Sarang Ahuja | Finance

Leader, Financial Expert, Game Changer

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What I Did During My Summer Vacation—Sarang Ahuja

What I Did Over My Summer Vacation (Wasn’t An Internship)

If you’re a college student, then a paid internship is the holy grail of a summer vacation—a way to make money while also advancing career prospects. It’s a rite of passage for many students, and it can be devastating to see others land their ideal internships while you’re stuck with nothing to do over the summer.

Worry no more; if you’re a college student looking to advance your career over the summer, there are plenty of other avenues available to you that are guaranteed not to require getting other people coffee.

Find Odd Jobs

I don’t just mean mowing lawns or walking dogs (though that is an option). Look for temporary work in your area geared toward your interests. Even if it’s for a nonprofit group, doing work for their benefit can give you something to boost your resume. It’s also a great way to learn how the working environment functions, something that can be hard to gauge through college classes. Take the time to research specialty jobs that may be relevant to you; for instance, if you’re a writer, local papers may need assistance covering stories.

It’s also worth considering day long shadowing opportunities to get another good look at the workplace environment in your industry.

Volunteer

Speaking of nonprofits, pursuing volunteering experiences can be valuable for a resume even if it isn’t necessarily in your area of expertise. Not only that, but there are often leadership opportunities available through nonprofits. Consider spearheading a project and giving yourself something to be proud of.

Complete Summer Classes

Ease the burden of your college career by taking summer classes! Even if your college is far away, consider looking into knocking out a few requirements online or at your local community college. If your schedule is a bit hectic, it can cut down on your stress and even save money in many cases. For that matter, you can even use your extra time to complete an internship later on.

Research

Many colleges and universities offer undergraduate research opportunities over summers. For an individual considering grad school, research is a big standout come application season. Even outside of this, research offers an in-depth look at the working of industries even beyond math and science. Consider asking about grants that your school offers to help support you in these endeavors.

Start a Business

The growth of technology has allowed for the spread of ideas at an unprecedented rate. If you see an opportunity in a field you’re studying, or even just have a solid grasp of a particular skill, consider becoming an entrepreneur. From writing to design to building websites, there are many skills that you can hawk to those interested, all while earning money and learning.

Study Abroad

Not every life experience has to relate to work. By studying abroad for a summer, you demonstrate to employers your willingness to venture outside of your comfort zone and try new experiences. Plus, it gives you more opportunities to learn and work toward that sweet, sweet college credit. Consider some of the places you’ve always wanted to see, and form experiences that you’ll have for the rest of your life!

Secret to Negotiating a Raise—Sarang Ahuja

The Secret to Negotiating a Raise

Talking about compensation with your boss can be a hard subject to broach. Because of this, many don’t know how to properly negotiate when it comes to talking about money, especially when the prospect of a raise is on the table. As yearly reviews come and go, many employees will consider entering into a conversation with their bosses about whether or not they deserve a raise, but most will not receive the compensation that they think they deserve.

The first step to working toward a raise is being realistic about your abilities and your contributions to the company. Look back at your recent efforts and be honest with yourself about what you deserve based on that. If you want a solid raise, you’ll need a good case for it. On average, slightly under 3% of company revenue goes toward raises, but the top percentage of employees are allocated more funds for raises than anyone else.

Nobody knows you better than you, so take the time to compile a list of your accomplishments. Have you gone above and beyond to help out a coworker, or stayed late to assist with a problem? If you’ve taken on recent responsibilities, be sure to highlight those as well. Use any quantitative data that you can find; solid figures of how a company has benefitted with your work are indisputable evidence of your prowess. Don’t wait until the opportunity for a raise comes up; start as soon as possible.

Think of this compilation as a portfolio, and include any documents that you think might be beneficial. Save emails from people that have praised your performance, and include copies of any certificates or degrees that you may have earned in that time. If you have projects that you can include, integrate them in as well. The more evidence you have on your side, the better.

Another way to prepare for a discussion about a raise is finding evidence of what people in your position with your tenure make. If you know exactly what you are theoretically worth, it gives you a starting point for negotiations. However, you should also account for the environment in which you live; if you’re from an area with a lower cost of living, the percentage that your income increases might be lower than in a larger city. Company size is also a determining factor in how much you can expect to make.

Once you’ve gathered the proper rationale for a raise, it then comes time to speak with your boss. The best, and most expected, time to ask is during a year review. If you ask outside of this period, acknowledge that this is an unusual case and that you’re asking for a specific reason tied to your recent actions.

When negotiating, be clear and factual. Tell your boss that you’re looking for a raise in compensation, and follow it up by hitting a couple of the broader points that you’ve come up with before delving into detail. Never make the subject of a raise personal; by stating that you need more capital for a wedding, baby, or something similar, you lose some of the credibility that you’ve built up. Instead, focus on what you’ve done for the company and why that warrants a change.

If your boss turns down your request for a raise, turn it into an opportunity. Be honest with them and ask about what you’d need to do to secure the raise that you’re looking for. It can also make a good impression if you ask about the possibility of taking on more responsibilities in the future. Regardless, keep your responses measured and don’t burn any bridges. In the event of repeated rejection despite outstanding job performance, it may be time to consider other employment options.

No matter what you do, it’s still a tough subject to approach and negotiate. But, as with anything else in business, good preparation and presentation of facts is the best way to sway a potentially difficult audience to your cause.

Talking to your Kids about Finance—Sarang Ahuja

Talking to Your Kids About Finance

It can be tough to broach the subject of money with kids. After all, they likely haven’t had a real job or had to worry about their own finances early on in their lives. For children, adults appear to have their finances figured out, with magical credit cards that allow them to pay for everything and no knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes. Talks about the value of saving money are generally the baseline measure taken to help kids understand finance, but even then, the idea of spending and saving money may seem a world away to them.

I’d like to share a few of the ways that you can talk to your kids about money in a way that can prepare them for the future.

Explain how your finances work.

Children are renowned for their curiosity, and when speaking with them, it helps to treat them like people and not talk down to them. That said, it can be difficult to explain finances in terms that they would readily understand. But some of the basics—how a credit card must be paid back, how monthly expenses can define a budget—can be crucial in giving your children a sense of the effort that goes into managing money.

With the amount of automation that comes with managing finances, it can seem like an effortless process to an outsider, something that anybody can tell you is certainly not true. Dissect the accounts, payments, and taxes that go into every transaction with your children. You’ll likely find that they’ll have plenty of questions of their own.

Teach Shopping Habits.

Make your kids into smart shoppers by showing them the ways that you compare goods when shopping. Note to them the size and price, and experiment with different brands to spark a discussion about whether or not paying extra for a certain brand is worth it.

Work On Saving Goals.

Saving is one of the basic tenets of financial management, but to what end? Work with your children and encourage them to set saving goals, even if they’re relatively minor. Is there a new game that they want? Talk to them about the price and how long it will take to save up for it. If they get a regular allowance, help put in perspective how far their money goes. Start a savings account for your child, and teach them the value of setting funds aside for the future. Talk to them about setting aside things like birthday and holiday money in this account.

Set a Budget.

This one is more geared at older kids coming up on their teens, but breaking down monthly expenses and comparing them to income is a valuable lesson. As a child, it can be easy to forget about the transactions that keep an individual afloat, from rent to food to car payments. Create a somewhat simplified budget with them, giving them a better sense of how you allocate your finances each month, and give them the chance to plan one of their own.

Invest Wisely.

Once you’ve covered a lot of the basics, talk of stocks and investment can help kids understand the value inherent in businesses. Make it a family activity; have every individual track a stock and discuss the highs and lows that it goes through over the course of several weeks.

Teach Giving.

With all of the pressure to accumulate enough cash to balance a budget, it is still important to teach your children that, at the end of the day, there is still always someone less fortunate that is worth giving back to. Encourage them to research different charities, and perhaps even foster their own fundraising efforts for giving back to the cause of their choice.

After all, it’s not just about encouraging them to be better spenders, but encouraging them to be better people.

Tips and Tricks to make extra cash—Sarang Ahuja

Tips and Tricks to Make Extra Cash

Saving, despite its plentiful benefits, can sometimes only do so much. In every individual’s life, there is a point when they decide that it’s about time that they made more money. Maybe it was the first time they mowed neighborhood lawns, or took a paper route, or even fought for a raise. There’s a lesson to be learned here: there are always opportunities to make more money with a little creativity and determination. I already talked about the gig economy and some of the best side job options available, so if you’d like information on that, read this article.

However, there are other ways to provide yourself with an alternative income stream or even gain the skills necessary to secure a raise. I’d like to discuss some of them now.

Get a certificate.

You’d be surprised at the number of skills that have some kind of certification associated with them, that can be earned without too much of a time commitment online. In some cases, you may be able to just take an exam to prove your competency and shore up your resume.

There’s a certain level of research associated with doing this. For instance, you’ll want to make sure that you’re earning your certification from a credible website. Some can actually cost quite a bit of money, so you’ll have to weigh the cost with the impact that it’ll make. Still, if you earn enough money as a result, you can make your investment back and reach your career goals in the process.

Grow Your Portfolio.

The best kind of income is the kind you don’t have to put too much time into. Building a stock portfolio is a great way to generate passive income over time. The best investment portfolios are focused on long-term growth, and with a little research and monitoring, you can build a supplemental source of income. Lending firms are also an option if you’re particularly short on time, and are a good way to dip a toe into the waters of investment.

Gain a Following.

Starting a blog is an unlikely way to generate income! The first step is positioning yourself as an expert on a particular niche (like finance!). It can be tough to generate a regular readership, but you’ll never need a stringent schedule or anything outside of a computer and internet connection.

Once you’ve started providing something of value, you can expand to other, smaller services and find a way to offer more to your audience. This is a flexible approach, allowing you to commit as much or as little as you want.

Learn Niche Skills.

Every industry has its quirks, and in yours, it always pays to learn the little things. Consider the niches in your field, and consider becoming an expert in one of them, a font of knowledge that others around you can depend on.

Certifications can come in handy here; it’s never too late to learn, and you’re not starting from scratch. Even in a workplace, taking on extra responsibility in a specific area that is needed can lead to further raises and opportunities.

Financial Recovery (1)

Financial Recovery—Acknowledging Your Money Missteps

When it comes to personal finance, it can be easy to continue spending on something that offers you little to no value with a disproportionate level of attachment due to resources you’ve already expended. This is known as the sunk cost fallacy and can cause individuals to act against their best interests and spend more than necessary. When this happens, the best course of action is to ignore the amount already spent and move along, even if this is difficult. Similarly, if you’re caught up in another bad financial habit, the solution is always to acknowledge the issues with your behavior and adjust accordingly. With that in mind, here are a few financial mistakes that are easy to make, but also easy to recognize and fix.

Not planning for a major life change

When something major occurs in your life, you should attempt to anticipate and deal with it as soon as possible. Changing jobs and careers is perhaps the most jarring financial change to make, but the expenses and time associated with major events such as weddings and the birth of a new child can tax you more than you’d expect.

Take advantage of the time you have before the event occurs. When it comes jobs, don’t quit until you’re absolutely certain you’ll be able to support yourself between jobs. Setting up a new job is half the battle, but the other half can often involve pursuing other sources of income that can support you in the interim.

Not tracking online payments

When it comes to online payments, never assume that payments are being made automatically. Even with autopay on, make a list of websites that will be charging you and find time to check them after every payment is made. It can help save you from unexpected late fees and save you the hassle of having to call companies to talk about your payment.

And, as previously stated, never hesitate to let go of a recurring payment if you feel you are no longer gaining value from it.

Not having a budget

Building a budget may seem like a daunting prospect, but there are tried and true rules that can help you easily plan out where your money goes every month. One of the most prominent is the 50/20/30 rule, which states that you should allocate 50% of your monthly funds to necessities, 20% to retirement, savings, and debt payment, and 30% for lifestyle expenses, which involve everything else. You’ll need a way to track this budget, and some online services make it easy, but much of this can be done by writing down relevant information.

Not building additional sources of revenue

Sometimes, time limitations make this difficult, but securing or setting up alternate streams of income can give you more breathing room month to month. This can involve taking on freelance projects, securing a part time job, or even selling old items that you no longer need. Be flexible, and ensure that you have the time to properly dedicate to side projects.

Not having long term goals

Things like retirement can seem like ages away, but knowing the eventual outcomes you are trying to achieve go a long way toward your planning tactics. For that matter, it’s not enough to simply have a goal; you need to know the steps that you want to take to reach that goal, and do the proper research and preparation to ensure that you’ll be able to act on it when the time comes. This can involve managing your debt, creating an emergency fund, and putting serious thought into where you allocate your savings.

A Little Something on the Side

A Little Something on the Side: Getting Started with a Side Job

The dynamic of labor in the United States has changed over the past decade. The long-held institution of the 9-5 job is crumbling in the face of a difficult job market and the increasing interconnectedness of technology. Because of this, individuals are opting to take on smaller part time jobs, sometimes to supplement an existing source of income, and sometimes because of difficulty in securing full time employment. Either way, working a side job can be a valuable asset and resume booster, providing the individual with an alternate cash flow that may not be as consistent or time consuming as a 9-5.

So, if you’re an individual that needs some extra cash, regardless of your reasons for doing so, there are a multitude of avenues you can take. I’d like to discuss some of the options available on the part-time job market.

Driving

Uber and Lyft have effectively disrupted the public transportation industry with crowdsourced drivers and a easy-to-use apps. Known in the industry as rideshare apps, an increasing number of people are becoming Uber and Lyft drivers to earn money on nights and weekends. Though becoming a rideshare driver is not as intensive as becoming a certified taxi driver, there are certain barriers to entry that applicants need to abide by.

Drivers need to submit to a background check in addition to possessing a valid driver’s license, a smartphone, and a car with four exterior doors and five seatbelts. Additionally, some cities may not allow rideshare services to operate, so be sure to know if your area can participate! Still, on a busy weekend night, rideshare drivers can accumulate quite the haul.

Babysitting

Despite being one of the stereotypical jobs for teenagers, a good caregiver can alleviate pressure from parents and make a positive impact on a child’s life. Previously relegated to word of mouth, technology has also made it easier to find babysitting and care gigs. Care.com is one example of a website looking to match babysitters with families in need, and payment is easy to receive through the site.

Depending on when you’re available, you can expect to make anywhere from $12 to $25 an hour babysitting. The high end of the scale is generally seen among night sitters, who assist tired parents with children, particularly babies and newborns.

Writing

Writing freelance blogs and articles has a huge market on the Internet. There are plenty out there if you go looking—but be warned, the pay can often be low. Research is important when writing online; you’ll want to know the regulations of the sites that you’re pitching to, as well as having a solid understanding of the topics that you’re writing about.

Still, nothing beats the flexibility of writing for an online outlet and working wherever you’d like! Find a site that fits your schedule, interests, and needs and have a great time producing quality content.

Design

While it requires a bit of a background to do well, with a bit of artistic know-how, you can create beautiful graphics or design for the web. For doing this, it helps to have a collection of your previous work somewhere on the web; bonus points if you can make your own online portfolio from scratch.

Upwork is an online resource for the errant designer, offering potential leads and jobs to community members. Plus, if you start to gain momentum, the amount of money you can make will increase over time.

Personal Finance for Children

Kids and MoneyIt has long been discussed at what age people should start learning how to manage personal finance. It was only recently that some high schools began to require personal finance courses for graduation. Also, of course, there is the ever-popular list circulating the internet stating ‘Things I Never Learned in High School,’ most of which is related to personal finance. High schoolers, college students, and recent graduates are almost demanding that some personal finance that will be pertinent to the future is taught in school, yet the question of how early to start teaching it still remains. A new report suggests that the ideal time to start teaching personal finance may be earlier than anyone has thought before.

This Building Blocks Report, by the Consumer Financial Protection Board, makes the assertion that personal finance should start being taught at age 3. That’s right; preschoolers should be encouraged to practice make-believe play in order to develop their executive functioning. Executive functioning is, in part, learning control and how to plan, which is very helpful in budgeting. It gives people the willpower to maintain control over their actions, so, the sooner it is developed the better. Some make-believe activities that may help children to develop this section of mental processes are setting up a pretend supermarket in your home, playing accountant, and giving children calculators.

Of course, preschoolers will not be able to understand more complicated personal finance lessons, but they will understand basic concepts. Some things that should be impressed upon them include exchanging money for goods and saving money to get something better later. Remember that this is only the first phase of personal finance lessons.

Once children reach their pre-teenager stage, allowance can be used to further teach about personal finance. For example, requiring those receiving the allowance to save a portion of it each time it is given will teach how beneficial saving can be. It can also instill in them the sense that impulse buys, while fun at the time, are not always the best choice. When kids reach their teenage years, purchasing decisions can really start being discussed. At this age, it is recommended to discuss spending habits in all family activities, from filling up on gas to eating at a restaurant. Teenagers should be helping the family make spending decisions, which will ultimately prepare them for making spending decisions with their own finances in the future.

While it is great that some high schools are making personal finance courses standard, it is clear from the above report that personal finance learning should begin even soon. For more information, check out this Forbes article.

Tech Start-Ups in a Cyclical Market

econ cycle

A recent article in the New York Times ends with the following quote from Bill Gurley, a prominent venture capitalist, regarding current tech start-ups. “Lots of founders today weren’t around in 1999, and they don’t know a thing about financial markets beyond what’s happened in the last 24 months…. To them that’s how this game is played, money is cheap and everything goes up. That’s why we have cycles.”

The cheap money comment deserves further discussion. The fact is that a lot of current tech start-ups have existed mostly or entirely in a period of economic growth, during a time when investors have been forthcoming with funds. “Over the last few years, start-up share prices have gone up nearly every time a private company has raised money. Investors were largely optimistic and generous because they assumed that a variety of factors – including low interest rates, a strengthening American economy and the growing Chinese middle class – would keep the markets positive. Spending more to help a start-up grow into a huge company seemed like a reasonable bet.” It’s worth noting the factors leading to optimism mentioned in that quote. Low interest rates are not something that will go on forever, and raising the rate has been discussed in the financial press a lot lately. The strengthening American economy is going through it’s first major hiccup in a couple of years. The Chinese middle class, while still growing, now finds itself in a country with a slumping economy.

Ultimately, start-ups that have been smart with their money, have solid business plans, and show clear paths toward profitability will still attract capital and will remain strong. The ones that don’t won’t. It’s obviously impossible for every company to grow continuously, and those that have striking weaknesses, though they may be able to hide them during a time of growth and general prosperity, won’t be able to during a down cycle. It’s called an economic correction for a reason.

Market Tumultuous To Say The Least

market-8-24-2015

The big story today in all of the financial papers, on all of the financial sites, and on all of the financial news shows is, of course, about the market correction and its causes. Reactions have ranged from “Hey everyone, let’s not panic,” to “Prepare for Armageddon.” And interestingly, the movement of the market represented just this bipolar sentiment. “The stock market whipped between nauseating drops and roaring comebacks on Monday in a historic day of turbulence,” said an article from NBC News. The Dow dropped nearly 1,100 at the opening bell, came within 115 of break-even, and then dropped again ending the day with a total loss of almost 600 points.

An article in CNN Money was quick to temper fears, saying, “It’s ugly. But before you panic, let’s put this in perspective. This is hardly the worst day ever for stocks. This pullback also comes after six years of stellar stock market gains.” As we all know, markets don’t just gain and gain forever. “I’ve been of the view since late last year that this market is in a vulnerable position,” Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist and economist for Wells Capital Management is quoted as saying in the above mentioned NBC News article. “It’s gone almost straight up for six years.”

While economic prospects if Paulsen’s assessment is correct could make many investors uneasy, it would support one of the CNN Money article’s more optimistic points, made to prevent panic. “Stocks don’t just go up. We all know that, but it’s been easy to forget it in recent years…The S&P 500 has gained about 220% in the past six years. The plunge in the past few days has whipped out a mere 11% of those gains.”

The primary causes of the loss of investor confidence – the state of the Chinese economy and depressed oil prices – do not have quick fixes. But if rash reaction can be staved off, the correction can remain a correction and not turn into something much worse.

Investors Aren’t Happy About the Samsung Merger

Sarang Ahuja samsung

In late May, Samsung proposed an $8 billion merger of two company affiliates: Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries. The proposition is scheduled to go to a shareholder vote on July 17, but investors are heavily criticising the deal.

Shareholders are suspicious of transactions between affiliates, as these kinds of deals often benefit insiders at the expense their investors. Adding to concerns is the fact that these large South Korean companies are usually family-controlled. In fact, the founding family of Samsung currently owns 42% of Cheil Industries, leading many believe that this merger might be motivated by family interests.

Last year Lee Kun-hee, the chairman of Samsung and head of the family, had a heart attack. Since then, his children have been working to consolidate company holdings, and the acquisition of C&T could be a way for the family to prepare for Kun-hee’s passing, which will come with approximately $5 billion in inheritance tax. C&T owns a 4.1 percent stake in Samsung Electronics and a 17 percent stake in Samsung SDS.

One of the most active critics of this deal has been Elliott Management, a $26 billion investment firm that owns a 7 percent stake in Samsung C&T. They filed an initial lawsuit in South Korea asking the Seoul central district court to put a stop to the transaction. Unfortunately for them, a judge declined the request. In a second suit, Elliott Management asked the court to block the sale of the 5.76 percent C&T stake to KCC, since KCC is a company that holds a stake in Cheil Industries. Samsung argues that the terms of the deal comply with South Korean law, that the merger is necessary for the success of C&T, and that investors like Elliott Management are just interested in short-term gains.

Another critic is Hugh Young, managing director in Asia for Aberdeen Asset Management, a $491 billion financial firm. His main concern is the merger ratio, which he doesn’t feel recognizes the full value of the company. C&T was trading at depressed levels before the proposed merger due to slow revenue in the first quarter of 2015. The day before the deal was announced, C&T’s share price was 40 percent below its aggregate net asset value while Cheil Industries’ stock was trading at 131 times estimated earnings. This means that C&T stockholders will receive 0.35 Cheil shares for each of their shares should the deal go through.

One key player that has not spoken up about the transaction is NPS, the South Korean pension system that owns a 10 percent stake in C&T. They will likely end up determining the results of the vote.

The reaction to this transaction highlights a common feeling among investors: if South Korean companies don’t become more pro-investor in their practices, their stocks will continue to trade at a lower rate than rivals in other developed countries. While investors are doing all they can to put a stop to these kinds of actions, it’s not looking like true reform is coming anytime soon.

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