How thinking like a poker player can help you get a raise

Published: Tuesday, January 06, 2015 @ 10:02 AM
Updated: Tuesday, January 06, 2015 @ 10:02 AM

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Not everyone has a taste for poker, and people choose to not play it for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they don’t have the math skills or they just don’t understand the game. It could be they have little tolerance for risk and don’t enjoy formulating and following game strategy. Some people don’t handle losing well, so it’s best to avoid games with high stakes.

That’s fine. You don’t need to like poker. You can go your whole life without needing to play it — no one will force you to.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use the basic poker skills to your advantage. There are a lot of lessons you can learn from poker that will help you thrive personally and professionally. Rather than have you put money on the line to learn them, we decided it made more sense to ask experienced poker players to share the most valuable things they’ve learned from the game and apply them to something most people experience but many don’t enjoy doing: salary negotiation.

1. Read the Situation

When going into your boss’ office to ask for a pay raise, there are a lot of factors in play that will impact the outcome of your discussion. There are the facts — you know what skills you bring to the table, and the employer knows how much he or she can afford to pay you — and there’s not much you can do to alter those.

Here’s where the dynamics of your meeting come in. You have no control over the cards your boss is holding, but you can persuade him or her to play in your favor by delivering a convincing pitch without appearing vulnerable. Just as in poker, body language has a huge impact on someone’s perception of you and can affect the way they respond.

David Daneshgar, a former professional poker player who won an event at the 2008 World Series of Poker, said everything from posture to breathing patterns can have a huge impact in how seriously you’re taken by the person across the table.

“Act genuine and normal,” Daneshgar said. “I wouldn’t come off too cocky — people in poker with a bad hand would overcompensate with action.”

2. Get Comfortable With an Uncomfortable Situation

The stakes can be high when asking for a raise. For some people, it may mean the difference between paying off debt or having to make tough personal budget cuts. No matter how badly you want to win, you have to understand that you may not and be willing to accept that. Negotiating for a raise may be extremely stressful, but you can’t let your emotions derail your game plan. If you’ve given your strategy a lot of thought and believe you’ve come up with the best course of action you can think of, stick to it, even when things aren’t going well. Desperation won’t win you anything.

“One of the things in poker is, ‘don’t reveal your hand till it’s time’,” said John Rogers, an amateur poker player who has used his 12 years of experience to guide him through the tough stages of entrepreneurship. One of the most common things Rogers sees among new players is a tendency to hold their cards too high or have to look back at their hand frequently, allowing other players to pounce on that vulnerability.

3. Learn to Make Quick Decisions

In poker, quick decision-making indicates you know what you’re doing, Daneshgar said. Don’t mistake immediate action for impulsiveness, because making good decisions requires a lot of thought — just make sure you’re done thinking before you head into negotiations.

It requires a lot of prep work. Daneshgar said poker players run through the scenarios in their minds, knowing exactly what they’ll do in any given situation. A slow response indicates unpreparedness. If you’re asking to receive a larger paycheck, your boss should rightly expect you to have given your request a lot of thought and be able to stand behind everything you’re asking for.

“If they’re thinking on the spot, they haven’t thought it through,” Daneshgar said. To get what you want out of a negotiation, you need to know what you want before the back-and-forth even starts. Even if the situation doesn’t end up the way you would have liked it to, you can reflect on it knowing you did everything you could to have it play in your favor, and you can’t always win.

4. Assess the Risks Associated With Each Scenario

If you play poker, you will lose a lot. When you ask for changes to your compensation, you may not get everything you want. When deciding how to proceed through salary negotiations, decide what’s worth fighting for,based on how much you have to lose if you don’t get it.

This is a process we do daily. If you’re driving to a meeting and the traffic light turns yellow, you’re quickly assessing the risk of the situation: “I’ll definitely get in trouble if I’m late for this meeting, but there’s a good chance I won’t get a ticket if the light turns red as I pass through the intersection,” you think, as you press down on the gas pedal.

If you submit a long list of demands to your supervisor, there’s a very good chance he or she will deny some of them. On the flip side, you’re likely to get what you ask for if you’re requesting something very small — but is that really what you want? You have to know when — and if — you’re willing to walk away. Daneshgar gave an example: If he asks for nothing, his employer will certainly keep him around. If he asks for a $20,000 raise (a massive raise, in this scenario), he risks offending his employer, damaging his relationship with his boss or getting fired. Given those options, he’ll ask for something in between, knowing it’s not worth it to him to risk his job or settle for no raise.

5. Leave Emotions Out of It

Even with all the preparation you’ve put into asking for a raise, no matter how well you think you can read the temperature of your meeting, it’s possible the situation will not go at all the way you want it to. If nothing else, you want to walk away feeling good about the way you handled yourself and confident in your ability to learn from the experience.

“If you change your strategy because of emotional response, that’s a flaw, that’s a crack in the game,” Rogers said. In poker, it’s called tilt — allowing one hand to affect the way you play the next.

“In poker here’s the reality: If you lose a hand for $50,000 and you can’t let that go by and play another game, you’re going to lose a lot of money,” Daneshgar said. Getting emotional when you don’t get what you want in the workplace could translate into a loss of respect or credibility, which severely hampers your ability to succeed. If you don’t get what you asked for the first time, don’t let disappointment filter into your work. If you keep doing a good job and prove your value to the company, you have a much better chance of getting what you want the next time you have an opportunity to ask.

These skills are extremely useful in many career-related situations, not just asking for a raise. Both Rogers and Daneshgar used what they learned in poker to start their own businesses — Rogers is creating a digital poker table called Nucleus, and Daneshgar started online floral business BloomNation.com — and they say their ability to mitigate risk and take emotions out of their decisions have helped them succeed.

Such attitudes are extremely helpful in the world of personal finance, because things often don’t go the way you’d like them to (think home price negotiations). Planning is crucial to any kind of financial success, and as frustrating as failure can be, minimizing the amount of emotion you let dictate your decisions is likely to help you reach your goals.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Is credit monitoring a scam?

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 12:01 PM

Clark Howard explains how to protect yourself.

With the recent massive security breach of Equifax — one of the three credit bureaus with which many may have thought their private information was safer than most — now many people are dealing with more insecurities, wondering where they can entrust their private information, if anywhere.

Here are some options:

Credit freezing

Better and cheaper than credit monitoring, an option for optimal security is freezing your credit through each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), according to WSB money expert Clark Howard at Clark.com.

The fee is $3 to $10 per person per bureau, depending on your state, to allow you to seal your credit reports — except now it's free with Equifax from here on out due to the recent data breach.

You will be provided with a personal identification number (PIN) that only you know and can be used to temporarily unfreeze (or "thaw") your credit when legitimate applications for credit and services need to be processed such as when you are buying a car.

This added layer of security means thieves can't establish new credit in your name even if they are able to obtain your personal information.

LifeLock vs. CreditKarma.com

While LifeLock advertises it can help consumers secure their information to guard against identity theft, LifeLock charges monthly services that start at $10 a month.

This kind of credit monitoring is not the same or as effective as a credit freeze, said Craig Johnson for Clark.com.

Instead, he recommends CreditKarma.com for free credit monitoring.

Equifax

If you haven't already frozen your credit, now would be the time since Equifax recently got hacked and the information of possibly 145.5 million people was attained by these hackers.

Information accessed primarily includes names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver's license numbers.

To try to compensate, Equifax is offering free identity theft protection and credit file monitoring (but only through Jan. 31, 2018) with its TrustedID Premier.

Experian

Another point of confusion is the unsolicited free Dark Web Email Scan offered by Experian to your email, leading to a monthly fee for further scanning.

Experian IdentityWorks also offers a free 30-day trial membership for identity theft protection and resolution, involving a monthly automatic deduction of $9.99 for the plus plan or $19.99 for the premium plan.

It's free to cancel within the 30-day trial period, but the consequences are not revealed up front for those who decide to cancel their membership once the monthly fees begin.

TransUnion

The third credit bureau, TransUnion, also offers credit monitoring at $19.95 monthly. However, TransUnion says it offers free identity protection through its TrueIdentity program.

Free helpline

Those with specific questions about the Equifax breach and how it may impact them may contact Howard's Consumer Action Center — a free helpline open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST Monday through Friday with Team Clark volunteers available to answer concerns at 404-892-8227.

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4 of the best ways to turn your home into a cash cow

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 4:17 PM

Sites like Airbnb let you rent out your home to make money.
Sites like Airbnb let you rent out your home to make money.

Your house is a large expense with many associated costs like a mortgage payment, insurance, maintenance and more.

RELATED: How to Cash In on Short-Term Rentals Like Airbnb, VRBO

It provides a roof over your head, of course, but since it usually costs you money each month, why not put it to work for you and earn some cash in the process?

The following are four ways your house can make you money:

You can relax on the lake, in the woods or even in the back of a van when you're looking for a staycation in Gwinnett County.(Airbnb)

List your home with Airbnb or VRBO.

If you're planning to be out of town for a few days or don't mind bunking with a friend, you may be able to make some money by renting out your home through sites like Airbnb and VRBO.

Before jumping in, you'll need to take time to learn about the market, your expenses and any taxes you may need to pay. And before you list your property, you'll need to understand how to make it stand out with a good listing, including compelling photos and competitive pricing. Airbnb has a series of toolkits to help with this.

RELATED: Atlanta has Airbnb's most desired rental property in the world.

Rent it out to the area's growing TV and film industry.

When TV, film and commercial producers want to depict a home on screen, many times they'll rent the real thing, according to Money. It can be inconvenient for owners, however, since their homes may be taken over by a large crew and be completely rearranged.

On the other hand, homeowners often have fun with the experience while making some extra money. And while you're watching TV or a movie, you may be able to spot your home.

Host a foreign exchange student or faculty member.

Temporarily hosting a foreign exchange student or faculty member who's studying or teaching in this country can help you make some extra cash for anywhere from six weeks to six months at a time. You'll also be exposed to a different culture and language, and the experience could help you form a bond that lasts even when your guest returns home.

The Penny Hoarder suggests contacting student housing offices at local community colleges and universities, asking to be placed on their list of host families. After this, you'll have to apply, be interviewed, and allow your home to be toured. You'll also need to pass background and reference checks.

The 4-bedroom house sits on a corner lot with a concrete driveway that leads up to the two 2-car garages both having rear service doors. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS BY KATHY TYLER

Rent out your driveway or storage space.

If you have extra space in your driveway, you may be able to make some money by letting others park there, according to Men's Health. This is especially true if you live near a commuter rail line or sports stadium, but you'll need to check to make sure you're not violating any local ordinances. Check out websites like JustPark to get started.

The Balance also suggests renting out any extra storage space you may have. From vehicles to personal items, your garage or home could help you make money through a site like StoreAtMyHouse.

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5 ways to get the most out of your health insurance plan

Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 @ 3:15 PM

Here are five ways to ensure you're getting the most out of your health insurance Choose your plan carefully Take advantage of preventative care benefits Work within your formulary Utilize HSAs and FSAs Watch out for surprise out-of-network charges

Health insurance has a large impact on your finances, so it pays to get the most out of your plan.

Understanding its ins and outs can be confusing, but it's worth your time to check on benefits you could be losing out on or mistakes that could cost you money.

Here are five ways to ensure you're getting the most out of your health insurance:

Choose your plan carefully.

When it's time to renew your health care coverage, consumer adviser Clark Howard recommends not just blindly signing up for your current plan, even if you've been happy with it.

Your plan – as well as other options you may be able to sign up for – may have changed. Take a close look at the co-pays, deductibles, in-network providers and other specifics to make sure you're making the best possible choice.

Take advantage of preventative care benefits.

Almost every plan, according to healthcare.gov, offers preventative care benefits that are free. You won't have to pay a co-pay or meet your deductible to get these services at no charge.

Services for adults include age-appropriate vaccinations and colorectal cancer screenings for patients over 50.

RELATED: 8 ways to get the cheapest car insurance possible

Work within your formulary.

Health care plans typically have a formulary, which is a list of medications that they're willing to pay part of or the entire cost of. It may include a list of preferred medications, for which it will pay the highest percentage of the cost.

It pays to be familiar with your formulary before you get an unpleasant surprise at the pharmacy, according to NerdWallet. Print out a copy of the document from your health insurance company's website, or call up an online copy at your doctor's office. Your doctor can work with you to make sure you get an effective medication that you can afford.

Utilize HSAs and FSAs.

If your health insurance plans allow you to put aside tax-free dollars in a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you should learn how they can help you. Consumer advisor Clark Howard's website, Clark.com, has a chart that explains the pros and cons of each.

An HSA is usually associated with high-deductible plans, and like an FSA, it helps you save money to pay for health care expenses. These can include everything from prescription eyeglasses to medication.

Watch out for surprise out-of-network charges.

Your insurance plan has a list of network providers, and when you can, you should stay in-network. That's easy enough if you're visiting a single doctor, but if you need to have surgery, things can get more complicated.

For pre-planned surgery, Consumer Reports recommends talking with your doctor's billing department to get a list of everyone who will provide your care, including radiologists and anesthesiologists. Call your health care company to see if they're in-network, and if not, ask your doctor if in-network providers can be used.

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5 ways to ensure you're getting the best mortgage rate

Published: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 5:11 PM

The following are five ways to ensure that you're getting the best mortgage rate possible Look beyond a 30-year fixed rate Improve your credit score if it's low Beef up your down payment Get more than one quote Consider paying points

When you're buying a home, getting the best possible mortgage rate can have a positive effect on your finances for years to come.

RELATED: 7 clever ways to cut the costs of buying your first home

Depending on how large your mortgage is and how long you stay in your home, it can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

The following are five ways to ensure that you're getting the best mortgage rate possible:

Look beyond a 30-year fixed rate.

A 30-year fixed rate is the standard loan, but it's not the only option. If you can handle a higher monthly payment, you can save a significant amount over time by getting a 15-year mortgage.

Although you'll pay more each month, you'll get a lower interest rate and be able to pay off your home much quicker. In addition, more of your early payments go toward paying down the principal, according to The Motley Fool.

Improve your credit score if it's low.

It's important to keep your credit score in good shape because it helps determine how many loan options you'll have as well as the interest rate you'll pay. Check your score with each agency – EquifaxExperian and TransUnion – and correct any mistakes. If needed, delay getting a loan until you can improve your score by paying off debt and paying every bill on time.

The Simple Dollar looked at mortgage interest rates based on three different credit rates. The lowest credit score used (620) would cost the borrower more than $99,000 over the life of the loan when compared to a higher score (over 760).

Beef up your down payment.

Most lenders like to see at least a 20 percent down payment in order to get the best mortgage loan rate, according to Forbes. If you pay less, you may have a higher rate since the lender will consider you to be at higher risk of defaulting.

You'll also have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), which protects the lender's interests in case you default on the loan.

Get more than one quote.

Most people get just one mortgage quote, consumer adviser Clark Howard says. He recommends shopping around and getting quotes from multiple lenders, including a local bank, a credit union and a few online lenders.

Each inquiry will be recorded on your credit report, so you should get your quotes within a two-week period. That way, it doesn't look like you're applying for multiple loans.

Consider paying points.

Lenders will often give you the option of paying for discount points up front in exchange for lowering your interest rate. These fees are paid directly to the lender, and one point costs 1 percent of your mortgage amount.

The reduction in interest depends on the lender, and you'll need to run the numbers to determine when you'll break even by consulting a mortgage point calculator. If you plan to live in your home for a long time, paying points may make sense, according to Money.

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