Thursday, 31 January 2008

Work Perks - Education Assistance

I’ve just been approved to have my University studies paid for over the next 12 months up to a total of $3000!

My company commits a lot of money to staff development and training, with a lot of training options available to us, mainly internal. On a case by case basis they also fund external study like mine.

I’m studying for a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Marketing. I’ve chosen to study through Open Universities, as it’s more flexible for my work schedule and as its fee based there are no HECS or FBT impacts for me, so my $3000 goes much further. I'm looking to do one subject per study period, so 4 in total over the coming year.

I can use the $3000 for:

  • Tuition fees (subjects are $710 per subject in my course)
  • Registration and application fees
  • Reasonable residential costs for workshops or residential summer school (if applicable)
  • Payment for essential course books

The reimbursements are paid on a study period basis with 50% of costs at the commencement of each study period and the following 50% at the successful completion of each unit. If I fail, I have to cover the cost myself, (and rightly so really).

There are a few catches though:

  • It’s very specific study criteria, (so you can’t head off on an aromatherapy course!)
  • If I voluntarily withdraw from a course, I’m not eligible for a reimbursement of any outstanding costs. The company may also claw back any funds that had been given out to me within the last 12 months.
  • If I leave the company either during or up to 12 months after completion of a paid course, I will be required to reimburse my company for any money paid to me within the last 12 months of service. (So I need to intend to hang around for a while!)
  • The assiatance is reviewed every 12 months and is not guaranteed ongoing.

That said, it’s a chance to get a University degree for free, a reason to stay at home on the weekends and not spend money, an opportunity to get valuable, relevant training under my belt, and make myself a more attractive candidate for the future.

It's worth checking out your companies HR site or employee benefits policy to see what's available to you where you are.

It may not be a cash in your wallet, but over the longer term something like this can be far more valuable. You can lose a job, but you can't have skills and knowledge taken away from you.

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Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Check Your Bank Statements!

I was looking through my bank statement online today and noticed an unusual transaction for just under $25 from what seemed to be a taxi company.

Interesting as I haven’t caught a taxi in the last couple of months. So I looked a bit harder and found another transaction from the same company for exactly the same unusual amount two weeks earlier.

I of course called the bank and had them open an investigation on those transactions. They said it would take a few weeks to investigate, but that they would get back to me and ensure no further transactions from that company would be accepted on my account.

It was for just over $50 for the transactions and they said there had been a couple of further attempts that had been refused. I’d lost my wallet in a taxi some months ago, but had cancelled the card the next day; I don’t know how they have managed to put them through, maybe using the old-style paper forms rather than EFTPOS?

I certainly won’t be using a credit or debit card to pay for a taxi any time in the foreseeable future, I can’t believe they would try to rip me off like that! It’s the first time I've ever had something like this happen. Or maybe it’s just the first time I've noticed it?

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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Dude, Where’s My Superannuation?

I made the mistake of checking my Superannuation fund yesterday while I was thinking money.

Could I have picked a worse day to check it than the day $100 billion was wiped off the Australian Stock Exchange?

It made a big dent in my super balance, a touch over 11% gone as I've invested my fund almost entirely in Australian Equities. Oh well.

I’m not touching anything for now, I've still got 26 years until I retire (assuming retirement is at 65 for me) so I’ll just sit tight for now and ride out the storm. Plus start learning more about how best to manage my retirement funds and diversify once I have a clue what I'm doing.

I was speaking to a friend in London last night about all this and he was telling me he’s got over 4 times as much as I do and he’s only a year older (he's just moved there). Granted he earns substantially more than me and has done for years, but the key difference is he’s been contributing at least 11% since the superannuation guarantee kicked in 1992. A smart cookie that one.

I won’t be selling the shares I found yesterday any time soon either. If I was in a better position financially I’d actually be buying more to be honest! :-)

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Tuesday, 22 January 2008

How I Received $678.14 With One Phone Call

As I was unpacking yet another box last night, I found a couple of old holding statements for shares in the company I work for. These were very old, 7 years in fact and to be honest I couldn't even remember if I’d sold the shares or not.

So I called Computershare this morning and found that I actually still have 1280 shares in my company and they've tripled in value since then – sweet! That’s not the only good bit, as I’ll hang on to them for now with the share market being as all over the place as it is.

The really good bit is I’d moved twice since these were issued and I hadn't received any dividend cheques during that time, so I’m having them reissued for the entire time I've held the shares, which translates to a cheque for $678.14! Which will of course go straight towards paying off debt.

It demonstrates yet again just how clueless I was about my money before I chose to become conscious of my financial position and do something about it. I've now updated my mailing address and should see future dividends come through (assuming the company does well), so I can also put them straight into debt reduction.

The move is unearthing all manner of goodies!

Have you been through your papers lately? Are you sitting on a potential windfall? It’s worth having a look just to be sure!

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Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Yet Another Reason Why An Emergency Fund Is A Good Idea

Tempt the fates with a bold statement for the New Year's financial plans and they mock you.

My car had started making a really loud and weird noise last week, so I took it in to the mechanic and they called to say they've found the problem. It’s the air compressor in the air conditioning unit. They can disable the air conditioning for me in the short term and use a new belt to work around it so the alternator will still charge the battery (I think I got that right?)

This will only cost around $35 including labour; however when they were testing it to locate the noise, they found the rear brakes were locking up. Further investigation found that one of the rear brake pads was installed backwards, which caused a high spot on the drum, so they need to machine the drum to correct it. So that’s an extra $70. Still OK so far.

Unfortunately the front shocks are very spongy (I had noticed this myself I confess), so they will need to be replaced which is $550.

So all up I’m looking at $655 to get it all fixed. I’m not prepared to mess about with this sort of repair and put my safety (and potentially others) at risk, so the snowball for January will be going on that, plus the $45 a month I’ve budgeted for car repairs and servicing which should just about cover it.

I’m so pleased I am able to pay in cash, it’s only a tiny thing in the scheme of things, but every time I don’t have to use a card is a step toward being free of them forever. Even if it means they only get minimum payments this month.

I've rebooked the car in for the service I'd actually taken it in for in the first place for next month, as that’s $220 and I don’t have it without relying on credit.

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Tuesday, 15 January 2008

I’m Back! So Are My Bills And Debts…

Well I’m all moved in to my new apartment, even though I’m still surrounded by boxes and the week long issues with phone and broadband connections have only just been resolved.

The move cost me an absolute fortune, and I’m glad it’s behind me so I can refocus on eliminating my seemingly ever increasing debt load.

The movers cost twice as much as I expected, pushing the total costs of the move up over the $2500 mark. One of the joys of being single with no family in the city to assist with the moving process. It’s amazing how your friends disappear into the woodwork when the moving word gets mentioned.

Unfortunately, due to lack of emergency funds almost all of this had to go on the credit cards so I've started the New Year more in debt than ever.

That said, I have a shiny new budget in hand, my envelopes at the ready and payday is today, so it’s time to focus on moving my finances to a better location, now I’m all moved myself.

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