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Career and Work

Over the next year, Microsoft’s executive management plans to lay off 18,000 employees, including factory workers and those in professional positions.

Redundancy. As Microsoft acquired new companies, at least according to the news reports that tend to take a company’s press release and spokesperson responses at face value, they have the potential to take advantage of consolidated businesses. For example, when two companies merge, there may be no need to carry the legal team from one of the companies. The resulting larger company can probably function just as well with one legal team. Administrative departments can be merged and reduced.

There’s good advice out there about avoiding lay-offs. Make yourself indispensable to your company by working harder than everyone around you, gaining more knowledge about the organization, being involved in the corporation at a deeper level than what’s expected. But as good as that advice sounds, events like these — Microsoft’s decision to eliminate 14 percent of its workforce — are good reminders that you can do everything right, follow all the advice, and schmooze your bosses sufficiently, and still have your position end up on the cutting room floor.

Some time ago, I wrote about several signs you’re about to lose your job. These signs are all related either to your behavior or the behavior of people around you. But I didn’t mention factors that have little correlation to you or your performance. As 12,500 of the Microsoft 18,000 are seeing, simply being in a successful company, one that gets acquired by or merged with another, can signal a round of layoffs is on the horizon.

For the small business owner and employees who work in start-ups in today’s feverish start-up economy, it pays to be aware of this.

If your company has been acquired by another, one of the first things you want to do is start looking for a new job. Even when two companies that are roughly similar merge, there is a shift in culture. And that could be experienced not just by the acquired company, but by employees who work for the purchasing company as well. Changes like these shake up the employees and the management, and your routine may change. It could feel like working for a different company, not the one where you’ve been employed for a certain amount of time.

There’s something to be said for being able to adapt to a new culture. Many who do are able to eventually feel comfortable in a changed environment, and many of these with the fortitude to adapt will see themselves succeed at the new, combined organization. But you could still adapt perfectly without being immune to redundancy-based layoffs. Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do.

If your department looks like it could be combined with an existing department due to a merger or acquisition, if your role is potentially duplicated elsewhere in the company, or if you’re otherwise affected by a combination even if just culturally, start brushing up your résumé and looking for a new job. Don’t wait for the pink slip to begin your search.

You might feel that you’d rather be laid off and receive a severance package than quit right away, but if you do find a new opportunity that matches the culture you expect and is a good enough offer, there’s little reason to wait around. In fact, you can use an expected severance package in your current job as part as your negotiation tactic if you find a new job ready and willing to hire you.

At the same time, if you have the capacity, it’s always good to spend some time focusing on the potential for starting your own business. Years ago I wouldn’t have even suggested this. After all, most attempts at entrepreneurship fail and people who attempt to open small businesses often return to the traditional workforce. But starting up does work for some people, especially those who have high stakes and are motivated to keep trying. Sometimes, like I’ve found, you never know that you have the potential for business ownership until it just happens.

When this website was acquired by a large company a few years ago, I agreed to be an employee for the purchasing company, continuing to edit the site, work on related projects, and help the company achieve some of its stated goals based on my expertise. But before long, the company included me in a round of sweeping lay-offs, and it took me by surprised because the company had no other person to do the work I was doing.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I still consult for that company today, as evidenced by my continued presence as editor here, but in a much more reduced role. It actually worked out better for me because it has freed me to do other things I want to do much sooner than I would have been able to do them otherwise. But as safe as I thought I was after being engulfed by the company, no one is ever safe. There’s probably nothing I could have done, no better performance I could have attained, no better networking with the decision-makers I could have done, no self-help book I could have read and internalized that would have changed the outcome. I’m pretty sure I still came out of the arrangement as the “winner,” but that doesn’t particularly matter.

Layoffs can happen to anyone, anytime, and the probability is heightened following mergers and acquisitions, regardless of which side of the deal any particular employee happens to be on. Like Robin Williams said to Matt Damon in the Academy Award-winning Good Will Hunting, it’s not your fault. Well, sometimes it is, but with a massive round of layoffs like the one planned by Microsoft, often it isn’t.

People who have survived a large round of layoffs will happily tell you their secret: the skills they have, the attitude they project, or the corporate political games they play that allowed them to pass through unscathed. I would ignore most of that, because there’s a great chance that many people who have done the same still saw their positions eliminated. There’s a tendency to think that two things are causally related just because they happen around the same time. In this case, those two things are an employee’s behavior and the avoidance of a lay-off round. But when companies make decisions like these, the bulk of the decision making doesn’t take anything like this into account.

In fact, if anything else, the decision is purely financial. Given two people in a redundant role, the winner will probably be the employee who costs the company less. And costing the company less is something that good employees rarely do because they’ve often successfully warranted and negotiated better-than-average compensation.

Have you been affected by a large round of layoffs at a company? What were your experiences?

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This little tidbit of advice gets passed around frequently, whether by employers who feel justified in their poor treatment of employees or by motivational speakers who want to see the masses take control over their professional lives: If you don’t like your job, get another one.

Many people spend years of their lives — perhaps decades — working in unpleasant jobs. I have always believed that every individual owes it to his or herself to be treated well in any employment situation, even if it has taken me more time than I would have liked, in retrospect, to move away from toxic situations myself. In general, if you are in a bad situation, change the situation. It’s good advice, but unfortunately, the advice is often given by people who are unfamiliar with any particular individual’s specific situation. And reality can be a dark cloud hanging over the world of advice full of optimistic aphorisms and motivational quotes.

Why can’t someone with a horrible boss quit? Why can’t low-wage workers simply find better-paying jobs instead of advocating for a living wage? Why don’t women who are being verbally or physically abused by their husbands (or vice versa) simply pack their bags and leave? To those of us who have benefited from some privilege, the inertia might not make any sense.

I have a friend who has been a teacher for fifteen years or so. She didn’t go to school to be a teacher, but when she graduated she realized that education would be a better, more lucrative, and more successful career path than her chosen area of study. Now, she is no longer passionate about teaching; that is to say, she still loves actually teaching and affecting children in a way that will allow them to become competent, intelligent, and questioning adults, but thanks to systemic changes, she doesn’t really get to do that.

But she’s still teaching for now. She has the talent and fortitude to be successful at any endeavor. We’ve talked about opening a private school where she could have a positive effect under a different type of system. We’ve talked about other projects. But, from a perspective based in reality, she thinks she could be much more successful as a shop owner in a burgeoning middle-class community (that was formerly rural).

That said, it would take a leap of faith and a lot of energy to make this change. Her current job and other responsibilities inside and outside of her family require so much time, money, physical energy, and mental energy that she has little left of herself to give to planning out her future.

And that’s exactly where most people are when they stay in jobs they don’t like. You can’t tell, for example, a single mother who works multiple shifts at two different jobs seven days a week to use her free time to look for new jobs or to gain additional education. She can’t quit one of her jobs because she needs the money today. Living paycheck to paycheck, or even going into debt to afford basic shelter and food, there is no wiggle room.

Survival mode poisons the brain.

Motivational speakers, endlessly positive, want to instill hope. Well, other people have risen from these bad circumstances to thrive. And by admitting it’s difficult, we may not be reaching the one in one hundred who will hear the motivational advice and find a way to take the actions necessary to put themselves in a better position for the long-term. And maybe this is even possible for an additional five in one hundred people who are dissatisfied with their situation, and wouldn’t have done anything unless they felt inspired by a motivational story. Or perhaps this five do have the capability to make these changes and won’t regardless of what they hear.

I’m confident that we’re left with ninety-five out of one hundred people who really hate their jobs (or other life situations) — and this just isn’t because their boss is unfriendly, but because their quality of life is deplorable and they’re unable to think about their future because they’re focused on their urgent needs and the urgency tasks with their roles as employees — who will never be able to put into action the latest motivational author’s twelve-step plan for improving their lives.

If you are in survival mode, upper-middle-class ideals like self-actualization, self-improvement, and planning for the future are impossible. And it’s not a matter of how people work, it involves how people think. Survival mode prevents the brain from operating at the higher levels necessary to guide the actions of a self towards a better future. In general, survival mode hinders cognitive abilities.

This is why, as a society, we have organizations including the government that help people. If an external force can get the most vulnerable people out of survival mode, with the right cognitive training, they can begin to consider more than just meeting the immediate needs of their families. But survival mode is more than just something that happens to people who aren’t meeting their basic needs as one might see on the base of the pyramid that represents Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If even the threat of loss of life, shelter, or food exists, the brain is still in survival mode.

Work isn’t supposed to be fun.

Not everyone who is stuck is in survival mode. Even people who are relatively secure — or at least, not living paycheck to paycheck — are liable to sit around in a situation that’s bad. In my example about the teacher above, there’s no reason to think she’s in survival mode. Yes, she’s overworked and has little time to consider her alternatives, but her family isn’t starving. Her husband owns a business (and as successful business owners know — you can hardly have a life for yourself if you want your business to be competitive, and an equitable work/life balance is a myth) and provides well for the family, even if income is scattered throughout the year.

Your average corporate employee who has an annoying boss and feels he could be doing something much more fulfilling with his life has something in common with this example: awareness. While they see their situation as unfortunate, they are aware that they don’t have it nearly as bad as the impoverished. People throughout the world seem to be satisfied — or at least not outwardly complaining — with much, much less. This awareness leads to guilt, and this guilt is powerful. When people realize that most of the world has it a lot worse, they feel bad about their petty complaints.

Competitive inertia prevents action.

It can be unhelpful for anyone’s long-term success to compare one’s life or success to another, whether the comparison is favorable (“I’m doing much better than the jobless mom who goes in and out of the homeless shelter!”) or unfavorable (“Some bloggers get all the attention from the mainstream media while I go unnoticed!”). Living life as a comparison for the most part prevents people from taking actions that can improve the situation.

While some people thrive under this type of competition, it’s certainly not the majority of people. Competition causes stress, and stress, especially when it is placed on top of layers upon layers of other stress, pushes people back towards survival mode. I’m familiar with competition because it’s always been a part of my life. Employees deal with competition all the time in their workplace, but like many people, I’ve always participated in activities that rely on interpersonal competitiveness.

I started learning to play the clarinet in third grade. It was a horrible experience, and I was terrible. The teacher made sure I knew I was terrible because he had all the clarinetists sit in a row of chairs, from best to worst. I was the worst and was made to sit in the last chair. (Of course, this is for the most part how musicians are seated in orchestras as adults as well; the “best” performer gets the first chair. The teacher was simply reflecting real life for the third-graders.)

Did that make me want to try harder? No way. I hated it. But I continued, and the next year I moved to a state where the fourth-graders were learning their instruments for the first time. I had a half-year of experience. Suddenly I was the expert — and I stayed “first chair” for the rest of my time through high school (except as a freshman) and pursued music education in college because I loved it so much and thought it teaching would be a great career for me.

The reality is that competition, awareness of the world, most often doesn’t inspire people to improve, it allows people to resign themselves to their situation. This is an attitude that can be overcome, unlike survival mode which happens at a subconscious level, but it isn’t something that’s going to happen just because someone says, “Get a new job, slacker.”

Let’s not forget about the economy.

I never want to be the economy to be an excuse for the choices I make. In fact, it’s hard to know what is really happening in the economy because the news is filtered and changed by the opinions of the people who write about it. But if government statistics are to be believed, the job economy hasn’t truly recovered from the recession that took hold of the world a few years ago. The unemployment rate soared, and the jobs that have returned have been lower-paying jobs.

Companies wanting to survive the recession, a disappearance in customers willing and able to pay for products and services, reduced expenses. And mostly, they reduced their expenses in human resources. Like humans, corporations entered “survival mode,” and employees got the worst of the effects. Employers found ways of surviving with fewer people, pushing for higher productivity from some employees while eliminating others.

This news permeated society, and certainly turned employment into a corporate-favorable buyers’ market. With this impression, people are most likely to “be thankful for the job they have.” They’re less inclined to improve the situation because they believe it’s somewhat futile to do so. This actually makes those who are able to make the sacrifices, leaving a job, stand out more, so it’s still a good idea to seek out better employment situations if you can. But like most things in life, the best opportunities go to those who can afford to take the risk. The survival-mode single mom working two jobs can’t afford the risk.

So if you hear someone say, “If you don’t like your job, get another one,” they’re either talking to someone who has a support system in place to make that risk possible, or they have little understanding of the realities that people who are truly stuck face.


Whether it’s playing guitar or writing short stories or telling jokes or taking photos — whatever — amateurs are far more likely to think they are experts than actual experts are.

That is a summary of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, as explained by David McRaney in his first book, You Are Not So Smart. I’ve mentioned the author previously as I expressed frustration with the idea that entrepreneurship is a panacea for financial problems that are interpreted as a lack of income. The Dunning-Kruger Effect shows that self-evaluation of competence at any particular skill is an inaccurate measurement.

The author used the example of photography, and that’s a field I can relate to. As I gain more experience through my own endeavors to create interesting images from what I see in the world, and as I gain more education by viewing a massive number of professional photographs, the more I realize that I am so far away from being as competently artistic I’d like to be. And that’s a truth, despite the encouragement I receive from family and some friends.

Nevertheless, I enjoy photography, so I will probably continue to work at honing my skills. I just won’t be trying to sell my services as a photographer more than the occasional favor to friends of friends. Mainly, it’s something I can pursue because I enjoy it, and not something I need in order to earn a living.

But I’ve seen the Dunning-Kruger effect in the field that has been, for lack of a better term, my profession for the last decade. In a discussion I presented at the Digital CoLab event in San Diego recently, I brought attention to one of the most popular tidbits of advice tossed to entrepreneurs early in the lives of their businesses: “fake it till you make it.” This is touted as a key to early success. In fact, it’s completely natural. In fact, it’s so natural that this is a defense mechanism that extends far beyond humanity.

  • When a cat is frightened, he will puff out his fur to appear bigger to his enemy.
  • When a peacock wants to attract a mate, he fans out his tail-feathers to produce a display attractive to the lady-peafowls.
  • A wolf showcasing its dominance in a pack parades with its head held up and tail raised — a posture that in humans would be considered “proud.”

Among human entrepreneurs, this attitude has many potential manifestations.

The expert front.

One basic example is the business coach, calling herself an expert in her marketing materials, without the experience that warrants the “expert” status. I’ve been lucky over the years to talk with many true experts in publishing (online and offline), website development, business development, and private investments, and they all have one thing in common: they don’t call themselves experts. They’re not busy trying to market themselves or prove their worth to others. These just do the work, and do it passionately at a high level of excellence.

Prior to the housing crash, mortgage brokers were kings of business. The credit industry was so flush, and you could make big money selling mortgages to people who perhaps should not have been qualifying for mortgages based on their risk, and if you were a sub-prime mortgage broker, chances are good you were living the high life. The market crashed, credit froze, and almost an entire industry was out of work.

I am not trying to imply a causation, but there was certainly a correlation: this was the same time “search engine optimization experts” began flourishing. And given that SEO was a new industry, and that business owners who believed they needed SEO services couldn’t tell the difference between experts and charlatans, the internet created an industry perfect for people who were better at marketing themselves than they were at anything else.

Experts appeared out of nowhere. They might not have been good at actually causing good business results for clients over the long-term, but they were good at self-marketing. Here’s my favorite example of expert fronting: Around the year 2000, I once saw a resume touting “15 years of web development experience.” If you don’t know what’s wrong with that statement, you shouldn’t be in charge of hiring web development employees.

One of the reactions I often hear to the idea that expert fronting is a bad idea is that if you don’t speak up for yourself, no one else will. I understand that feeling. It’s incredibly difficult to get noticed in a crowded industry. The key to resolving that problem is to differentiate yourself or your business, and to differentiate yourself in tangible ways rather than just marketing yourself more aggressively. You stand out when there is a specific identity that separates you from the rest of the pack.

The business “we.”

The temptation to appear to be a larger company is apparent when sole business owners identify their businesses in the plural form. “We are a full-service web development firm” sounds more marketable than “I design websites.” Of course, there is a point where a new business grows to be a team. The “we” can certainly be legitimate, even with early-stage companies. But if you do a little research and discover that there is no we behind the “we,” then it should give any potential consumer pause.

The need to make a business appear to be a bigger company than it is covers up some insecurity, but insecurity itself is not a sign of incompetence. In fact, as the Dunning-Kruger Effect shows, an expert is more likely to feel like she is not an expert.

Customers who get paid instead of customers who pay.

This is a popular marketing technique online, though it has already been around offline. The online version is the “affiliate” relationship. Word of mouth marketing is incredibly important when starting a business, so some companies are willing to pay for those mouths. It is possible to convert a good selection of your potential paying customers into your own salespeople who are motivated to sell your products and services for you. And online, these relationships should be disclosed to potential customers, but often aren’t.

How do you know if a review you read online is legitimate? Could the individual who wrote the review and is providing a way for you to purchase the product be paid by that same company? This is a popular sales technique, and in fact, it’s basically the form of commerce that allowed Consumerism Commentary to thrive as a business (and to eventually provide me with a personal exit from such sales techniques).

Businesses that pay their customers to promote their products aren’t automatically offering bad products, but it should raise some skepticism. Would a customer be just as passionate about the product if he weren’t getting paid?

Is it ever a good strategy?

Inflation of a personal brand and these other techniques do serve a purpose, though, from an entrepreneurial perspective. Primarily, it can give you a confidence boost at the early stage of your business. Before long, you begin believing your own lies. And then you want to live up to them without letting customers and clients down. Maybe it will help you work harder.

However, there is a dangerous side-effect, and this is the point I made during my presentation at the conference. While strong personal branding and inflating your ego helps to acquire customers in the early stage, it makes it incredibly difficult to win support from your more established colleagues. Business ownership — and progress within a career outside of business ownership, as well — isn’t a solo journey. People live and work in communities, not industries. The more you isolate yourself, the less support you’ll receive from a community, and the more difficult your long-term success will be as a result of this isolation.

As a customer, look for unbiased testimonials (if such things exist). Look for external evidence of the claims made by the salesperson. Look for a little humility. Look for the peacock that is working hard at being a better peacock instead of spending that time shaking its tail-feathers.

As an entrepreneur, don’t fake it till you make it. Gain respect in your community through honesty and hard work. Let other people call you an expert when you deserve it.


On Father’s Day, I visited my dad, who is in the process of moving out of the house he has shared with his long-time girlfriend for the past thirteen or so years; she had been living in the house for about forty years, if I remember correctly. We met at the house, which was clear of almost all of its furniture, and walked into town.

Maplewood is a township in New Jersey with a cute downtown area, with several good restaurants and shops. There’s a convenient train to New York City. It’s not a cheap place to live, though. In 2011, the mean price for detached houses in the township was $570,158, and property taxes are typical for New Jersey. In other words, high.

We walked to one of the restaurants, St. James Gate Publick House, for a Father’s Day dinner and proceeded to talk about life. To provide some context for the reader, I think my father and I have a good relationship. We’re not particularly close, but we check in with each occasionally and I take some time to visit him several times throughout the year. My parents were divorced around the turn of the millennium, but each has been in a committed relationship with their current partners for a long time.

The photograph you see here is from when I was about six months old.

I don’t normally write about my family on Consumerism Commentary. I started this website in 2003 to talk very candidly about my finances, and because of this type of exposure, I wanted to remain anonymous. And I’m still anonymous to a degree. Because I put a high value on my privacy, except for my finances until a certain point, I respect the privacy of people in my life. But I think it’s safe to share some aspects of the discussions within my family that could have an effect on me or other people who may be in similar situations.

The first thing I learned pertains to retirement. I actually already know the things that I “learned” during our discussion, but hearing from or observing one’s father can have a more direct impact than harboring any particular piece of knowledge intellectually.

Don’t wait until retirement to live your life.

Now, my father has not waited until retirement to do many activities that he would enjoy. Even when he was young, he was exploring his world, with bike-riding trips, camping with friends, and cross-country road trips. Later in life, he embarked on cruises to Europe.

He’s several years beyond the traditional age of retirement now, but he’s only now starting to pull back his hours. He’s considering continuing to consult in retirement as well — not because he needs the money, but primarily because he’s not sure how he’ll be spending his time in retirement. To complicate the matter, I found out last year that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The symptoms are being controlled well by medication now, but physically — and this can apply to anyone as the years advance, anyway — he can’t handle the same activities he had handled well in the past.

There are many things I’d still like to do, mostly regarding traveling and experiencing the world. There’s little holding me back right now other than myself. Personally, although I put pressure on myself to work, the reality is that I don’t need to. If I wanted to take a few months and travel, financially, it is possible. It takes some planning, and perhaps that is what is stopping me. Another barrier is that most people I know do have to work, and that makes it difficult to have a traveling companion.

I could be living an exciting life right now — so I need to start figuring out how to make that happen before I get old.

Your education, regardless of your career path, is worthwhile.

But my dad might disagree. With my parents’ encouragement, I pursued a music education degree as an undergraduate. Entering the degree probably, although I was apprehensive about the big changes moving to campus would bring, I was passionate and dedicated to the idea of my calling to be a music teacher in a high school. I expected I would follow the typical career path of a teacher who was looking to be effective with students as well as experience career development; I expected to eventually move from teaching to administration.

It turns out I didn’t like the public school environment and moved away from the teaching field. The passion hasn’t fully left me — I recently began teaching rhythm to a group of special needs children, and find it very rewarding. Nevertheless, my life took a different path. I am, however, thankful for the education, and I think that the courses I took in college helped prepare for being a leader in the field in which I work.

My father considers my education to have been a waste of time, and doesn’t understand why I am currently giving back to my university community. Perhaps he read Matt Yglesias’s article in Slate dissuading alumni from financially supporting greedy universities. After all, these are organizations that are generally cash-rich and favor students who can afford the high cost to attend the schools. But my alma mater is not an Ivy League school and is not “well-endowed;” it is a private university while also a land-grant college; most of the funding for its programs comes from private money, yet it has the misfortune of having a public charter.

Not that any of this really matters — the bottom line is that I experienced an unfairness while I was pursuing a minor. I was required to take, and pay for, a credit course representing a non-profit internship. I was paying the university tuition so that I could work for an organization for free. I did receive a benefit — I ended up working full-time for the organization where I had the internship (though that may have been a bad idea anyway). This situation helped predicate my spiral into financial despair, all of which resulted in my life-changing run as the founder of this site, which I successfully sold several years ago. So it’s not all bad.

I’ve been giving back to my university in several ways.

  • I’ve established a stipend to help one student each year pay his or her bills while pursuing a required internship, opening up more opportunities for someone who might not be able to afford to take the best opportunity available, even if it is in an area with a higher cost of living.
  • I’ve been back to campus to address aspiring entrepreneurs in a speaker series. I can guarantee the students did not hear a story like mine before or after my visit.
  • I signed up to meet with high school students who are interested in the University of Delaware, particularly those interested in pursuing arts-related degrees, to share my experiences with the university and with life.
  • I am now a member-at-large on the alumni association’s Board of Directors.
  • I’ve been invited to be on a panel of Department of Music alumni to better prepare students for life after college.

I don’t see any problem with giving back to my university, even though they certainly received a lot of funds in the form of tuition from me (and my parents). Would my father had been happier if I had pursued an engineering degree, like him, and had a career path that took advantage of the specific education that degree would provide? Perhaps, but I think things worked out fine.

One of the reasons I’ve avoided being involved with the university since my graduation is the fact that my life has taken such a strange turn and I’m not doing what I intended when I was in school — teaching music. And I do feel quite a bit separated from the friends, students and professors, I had made while in college. But I’m really excited about getting involved again, and I think it will become a worthwhile piece of my life, and something I can be proud of.

Not everyone will have children or a family of his own.

One day while in college, someone who knew me well looked at me and said, “You’re going to make a great father.” Today is almost twenty years since that moment, and I still haven’t proven her right or wrong. I’m thirty-eight years old, and I don’t have a family I thought I might have had by now. It’s really my own fault; although my relationships tend to be long-term, I’ve never “settled down.” Today, I’m in a relationship that’s still relatively new, and things are going well despite the distance between us.

During our dinner, my father suggested that maybe I just won’t have a family of my own. There’s nothing wrong with that path, and single people live their lives just as well as married folks, and in many cases, they live better, more complete lives. You can’t really generalize; every individual is different. Having a child now means I’ll be no younger than 56 when he or she graduates high school.

I can’t really look back and say that I wish I had children ten years ago; my life was in a vastly different situation at that time.

There are two choices — decide to change and actively make choices to put that change into effect, or come to terms and learn to enjoy the current situation.

Even if I disagree with my father in some respects, our discussion gave me a few things to think about. It’s good to have these discussions once in a while. At the end of dinner, to which I treated him, we walked back to the house he’d soon be moving away from. I was then on my way back to my own home, an apartment where I just renewed the lease for another year (with a break-away option) with more to think about.


Overtime Pay for More Workers

by Luke Landes
Would you like fries with that?

Wages for the working class tie directly to the performance of the overall economy. When the largest group of consumers feels they have money to spend, they will do so. This spending may be to the detriment of their own quest for financial independence, but it also allows businesses to thrive. It’s always been the ... Continue reading this article…

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by Luke Landes

As I’ve mentioned often on Consumerism Commentary, after a a false start or two with jobs following my undergraduate studies, I started my career working for a non-profit organization involved in the arts. I followed one of my passions without considering my financial needs. I want to be able to look back and see that ... Continue reading this article…

8 comments Read the full article →

The Myth of Early Retirement for the Middle Class

by Luke Landes
Is early retirement a myth?

Financial independence has become an important topic for me over the course of my adult life. It’s been a progression. First, I discovered the concept of spending less than I earn — simple mathematics but a behavioral change — and how that, in addition to making better choices, could eventually lead to financial independence through ... Continue reading this article…

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by Luke Landes

Looking back over my career, which for me started in non-profit out of college in 1998 and 1999, included teaching middle school and high school, transitioned into the finance industry, and eventually culminated in working for myself full-time, I’ve had an opportunity to consider my approach to “sick days.” In the early days, I took ... Continue reading this article…

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Scott Adams, the creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip, recently shared his thoughts about success through an essay in the Wall Street Journal. His premise is that business leaders who share advice for the masses who want to succeed lie about their own experiences. Failure, which Scott Adams feels does not get enough credit, is ... Continue reading this article…

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Adult ADD/ADHD Limits Financial Success

by Luke Landes
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As a kid, I might have had attention deficit disorder (ADD). I was never diagnosed as far as I know, but I had many of the symptoms of the “inattentive” type of ADD, and some of those symptoms continued into adulthood. An actual diagnosis of ADD as an adult would require exhibiting at least six ... Continue reading this article…

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Real Financial Progress Requires Quantum Jumps

by Luke Landes
Quantum leap

I don’t completely agree with the “get rich slowly” theory. I accept the fundamental advice, like paying yourself first, making conscious decisions about big financial decisions as well as the full series of small financial decisions, and setting long-term goals, but there is a fundamental flaw with taking this theory as the sole approach to ... Continue reading this article…

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Blogging Will Enhance Your Public Image and Help You Succeed

by Jim Wang
Ink, pen, and paper

One of the most effective ways of boosting your human capital is to publish your well-edited and relevant thoughts in your particular field. Blogging is a great way to communicate with an audience, establish your credibility, and enhance your public profile. Jim Wang is the founder of, one of the earliest blogs (along with ... Continue reading this article…

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8 Reasons to Sell Your Business

by Luke Landes
Handshake in suits

I was an entrepreneur by accident. When I started blogging in 1994, I didn’t expect to earn money; I wasn’t even trying. But almost ten years after building my first website, I created Consumerism Commentary to learn about personal finance and to improve my own money situation. Within about a year, much to my initial ... Continue reading this article…

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5 Keys to Full-Time Employment for Young People

by Luke Landes

The latest economic news from the Department of Labor paints a mediocre picture at best of the employment situation in the United States. It’s still difficult for young people to find full-time jobs. There may be some concern that this lower level of employment is going to be the new norm, and whether American society ... Continue reading this article…

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Is Your Unpaid Internship Illegal?

by Luke Landes

In certain fields, internships allow younger people in the formative stages of their careers get experience with major companies, make connections with influential people in later stages of their careers, figure out if their career goals are worth the effort, and possibly put themselves in a position to be hired full-time for the company that ... Continue reading this article…

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What Happens When Companies Pay Employees the Best Salaries

by Luke Landes

I worked at a non-profit organization for a few years, and the employee turnover at that company was frightening. This particular group attracted young adults right out of college, like myself, who believe in the mission, work hard, settle for nothing short of excellence, and are willing to sacrifice personally for the good of the ... Continue reading this article…

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Debit Card Pay: Extra Fees or Money-Saving Opportunity?

by Luke Landes
McDonald's Pay Via Debit Cards

Last month, a McDonald’s employee in Pennsylvania sued her employer to receive all of her rightful wages. This was a class-action lawsuit for the benefit of all employees now faced with an annoying trend. Employers are forgoing paychecks and direct deposit in favor of distributing wages on prepaid debit cards. Here’s how it works. When ... Continue reading this article…

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Responsibility Without Authority

by Luke Landes

A past employer had a hard time keeping his employees from running away within three years of starting their jobs; for this small organization, the turnover rate was high, and without consistency, the organization compromised the service it intended to provide and the mission that was its essence. There is nothing unique to this situation; ... Continue reading this article…

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Get Motivated Out of a Business Slump

by Tom Drake
Get out of a slump

This is a guest article by Tom Drake, the founder of Online Money, where he writes about his online business techniques. Tom is helping me (Luke Landes) organize this year’s Plutus Awards, an award ceremony honoring the best financial blogs, bloggers, products and services, which will be featured at this coming October’s Financial Blogger Conference. ... Continue reading this article…

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How Today’s College Graduates Can Beat the Odds

by Luke Landes

I graduated college in the first heyday of internet-connected businesses in the late 1990s. Jobs of all types were abundant. And although the “dot-com” bubble burst soon afterwards, unemployment rates remained historically low. This year’s graduates are facing more obstacles than those from fifteen years ago. Starting on a solid path right out of college ... Continue reading this article…

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