The Bullseye - January 2008

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

In This Issue:
To Sell or Not to Sell?,
Alumni Update,
How to Ask for and Get a Raise,
Deciphering Your Company's Healthcare Plan

To Sell or Not To Sell?

The U.S. housing market is progressively declining. This has potential sellers wondering if they should sell their house now before the market gets worse or be patient, wait and hope it gets better in the next year.
 
MSNBC.com reports a way to detect how the real estate market is doing in your area. Compare the number of unsold houses to the recent pace of sales. If this number is rising, it is likely that your local housing market is not doing well. It basically indicates that sellers are appearing faster than buyers. The only thing this number does not do is tell you how many other sellers are in your same position. Perhaps the other sellers are waiting for the Spring/Summer market or until the school year changes.
 
There is no clear-cut answer as to whether someone should sell or not. Some factors are not predictable with any certainty such as; whether or not the U.S. economy will face a recession. If history repeats itself, recessions typically follow a lag in housing, but this is far from certain.
 
There is also a group of homeowners who are currently struggling with the state of the mortgage industry. Their mortgage rates are being adjusted and there is a question as to whether they will be able to keep up with the new rates. Luckily, the President recently unveiled a plan that will help those with adjustable rate loans by freezing certain subprime mortgages for five years. However, implementation of the plan is a while away. The plan is also, by critic’s standards, seen as a band-aid that bails out the lending industry. The overall idea is to reduce foreclosures and slowly the market will recover.
 
Until the mortgage industry recovers, keep in mind the following when decided whether to sell. First, there is not one right answer. For some individuals, selling now might make better sense than waiting. For others, it might make financial and practical sense to wait.
 
Second, every housing market is different. The housing market in Austin, Texas will not be the same as the housing market in Richmond, Virginia. Some regions are considerably stronger than others. Be sure to check with local realtors and trade organizations to determine the state of your regional and local housing markets. Let this serve as a basic guide and balance that answer with your financial and personal needs.

Alumni Update

I left the US Air Force after 9 years as a 2W171 – Aircraft Armament Systems Specialist, and here I am just over 6 years later as the Improvement & Development Technician for Pason Systems USA Corp.  Pason is the world leader as an industrial technology company providing design, manufacturing, and rental of specialized drilling instrumentation systems. Pason is based out of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, with our US led operations having the head office in Golden, Colorado, and a sales office in Houston, Texas. 
 
Orion International led me to Pason Systems just over 6 years ago as a Field Service and Sales Technician, which I did for my first four years until I moved into my current position as the Improvement & Development Technician just over 2 years ago.  I currently work as the U.S. representative for all equipment related issues and for improvement processes to maintain and achieve the highest level of quality in our products and services.  I have been very successful, and I just wanted to thank you again for helping me connect with such a great company which has grown into the world leader in oilfield instrumentation.
 
- Brandon Gardiner

Do you have an update to share with us?  Did you get promoted, have a new addition to your family or any other news you’d like to share?  Click here to tell us about it.

How to Ask for and Get a Raise

The majority of companies do not hire employees at the top of the salary range. A salary range is used as a guideline that determines pay for a particular job based on duties and the marketplace. Most employees fall around the midpoint. Some of the top employees or those with the most experience and expertise can be at the top, but this is typically not the case. Some companies will discuss this information with employees and let them know what the salary range is for their position. If you are able to obtain this information, or even if you feel you are otherwise underpaid, perhaps it is time to have a discussion with your supervisor or Human Resource Representative.
 
First let’s start by discussing how NOT to get a raise. Chantal Fleming of Payscale.com writes about the following “7 Deadly Salary Sins: Gossiping; Obnoxious or Profane Comments, Being Disruptive, Sending Angry E-Mails, Dressing Inappropriately, Bringing Germs to Work and Drinking Too Much.” While it might seem that some of these things should not affect salary, they often do. The idea is that the seven deadly sins can affect the trust that senior staff, supervisors and co-workers have for you.
 
The most important factor in getting a raise is performance. No amount of good behavior at work will replace a hard-working employee with quality output. The idea is to have both a mature, likeable personality and combine it with quality work. Another way to get a raise is to stay on top of your industry. Know the latest trends and business in your particular industry. Find out what is working and what is not working. This will impress key leaders as well as improve your work output.
 
Lastly, know how to ask for a raise. Ask only after you have done your research. Make sure to know what performance factors your supervisor has asked of you and what you have done to meet those performance factors. For example; have you done any special projects, gone to additional training, contributed to the bottom line? All of these things are necessary if you are going to reach the next salary level.
 
Most importantly, if you are rejected, find out why. Is it strictly budgetary or is there a performance reason? Ask for specific achievements that are necessary to achieve in order to get a raise. Also, ask for a timeline. Request a performance/salary review in six to twelve month’s time (so long as this provides sufficient time to meet those achievements/objectives/goals).  
 
Following these guidelines can assist employees wanting to achieve a higher salary. Just remember that higher salaries are awarded to those who work hardest and produce the best quality.

Deciphering Your Company's Healthcare Plan

Most companies offer open enrollment for the upcoming calendar year. Choosing the plan that is right for you can be a daunting task. Deciphering healthcare plans can be as complicated as decrypting an ancient code. Here is what you need to know in order to make the decision that is right for you and your family.
 
Forbes.com suggests keeping the following key points in mind: “premiums charged; access to doctors, hospitals and other specialists; out-of-pocket costs and limitations.”
 
It also suggests taking a personal inventory of healthcare needs. What is anticipated for your family in the following year, such as, healthy visits for children, annual examinations, chronic conditions, vision and dental needs and physical therapy. There are also unintended emergency room trips and illnesses to consider as well as surgeries, pregnancy and mental health needs. Sometimes it makes sense to change healthcare plans for one year in order to cover a surgery or pregnancy. Remember also that mental health care is not always covered.
 
Start by reading through each healthcare plan to gain a basic understanding. Most companies offer a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) as well as a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). A PPO tends to have a higher monthly payment but offers more flexibility in terms of choosing doctors. The major advantage of a PPO is that no referral is necessary from a Primary Care Physician (PCP) in order to see a specialist so long as the specialist is on the list of providers. Some PPO’s will also pay a portion of a visit to a physician not on the list of providers.
 
An HMO is generally less expensive and tends to be a good option for those without special healthcare needs. They traditionally pay only for in-network doctors and require a PCP to provide a referral to a specialist. If your current physician is not in their network, you need to consider whether you can afford to pay for your current physician out-of-pocket or are you willing to switch to an in-network physician.
 
Once you have determined which plan covers your needs, determine how much you will pay out of pocket and make sure you are able to finance this amount.
 
The next thing to consider is prescription coverage. Frequently prescription coverage is separate from healthcare. The first thing needed is to take an inventory of your family’s medications. Are they covered on the plan? If so, what amount will be covered? How much will be needed monthly out of pocket? If the medication(s) aren’t covered, call your physician to determine if there is a similar medication that is covered.
 
Finally, consider any “perk” benefits such as chiropractic care, alternative medicine and nutritional advice and smoking cessation quit-lines.
 
All of these things are important in choosing the healthcare plan. Don’t forget to take advantage of pre-tax programs, flexible spending programs and health reimbursement accounts. All of these things can help you make the best decision for you and your family.