Internet Inspirations: Last Gasp for Winter

March 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Winter's last gasp!

Winter’s last gasp!

Enjoy these interesting reads from around the internet as we wait for spring to evict winter from Maryland!

Here’s some great tips over at PT Money about checking out a potential employer’s approach to work/life balance. Even in this tight job market, it is still important to align jobs with your values.

We’ve written about how Craig’s List can be a great source for job listings, but as we mentioned, do your due dilligence. The Job Bait scam is described in this Wise Bread article. Use common sense and be careful about what personal information you share.

This article is part of a series on Women and Money over at and includes some good ways to keep your professional life moving forward even when you’re out of the traditional 9 to 5.

I loved, loved this article at the Jane Dough weighing in on the whole women and working debate that has been raging lately. The title alone is fantastic: “Why We Don’t Need Any More Female Billionaires Telling Us How To Have It All”. I really like the point Colette McIntyre makes that not all women have the same advantages as billionaire CEO’s and where are the men in this conversation?

And for something completely different…

I thoroughly enjoyed this guest post over at Mr. Money Mustache from David Cain entitled, “How To Walk Across A Parking Lot.” No, really. Read it and think about it.

Posted by: Heather C.


Taking A Financial Road-trip….

February 1, 2013 § 1 Comment

What is your financial road trip style?

Your road trip style can be a guide for planning your financial goals! (photo (c) 2012 Heather Comstock)

Just a few weeks ago, we marked the start of 2013.   There was the usual excitement about the New Year and enthusiasm for reforming habits.  Each year, commitments around improving personal finances make up more than 1/3 of all resolutions. As the weeks wear on though, the holiday bills come due, the heating bill soars and sticking to your goal seems impossible.   You are not alone. Nearly 1/2 of resolution-makers abandon their plans before January closes.  But, getting back on track may not be as tough as it seems. Reflecting on how you navigate through life may help you adjust your money management habits and increase your chances of success.

Remember, life is one big road trip…and that includes your financial life.   The way you plan for getting to your destination behind the wheel tells a lot about your personality.   Are you lost without your GPS, or do your prefer plot your route with your trusty-map and highlighter in hand?  Think about how you travel the road and apply it to your finances.

GPS’ers:  Plug in your destination, decide on a catchy name for your computer generated voice (Gertrude is mine) and do EXACTLY what she tells you.  Autopilot all the way!  She’ll get you there for sure (although you may be routed through Canada along the way from Chicago to Boston).  Never fear though, you WILL arrive at your destination in time to enjoy a cup of “chowdah”.

If you are a GPS traveler when it comes to money, you need to find tools to automate your financial life. To control your budget, use your bank’s automatic bill-paying service.   Take advantage of retirement plans offered by your employer and sign up for the automatic paycheck deductions into the plan.  Ask your employer if you can split your paycheck into two bank accounts.  Use one for your monthly expenses, and allocate the remainder to a second account earmarked just for saving.

Map-Maven:  Do you love to gaze at the crisscrossing patterns of the roads?  When someone mentions a legend, do you instinctively look for the little box at the bottom of a page, rather than Tony Bennett? Does the feel of damp paper soaked with yellow highlighter ink bring a smile to your face?

If you answered yes, you definitely prefer hands-on control of your road trip, and will probably enjoy taking personal control of your financial life as well.   For you, a program like Mint ( will allow you to analyze exactly how you spend your money so you can improve and track your progress each month.   A program like StickK ( incentivizes you to reach your goals (financial and otherwise).  Most people who use StickK select a financial penalty (although it’s not required) for wavering from their goals. But, the program allows you to pay your penalty to a loved one or donate it to one of 8 selected charities. (For instance, if dining out is what derails your budget, set a StickK goal to spend less than $100 a month on eating out or pay a $10 penalty.) Programs like Smarty Pig ( and Payoff ( offer a game-like atmosphere for setting and achieving your saving and debt-reduction goals.

Start by knowing the type of road-trip navigator you are, and apply the same style to your financial life. But most of all, don’t quit.   February is almost here! Even if you have had a detour in your financial plans in the past couple of weeks, find the tools that work for you and get back on the road to financial success.

This guest-post is by long-time friend of Pinnacle,  Michelle B. Glassburn.  Michelle is a non-profit executive, financial education advocate, and mother of two based outside of Boston, Massachusetts.  You can follow Michelle on Twitter @M_Glassburn.

Putting the Fun in Funeral: Lessons about Work from My Dad

June 14, 2012 § 1 Comment

Rocking a handle bar mustache and a Dorothy Hamill haircut like only we could in 1979! Magnificent hair is another legacy from my dad.

My favorite thing about the movie My Girl is that the main character is the daughter of a tuba-playing small town undertaker – VERY familar. We didn’t live at the funeral home growing up but we did have their phone line at our house and I have fond memories of wandering over to the office during the summers to mooch coca colas when things were slow. And my dad does play tuba. And euphonium. And several other brass instruments in his spare time. When my dad wasn’t warning me about the dangers of dating brass players, I learned a few things by example from his own career that held me in good stead as I have navigated my own non-linear professional path.

My dad had always wanted to be a funeral director but his parents steered him toward another career path that seemed to them to hold the promise of more financial stability (a great read on this is over at Laura Berman-Fortgang’s Huffington Post blog). Over the years, life happened and my dad’s dream faded until his mid-thirties when an opportunity presented itself for him to go back to school and finally train to become a funeral director. It hasn’t been an easy road over the last thirty years as the industry has changed dramatically. I have watched my dad roll with it and re-invent himself career-wise a few times and here’s what I have learned.

It doesn’t matter that you’re a girl or who your family is or any other external defining factor. When I got accepted into an special academic program at school, he was proud, but he warned me “…that and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee”. Over and over again he emphasized the importance of getting a good education and working hard. He knew I would be judged based on what I produced, not on any other factor.

You’re never too old. I didn’t realize it as a kid, but it must have been quite an adjustment for my dad to leave a known job for the unknown of funeral school and apprenticeship.

Don’t be afraid. As the funeral industry has changed, my dad has dealt with periods of career upheaval. Along the way, I never saw him give up hope. Even as he explored other job options, he found opportunities to learn from these situations. Fear holds you back and closes your mind to new experiences.

Change your perspective. My dad is no longer a full-time funeral director. He keeps in touch with the industry he still enjoys working as a substitute but his full-time job is in insurance. Years before, he had to get a state license to sell insurance products. This additional credential allowed him to segue into a different career when the labor market tightened for the funeral industry. If he hadn’t been flexible in how he viewed his credentials, he would have missed an opportunity.

Do what you love. My dad is good at what he does and his favorite part is helping families. His interest in serving others held him through a return to school and constant change in his industry. Even though he doesn’t do it full time, his background and commitment to helping families serves him well in his new career.

What did you learn from your dad about work and career?  Tell us in the comments below!

We here at PEC wish everyone a wonderful Father’s Day!  

Posted by:  Heather Comstock

I’m Too Old For This… Part 1

April 5, 2012 § 1 Comment

My favorite part of Lethal Weapon is Murtough’s constant refrain that he’s “too old for this…” meaning that he’s past the point in his life where he’s willing to tolerate nonsense for paycheck. The good news is that most of us don’t need to wait to hit a certain age to have this liberation for ourselves!

The intersection of finance and career is probably the first place where this liberation happens. The state of your finances dictate the career choices you make and the career choices you make impact the state of your finances. How can you leverage the two to get you where you really want to go? Ask yourself the following questions:

Why am I working?

Are you there because your mortgage balance or your retirement fund aren’t where you’d like them to be? Or, are you working because each day you enjoy what you do and get energy from your accomplishments? A solid understanding of why you work can help you find ways to enjoy your work more or be a driver for change if your current work is unsatisfying.

At last year’s Women’s Empowerment Conference, Howard County Economic Development Authority Director Laura Neuman described leaving secure employment for the thrill of building something new from the ground up.

What are my goals?

If I asked you what you were working toward could you tell me? Could you paint a picture of it with so much passion that I can see, smell, and taste it? Without clear cut goals it is harder to get motivated.

Understanding the impact of your activities on your goals or your passion helps imbue the mundane with purpose. An example of this is a friend of mine who is an IT professional by day but nights and weekends belong to music. The day job facilitates the passion.

What are the numbers?

Tracking your progress helps keep you motivated whether you’re training for physical challenge, losing weight, or saving money. If you see how each step brings you incrementally closer to what you want to achieve it can keep you on track even when distractions present themselves.

Know where your time and energy are being allocated and make sure you have adequate time and energy set aside for your passion. Knowing your status helps when you’re feeling your energy or motivation flag. It’s like being able to look at a map during a long trip and see how far you’ve come.

What are you getting too old for? How are you moving forward? Are you celebrating your accomplishments?

Posted by: Heather Comstock

Different Doesn’t Mean Inferior

February 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

Why is it when women step outside of expected roles it’s called empowerment but when men do it, it’s comedy?  We women want to be judged on our individual merits; however, how about extending the same courtesy to the guys?  This article raises just that point looking at the increased trend of men joining and becoming active in the PTA.

Men Join PTA, Baffled by Mundane Tasks Women Have Been Doing For Decades

In a blog piece over at the Huffington Post, writer Karin Kamp takes on the recent criticism that women entrepreneurs are creating a “pink ghetto” based around lifestyle, fashion, and children-focused businesses.  Is this “embarrassing”?

Women Entrepreneurs and Female Stereotypes

Yet, this article highlights the work of a female entrepreneur who built her own painting business and now mentors other young women.  This hardly seems to be a “pink ghetto” here.

Local Woman uses Painting Business to Mentor Young Women

In the end, it’s all about the individual.  What does he or she bring to the table?  What skills do they contribute in their circles of influence?  What is their story? Just because it’s different doesn’t mean that the impact is less valuable.

What’s your story?  Have you seen this in action?

Posted by: Heather Comstock

Who’s there?

January 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

By: Heather Comstock

Attendees at the 2011 Women's Empowerment Conference. Photo by Nancy Arseneault.

When the Empowerment Center was being formed in 2010, an implementation team was recruited to develop a map of who we were, who we would serve, and how we would improve our community through our work with women. We had an amazing group from all backgrounds representing everything from the nonprofit sector, government, consulting, and business owners. It was an interesting, opinionated, and informed group.  The one thing we all agreed on:  Women don’t fit into nice one size fits all packages and assistance should be tailored to each specific client, filling a gap in services that existed in our area.

I bring this up because last week we took a look at the information on the clients we have served since we opened our doors for clients in early 2011.  It was very interesting and somewhat surprising (though it shouldn’t have been).  I was reminded that you can’t run a nonprofit, or a business for that matter, thinking you know who you’re serving and what they want from you.  You need to keep your eye on who is walking through your door and be responsive.

So, who did come through the doors in 2011?  We served about 60 women through our free job clubs and empowerment circles, group classes, individual coaching sessions, and phone referrals to other services in Howard County.  Our sample isn’t particularly scientific and we don’t have data on everyone we helped, but in looking at the information we do have, trends began to emerge.

The majority of the clients were 50 or older and most were unemployed.  These women had college degrees – bachelors and masters degrees.   Anecdotally, our data matched what I saw in our office.  These were professional women who were at a crossroads and trying to figure out where they wanted to go.  Some of the women were trying to get back into the workforce after years of caring for their families (including elderly relatives).  We had clients who had been laid off and were actively seeking employment.  There were also women who were restless in their careers and wanted something different: a more challenging position, a career change, or to pursue their passion or start their own business.

I am happy that that our clients came to us and that they found us helpful and our programs and services useful.  While I don’t know the specifics of each case, I do know what each woman got when she called or walked through the door.  She was treated as an individual – because that was our vision from the start and what sets us apart.

Getting Started on Your Job Search

January 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Posted by:  Heather Comstock

As many people have discovered in today’s economy, the rules for job searching have changed.  Today’s job search is all about the network. Pinnacle Empowerment Center’s Career Coach Cindy Virtue explains what has changed.

Be comfortable with computers Almost every job application today involves submission via computers, even entry level positions.  Be sure you have an email address and check it regularly.  Free email accounts are available from Yahoo, Hotmail, or Google.  Cindy told me that employers have more applicants than jobs.  If you’re not responding to emails, they’re moving on to the next candidate.  Keep your account name is professional – save “catlover27” for something else!  All public libraries in the area offer free access to computers and the internet at their branches.  Anne Arundel County Library offers some basic tutorials.

Linked In is the ubiquitous tool of job seekers and the currently employed alike.  According to Cindy, Linked In gives you networking leverage because it allows recruiters to find you and employers are now reviewing Linked In profiles of potential interviewees.  Cindy recommends that no matter your employment status, keep your profile up to date and use key words that employers are searching. For moms and caregivers thinking of returning to the workforce, a Linked In profile is a great way to get started organizing your skills and experiences, particularly volunteer work.  In the event of an unexpected layoff, having a current profile is one less thing you have to pull together to get started job searching.  Linked In allows you to join discussion groups and companies enhancing your networking and providing great information.

Other Social Media While Linked In can be your Professional Image, understand that your other social media profiles reflect upon you as well.  If your Facebook account is more personal, use your privacy settings and Groups to keep your information restricted.  Do use a good profile picture as you don’t want a potential employer to stumble across you looking irresponsible. Twitter is a great way to follow leaders and companies in your industry and watch for trends and patterns.

Resumes No longer are you randomly distributing scads of paper resumes.  You need to tailor your resume for each position.  Employers are looking for demonstrated performance in areas that match the position description.  Cindy notes that you don’t need to include your full street address – a phone number and email address are enough and objective statements just create clutter.

Volunteer Accomplishments Don’t forget your volunteer work!  Think about the skills and experiences you have from chairing the local PTA or your fundraising or special events committee service for the local homeless shelter.  Cindy notes that volunteering is a great way to fill resume gaps and a good networking tool.  For opportunities check out Volunteer Howard or volunteer with us!

For more information on Job Searching, join Cindy on Friday, January 27th at 10:00 for “Successful Job Search Strategies for 2012”.  For more information and registration, click here.

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