Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year (though a few weeks late)!

Between family illnesses, deaths in the family, a house robbery, the economy, and near social work burnout/disenchantment as a result of aforementioned family illnesses, 2014 was not the best year for me.  Of course, there were a few bright points, such as the love of my friends/family/coworkers, several fun vacations (which I will write about later), and the SF Giants winning yet another World Series.  With a new year comes a clean slate and the hope that this year will be even better than the last!

I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions because I never keep them.  However, looking at my finances, I really did not do well when it came to making/saving money last year.  While part of that was due to unforeseen circumstances (such as an emergency trip out of the country and unexpected medical expenses), I also made the conscious decision to not cancel my pre-planned trips and dip into my savings account.  Additionally, I cut back on my work hours in the latter half of 2014 due to job/life burnout.  With the new year, I've upped my work hours again and plan to keep working as much as I can to pay for a family trip this spring and travel in the summer.  My main goal for this year is to make more than I made last year and save significantly more.

Late last year, I found out (to my chagrin) that despite being told otherwise, I do qualify for my one of my job's 403b program as a per diem employee.  I immediately signed up for an account and am putting in 80% of my earnings to make up for several years of missed contributions.  Currently, my savings goals for this year are as follows:
-Max out my 403b contribution
-Max out my IRA contribution
-Max out my HSA contribution
-Recoup the money I took out of my savings account last year

It's not going to be an easy task, but I certainly think it's doable.  Working to my advantage are the fact that I'm still stuck at home (as per cultural expectations) and probably won't be buying/renting anytime soon as a result of ridiculously inflated prices in the Bay Area.  I realize that despite where I live, I'm probably in a better financial position to meet my goals compared to social workers in other parts of the country, and hence consider myself really lucky.

As always, I have every intention to travel, though I'll probably have to budget my money a little better than last year.  More on that later!

I really hope to do more writing this year as I'm out of practice!  Thank you again for your continued support of my blog, and please come back soon! 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Joking About Low Social Worker Pay

While perusing the internet for social work news, I found an old video of a Vice President Joe Biden speech.  In this speech, where he addresses an Urban League conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, Biden jokes that he wishes he had a “Republican kid to go out and make money.”  This is so he could get a "window view" when placed in a nursing home.  Biden then states, "But my daughter’s a social worker.. Graduate school at Penn and runs an at risk program — at risk youth program — for kids getting out of prison and young men getting out of prison.”

You can watch the video here: Joe Biden: I wish I had a ‘Republican kid to go out and make money’ 

When I first entered graduate school, my classmates and professors frequently joked about how we were entering a field where we would make no money.  In one lecture, my a professor joked that we ever wanted an Escalade and a house in a gated community, social work was the wrong field.  As years passed, I've lost count of the number of people who've joked that "I hope you marry someone rich" upon hearing what I do for a living.

It's not funny.  Really, it isn't.

It's a safe bet to say that many social workers cringe when they hear racial/cultural jokes or jokes about disabilities.  Why?  These jokes are mean, tasteless, and reinforce stereotypes about particular groups.  When people make jokes about social workers being poorly compensated, "do-gooder baby snatchers", it not only perpetuates falsehoods about our profession, but normalizes our poor wages, poor reputation, and stressful working conditions.  While I understand that social workers joke about their wages to relieve frustration over getting paid so little, such humor also seems to imply an acceptance that this is what it means to be a social worker.  Sorry, I became a social worker to help the poor and disenfranchised, not to become part of them.

So shame on you, Vice President Biden. Instead of focusing on the good your daughter is doing and advocating for the social work profession, you make a cheap joke about her wages as if it's okay.  Because the world would be such a better place if there were more Republican sons focused on making money...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Brief Note on Depression and Suicide

A lot of great things have been said online in response to recent events.  Since this is an emotionally draining topic for me, I won't rehash what's already been said online and just share some of my favorite articles below.  However, I will toss in this brief bit:

"Victim blaming" when it comes to mental illness has always infuriated me.  However, when such behavior comes from someone in the medical field, I can't help but question the quality of education this person received in medical/nursing/social work/allied health school.  When caring for a severely depressed or suicidal individual, statements like "Look what this is doing to the people around you" and "This is a call for attention" do not help the situation. Neither is calling a family member to confront the patient (which is a potential HIPAA violation).  As medical practitioners, our focus is to provide care, not judgement.  My advice is this:  If you're not going to try to be understanding of a patient's predicament, then step aside and let someone else take over because you are doing more damage than good.

As I said, I wanted to keep this post short so I will leave all of you with links to some easy reading on the topics of suicide and depression:
There's Nothing Selfish About Suicide
Robin Williams's death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish
Best Ways To Support Someone With Depression
21 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Depressed

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Stitch Fix Review #3

For those of you unfamiliar with the Stitch Fix shopping service, please go here first: Stitch Fix Review #1

Shortly after writing Stitch Fix Review #2, I received a really nice e-mail from Kate of Stitch Fix.  She apologized for my Fix not working out and offered tips on how to improve the next one.  It was really nice of Stitch Fix to reach out to me personally, so I decided to give them one more chance!  Here's how my third Fix turned out:

Item #1: Emperia Murphy Two-Tone Stud Detail Crossbody ($38)

Stitch Fix
Nice quality vegan purse with gold hardware, which I like. However, I recently stocked up on a bunch of bags from various Little Black Bag (now Pose) sales and really do not need another. I'll have to add a request for no purses to my profile.

Item #2: Ace Swiss Dot & Floral Tie-Waist Blouse ($68)
Item #3: Pink Martini Joshua Colored Ankle Jean ($64)
Stitch Fix
I wasn't really a fan of the dot/floral pattern combinations, which seemed too busy for me. This blouse seems like it would work for a taller person since the waist basically landed on my hips. Also, it arrived with detached button, making me wonder about the quality and craftsmanship.

As for the pants, the fact that I received them in the first place was a problem because I specifically requested NO PANTS on my profile. While I liked the color, they sat way too low on my waist.  Such a huge disappointment and made me wonder if the Stitch Fix staff actually read my profile before putting together this Fix.

Item #3: Ark n Co Ashlie Graphic Knit Sleeveless Cardigan ($68)
Stitch Fix
This knitted cardigan was really soft and well-constructed.  Perfect for a summer/fall transitional piece.  Unfortunately, this was way too long and billowy on me.  The high/low cut also made my hips look huge.

Item #5: Under Skies Rho Mixed Chevron Sleeveless Dress ($58)
Stitch Fix
Once again, I was down to my last item.  Fortunately, this dress was super comfy and the perfect length and fit, though my mom commented that it seemed form fitting.  I may be blind, but I don't think it's form fitting at all, and my scoliosis seems masked by the pattern.  While rather expensive at $58, I decided to keep it as a work dress to avoid losing my $20 styling fee yet again.

Honestly, this may be my last Stitch Fix for a while. Part of the appeal of the company was receiving products based on your personal style preferences. With the inclusion of pants in my most recent Fix, I question whether Stitch Fix even takes my requests into account.  Maybe Stitch Fix's algorithm simply doesn't work for someone like me with scoliosis and non-traditional proportions. While I did have some initial success finding clothes, I'm not sure I want to continue risking $20+ dollars a month only to settle for something I'm not completely happy with.  Sorry, Stitch Fix!

If you are interested in trying out Stitch Fix, feel free to use my referral link here:  No, I am not affiliated with Stitch Fix in any way, shape, or form.

Friday, June 20, 2014

TSG.TV's Pokemon Marathon for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

pokemon marathon

Between work and travel, it's been a pretty eventful summer for me thus far!  This week, I am in Texas helping my TSG.TV buddies with their latest video game marathon!

Also known as TheSpeedGamers, TSG consists of a group of friends with a passion for video games who host marathons for charity throughout the year.  Since 2008, they have raised over $460,000 for organizations such as ACT Today, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Heifer Internation, and Mercy Corps.  Marathons typically consist of gamers alongside commentators who engage the chatroom and perform various stunts (i.e. singing songs or eating disgusting concoctions) for donations.  I became involved with TSG back when I was in graduate school thanks to their Final Fantasy Marathon (one of my favorite video game series of all time) and consider myself lucky to be associated with such a great group of people.

For this year's annual summer marathon, TSG will be playing 168 hours of Pokemon and catching them all! All proceeds will go towards St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, known for their work with pediatric cancer.

If you're a fan a video games, or someone who enjoys seeing others use their passion to help others, then definitely check out the TSG.TV Pokemon Marathon from June 20-27!  Hope to see you there!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Best/Worst Graduation Speech I've Ever Heard

You know it's graduation season when your social media feeds are inundated with videos/text from various graduation speeches. A number of well-off engineers I know shared this particular speech, which resulted in strong, conflicting mixed reactions on my part. I haven't felt this uncomfortable reading something since the Any Chua Wall Street Journal article.

Here's a copy of the "speech" here: Dear graduates: Don’t follow your dreams (A commencement speech for the mediocre) 
I can't decide if this is the best or most arrogant commencement speech I have ever read. Basically, author Tim Donovan states that people should err on the safe side when making career decisions and not pursue non-financially lucrative dreams because they will most likely not succeed. In his opinion, it's better to live a stable life than risk failure, and that passions should be relegated to hobby status.

To a certain level, I can understand where Mr. Donovan is coming from. On one hand, not everyone can succeed as an artist, musician, writer, [insert humanities field here]. The author himself worked as a waiter for many years before making it big. Even fields in the social sciences (such as social work) don't always provide livable incomes. Safe degrees in fields like computer science, engineering, medicine, and business generally guarantee enough disposable income for people to pay their bills and live comfortable lives. On the other hand, I find it ironic that a humanities major who ultimately became successful by following his dreams is telling the rest of us to simply take the safe route.

Tim Donovan targets the general student population in his "speech" - the mediocre. A question I can't help by ask is this: Who are the true mediocre in this situation? Is it people who play it safe and potentially live mundane yet stable lives, or those who risk their financial security in hopes of doing something great or achieving their dreams? While some of the biggest risk takers I know could have higher incomes and larger nest eggs, these individuals are the ones who seem to be having the most adventure, seeing the world, and making the most out of life.

On a personal note, I'm someone who tried to balance dreams (studying music) with stability (a college counseling job) but ultimately erred on the side of practicality (a job in the medical sector). My job is fine, but I regularly wonder if I'd be happier if I pursued something even less financially pragmatic than social work. Maybe I'll get that music degree someday (to the horror of my family/friends), but for now I'll be part of the mediocre.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Obama Says He Wants More Young People To Become Social Workers

It's been a while since I've made a social work related post!  I'll try to do a better job of throwing in social work related material among my product reviews and shopping/deal/travel articles.  I am still a social worker after all!

Nice feel good article from Social Workers Speak, but certainly easier said than done:

Obama says he wants more young people to become social workers | Social Workers Speak

Let's face it, despite the increasing demand for (geriatric) social workers, there is decreasing incentive for students to go into the social work field.  In this economy, why would a practical student take on loads of debt to get a graduate degree in a field with low returns?

If we want more social workers, then we need to provide financial incentives for students to enter the field.  For me, that would include reducing student loan debt (which President Obama touched on) and higher wages.  It's a deterrent to pay someone with a masters degree and a license the same wages as someone with a 2 year degree.  As I've stated many times on this blog, the best way we can ensure this is to pass federal title protection laws so non-social workers can't take our jobs.

It's great to see the social work profession acknowledged by the President.  However, we have a long way to go before we receive the respect and compensation we deserve.