLD domain's files onto this domain!
Luckily I only had a few posts up, which I will be restoring this weekend.
Adios for now!
Next week we will be having students coming into our accounting firm for their office visit interviews. This is the last round in the recruiting process, and in a matter of days, we will know who we will be having on board with us as spring and summer interns and future full-time hires.
If you are going through the accounting recruiting process, the office visit may seem like one last hoop to jump through. At this point in the game, you're probably tired and just want a job, any job. Well, keep putting in the effort, because the office visit is your chance to shine.
The odds are in your favor
Of the students coming to our offices, we probably have positions for about 1/3 of them. You don't have to be amazing to make it into that 1/3, and if you come prepared and enthusiastic, I think you'd have a good chance of getting the job.
At this point in the process, everyone who gets an office visit is a perfectly viable candidate if they get good ratings from everyone at the firm. As far as I can tell, at this point, no one is worried about who's GPA is the highest, or what extracurricular activities you did. They just want to meet you and get a feel for you. All you have to do is make sure that what they see is good.
Live for the moment
You will probably meet a lot of staff that you didn't meet during the recruiting process. Our firm tries to make sure that, if possible, you are interviewed by a partner that has not yet gotten to know you. If you were only an average, not very memorable candidate during the social events, but made it to the office visit, you can wipe out your past history here. We will rate students after each day, and their most recent impression of you will be the one that decides how you score.
So, show up on time, come prepared with lots of questions, and be friendly to as many of the firm's employees as you can!