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Preparing for the Merger Ax to Fall

Recently, "Mona," a friend of Nancy's for over 40 years, found out that the bank where she's a lawyer was going to merge with another lender. Naturally she began to worry that her job would be eliminated. To cut her monthly payments, and gain some breathing room, Mona decided to refinance her 15-year mortgage to a lower interest, 30-year loan.

Mona reasons that she can always pay the loan off as if it were a 15-year mortgage, by pre-paying, as we explain in the book, The Banker's Secret. But if her job disappears, she'll have fewer sleepless nights worrying about coming up with the larger payments on the 15-year loan.

"To be honest, I've always been afraid of not having the discipline to pay extra principal every month," Mona confessed when she wrote to Nancy about her refinancing plans. "But I could force myself to keep it up with automatic withdrawals and payments."

"I hope the notion of extending my term of indebtedness doesn't horrify you!" Mona wrote. "Naturally, having read so many of your publications, how could I not think of you when this idea floated through my head?!"

It may surprise you, as it did Mona, but we have absolutely no problem with the idea of her refinancing to a 30-year loan -- because she came up with a way to guarantee that she'll be a good debt manager. With her lender automatically withdrawing both her required payment and a pre-payment every month, Mona's long-run costs won't skyrocket. In fact, they should go down. Yet she'll have the benefit of that extra breathing room if she needs it, thanks to a lower interest rate coupled with a longer term.

No Points Can Be No Bargain

Mona's thought was to refinance via a zero-point loan. While no-point refis can be great, homeowners can often save more over the long run by choosing an even lower interest loan with points. To find out, you'll need to crunch the numbers based on how long you think you'll be living in your present home. (We explain how in issue #4 and in the manual that accompanies The Banker's Secret Loan Software.)

Important note: If Mona also had credit card debt, we would have urged her to get out from under the plastic monsters' grasp as quickly as possible. With that merger in the offing, if Mona lost her job, a pile of credit card bills could only mean trouble. Fortunately, she's proud to be able to say that she's never paid a dime in credit card interest.

A New Beginning

The most important point we made to Mona -- and want to make to you -- is that a merger at work is a perfect time to Invest in Yourself.

So how can you Invest in Yourself (which just so happens to be the title of our book)? By seeing the possibility of a forced job change as an opportunity to think about what you'd really like to do to make money.

Don't know what that might be? Consider these goof-proof ways to find out.

1. Enroll in an inexpensive career counseling program, be it at your alma mater or a nearby community college. Or ask the guidance department at the local high school for leads. Early in the process, counselors should offer you an aptitude test. Take it! You may find out what you were really "meant" to be! For a referral to professional job counselors, contact the National Board for Certified Counselors (800-398-5389 or www.nbcc.org).

2. Would you rather be coached? A career coach will work with you, usually one-on-one for several months or more, and typically over the phone and on-line. Unlike a traditional job counselor whose focus tends to be only on finding you a job, coaches generally focus on helping you create the WHOLE life you want.

To find a career coach, you can contact the Coaches Training Institute (800-691-6008 or www.thecoaches.com) or the International Coach Federation (888-ICF-3131 or www.coachfederation.org). Most reputable coaches offer a free introductory session, where you can check out the chemistry. Try three or four coaches on for size before you spring for the bucks.

3. Spend some time in the library. Take out an assortment of self-improvement books, like the classic What Color is Your Parachute,listen to some inspirational audiotapes, scan magazines that might shed some light on different careers, and peruse The Encyclopedia of Associations. Almost every type of business has a professional association that publishes newsletters or magazines focusing on the industry's latest trends and concerns. Request membership information and a publication sample from any that strike your fancy.

4. Take a journey to these locations in cyberspace: www.careermosaic.com, www.careerbuilder.com, and www.monster.com. You'll find free on-line job search engines as well as sound career advice. Other valuable sites for career changers include: bls.gov/oco, careermag.com, and www2.fu.com/almis.

5. Take some inexpensive adult ed classes. You can explore new fields or subjects that seem interesting, or pick up skills and credentials that can open up new doors. But don't just take the class! Most adult ed teachers are professionals who really do what they teach. Take advantage of your instructor's expertise by asking for some real-world career advice, perhaps over a cup of coffee after class.

6. Talk to people who work in professions you find appealing, including the staff at those trade associations. They have a unique overview, and can offer key insights about job opportunities, and industry trends.

7. Pay a visit to a headhunter, or two. Maybe they can help you find another job, or at least give you a good overview on the job market. Just hearing what's available may turn a light bulb on -- or off -- up there in your noggin.

8. Volunteer after hours or on weekends. By being with people who actually do the work you're considering, you'll get a good sense of the pros and cons of the job -- and more. Moonlighting and "temping" are two other risk-free ways to test the waters of a new field or business.

9. Create an "Ace in the Hole," a small home business that you can grow into a money-making opportunity should you need or want to go it alone. Start small, do something that you enjoy, and keep at it. (We often write on this subject. See our back issues #8, 9, and 12 in particular.)

10. Become a consultant. If you've built up some expertise in your field, put together a proposal explaining the benefits that clients -- including your present boss and other contacts you developed on your job -- would gain by working with you on a consulting basis.

Call everyone you know who could be a potential source of business, and tell them of your plans. Ask them if there's anything you can do for them, or better yet, suggest projects you might be able to do. You'll be off to a running start, merger or not.

11. When you're ready to seriously pursue your new line of work, you might want to use vacation, comp time, or, if possible, a leave of absence to "sample" a new career without burning any bridges.

12. When the time has come to move on, in addition to the obvious -- updating your resumé, checking the classifieds, practicing interview techiques, and networking with friends, acquaintances, as well as trustworthy customers and suppliers -- visit the web sites we've already mentioned, plus www.careerpath.com, www.ajb.dni.us, and www.occ.com.

Turn changes into chances!

The Pocket Change Investor
The Secrets to Getting Ahead -- Even If You Have a Pile of Credit Card Bills, Hefty Mortgage Payments,
Loans Out on a Clunker or Two, & a Bad Case of the "I'm Tired of Living Payday to Payday" Blues.

As of Issue #35 (Fall, 2003), The Pocket Change Investor, our quarterly newsletter on how to save money, get out of debt, and live better on less, will be available online, only -- for free! To get future issues right into your inbox, send your email address to us at newsletter@goodadvicepress.com, putting the word "subscribe" on the subject line.

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Reprinted from The Pocket Change Investor © 1999, Marc Eisenson & Nancy Castleman

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