Thursday, June 30, 2011

Social Work and the Laws of Economics

In an older post, I discussed why other majors seem to make more money than others. While this article focused mostly on the surplus of humanities and social science majors relative to job demand, I briefly touched on social work and how its altruistic nature results in less profit and hence lower salaries.

What differentiates social work from other humanities and social science fields is its increasing demand. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, social worker employment is expected to grow faster than average in the next decade. Contributing to this trend are the aging baby boomer generation, growing student enrollments in schools, and prison systems increasingly requiring substance users to participate in rehab programs as part of their sentence.

Now, a demand for social workers combined with a shortage of social workers due to retirement or burnout should result in higher wages, right? Unfortunately, many of us working in the field know that this is not the case. Why is it that basic economic rules seem to ignore the social work profession entirely?

While exploring some online forums, I came across a relevant blog post by fellow social worker Dr. Lynn K. Jones. In "Better Wages for Social Workers...Why Not, Dr. Jones further elaborates on points I've made in the past regarding why social workers are underpaid, such as lack of title protection and self-advocacy within the profession. I won't attempt to summarize here, as her article essentially speaks for itself.

The only part of Dr. Jones' article I will discuss here is the "Career Strategy" section, which tells readers to take control of their careers and not leave it up to "chance". As a first year MSW student, I also told someone that I was led into a social work career as opposed to choosing it. However, I also went into my masters program with the intention of obtaining a decent paying job upon graduation, exploring options within my targeted wage and areas of interest. While I'll never make as much as an engineer, my current salary is pleasantly higher than what I had expected. Indeed, by doing some research and having a game plan for what to expect from a social work career, one can definitely obtain a job that is both financially and emotionally fulfilling. I feel this is the best way for social workers to improve their wage prospects while waiting for our advocacy efforts to produce results on a macroscopic level.

Anyway, check out Dr. Jones' blog post. It's a must read for all social workers concerned about the future of their wages.

Monday, June 27, 2011

San Francisco Pride

Happy Monday! Here goes another week!

Yesterday was the annual SF Pride Parade. While I didn't attend the parade, I saw parts of it as I was walking towards the bus stop to go to another event. When I came back to Downtown San Francisco later that evening, clean-up crews were sweeping the sidewalks and taking down street barriers.

As I continued wandering San Francisco's Union Square area, I couldn't help but notice how the place was decorated. Above me, rainbow flags flew from windows, light posts, and flag poles. Different stores had unique signs and displays commemorating the weekend (which I doubt would be found anywhere else, except maybe New York). For instance, The Body Shop had a window display where its soaps were arranged according to the colors of the rainbow. Another store, Lush, had a sign in front of its store which read, "Support the Respect for Marriage Act". Inside the Westfield San Francisco Shopping Center, there were Pride Weekend displays in front of stores like Nordstrom.

It was amazing to see this support towards the LGBT population. While I'm sure there are other places that are just as accepting, I have yet to hear of another city rally around this community as much as San Francisco. I mean, even the SF Giants baseball team has contributed by releasing its own "It Gets Better" commercial against LGBT bullying. The Bay Area is really a special place because of its diversity and tolerance, and I can't help but think of how lucky I am to be living here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cheap Sunday in San Francisco

Today, I went to San Francisco to enjoy a free concert in Golden Gate Park with my boyfriend. While I was expecting a pretty mellow day in the city, I completely forgot that the SF Pride Parade and an SF Giants baseball game were happening on the same day! Indeed, it seemed like the entire Bay Area was packed into San Francisco today! While I had a good time in the city with seeing parts of the Pride Parade, getting free stuff at the concert, and eating cheap food at SF Chinatown, I think I'm done with battling large crowds for a while!

Anyway, I wouldn't have known about the free concert in Golden Gate Park if it weren't for FunCheapSF, a website that compiles a list of free/cheap things to do in the Bay Area. My boyfriend and I frequent this site when we can't think of anything to do on a particular weekend, and have many fun cheap dates as a result!

What are your favorite websites for fun cheap events in your area?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thank You, Jeanne Philips!

While browsing one of my favorite social worker blogs, I ran across a post praising Jeanna Philips, also known as "Dear Abby", for defending the social work profession in her daily advice column. The text of the original article can be found here: Dear Abby

I can definitely relate to the "Melanie" discussed in the Dear Abby letter. As discussed in a previous post, I've been subject to many negative remarks from strangers, acquaintances, and even family members since graduating with my MSW. Reading something like today's Dear Abby column reminds me that there are people out there who actually appreciate the social work profession. Thank you, Jeanne Philips, for brightening my day!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Costs of Moving Out

Hello, and once again, my apologies for not posting for so long! For a quick update, please check out my post here.

Currently, I'm working towards moving out of my parents' house. Given that I have fairly reliable work hours and a decent sum of money saved, I feel that I can support myself on my own. However, while the ideas of independence and self-sufficiency are appealing, I'm somewhat pensive about the fact that I won't be able to save much, if any, once I move out. Here's a sample budget I've drafted showing my monthly expenses:

Rent: $850 for a studio (Bay Area housing is expensive)
Utilities: $50
Internet: $50
Food: $250
Health insurance: $250
Car insurance: $100
Gas/Car Maintenance/Commuter checks/BART (subway) parking: $150
Hygiene, cleaning supplies: $50
Grand Total: $1750

Eeep! While my estimates look pretty scary, they are a little on the high side. I know I can cut down on some of the costs by conserving energy (using energy saving bulbs and skimping on heating and A/C), taking advantage of cheap internet deals, downgrading my health insurance plan, and cutting down on food. Here's an updated budget accounting for this:

Rent: $850
Utilities: $30
Internet: $20
Food: $150
Health insurance: $200
Car insurance: $100
Gas/Car Maintenance/Commuter checks/BART (subway) parking: $150
Hygiene, cleaning supplies: $30
Grand Total: $1530
Annual Cost: $18,360

The above budget does not include retirement savings, rainy day fund, vacation spending, entertainment, shopping, and future home savings. If I were to move out, I would have to make some sacrifices when to comes to my remaining expenses. For instance, I could choose to max out my IRA and 401K, but that would leave me no vacation money, no rainy day fund, and a small sum for a future house down payment. Most likely, I'll choose not to max out my 401K (since none of my jobs offer one anyway) and delegate that money towards other things.

I suppose other methods I could employ to save even more money include finding a cheaper apartment, getting roommates, finding a part time job with health benefits, and/or settling into a full time job with benefits. Another option is to stay with my parents. However, I feel that the non-monetary benefits of moving out outweigh the money I'd save by staying at home.

The apartment hunt will likely continue over the next few weeks/months. I'll try to keep everyone updated on my progress! Wish me luck!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Update!

Hello, and sorry for the lack of updates these past few months! I'll try to do a better job in keeping this blog updated. Thank you to those of you who have left kind and supportive comments!

Since my last post, things have picked up in the job market. While on vacation last April, I received several phone calls from companies to which I had submitted applications months ago. I guess they never threw away my résumé. Upon coming back from vacation, I interviewed for several positions and got two job offers! On top of that, my current job decided to hire me as a permanent employee! Just shows that persistence and patient do pay off in the long run.

Now, I'm juggling three per diem jobs. While this may sound crazy, it actually works for my current lifestyle. The beauty of per diem work is the flexibility you have in setting your own schedule. At this point I'm not ready to settle into a 9-6pm position that will only allow me 10 vacation days a year. I don't mind sacrificing salary for some free time to travel and work on side projects (like this blog). Of course, things will probably change once I decide to settle down, start a family, and whatnot.

Unfortunately, I haven't had much free time these past two months since I've been working full time hours to fill in for people on vacation. Since it's summertime, I anticipate that things will stay this way the next few months. I don't mind, as I prefer to vacation in the fall and winter. It's also good money that I'll use to cover rent during the months I'm not working 5 days a week.

Speaking of rent, I've spent my free time hunting for apartments. While living at home is the ultimate way to save money, I feel that it's time for me to move into my own place. So far I haven't had much luck, but I'm crossing my fingers and hoping I can find something in the next month or two. I'll probably post updates about my finds on my other blog.

Well, I guess I'll leave it at that! I'll try not to wait 2.5 months until my next update!