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Friday, August 21, 2009

Back To School Shopping And Tax Free Weekend

It is time for back to school shopping and one of my wife's least favorite times to shop, luckily she is not big on shopping. School starts next week and this weekend is "tax free" weekend in Texas. Most of the time we do not bother with the tax free sales simply due to the crowds are worse than the last minute Christmas shopping crowds. However, this year we have put school shopping off due to being unemployed and our youngest will be wearing uniforms this year.

Texas has had tax free weekend for several years now and have made changes over the years. In general you have to spend over $100 to get the savings, easy to do when shopping for school supplies and clothes. Here is a link to the tax free list. For the most part the list makes sense but, there is part of the list that is a bit like the old Texas Blue Law. You may ask what is a Blue Law? Today, it is directed at alcohol sales. However, as many many years ago it was expanded to things like; you could buy nails but not a hammer, ammunition but not a gun, a camera but not film, etc. Now on the tax free holiday list here are some "blue law" type of gaffs; backpacks (only for elementary and secondary students - are the cashiers the backpack police?), golf hats but not golf gloves, diapers (baby and adult), pajamas and robes?, swimsuits but not other athletic type clothing.

Anyway, off to fight the tax free shopping crowds. I will post later on how much money if any we saved.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Health Care And Medical Insurance What To Do?

After having medical insurance through my employer for over 25 years, I am soon approaching either not having health insurance or paying outrageous premiums. Now, since I was employed for over 20 years, I qualify for "retiree" rates if I want to keep the insurance coverage (medical & dental) that we have had minus vision. Back in February, my wife called and got the following rates for "retiree" medical and dental insurance... For myself, my wife and dependents the medical is $10,323 per year and dental is $1,366 per year. Why we don't have the option for vision is beyond me? I can do without the vision, my wife qualifies for eye exams through the medical but our youngest needs glasses and does not qualify under medical. Back to the cost, the medical and dental comes out to $11,689/year or $974.08/month! At this point, I am not sure where the money to cover this is going to come from and we can live without it either? I recently went to eHI (e Health Insurance), plugged in our information and was shocked at the figures that I found and did not find. For years, we have paid a little extra to get a lower deductible and co-pay ($300/per person or $600/family, 10% copay for doctors and 20% for hospital or non-doctor office), a PPO plan (through Blue Cross Blue Shield) that allowed us to not have to deal with typical HMO problems. Back to the quotes from eHI, the top 3 least expensive and the top 2 most expensive plans:

Plan Type
Office Visit
Monthly Payment
BCBS TX (Hospital Only)
Not covered
United Health One
Not covered
BCBS TX (Select Saver)
25% after deductible
United Health One
20% after deductible

I don't think that either my wife or myself would ever be picked up with any of the companies that I have listed or the rest that I did not list. Even though I had cancer over 16 years ago and am considered "cured" most insurance companies would consider it a "pre-existing" condition. Then there is my wife, she has numerous pre-existing conditions. Several years ago she had one of the "most treatable" Thyroid cancer's and has a 5 year cure rate(she is 1 year short), Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Anemia (they have still not found the cause of), Pre-Diabetes due to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Hypocalcemia due to surgery for the thyroid cancer. With all of that I doubt that anyone would write a health insurance policy for her. With my wife, she has three doctors that she has to see every three month which winds up being average once per month. Then during the school year when our youngest is in school she is at the primary care doctor every month to every other month. Most of her medications are fairly inexpensive but, there are so many the cost will add up without any type of insurance.

No matter what your views are on President Obama's health care reform, something desperately needs to be done with the US health care system! The way that the system is currently set up is not working. Our oldest child is married and her and our son-in-law both have good jobs with health insurance. But, their problem is that for the most part they don't get sick very often and never seem to make their yearly deductible. So, most of the time they wind up not going to the doctor unless they can not get rid of their cold or virus and then pay 100% out of pocket since the deductible has not been met. At this point I am just completely disgusted with all of it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Resume What Do You Really Need? Part III

Format is yet another part of the resume. What format is best Chronological, Functional or Combined? Many word processing programs have resume templates, which are good but don't really help you with questions that you may have about what to put in your resume. We found a resume program at Half Price Books called Resume Works Pro for less than $10, you can also find a copy on from $15-19. It is easy to use and has a lot of helpful features.

  • Resume samples
  • You can convert the resume that you create in Resume Works Pro to MS Word, PDF and text files
  • Tons of sample cover letters
  • Contact manager
  • The ability to easily edit the look and content of your resume after you finish to change the style or add/delete sections.
  • A walk through much like many Income Tax programs.
Formats, Chronological is the most common but may not be for you. I found a good explanation of the three types here it is for Psychology but much of it applies to everyone. I found that the Combined format works best for me, due to the complexity of my job field. Next, is the different sections within your resume. Which ones to use is up to you but, I have the following; Name and contact information, Job Title, Summary, Work Experience, Designs, Skills, Patents, Security Clearance, Education and References.

  • Name and contact information - Pretty self explanatory (Name, Address, Phone numbers & Email). If you have an online resume on Monster or one of the others, I suggest that you only put your name and maybe the area in which you live (Dallas, TX or San Diego, CA) and leave off the rest of the information.
  • Job Title - I use the industry standard job title for my profession "IC Mask Designer"
  • Summary - I use Summary as opposed to Objective just because one it tells someone exactly what you do and two if you are sending a resume "duh, you are looking for a job." This is just my opinion.
  • Experience - For my situation, since I worked for the same company but several groups within the company, I chose to use the following format for my experience. Company Name - Group Name, Location (Dallas, TX), Dates and Title. Then used bullet points for each detail of my job, this comes in to the keyword searches from employers.
  • Skills - I have all of my programming languages, programs (MS Office, AutoCAD, Photo Shop, etc.), operating systems (Mac, PC, Linux, Sun workstations, etc.)
  • Designs - A list of all of the designs that I worked on.
  • Patents - A list of my patent number's and what they are used in.
  • Security Clearance - This helps if you wind up applying for a company that contracts with the government, even if it is not currently active.
  • Education - I only have use my college education. Most people say not to use your high school since it dates you if you are "cough cough" a middle aged to older person. In my case though my college eduction still dates me.
  • References - I put "Available upon request" for one references will extend your resume. Always ask before you put someone as a reference.
This software has tons of resume examples from Account Executive to Worldwide Procurement Director. Although, I did not find exact matches for my field, I did find a lot of examples that I could adapt to fit my resume. I wound up with a great resume that is also pleasing to the eye that will hopefully help get me a new job.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Resume What Do You Really Need? Part II

Continuing with my last resume post, the length of your resume seems to be a BIG question and depending on who you talk to they may tell you one page "period" and no more and others up to three pages. When I was laid off, my group manager told everyone that we needed one page resumes. When I heard that my wife and I thought "What!?!" How in the world can someone with an Engineering background and who has worked for over 25+ years have a one page resume??? Finally, after many edits, deletions and revisions my wife finally got my resume down to two full pages.

My old boss was not the only one that told me that my resume needed to be one page. So, after searching around the web and blogs I found a great blog Liz Handlin's Ultimate Resume Blog
and found this post Tips For Writing the Ultimate Resume and posted the following question on how long should a resume be "I have a question about resumes, how long is to long for a resume for someone with a lengthy job history in a hi-tech profession? I was laid off from my one and only job that lasted almost 30 years. I worked in a hi-tech engineering field and have several areas to list; patents, designs, security clearance and technical skills. After several revisions, I finally have my resume down to two full pages. Is this to long? If so what do you leave out?" Very quickly Liz emailed me the following answer "Thanks for you post and kind words. A 2 page resume is fine but if you have a lot of experience a 3 page resume is appropriate. Resumes should never be more than 3 pages long. with that said, what I often do for clients is separate long lists (patents, board memberships) and create separate documents that you can hand to employers in addition to the resume. That way you can still submit all of the information but you can do it in a way that isn't intimidating....I think that candidates who had recruiters/hiring managers a huge resume are pretty much guaranteeing that it won't be read."

iz's answer made a lot of senses to me. Say you have you Masters, PhD or Doctorate school alone would take up one full page. Then if you have published articles, patents, etc. that will take up a large portion of a page. So put in only what you need but, don't leave important information out either.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Resume What Do You Really Need? Part I

If you are looking for a job more than likely, you need a resume. But, what do you really need in it, how long and how long? I started this post as one post but it has taken on a life of its own and it will need to be continued in parts.

What? These days "most" large companies use a software to look for key words. this is one reason the preferred format is MS Word. After talking with several Headhunter/Recruiters, I have found that even if you have all of the pertinent key words with in your summary section, you also need them in "each" of you job duties for each job. Example; in the past 25 years, I have worked for several different groups within the same company. I basically many of my job functions were the same just different processes, programming languages used and EDA (Electronic Design Automation) tools that I created. So, even if you have the keywords pertinent to the job that you are applying for in you summary section you also need to put it in bullets under each job or company that you have worked for. Personally, I think that it is a bit of "word over kill" but if that is what they want that is what we must do. Not to mention the fact that more than likely these very same keywords will likely be in your skill section, too. For the most part, long gone are the days that people not programs first looked at your resume.

With keywords, look at the job description that you are wanting to apply for. If I were looking for a job programming

I will talk more about keywords in a later post on the format of your resume.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Another Reason To Network While Unemployed

As you may know, I have been unemployed since the beginning of this year. I have been looking for a job in the semiconductor industry with no luck so far, most of the companies have hiring freezes in place. Luckily for me, I was there long enough that my severance will carry me for several more months. Since there are basically no jobs (even though I do look) I have mainly been focusing on networking.

Through my networking, I have found previous bosses, managers and coworkers (even those who had left the company that I last worked for). Quite a few of these people have started their own design house consulting companies. One of the owners of these new companies found me though one of my LinkedIn connections. We have met several times and are now collaborating on creating a computer program. While this is not bringing in income yet, it could possibly turn out to bring in quite a bit of income for the both of us.

So, make a list of past bosses, managers and coworkers find them and see what they are doing now. You never know when you will find someone who knows of a job opening that is now publically posted or finding someone to collaborate with on a new idea. Even if this collaboration does not turn out to create income; it keeps you busy, uses your job skills and keeps them current, can keep you sane in a lengthy unemployment period and it keeps your name out there.

Like the quote that I am sure everyone has heard at least one time "it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease" the more that you are out there and in peoples minds the more likely you are eventually going to find a job. I think this is more true in these times than ever. I was looking in this Sunday's Dallas Morning News papers job section and there was only one page of want ads. Years back, the same paper had sections of want ads. Today's job market is not what it once was.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Money Saving Monday - Cheap Summer Fun In Dallas

As you might guess, I live in Dallas, Texas. Whether you are unemployed or just trying to save money in the terrible economy, there are ways to have fun on the cheap. This morning on Good Morning Texas (GMT), they had several money saving segments. Some of them we were aware of and others were news to us, here is a link to several summer fun ideas on the cheap.

One of the favorites for the kids is swimming and this weekend we took them to one of the local recreation center pools that also has a water slide and splash area. For the four of us the total cost was $16. Check before you go but, some of the smaller water parks and pools will allow you to bring in your own food. We brought drinks, sandwiches and chips. This week we plan on going to Hawaiian Falls, there are three in the Dallas area; Garland, The Colony and Mansfield. The offer several package options and they allow you to bring in a cooler (always a plus!).

Movies are always fun but, can be very pricey. AMC is having a "Summer Movie Camp" and these $1 movies for charity are from June 17th through August 5th. The shows are every Wednesday at 10:00 am.

Specially with children they need to feel secure and normal and they don't need to be worrying that you do not have money for this and that. So, I hope that this has given you some ideas of how to entertain and have fun on the cheap.