As we mention from time to time, at The Motley Fool, our motto is "Making the world smarter, happier, and richer" -- which means that as much as we're focused on helping people invest more effectively, we see helping to improve other parts of your life as part of our brief, too. So when it comes to the Motley Fool Answers podcast, co-hosts Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp often take on questions that don't have much at all to do with matters financial.
In that vein, for this episode, they've invited Kara Chambers, The Motley Fool's vice president of people insights, into the studio to talk about one of the largest parts of most of our lives: our jobs. Specifically, they'll discuss what you can do to find more fulfillment at work and generally make your job better in 2020.
But first, in this week's "What's Up, Bro?" segment, they have some financial news that you can use: Congress passed the cleverly named SECURE Act late last year, which made a bunch of changes to the laws regarding tax-advantaged retirement accounts -- some good for people, others not. Your hosts will review the six most important ones.
To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Jan. 14, 2020.
Alison Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers. I'm Alison Southwick and I'm joined, as always, by Bertrand Brokamp, personal finance expert...
Robert Brokamp: Bw, bw, buh, buh?
Southwick: Bertrand is a name. Personal finance expert here at The Motley Fool. Hi, Bro.
Brokamp: H-i, A-l-i-s-o-n...
Southwick: In this week's episode... You sound like you just turned yourself to half speed. We don't have to do it usually.
Southwick: L-e-t 's d-o t-h-i-s. I-n t-h-i-s w-e-e-k's e-p-i-s-o-d-e, let's get to work!
Brokamp: G-e-t s-o-m-e!
Southwick: Get some! Let's get to work by talking about work and what you can do to make your work work better! Work! All that and more on this week's episode of Motley Fool Answers.
So, Bro, what's up?
Brokamp: Well, Alison, every year, retirement numbers change a little bit here and there.
Southwick: What kind of retirement numbers?
Brokamp: Like the max you can contribute to certain accounts...
Southwick: Oh, OK, those numbers.
Brokamp: And Roth IRA eligibility limits and things like that. The rules pretty much stay the same from year to year, but 2020 is going to be different. Not only have the numbers changed, including higher contribution limits for 401(k)s, but thanks to new legislation signed into law on December 20, some regulations governing retirement and college savings accounts have changed. This is all thanks to the new SECURE Act of 2019, SECURE standing for...
Southwick: I was going to say. What's it stand for? Something clever?
Brokamp: Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement!
Southwick: Oh, I hope someone got a raise for coming up with that.
Brokamp: Most of the changes are good, but there are a couple that are less good. Maybe even worrisome. There are 29 sections to the law, so let's go through each one. No. 1...
Southwick: Let's read it verbatim. Here we go.
Brokamp: I'm just kidding. We're not going through 29.
Southwick: You go through them so we don't have to.
Brokamp: There you go. I'm just going to highlight the six biggest changes.
Southwick: OK. Is that what we're promising?
Brokamp: No. 1 -- no age cap on traditional IRAs. You can contribute to a 401(k) and a Roth IRA and any other employee-sponsored account as long as you are working. It used to be, though, that you could not contribute to a traditional IRA beyond age 70 1/2. From 2020 forward, that is no longer the case.
No. 2 -- higher age for required minimum distributions. Starting next year, the age for annual RMDs from traditional IRAs and employer plans (Roth or traditional) goes up from 70 1/2 to 72. But this isn't for everyone, so if you turned 70 1/2 in 2019 or earlier, you still have to stick to the old ways, but for future folks, you don't have to start taking that money out until you are 72.
Southwick: It seems like such a small change. Why bother?
Brokamp: I think that's a good point. They have not said this specifically, but they have to...
Southwick: Keep moving.
Brokamp: Right, because it's reflective of a couple of things. We're living longer. People are working longer, so they bumped it up. Also, 70 1/2 is just such a weird thing to figure out. I tried to do a little research. Where'd that come from? How did they decide on 70 1/2? I couldn't find the answer. Regardless, it is moving up to 72. There's already talk of some adjustments in terms of the tables you use to calculate your RMDs changing in 2021. I think incrementally, we'll see these things change as people get older and we live longer.
No. 3 -- no more stretch IRA, and this is one of the big disappointments. If you inherited an IRA or any really tax-advantaged retirement account, it was also subject to RMDs regardless of your age unless you took all the money out within five years. That's the bad news. The good news is you could stretch it out over your lifetime, which is why it got the name stretch IRA. Even though that's not the technical name, you won't find that on IRS.gov, and it applies to all retirement accounts, 401(k)s, TSPs, and all of those.
However, that is changing. Any account that is inherited in 2020 or later must be liquidated within 10 years. You can no longer stretch it out over your lifetime. There are some exceptions to this or at least different ways that people have to follow this rule that pertain to certain groups. These groups are qualified, disabled, or chronically ill beneficiaries; certain minor children who inherit an account from their parent, not grandparent, but their parents; beneficiaries who are no more than 10 years younger than the deceased account owner; and beneficiaries who are the spouse of the deceased.
Each of these exceptions has their own quirks and their own rules, and that's going to go into all of them. It's also important to note that this doesn't apply to some government-sponsored retirement plans until 2022, including the TSP, which the members of Congress are part of, so it's nice for them that they get to delay this for a couple of years.
The main point is if you inherit an account, you have to see a tax expert or financial planner to find out your options, because it's very complicated. Another thing to note about that is if you inherited an account that's held in trust or you were planning to leave your account to a trust, you should have those documents reviewed to make sure the terms of the trust now comply with these new rules.
No. 4 -- annuities and 401(k)s. The 401(k) is built as a way to help people save for retirement and not necessarily to produce income in retirement, but the SECURE Act is taking a step in that direction by making it easier for plans to include what is called "a lifetime income provider." It's basically an annuity.
I'm of very mixed mind about this. We've talked on the show before about the benefits of a lifelong annuity. You get that check in the mail every month as long as you live. It mitigates investment risk. It mitigates longevity risk. That's all good. On the other hand, many types of annuities are very complex and expensive, and the insurance industry is just salivating over the opportunity to get some of these into 401(k)s.
As I understand it, you actually were allowed to put annuities in 401(k)s, and about 9% of them do have that, but most providers didn't want to do it because they didn't want to be on the hook for putting an income annuity into the 401(k). That company goes belly up, and those people then sue the company who put that annuity in the 401(k). What the SECURE Act does is provide what's called a safe harbor, basically saying if you file these rules, the people who participate in your 401(k) can't come after you and sue you.
One of the reasons why annuities are good in principle but bad in practice is they're very high cost, and explicitly within the SECURE Act, they say you do not have to pick the lowest-cost provider. This was a total stop to the insurance industry, and they lobbied very hard for this. The bottom line is if you are a 401(k) provider and you're going to put an annuity in your 401(k), please be very careful about what you choose. If you are going to retire and you are interested in an annuity, you don't have to go with the one that's in your plan. You can see what else is available, transfer that money to an IRA, and then buy the annuity. You don't have to stick with the one that's in your 401(k).
No. 5 -- expanded use of 529s. The SECURE Act allows you to use your 529 money in more ways. You now can use them tax-free if you are going to join any certain apprenticeships. They have to be approved by the Department of Labor, but you have more uses besides the traditional college.
What's more interesting is now they're going to allow up to $10,000 to be used to pay off student loans. There's a lifetime limit for your own if you have the 529, but then it's another $10,000 limit if you want to pay off the loans of your siblings. This is the first time we've ever been able to use 529 money to pay off loans, so that's good.
No. 6 -- boost for employers and employees. The government is trying to encourage more employers to offer retirement plans, so they've increased the credits that are available to people to do it, but also the credits for auto-enrolling people and auto-escalating. Study after study has shown if you want to increase the participation in your 401(k), automatically sign people up and automatically increase the amount that they contribute. In fact, you used to be able to only auto-escalate or default people into 10%. The SECURE Act has now moved that up to 15%, so hopefully employers will actually be pushing people to save more for their retirement.
And the final thing that relates to this is previously, employers were allowed to exclude anyone who did not work 1,000 hours in the course of the year. Now that is changing. Now employers must include anyone who works 500 hours a year [for] three consecutive years. It's going to be easier for part-time employees to participate. The problem is this doesn't take effect until 2021, and that's also when the three-year count starts, so if you've been working for 500 hours a year up until this point, that's not going to count. It's a step in the right direction, but it's not going to take immediate effect, so that's unfortunate.
And that, Alison, is what's up.
Southwick: Thank you!
Southwick: My exhaustive research of 10 seconds of Google revealed that we will spend 90,000 hours of our life at work, or roughly 2.3 million years in New Hampshire time. And that's a lot of life. Maybe you enjoy your job, but could it be even better? Today we're joined by the VP of People Insights here at The Motley Fool, Kara Chambers, to talk about how we can feel more fulfilled at work and what you can do to make your job better in 2020. Is that right?
Kara Chambers: Better in 2020.
Southwick: Is that what we're promising in this episode?
Brokamp: And for the rest of your life.
Southwick: Kara, you've actually been on the show before. We had you and Lee on. I don't remember what you talked about, but it had to be something workplace related.
Chambers: Ask for a Raise Day.
Southwick: Oh, OK. That's what it was. Kara, how long have you been at The Fool?
Chambers: Fourteen years.
Southwick: And what does a VP of People Insights do? What would you say it is you do here?
Chambers: What do I do? Words of recognition is kind of my world -- and employee engagement -- things that measure feelings. And I've got a lot of this that I'm going to talk through today. One of the other hats I wear is being a coach for employees, which is kind of like your guidance counselor. I spend a lot of time one-on-one working with people on what they want out of their career. That's the hat I'm wearing today.
Southwick: This is not true at The Motley Fool, but when you look at most companies in America, it turns out that most people are not super engaged at work.
Chambers: Correct, and that's because they just might be in the wrong environment. Or the wrong career. Or on the wrong team. We're going to talk about a couple of things today, where you can take control of where you are and take a really holistic look about where you are in your career and help you with that.
Southwick: For the listeners who don't work at The Motley Fool and aren't overwhelmingly satisfied with their job, what is the first thing you should do when thinking about how to be happier at work?
Chambers: At The Fool, we have a couple of factors that play in, and we try to talk about all of them that lead to your job satisfaction. I'm going through each of these, and these are not in order. No. 1 is your salary. Second is the purpose -- how you feel connected to your job's purpose. Third is growth and development. Fourth is flexibility. Fifth is working with great people and a great team, and the last is what we call total rewards or what the total upside is. If you look at those six factors, thinking about what the right mix is for you and what you're going to prioritize should help you think about where you want to improve your career.
I like to kick this off with a question from a book I read called Designing Your Life. They ask a beautiful question, which is "What role do you want work to play in your life?" If you are honest with yourself and answer that question, that can really help you figure out what you need to tweak in your career to make yourself happier in 2020.
Southwick: What are some of the answers you would have for that question? Is it, "I want my job to be a job where I go in and get paid?"
Chambers: Exactly. There are people who feel like their job is to change the world. They live and die by their job because of the meaning in it. Then there are people that need the paycheck to provide for their family, and they don't want to be checking their email at all hours. They don't want to be spending all their hours at work. They want that flexibility. Everybody's got a slightly different total mix. Some people value more stability. Some people value more challenges and surprises and a lot more risk and upside. For you, you're just thinking about what the right mix is for you personally.
Southwick: Let's dive into each of the factors you mentioned. You said this is not in any particular order, but the first one is salary.
Chambers: Everybody's first thing goes to their salary. "I'm not paid enough. I would love to get a job that pays more. I would love to get a big raise at work." This is probably true. You hear some of the science -- and I'm going to talk about that more -- that money isn't a perfect motivator for everybody, but almost all of us would say "I'd be excited to get more money." That's why you're listening to this show, probably because you like money to some extent.
One thing you want to look at is when you feel like you need more money, you can do some research on things like Glassdoor, Indeed, and PayScale.com. Are you actually underpaid for the job you're doing? That's a good signal for you to determine if you're underpaid. And if you're underpaid by about 20%, that is really going to affect your happiness. If you're about in the ballpark you're usually OK unless you change careers or you go work for a company that just happens to pay at the higher end of the spectrum. You can find that company, and there will be some other trade-offs, too.
What we talk about is making sure you understand the value of the job that you're currently doing, and if you have decided that salary is one of your most important things, you might want to research careers where salaries are very high to keep it really simple.
Southwick: I noticed, at The Fool in particular, that people are usually fine with their salary until they learn how much the person next to them is making. They'll be like, "Yes, I'm fine. I looked online, and this is roughly where I fit in. Then I just happened to learn what the person next to me makes, and now I'm extremely angry about it."
Chambers: And there are times when you could be right. You should be extremely angry if you actually are doing the same job. Most well-run companies have some kind of audit on that. Counteroffers are funny. When you go out and do some interviews and see if you can command a higher salary and you're way off, that means your company has really not put the work into getting the right comp mix for your role, and they're going to lose people. You'll see that in turnover.
Again, another situation to the trade-off is slightly different. You might assume that the other person is not working as hard as you are. You might not be doing the same job. There's all kinds of reasons. I would do some homework to figure out exactly if it is that person is being paid fairly and you're being underpaid, or maybe that person is just overpaid.
It's really hard. We do this in our manager training. You've just got to let that go. If you're paid OK for your job and the other person happens to be overpaid because of some fluke, then we try to help people just let that go. It's going to happen. I would figure out a little bit more about why you might be paid differently than the other person, or you could just be doing different jobs.
Southwick: One of the criticisms, as far as keeping salaries confidential, is that it's actually to the benefit of your employer that there is not a full transparency around what everyone is making. So in companies where they decided to be fully transparent with the salaries of all their employees, how does that go over?
Chambers: I think it can work if you're doing a very specific, clearly defined job, and very few jobs in knowledge work are very clearly defined. You can say "makes 10 widgets and gets paid this, makes 50 widgets and gets paid that." That typically will work just fine. If you get to, "in charge of strategic decisions pay is X and in charge of major strategic decisions..." That's what you see when you run salary data. There's so much subjectivity there that even when a company is doing levels, you'll find that there's still some subjectivity in there, and that's where the conflict comes up.
So if you are all in agreement that the jobs are exactly the same, and they very rarely are, it's why somewhere in the middle -- we're starting to move this way, too -- is to go with salary levels. Major companies will do that and just band the salaries together and show what jobs might be in what band. That's been a little bit more of a typical practice.
But what we found is you would have to be doing literally the exact same job, and the more complex your job is the more subjective that is and the more it's been someone's judgment call to decide how much to pay that person, and that's where the disparity shows up.
Southwick: So, with the labor market being so tight right now and unemployment is extremely low. I know we here at The Motley Fool try to be competitive in our pay, but it is geting harder and harder to hire really great workers. It seems like it's a good opportunity for the employee to ask for a raise.
Chambers: Absolutely. As long as you've done your homework, a lot of companies may not be keeping up with the industry trends. You have to do a lot of work from the HR side to keep up your internal employees with your external employees so you don't fall behind when you were hired during an off market where people would take just any salary. And you don't want just luck to play a factor there, so you do have to put some metrics in on both.
And, again, if your company isn't doing that, it might benefit you to ask for a raise by doing the research. The worst thing we've said is what we found is, again, because there's still subjectivity with what you call the job, it's open to interpretation. "No, I've checked the data, and I'm a senior-level human resources specialist." That could be true.
So you will have to negotiate with whomever your decision maker is on what that is, but make it more about, "Are you agreeing on what the role is and what the role should be paid?" That's where we found the most productive conversations rather than just knocking back and forth about what a senior or super senior or advanced senior level graphic designer is. Those tend to really get into nuance.
I will add one interesting fact. I talked to a company called Hired, which is a recruiting platform. They said as long as the offers are within 20%, people factor other things, like the other things I'm going to list in the offer. When you're off by 20%, again, that's where someone like your HR team should be stepping in and saying, "We're not paying correctly." That's a conversation on the side that we're having with our recruiting team, too, but this is where the other factors do play a role. The exact number of people will generally take an offer within 20% if they feel like all the other factors are there. That's the data they've seen with offers and acceptances in their platform, and I thought those were really helpful data points.
Southwick: Let's move on to the next fulfilling work factor, and that is purpose.
Chambers: One of our favorite books is by an author named Dan Pink, who's been to The Fool, called Drive, which talks about motivation. There's a wonderful YouTube video of his talk that we make all of our new managers watch about the role of purpose and motivation. It's kind of the No. 1 driver over salary, rewards, or anything else. But most of us see that and say, "Yes, but I want more money, anyway."
Southwick: I want to help the world, but I'd like to make a lot of money doing it.
Chambers: Right. All of us say that, and he came back to us and he said, "You know, I feel like I buried the lead in that story. You have to pay people enough so they don't feel like they're being paid unfairly," to our earlier point. But once you do, that's where purpose kicks in for your role.
I think that's always such an important point. We train our managers with the caveat that no one wants to hear that money isn't the most important thing from someone who makes more than them. No one ever wants to hear that. Purpose is more important. But he also did a great job of defining it in a variety of ways.
If you are a nurse, you know the purpose of your job is to take care of people, and it's really clear. It doesn't also mean that you have to look at your company's mission statement and say, "That's me." So a lot of companies will say, "We're a mission-driven company." They have written some words.
And whether that feels like that's you or not, that's OK. You don't have to rely on your company to give you a sense of purpose, necessarily. It can, but for you, I think the question you want to ask yourself at the end of the day is, "What difference am I making in someone's life by being here?" And if the answer is zero, then it may be time to rethink your career.
Unless you think your job is purely transactional and you're just there for the money, that could be the mix for you. But if you are feeling unmotivated at work, I do try to encourage people not to expect their company to put up a statement and motivate you. I think that's where you want to say, "Is this work meaningful for me? Did I make a difference to somebody?"
I always like the framing of, capital-P Purpose is like we are making the world smarter, happier, and richer. Maybe a small-P purpose would be something like, I really helped our team get their benefits organized today. And so either one of those can be motivating for you at work. Again, if your response to that question is zero, you've got to weigh in whether that matters to you and whether you want to think about your career. I think you can reframe that a couple of different ways. It doesn't necessarily have to be something written on a banner or something like that.
Southwick: The next factor that impacts job fulfillment is growth and development.
Chambers: There are lots of ways to talk about this one. Do you feel like you are growing in your career? I was thinking about our self-selected audience that are doing something right now to make themselves better. You're all out there wanting to do something to develop your brain. Plenty of research. Plenty of podcasts in your industry. Training you could find.
I'm not going to talk about that today. What I am going to talk about is feedback, because as a coach, I hear this all the time from 99% of the people which is, "Other people are not good at giving me constructive feedback and therefore I can't grow." But that's true for pretty much everybody, because there's lots of science that says we're all terrible at giving feedback.
There's a couple of tips I have for reframing it. One is just to ask for advice instead of feedback. Let's say you want a career where you have more responsibility. Go to your mentor, your boss, and ask, "What's your advice to me if I want to take on more? What's your advice to me if I want to do this differently?" Or even after a meeting, saying, "I'm trying to run that meeting a little bit better. How did that go for you? Do you have any advice for me?" People will open right up, and they will give you all the constructive feedback you want.
On the flip side, if you say, "Do you have any feedback for me?"
Southwick: Feedback! Duh!
Chambers: Now I've got to do the feedback. I've got to think about something nice to say about you, too. Our brains are just not designed for giving and receiving feedback, so you have some hacks. That was my favorite hack that I learned is to ask for advice and not feedback from your co-workers and your stakeholders.
Southwick: Let's move on and talk about flexibility in the workplace.
Chambers: Again, this is one where you are going to weigh how important this is to you. No job out there is top paying, has perfect flexibility, and is perfectly aligned with your purpose, so weigh what this means to you and your job. If you're an ER doctor, you're not going to have as much flexibility or if you're an HR manager or something like that. Your flexibility is going to vary based on the career that you chose and how important that is to you.
So putting all that together, again, are you in the right career in your company? That's where you can start making some tweaks. We've talked a lot about your company. Your boss might be different. We always give advice to people to test things out. Say to your boss or your team, "I want to test out working from home on Wednesdays." Just trying new things. Or maybe you want to shift your schedule a little bit where you come in earlier and leave earlier. This could be a time where you try those things out or you decide, again, whether it's time for you to change jobs or careers because this flexibility isn't working for you. Or are you willing to accept the lack of flexibility because of all the other perks that you like? That matters.
So the tip I give, here, I read somewhere and we tested it out. One group did work-from-home Wednesdays, because I heard that actually goes over easier than Fridays because that feels like a three-day weekend, but a Wednesday means you never have to do your commute more than twice in a row. Working from home on Wednesdays was kind of a life hack tip.
Southwick: One nice thing about working at The Fool is that we have a lot of flexibility around when we need to have our tuchuses in the chair, and it really gets at that idea of feeling how much control you have of your life leads to your happiness. I found, personally, that things can get chaotic, but I don't have to worry about whether or not my boss is looking at her watch being like, "You were five minutes late today." It just adds to that sense of control.
Chambers: And not all of our listeners are in that situation, but, again, it could be a trade-off with a job. Like you might have to be there to open the ice cream stand that day because you open at nine o'clock, but you're making the trade-off because you like running that ice cream stand. That's OK, but just thinking about where you can tweak stuff.
Southwick: The next factor is great people.
Chambers: Great people. The workplace is social for everybody. It's important to work with people that get along really well, which is obviously one of our favorite things about The Fool. The life hack I have here is about gratitude. We talk about that all the time here. It's great for you, and it's great for building relationships.
The take-home tip, here, is to build good relationships. If you find that you just aren't working well with your co-workers, you're not clicking with them, I would test putting on your calendar every day for 21 days to send someone a thank you for what they did. That is going to build your relationship with them. And forcing yourself to do it.
And again, what comes naturally is writing an email, or sending a handwritten note, or just saying so.
Here's the formula that is apparently the most effective way to give recognition, which is to say, "I saw what you did," which means just acknowledge other people's work. That goes back to purpose. That gives them a sense of what difference they just made. "Here's why it mattered." You can expand on why that person did something to improve your life, and here's what that says about you.
What they found is when you tell a person who they are, they'll believe you in a positive way. When you say, "Alison, you're so good at following up on things," Alison is now considering herself someone who's good at following up on things. And guess what? Alison is going to be even better at following up on things.
That is the life hack to improve your relationships at work. If you find that's something that's not working for you right now, my other book recommendation is called, How to Have a Good Day, by Caroline Webb. She uses a lot of brain science to explain why we all are just going around work protecting our egos. She has plenty of hacks in there. There's a wonderful chapter about how to deal with difficult people in meetings.
I loved her science about just building those relationships. It's going to make you happier, but it's just going to make work go better. Even if you work with a bunch of terrible people, if you can just put some effort into showing some gratitude toward them, it might warm things up a little bit. Or, again, it could be time to look for a new job.
Southwick: That's always on the table, too.
Chambers: Or again, maybe you're just the type of person who thinks, "I'm just here for the money." You could be, but that's the path you're choosing.
Brokamp: Earlier today, I posted on Slack a file I found which was the org chart for The Motley Fool in April of 2000. At that point, I had been at The Fool for six months. And I was reminded that I was a copyeditor back then.
Chambers: Oh my gosh!
Brokamp: That was not my life goal. What I knew was, I wanted to work at The Motley Fool, and I was going to get my foot in the door any way possible, and once I got in, I was going to launch my writing career. That was my intention. So what's your take on that? Instead of thinking, "Oh, this is the job I want. These are the people I want to be around. This is the company I want to work for." Start there, getting in however you can.
Chambers: Yes. Without knowing it, you did a couple of [parts] of this audit. You chose purpose. You joined a company that you believed in. You chose growth and development. You wanted to learn, and you chose people. "These are the people I want to be around." So when you were doing your unconscious calculus about how to choose this job, those were the factors in your work that you were selecting there.
Southwick: I wonder what I chose. I think I chose getting a job here. Great people. I chose flexibility because I wanted to be able to walk to work. I was so sick of taking the Metro. I think I chose great people, flexibility, and probably a little bit of purpose. Rick, what did you choose when you first got the job, here?
Rick Engdahl: I can't remember!
Southwick: You are celebrating your 20th anniversary in about five seconds.
Chambers: Oh my gosh!
Engdahl: Flexibility, absolutely. People and salary -- but that hasn't come through.
Southwick: You chose purpose!
Southwick: Let's move on to the last factor you wanted to talk about, and that was total rewards.
Chambers: Total rewards. That can be, again, where you are in your career. You might feel like there should be some upside -- like when the company's winning, you're winning. Is there an outcome for you? Is it stock? Is it bonuses? Is it great benefits for you and your family? Is it tuition reimbursement? This is also a time for you to look at, maybe your salary is just OK. You've got all these other perks, and that's where it's a good time to look at, overall, what your company is offering you and taking full advantage of all those benefits and perks available to you.
Brokamp: What's your take on the ability for people within a company to improve benefits? Like here at The Motley Fool, we're a special place. There are instances of people banding together to improve things, one example being the 401(k) or people just saying, "Hey, can we have a class on this or can we do this?" What's your take on that? Is it something that you have seen a lot in your career at other companies where people have the ability to influence benefits?
Chambers: I'm not sure exactly what's out there, but again, in a tight job market, this is where you can leverage your recruiting team, too, and so when your decision makers and your stakeholders are in a situation and they're really trying to hire, and they've got a limited budget, that's where you can try and start asking for different types of benefits instead.
A lot of benefits -- you'll know this better than me -- have better tax benefits for the business than giving people just extra salary. You can do some research and make those cases. Things like tuition reimbursement, 401(k), commuting benefits, and things like that. Those tend to be more tax advantageous to the company. You can usually make that case.
And again, when you have hiring managers that are starting to lose candidates and the comp pool is tied up and budgeted somewhere else, that's where you may be able to leverage some of that. What's the competitive pool out there? Oh, five people just turned down our offer because the other company is offering dog-walking services." Dog-walking services are pretty cheap. That's a way for you to say, "Hey, we want to sell this benefit." Those are some examples.
Southwick: So, Kara, you are challenging our listeners to think about answering the question of what role you want work to play in your life. You've given us six factors: salary, purpose, growth and development, flexibility, great people, and total rewards. How should they score themselves?
Chambers: I would give yourself a little scorecard. Take those and rank yourself. Be honest with yourself. How important are they, really, to you? What's the right mix for you? What's the right prioritization for you? Give yourself a score and then rank yourself about where you are in all of those. Hopefully we've offered you a couple of life hacks to improve some of those in the situation you're in.
If you're way off, it could be time to do some self-reflection about a career change or a job change. I would start there. Because you're spending so much of your time at work, we could help improve your life a little bit just by improving one of those factors that's more important to you.
Southwick: And I promise this episode has not just been an advertisement about working at The Motley Fool, but we are hiring a lot lately. So if any of our listeners are curious, they can head to careers.fool.com to learn about all the open positions that we have, because we are a pretty awesome place to work.
Chambers: We are pretty awesome.
Southwick: Kara, thank you so much. Would you like to stick around and play a little game of Would You Rather?
Southwick: OK. You don't have a choice.
Let's play a game of Would You Rather, and Rick, you're welcome to play. And this is definitely a game where everyone's a winner, because it's not like you keep points for this. These are all jobs -- very weird, random jobs -- pulled from a list from Undercover Recruiter. You get to decide which job you would rather take. Are you ready? Would you rather be a professional sleeper or a full-time Netflix watcher? I'll explain the jobs a little bit more for you.
Professional sleeper. So, a Finnish hotel has a staff member who is a professional sleeper that sleeps in different beds of the hotel every night and writes a review of the experience. Or would you rather be a Netflix watcher, where you're employed by Netflix and you watch content all day long and review and assign the program the appropriate tag to help viewers find content?
Chambers: Oh man! I might go with professional sleeper on there. There's some not-so-great content out there. That's kind of where I'm at.
Brokamp: In isolation, I love the sleeper one, too. I would miss my family, so practically speaking...
Southwick: Sleeping at the Finnish hotel.
Brokamp: Yes, unless they could all join me. Not in the same bed. So then I would go with the Netflix, enduring the really boring shows. That's the time to do some exercise. Start making dinner and cutting the vegetables.
Engdahl: So you're saying that Netflix is your family?
Brokamp: I'm saying I could do that during the day and still have my family at night.
Engdahl: I think that sleeping sounds attractive for about a week and then I would be like, "I can't do this anymore." I'd go with the Netflix watching.
Southwick: I'd go with sleeping all day long. I love sleep so much.
The next question. A train pusher or a professional mourner? In Japan, you can have the job of being an oshiya, which is a person who physically pushes and crams as many people as possible onto the commuter trains. Or would you rather be a professional mourner? It's an ancient practice that was first mentioned in The New York Times as early as 1877. It's a person that gets hired to go to a funeral and weep and cry loudly. It's supposed to help the departed person more easily head into the afterlife.
Chambers: Both of these sound terrible.
Engdahl: I've heard studies that say that if you're feeling sad, if you force yourself to physically smile, it actually makes you happier.
Southwick: Biting a pencil.
Engdahl:. Something about the physiology. So I would imagine the opposite is also true. That sounds miserable -- to be a professional mourner. I'd rather shove people into trains.
Chambers: I'm so averse to the shoving people part, so I think I'll go with mourner.
Brokamp: I played football in high school, so I'm going with shoving people.
Southwick: You're going with shoving?
Engdahl: Maybe these two jobs could be taken in conjunction. You mourn for a while and then you shove for a while, then you mourn for a while and then you shove for a while.
Brokamp: A shourner.
Chambers: This is so hard.
Southwick: This is a tough one. I think I would have to be a mourner, because you can at least keep to yourself and just wail and cry as opposed to physically touching a bunch of other people.
Brokamp: Scrolling through your phone, mourning...
Southwick: Also a fun little fact. There was a company in the U.K. called Rent A Mourner. They just shut down last March. From their website, it said, "We're going to miss you all, even the trolls and pranksters." I would love to know what pranks were pulled sending professional mourners places.
Snake milker or dog food taster? Snake milkers collect the venom from poisonous snakes to make antivenoms and other medications. Or you could taste-test dog food, including tinned meat and biscuits to compare the flavor and, yes, texture to the rival brands.
Brokamp: I am a wimp when it comes to food, so I've got to go with the snakes.
Chambers: And I'm a wimp when it comes to snakes, so I have to go with the dog food.
Brokamp: There's a job for everyone.
Engdahl: Bring on the snakes.
Southwick: I hate snakes so much, but I would still rather milk a snake than eat dog food and dog biscuits. Ugh! That's a rough one.
Brokamp: That said, who knows, really, how different that food is compared to whatever else we're already eating? I'm just saying.
Engdahl: Can't you hire like two-year-olds to do the dog food tasting because they do it anyway?
Southwick: I don't know. Let's just keep our current jobs. How about that?
Brokamp: Sounds like a good thing.
Southwick: Kara, thank you so much for joining us on the show today!
Chambers: Thank you! Good time.
Southwick: You're the best.
Chambers: Thank you! That was fun.
Southwick: Come back again.
Chambers: Yes, please.
Southwick: Well, that's the show. It's edited hard-workingly by Rick Engdahl. Our email is Answers@Fool.com. For Robert Brokamp, I'm Alison Southwick. Stay Foolish, everybody!