A RESOURCE FOR YOUR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
The Cheley Advantage
We know that after summer is over, describing the professional value of your Cheley Experience can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, working at a summer camp is often misunderstood by those who lack the experience, and it can be hard to explain exactly how camp-related skills can be useful in the “real world.” For that reason, we put together this resource for your career development and professional advancement.
Why Cheley Looks Great on Your Resume
When employers hear that you’ve been a camp counselor, they might be envisioning the characters from movies like Wet Hot American Summer or The Parent Trap – someone who is a bit of a goofball, who doesn’t shower and who will bring strange games and songs to staff meetings. But the skills you gain at camp are invaluable and can be applied to a wide range of environments.
Strong teamwork-oriented company; good friendships and lots of fun; outdoor work experience in the Colorado wilderness; visionary work environment; coaching that helps you build personal accountability; work that teaches you strong organizational skills; a chance to improve people skills through community living; leadership development and personal challenge; experience that makes you a better communicator; formal and informal experience talking to groups; supervision from people you respect who care about your personal and professional growth.
These aspects of the Cheley Experience make you a real asset to employers, will be of great benefit in your own life, and are not found in a classroom or office setting. When properly outlined on your resume, your summer camp experience will truly set you apart from the competition. From problem-solving to communication, camp provides a unique opportunity to learn and practice a variety of skills that are highly sought after in any workplace. Since camp language can make it difficult to accurately describe the scope and magnitude of a camp job, here are some tips to help translate camp skills to your resume and/or job interview. Employers today are looking for concrete examples of your skills, and camp gives you the opportunity to provide them. With the knowledge and experiences you gain from working at camp, you have the tools to show employers that you have what they are looking for.
What to Put on a Resume: Good Things You Should Include
Contact Information, Opening Statement, Work History, Education, Skills… Clear enough? But wait—what about career goals? A cover letter? You still feel you’re forgetting something… Putting together a resume is a tough and time-consuming process. Luckily, you can take some (or most!) of the hassle out of it. Here’s a complete guide on the most important things to put on a resume, so that you can be sure that you’ve got everything you require.
You already know that the “must-have” resume sections are Contact Information, Resume Profile, Work History, Education, and Skills. There are a few optional sections that you can add as well, including achievements, certifications, or a hobbies section. You can also move sections around depending on how you want to prioritize your information.
Strong resumes are easy to read, so a simple format is key. Keep your resume to one page. You want to convey a sense of professionalism and communicate your desire to find a job that you’re a good fit for. Have someone else proofread your resume and give you feedback. Remember to tailor your resume based on their job posting – this point is crucial. Knowing what the reader is looking for will help you convince them you are the ideal candidate as you can tailor your resume and choose what to include for each job you apply for. Now, let’s go through all key sections you should put on your resume:
1. Contact Information:
- Your Name
- Professional title
- Phone Number (the one you answer!)
- Professional Email
- Social Media Handles (LinkedIn)
- URL to Your Personal Website, Blog, or Portfolio
Adding your address is optional these days, especially if you are applying for a job in a different state or country. If the job you’re applying for is not local, excluding your current address will help you avoid confusion. And that’s all you need!
2. A Resume Summary or Objective
Tricky question – what do you put at the beginning of your resume after your contact information? Starting a resume with a summary or objective is a golden opportunity. But which do you choose? The resume objective is better for resumes for:
- entry-level candidates
- candidates without work experience
- career changers
- job seekers with career gaps
Everyone else should use a resume summary. Both are short, snappy introductions that should highlight your career progress and skill set. And if you don’t have much career progress, write two or three lines that tell a company where you are and where you’re going professionally. The most important thing to keep in mind when writing both is that you no longer tell an employer what you want. Instead, you tell them that you’re going to give them what they want.
3. Experience Section
The experience section is going to make up the body of your resume. To begin, you do not need to list every job you’ve ever had. So, what should you include in your experience section?
A list of relevant jobs in reverse-chronological order, starting with your current position. Write one or two lines about what the company is and does under the company’s name and before you dive into your bullet points.
Up to six bullet points describing your roles and responsibilities at each job. Try to add responsibilities that reflect the skills listed in the job description and are most relevant to the job for which you are applying. When you write your bullet points, lead with an action verb. Paying attention to how you construct your bullet points makes your resume more readable.
Start with an Action Verb. Make a Quantifiable Point. Follow up with a Specific Task.
4. Education Section
Your education section can either come after your experience section, or you can add it before if you’ve recently graduated. What should you include?
A list of your degrees and schools. Your education section is also written in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent degree appearing first. If you have higher degrees, you do not need to add the high school you attended.
A description of your course of study. You don’t have to add a description of what you studied, but you can if you’re a fresh graduate, want to emphasize it, or find particularly relevant to the job.
Any honors and awards you received. A typical entry in your education section should include your type of degree, your major, the name of your university, and any honors and awards you received like this: “Honors BA in English Literature, Purdue University, Salutatorian”
Tip: You can add your GPA if you’re a student and it’s a 3.5 or higher.
5. Skills to Grab an Employer’s Attention
When considering what to put on a resume, skills are the most important. Studies have shown that the most important things to put on a resume for entry-level candidates are soft skills:
- problem-solving (83% of employers)
- teamwork (83%)
- written communication (80%)
- and leadership (72%)
You will want to scatter your skills throughout your experience section and put your best skills in your skill section. Also, you should make sure that you list as many skills from the job description as possible. These are your keyword skills, and they are what employers want to see.
6. Hobbies & Interests
Adding a hobbies and interests section to your resume is a very good idea, especially if you’ve got extra space. Many companies are now placing more of an emphasis on personality and how well they think you’d fit in with their team and the company’s culture. You don’t have to add a hobby section, but it’s a great way to show off your personality and set yourself apart. It is definitely something that you should consider including on a resume.
7. Other Additional Sections
Besides a Hobbies and Interests section, there are other extra sections you could consider including on your resume. If you’re writing a student’s resume and are struggling to fill it up, you could consider adding a separate section for awards and honors or additional activities, such as your extracurricular activities. Whatever you decide to add, just make sure that it doesn’t overwhelm your resume or comprise your resume length.
Common Key Skills and Proficiencies
Highlighting key skills is an important factor in getting your resume noticed by a hiring manager. Hiring managers often use Applicant Tracking Systems to evaluate the resumes they receive. The ATS scans resumes looking for these keywords and phrases and ranks resumes based on the number that match. Highly ranked resumes are forwarded to the hiring manager for further investigation, so the more skill words you include, the greater your chance of being invited for an interview. The key is to recognize the skills you possess and adapt them to the position, organization or industry to which you are applying, while describing them in professional terms. Choose the most relevant skills from the table below depending on what job you are applying for.
Key Skills & Proficiencies
- Behavioral analysis
- Build relationships
- Communication skills
- CPR/first aid/WFA
- Crisis intervention
- Customer service
- Curriculum development
- Daily activities
- Direct supervision
- Emergency preparedness and risk management
- Emotional intelligence awareness and cultivation
- Event management
- Good with kids
- Group development, facilitation, and debriefing, both large and small group
- Leadership and power dynamics training
- Living in community – responsibility and awareness
- Negotiation and consensus building
- Organizational skills
- Positive energy
- Psychology of child development
- Public speaking
- Recreational activities
- Role model
- Staff meetings
- Team player
- Training/teaching techniques
- Youth worker
Tip: Be sure to include where and when you received a certification or how long it will remain current: “First Aid Certification, American Red Cross, 2023”
Working at Cheley
Living and Working at Cheley Colorado Camps Requires:
- Flexibility (responding to quickly changing schedules and needs)
- Stamina (on the job 24/7, working in a physically demanding environment that requires the utmost care and attention)
- Communication skills to a diverse group of people (fellow staff, children, and parents)
- Patience and compassion (working with children and staff)
- Conflict resolution (other staff as well as children)
- Ability to work in stressful situations (very tight schedule, high expectations, rapidly changing environment)
- Ability to react quickly and stay calm in high stress environments (accidents/injuries, high-stress group)
- Ability to work with and relate to people of various ages (child-adult)
- Program and curriculum creation/development/evolution/assessment/improvement
Training: Over 100 hours each summer of focused, dedicated, specialized, on-site training (including instruction from outside experts). One of the longest trainings with a more diverse curriculum of any camp or outdoor center in the USA. Before staff training, on-the-job learning begins with a 60+ page staff manual focused on child, community, and personal development. When camp is running, you’ll receive real-time training from a dedicated mentoring structure.
These examples may be useful to include in your cover letter.
Translating Cheley to Your Resume
|Sample Resume Sentence
|• Implemented a streamlined new process for activity training that saved camp 100 hours of time during staff training
• Led multi-day backpacking and daily hiking trips with a group of 9 to 13 children
• Introduced a new camp store process to minimize excess stock
• Managed a group of 12 girls for a 4-week period, and resolved conflicts using non-violent communication
• Acted as the primary caregiver and “go-to” counselor for 5 girls for 4 weeks
|• Mediated conflicts between 60 teenage boys using communication tools such as triple play and success counseling
• Identified the needs of disengaged campers and helped them reconnect with the joy of being at camp
• Facilitated camp-wide consensus discussion about transportation at camp
•Discussed homesick camper’s feelings and needs, resulting in her finally enjoying her camp experience
|• Identified process for medical emergencies and clarified the order of actions to be taken
• Brainstormed ideas for cabin activities and used testing leadership style to trial each idea
• Improved evening program activity to be more engaging for the campers and documented the changes
|• Assigned roles to 30+ staff to coordinate camp-wide evening activity
• Supervised five 9-year-old boys while they each solved part of a team-building challenge
• Managed a group of teenage girls as they engaged in cleaning up the campgrounds
|• Collaborated with 5 other staff to coordinate a 2-hour unit activity
• Participated with 10 teenage boys to complete an 8-element ropes challenge course
• Consulted with other staff members to brainstorm memorable activity-selling skits
• Built community within a 15-person cabin by initiating weekly breakfast meetings
• Lived in a close-knit community of 220 staff for three months
• Consulted with the entire staff to achieve consensus around community food guidelines
• Worked with 12 other staff to facilitate several hour-long evening programs to entertain 60+ children
|• Created and developed an hour-long evening program to entertain 80 people
• Prepared and facilitated 20+ detailed evening discussions for boys aging from 11-16
• Created detailed set-up and breakdown lists for 30+ separate activities during an evening program
|• Liaised with parents and children during weekend-long visiting day
• Entertained adult and child guests through performances at campfires
• Helped guests find their way around the camp, and make purchases from the camp store
|• Suggested changes to Cheley’s policy to improve the safety and consistency of evacuation use
• Spearheaded revisions to the staff manual to increase its relevancy and impact
• Instigated multiple unit-wide activities to entertain 65 teenage girls.
|• Supervised fellow staff and reinforced their commitment to the agreements they made with camp
• Mentored 5 teenage boys, 24 hours a day for four weeks and oversaw their physical, mental, and emotional well-being
• Supervised the safety of campers with valid CPR certification
• Managed injury and illnesses at camp with First Aid certification
• Oversaw all _____ programs and ensured camper safety with WFA certification
• Prepared detailed risk management processes for a variety of activities with different risk levels
• Managed time in keeping a tight schedule involving facilitating activities, supervising children, writing weekly reports to parents, planning wake-ups, brainstorming and facilitating cabin activities, and ensuring campers are on time for all activities.
• Supervised 12 campers each week for 9 weeks, ensuring they brushed their teeth, bathed, ate adequately, were hydrated, took their medications, and got enough exercise
|• Critiqued and suggested improvements to camp’s mountain biking program through the process of knowledge management
• Troubleshot camper ideas for cabin activities, analyzing them for risk, practicality and engagement
|• Led cabin groups of fifteen campers for four weeks; empathized, motivated, befriended and disciplined cabin members when necessary; feedback from direct supervisor indicated position of top performer and role model on staff
• Listened to homesick camper and reflected his feelings and needs through active listening and non-violent communication
• Empowered campers to make more powerful choices through using the tool _____
• Empathized with a fellow staff member who was struggling to connect with her cabin by being in rapport and reframing what she was saying in a more positive light
|• Worked with emotional emergencies, including angered people with a range of complaints about fairness or inclusion.
• Demonstrated patience through working with children who have more diverse, complicated and unique personalities than adults, which required adaptability and strong understanding of rapport (physical, vocal and emotional)
• Worked 24 hours a day for 3 months straight, tending to the various physical, emotional and mental needs of campers and staff
|• Performed in several campfire skits and songs
• Addressed the 500+ camp community with an inspirational speech at All-Camp Campfire
• Displayed confident public speaking by facilitating 100+ activities throughout the summer
|• Innovated new activity for camp based on my previous passion for acrobatics and yoga
• Created and performed in several campfire skits
• Developed several fictional characters for special wake-ups each morning
• Created and developed a completely original, 90-minute evening program with 25 characters
• Brainstormed and edge crafted 10+ brand new miscellaneous activities for campers throughout the summer
|• Facilitated the growth of 62 boys ages 9 to 11 through educational praise and setting them challenging goals
• Taught 12 girls about teamwork by instructing them on a 25-element ropes challenge course
• Mentored a 17-year-old Camper in Leadership Training through direct scaffolding and success counseling
• Created dozens of meaningful learning experiences for multiple age groups ranging from 7-17 year old boys and girls.
Questions to Ask Yourself
When thinking about what to include on your resume to help present yourself in the best light for that job, it can be helpful to ask yourself some questions, to ascertain what experiences you are most proud of and how you’d like to present them:
- In what ways did I adapt my contributions to new circumstances, roles, tasks and responsibilities?
- How did I navigate the different wants and needs of the people I worked with?
- How did I encourage contributions from all members and find consensus among people with different values?
- When did I respond to the needs of specific campers, and how did I make sure they were met?
- When was I at my most creative, and how did I express that creativity?
- How did I manage my time to ensure all my responsibilities were met within my agreements?
- What learning experiences did I have and how did I seek out opportunities to expand my knowledge?
- How did I plan activities, evaluate their skills and supervise them when they were in progress?
- What tools did I use to help other people solve problems, and find the root cause of their problems?
- How did I inspire and motivate others?
- In what ways did I foster teamwork and cooperation amongst the campers and staff I worked with?
- What were occasions I encouraged participation and growth in campers, while adhering to our FunPlus philosophy?
Sample Resume Blurbs
“Youth Development Professional”
• Responsible for constant supervision, growth, and development of young people, as well as the planning and organization of an activity program.
• Duties include child/teen supervision, facilitation of program area, conflict mediation/resolution, timely response to written material and paperwork, and effective communication with campers, parents, peers, and supervisors.
• Responsible for supporting the entire summer experience. Provide everything necessary to make the experience successful. Contribute to the overall vision and purpose
by serving as a backbone to the structure of a camp that influences the lives of children.
• Duties include teamwork, communication with campers and staff, and timely, organized delivery of each area of service.
• Responsible for the overall operation of one of eight camp units comprised of 15 staff members and 60+ campers. Facilitate the building of community and manage overall camper safety. Supervision of staff also includes midterm and final evaluations, staff development, and team building.
• Duties include program design and implementation, scheduling, administration of written documents and paperwork, and all communication with parents, staff, and camp owners.
Happy Trails – until we meet again!
We genuinely care about your development – personally and professionally – and want you to thrive at camp and outside of camp! While we hope your career with us is a productive and mutually satisfying one spanning many summers, we know that not everyone can work at camp forever. It’s sad to say goodbye, and we understand that you need to move on and find new opportunities to make a difference in the world. Below is a list of useful links we have compiled to continue to help you make a difference in the world at other organizations.
General Interview Tips
This article gives you an inside look at what interviewers are really looking for when you answer their questions.
Focus on the three big questions behind nearly all interview questions so you can be prepared to tell the interviewer what they really want to know.
These articles help you prepare to navigate what can be a potentially tricky question.
A simple how-to guide to prepare for a job interview.
Useful tips and reminders for your next job interview.
A simple how-to guide to impress during interviews.
An article on expecting the unexpected from your next job interview.
More tips for successful interviewing.
TikTok Accounts to Check Out:
Use SMART Stories to Ace Your Next Interview
Are you often stumped by behavioral interview questions? Employers are increasingly leaning towards behavioral questions to glean a clearer understanding of candidates’ suitability for a role and company culture. Crafting compelling stories with a beginning, middle, and end can be your ticket to making a lasting impression while tackling these questions effectively.
But how do you weave these SMART Stories?
Starting in reverse might just be your golden ticket. By envisioning the desired end result—an interview where your resume and presentation strike a harmonious balance—you can shape your stories to align with the interviewer’s expectations. Here’s a breakdown:
- Define Your Objective: Aim for a seamless fusion of your resume and interview, presenting yourself as the ideal fit for the role, team, and work environment.
- Create Balance: Highlight how your skills or achievements have molded your career and align with the sought-after qualities outlined in the job description.
- Match Expectations: Connect your SMART story directly to the traits listed in the job description, underscoring your suitability for the role.
Now, let’s dissect a SMART Story:
- S – Situation: Set the stage by outlining the scenario.
- M – Metrics or More: Expand the story with concrete details, including obstacles faced.
- A – Action: Detail the specific steps you took.
- R – Results: Describe the outcomes achieved, emphasizing quantifiable metrics.
- T – Tie-In: Reinforce your candidacy by linking your accomplishments directly to the employer’s needs.
However, it’s not just about constructing stories; it’s about leveraging them strategically:
- Assess Your Strengths, Values, and Skills: Align your unique attributes with the organization’s needs and challenges.
- Craft a 30-Second Elevator Pitch: This concise self-branding pitch, paired with a stellar resume, can significantly bolster your chances.
- Adopt a Consultant’s Mindset: Prepare extensively by researching the company, interviewer, and industry to offer solutions, not just answers.
Remember, an interview should be a dialogue, not an interrogation. Engage the interviewer with your SMART stories, providing deeper insights beyond your resume to showcase your impact.
Key tips for crafting engaging SMART stories:
- Optimal Length: Keep stories concise, around two to three minutes, and diversify your examples across different facets of your life.
- Utilize Metrics: Numbers add weight to your achievements, substantiating your claims and showcasing your understanding of data.
- Infuse Emotion: Include feelings without veering into personal opinions, demonstrating empathy and emotional intelligence.
- Stay Positive: Avoid criticism or negative tones, maintaining professionalism throughout your narrative.
- Be Clear and Universal: Steer clear of industry jargon to ensure your stories are understandable to all audiences.
And what if you’re struggling to find standout moments? Consider sharing challenge stories that illustrate how you overcame adversity, showcasing resilience and problem-solving skills.
Ultimately, these stories serve as your strategic arsenal, positioning you as an invaluable asset to any organization. So, prepare multiple stories and ace that interview!
Don’t forget this interview preparation checklist:
- Thorough research on the company, role, and industry.
- Well-practiced SMART Stories showcasing relevant accomplishments.
- Essential interview materials prepared and ready.
- Approach the interview as a problem-solving consultant.
- Curated questions to ask the interviewer.
- Post-interview follow-up plan in place.
By mastering SMART Stories, you’ll elevate your interview game, leaving a lasting impression and increasing your chances of securing that dream job.
Answering "Tell Us About Yourself!"
The “Tell us about yourself” question in a job interview often serves as the initial icebreaker, but its importance goes beyond mere introduction. Crafting a compelling response requires a strategic approach to highlight your professional journey and key attributes effectively.
Start with a Concise Introduction: Begin your answer with a brief professional overview. Highlight your current role or recent experience, providing context without delving into excessive details. This opening statement sets the stage for a more in-depth discussion.
Share Relevant Career Highlights: Follow up your introduction with a few career highlights or milestones that directly relate to the job you’re interviewing for. Highlight achievements or experiences that showcase your skills and align with the position’s requirements. Emphasize measurable results and impactful projects to demonstrate your value.
Inject Personal Touches Sparingly: While the question seeks professional insights, incorporating a touch of personal information can humanize your response. Share hobbies or interests that exhibit relevant skills or qualities beneficial to the role. However, keep these personal details brief and professionally relevant.
Connect to the Job and Company: Bridge your response to the job and company you’re interviewing for. Articulate how your skills, experiences, and career trajectory align with the organization’s goals, values, or mission. Express enthusiasm about contributing to their objectives, showcasing your genuine interest in the role.
Conclude with Enthusiasm and Readiness: Wrap up your response by expressing enthusiasm for the opportunity and your readiness to contribute. Convey your eagerness to bring your expertise to the team, demonstrating your proactive approach and passion for the position.
Practice and Refine: Crafting a succinct yet impactful response to “Tell us about yourself” takes practice. Rehearse your answer beforehand to ensure clarity, confidence, and a natural delivery. Tailor your response to fit different interview contexts while maintaining authenticity.
Remember, this question is an opportunity to set the tone for the interview and create a positive impression. Use it to showcase your qualifications, align yourself with the job, and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role and company.
Building a Resume
Crafting an impactful resume is pivotal in securing your dream job. Your resume is your introduction to potential employers, showcasing your skills, experiences, and unique value. To build a compelling resume:
- Tailor to the Job: Customize your resume for each application, aligning your qualifications with the job description.
- Highlight Achievements: Emphasize quantifiable achievements using action-oriented language to demonstrate your impact in previous roles.
- Keep It Concise: Aim for a clean, organized format with bullet points to present information succinctly, ensuring readability.
- Focus on Skills: Include a skills section that aligns with the job requirements, emphasizing both technical and soft skills relevant to the role.
- Use Powerful Words: Utilize strong verbs and industry-related keywords to grab attention and pass through applicant tracking systems (ATS).
- Proofread: Check for typos, grammatical errors, and formatting consistency to ensure a polished and professional document.
Remember, your resume is your marketing tool—make it compelling, concise, and tailored to stand out among the crowd!
General Career Advice
- Explore your interests: Take the time to understand your passions, strengths, and areas of interest. Explore different industries and career paths to find what aligns with your skills and values.
- Set clear goals: Define your short-term and long-term career goals. Having a clear direction will help you make focused decisions and take steps towards achieving your objectives.
- Gain practical experience: Seek opportunities to gain practical experience through internships, part-time jobs, or volunteering. Practical experience not only enhances your resume but also helps you develop valuable skills and insights into the professional world.
- Network and build connections: Build a professional network by attending industry events, joining relevant professional associations, and connecting with people in your desired field. Networking can lead to mentorship opportunities, job referrals, and valuable insights.
- Continuously learn and develop: Embrace a growth mindset and invest in your personal and professional development. Take courses, attend workshops, and read industry-related books and articles to stay updated and broaden your knowledge base.
- Develop strong communication skills: Effective communication skills are crucial in any career. Focus on improving your written and verbal communication skills, as well as your ability to collaborate and work in teams.
- Embrace challenges and take risks: Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take on new challenges. Pushing your boundaries can lead to personal and professional growth.
- Seek mentors: Find mentors who can provide guidance, support, and advice based on their experience. Mentors can offer valuable insights, help you navigate challenges, and provide a fresh perspective on your career path.
- Adapt to change: In today’s rapidly changing world, adaptability is key. Embrace change, be open to learning new skills, and be willing to pivot your career path if necessary.
Summer Camp or Internship
While internships can offer industry-specific experience, working at a summer camp provides a unique set of transferable skills that can be valuable in any career. It’s essential to consider your individual goals, interests, and the skills you hope to develop when choosing between a summer camp job and an internship.
An article the highlights the value of spending your summer at camp, and where those skills apply to other jobs.
Financial Planning in Your 20s
The money decisions you make in your 20s can affect your finances for years to come. That’s why it’s important to work on building healthy financial habits now so that you’ll benefit later. Developing good spending and saving habits, learning to budget, and investing while you’re in your 20s can help you prevent needless debt, put away money for the things that are important to you, and take advantage of compounding to amass a fortune in the future. It may be easier than you think to build a sound foundation for your later years. Master these 20 money skills in your 20s, and you’ll be thanking yourself in your 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.
Pay Yourself First
When you have money coming in, don’t forget to pay yourself first! That means making savings a priority—not something you tackle only after everything else is taken care of. You can have your savings automatically withdrawn from your checking account and put into your savings account via automatic transfer. This makes saving easy and automatic. Just make sure to keep enough in your checking account to pay your bills. Set a goal to save 10% to 20% of your income each month to put toward your long-term priorities.
Understanding Your Paycheck Breakdown
Your paycheck is more than just the number you receive—it consists of various components that affect your take-home pay. Here’s a breakdown:
Gross Pay: This is your total earnings before any deductions. It’s the amount agreed upon for your work hours or salary.
Taxes: There are different types of taxes deducted from your paycheck, including:
- Federal Income Tax: Required by the federal government based on your income level and exemptions claimed on your W-4 form.
- State Income Tax: Some states impose an income tax; the rate and regulations vary by state.
- Social Security and Medicare (FICA): These are payroll taxes that fund social programs. They’re calculated as a percentage of your income.
- Health Insurance: If you’ve opted for health insurance through your employer, the premium may be deducted from your paycheck.
- Retirement Contributions: If you’re contributing to a retirement plan (e.g., 401(k)), these contributions are deducted.
- Other Deductions: Any other voluntary deductions, such as for charitable contributions or flexible spending accounts, might also be subtracted. While working at Cheley, this is where you will see your purchases at the Camp Store deducted.
Net Pay: This is your “take-home pay,” the amount you receive after all deductions and taxes have been withheld.
Understanding your paycheck breakdown empowers you to track your earnings, plan your budget, and comprehend how taxes and deductions impact your income.
Demystifying Taxes and Tax Day
Taxes play a crucial role in our society, and understanding them can alleviate confusion during tax season. Here’s an overview:
Types of Taxes:
- Income Tax: The tax you pay on earnings from your job or other sources.
- Sales Tax: A percentage added to the price of goods and services, varying by state and locality.
- Property Tax: Tax on the value of property you own, often used to fund local services like schools and infrastructure.
- Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA): Funds Social Security and Medicare.
Tax Day and Filing:
Tax Day: April 15th is the deadline for filing federal income tax returns in the U.S. (unless it falls on a weekend or holiday).
Filing Taxes: You’ll use forms like W-2 (for income) and 1099 (for various earnings) to report your income and claim deductions or credits. Here is some general information about filing your taxes.
- Online Filing: Use reputable online tax filing software such as TurboTax, H&R Block, or TaxAct. IRS Free File is available for eligible individuals and offers free online tax preparation and filing options.
- Tax Preparation Services: Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) can provide professional assistance for complex tax situations. Consider tax preparation firms like H&R Block for in-person help.
- IRS Resources: Access the IRS website for forms, publications, and resources needed for filing taxes. Utilize IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers for in-person assistance by appointment.
- Paper Filing: Print necessary tax forms and mail them to the IRS if you prefer traditional filing methods.
- Local Consultation or Family Assistance: Seek advice from local tax consultants or advisors for personalized guidance. If possible, consider seeking help from your parents or guardians who may have experience with taxes or access to professional assistance.
Tax Refunds and Payments:
- Refunds: If you overpaid your taxes through withholding or estimated payments, you’ll receive a refund.
- Payments: If you owe more than what was withheld, you’ll need to make a payment to cover the shortfall.
Understanding these fundamental aspects of taxes helps you stay compliant, plan for tax obligations, and utilize available deductions or credits.
Finding Your Year-End Tax Forms in PayCom
Here are step-by-step instructions for staff to find their W-2s in PayCom:
- Log in to PayCom: Access the PayCom portal using your employee login credentials, online or in the PayCom app.
- Select “Payroll”: Within the header section, find and click on “Payroll.”
- Choose “Year-End Tax Forms”: Look for a link labeled “Year-End Tax Forms” (the last link). Click on it to access your W-2 information.
- Select the Correct Year: If multiple years are available, choose the W-2 for the reporting year you need (e.g., 2023 for the 2023 tax year).
- Download or Print: Download a digital copy of your W-2 by clicking the view icon.
- Verify and Save: Ensure the information on the W-2 is accurate. Save a copy for your records or print a hard copy for tax filing purposes.
- Log Out Securely: Once you’ve obtained your W-2 and Earnings Summary, log out of your PayCom account to maintain security.
If you encounter any difficulties or have specific questions regarding accessing your W-2 in PayCom, please reach out to Kim Betts for assistance.
Learn How To Create a Budget
Your first step is to take a look at your income and create a budget. A budget will help you decide when and how to spend your money, giving you the power to decide where your money goes. It also gives you permission to relax, since you know your priorities are accounted for.
Start by creating and following a budget now to help you manage your money without stress.
Try starting with something simple, such as the 80/20 budget or the 50/30/20 budget. These simple guidelines make sure that you are properly accounting for both saving and spending.
Step 1: Calculate your Net Income
The foundation of an effective budget is your net income. That’s your take-home pay—total wages or salary minus deductions for taxes and employer-provided programs such as retirement plans and health insurance. Focusing on your total salary instead of net income could lead to overspending because you’ll think you have more available money than you do.
Step 2: Track your Spending
Once you know how much money you have coming in, the next step is to figure out where it’s going. Tracking and categorizing your expenses can help you determine what you are spending the most money on and where it might be easiest to save.
Begin by listing your fixed expenses. These are regular monthly bills such as rent or mortgage, utilities and car payments. Next list your variable expenses—those that may change from month to month, such as groceries, gas and entertainment. This is an area where you might find opportunities to cut back. Credit card and bank statements are a good place to start since they often itemize or categorize your monthly expenditures.
Record your daily spending with anything that’s handy—a pen and paper, an app or your smartphone, or budgeting spreadsheets or templates found online.
Step 3: Set Realistic Goals
To reach your lifelong dreams, you need to set financial goals. By setting long-term, mid-term, and short-term financial goals, you’ll be one step closer to being financially secure. Plus, if you aren’t working toward anything specific, you’re likely to spend more money than you should. A long-term goal, for example, might be saving for retirement. A short-term goal could be building up your emergency fund.
Estimate how much money you’ll need to meet each of your goals. A key to achieving these goals is to assign them specific dollar amounts. Don’t just say you want to save “a lot” or “enough.” Say “$20,000,” or whatever amount is right for your situation. You’re more likely to achieve specific, actionable goals.
Short-term goals should take around one to three years to achieve and might include things like setting up an emergency fund or. Long-term goals, such as saving for retirement or your child’s education, may take decades to reach. Remember, your goals don’t have to be set in stone, but identifying them can help motivate you to stick to your budget.
Step 4: Make a Plan
This is where everything comes together: What you’re actually spending vs. what you want to spend. Use the variable and fixed expenses you compiled to get a sense of what you’ll spend in the coming months. Then compare that to your net income and priorities. Consider setting specific—and realistic—spending limits for each category of expenses.
What is the 50/30/20 rule? The 50/30/20 rule is a budgeting technique that divides your take-home income into three categories by percentages. It’s a simple way to track your spending.
Needs – 50% – Rent or mortgage, Car payment, Utilities, Groceries
Wants – 30% – Streaming services, Shopping,Vacations
Savings or Debt – 20% – Emergency fund, Retirement, Child’s education, Credit card payments
Step 5: Adjust your Spending
Now that you’ve documented your income and spending, you can make any necessary adjustments so that you don’t overspend and have money to put toward your goals. Look toward your “wants” as the first area for cuts. Can you skip movie night in favor of a movie at home? If you’ve already adjusted your spending on wants,on monthly payments. On close inspection a “need” may just be a “hard to part with.”
If the numbers still aren’t adding up, look at adjusting your fixed expenses. Could you, for instance, save more by shopping around for a better rate on auto or homeowners insurance? Such decisions come with big trade-offs, so make sure you carefully weigh your options.
Remember, evencan add up to a lot of money. You might be surprised at how much extra money you accumulate by making one minor adjustment at a time.
Step 6: Review your Budget Regularly
Once your budget is set, it’s important to review it and your spending on a regular basis to be sure you are staying on track. Few elements of your budget are set in stone: You may get a raise, your expenses may change or you may reach a goal and want to plan for a new one. Whatever the reason, get into the habit of regularly checking in with your budget following the steps above.
Save Up for an Emergency Fund
One of the most detrimental financial habits you can develop is to rely on credit cards to cover daily expenses when you go over budget.
Instead, it’s important to have a good emergency fund in place so you don’t need to use credit. Aim to save up three to six months’ worth of expenses. That will cover you in the event of an emergency, such as losing your job or dealing with an unexpected loss in the family.
Although it may seem like a sacrifice, setting aside money in an emergency fund can provide you with true peace of mind and help you move more gracefully through otherwise stressful situations. It allows you to focus on taking care of the problem at hand without the additional worry about finances during a crisis. The sooner you start on your emergency fund, the sooner you can take advantage of these benefits.
Your emergency fund is also a way to protect your savings. For example, if you’re saving for a home, and you have a medical emergency, you will not need to dip into your down payment savings to cover the costs. Instead, you’ll use your emergency fund for that. This can help you to continue to move forward with your financial goals even when you face the unexpected.
Starting your Emergency Fund
When you’re ready to start, take the time to select the right account to hold your emergency fund. You should look for an interest-earning account that lets you access your money quickly if needed. This would include a money market account or a high-interest savings account.
Generally, you want to avoid putting your emergency fund in a Certificate of Deposit (CD) or Individual Retirement Account (IRA), both of which have penalties for early withdrawals.
Start Investing in Your Retirement
You’ve probably heard this before, and that’s because it’s pretty sound advice: You should start contributing to a 401(k) or other retirement plan starting with your first job. Your contributions will be made with pre-tax dollars, and taxes on earnings will be deferred until you withdraw them during retirement. Even better, many employers will match all or part of your contribution, which results in huge gains for you.
A good goal to work toward is to earmark 15% of your income to saving for retirement. If you can’t contribute this much right away, don’t worry. You can work up to it as you increase your income and pay off debt.
The most important retirement advice is to begin saving for retirement now! Do not wait until your school loan is paid off, or your car is paid off, you are married with 9 children, and your house is paid off. You cannot begin saving for retirement at age 60 and ever retire. Whatever monies you put away for retirement today has a general rule of doubling every 7-9 years.Get in the lifelong habit of putting money away into your retirement account EVERY PAYCHECK until you retire. Your retirement date is roughly the year 2070 (or when you turn 67).
TYPES OF RETIREMENT PLANS
- Traditional IRA (Individual Retirement Account) – You put the money away today without paying any income tax this year; however, when you begin taking money out everything, including dividends, is taxed as ordinary income.
- Roth IRA – You pay income tax this year on the money you put away. But, when you begin taking the money out for retirement, it is all TAX FREE including the earned dividends. This is a major advantage.
With both IRAs, you can begin taking money out at age 59 1/2. In an emergency, you can also take money out of either IRAs with a 10% penalty at any age.
- 403 (b) plan – This is set up when you work with a nonprofit organization.
- 401 (k) plan – This plan is set up when you work with a for profit company.
Both these plans are set up by the business or organization. Some offer matching options (i.e., for every dollar you put in the company will match it up a certain dollar amount. You put in $100 per paycheck and the company will add $10 per paycheck up $2,000 per year from the company). The downside of this is you may not have a choice as to where the retirement account is set up or how it is invested. It may have high expenses or be invested in items you do not believe in or agree with. You may be able to negotiate as to where and how your 403b/401k is set up.
- Company Pension plan
WHERE TO INVEST THE MONEY
Mutual fund companies are the BEST. Like Vanguard, Fidelity, T Rowe Price, etc. There are dozens of these mutual fund companies. They all charge different fees. Vanguard is one of the strongest, largest, and least expensive. Many fees are reduced or removed after you have $10,000 in the fund. You can change companies and funds as you decide. Double check with the company you choose BEFORE you invest. Ask, if I want to go with a different company in 5 years, can I do that? What is the charge or fee for the change?
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF FUNDS TO CHOOSE WITHIN A MUTUAL FUND COMPANY?
- Retirement funds – based on the year you hope to retire. The fund company moves the money around as you get older. Higher risk when you are younger, then into safer funds as you get closer to retirement age.
- Balanced funds – your money is split with some in stocks (shares of companies like Apple, Ford, Microsoft, Uniter Airlines, etc.) and some in bonds, which are mainly loans to the US government.
- All stock funds
- All bond (loans) funds
- Stock Index funds – an example is the fund picks 500 companies from around the world and stays with those same 500 companies no matter what happens. It’s called an Index Fund.
- International Funds – owns stocks in all foreign companies
A general rule is when stocks go up, bonds go down, and when stocks go down, then bonds go up.
SO WHAT SHOULD I DO TODAY?
Go to www.vanguard.com and open a ROTH IRA. $1,000 to open. If you don’t have $1,000, open a Vanguard regular mutual fund (Wellington) and add money to this fund until you have $1,000 to open a ROTH IRA fund.
If you have $1,000, open a ROTH IRA and have the money transferred automatically from your regular bank checking account to Vanguard ROTH IRA every paycheck. $50, $100, or whatever you can afford. Vanguard will automatically move the money from your checking account to your ROTH IRA. It’s an EFT (electronic funds transfer) at no fee or charge to you.
Pick a ROTH IRA Target Retirement Fund for the year close to when you turn 65 years old. i.e., Target Retirement Fund 2065. Over time, Vanguard will move your funds from higher risk to lower risk as you get closer to retirement.
There will be changes as the years go by… by the government, by you, and by Vanguard. Do not monitor the funds daily or weekly. Put the money in your ROTH IRA and ignore it. The market goes up and down. Maybe check out the fund yearly, see how it’s doing. Is it gaining by 5 to 9%? Good. You are concerned about the year 2065, not 2023.
Building a Solid Credit Score
Building good credit is an important financial goal, as it can open up opportunities for better interest rates on loans, credit card approvals, and even impact future employment prospects. Here are some key pieces of advice for those looking to build credit:
- Start early: Building credit takes time, so it’s important to start as soon as possible. The longer your credit history, the better it looks to lenders.
- Understand credit: Familiarize yourself with how credit works, including credit scores, credit reports, interest rates, and the impact of missed payments. This knowledge will help you make informed decisions and avoid common pitfalls.
- Open a credit account: Begin by opening a credit account, such as a credit card or a student loan. You may need a cosigner or a secured credit card if you have no credit history. Use credit responsibly by making regular, on-time payments.
- Keep balances low: Keep your credit card balances low relative to your credit limit. Ideally, aim to use no more than 30% of your available credit. High utilization can negatively impact your credit score.
- Pay bills on time: Paying your bills on time is crucial. Late payments can harm your credit score and may incur penalties and fees. Set up automatic payments or reminders to ensure you don’t miss any due dates.
- Diversify your credit mix: Having a mix of credit types (e.g., credit cards, loans) can positively impact your credit score. However, only take on what you can manage responsibly.
- Monitor your credit report: Regularly check your credit report to ensure it’s accurate and to detect any potential errors or fraudulent activity. You’re entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the major credit bureaus.
- Be cautious with new credit applications: Limit the number of new credit applications you make. Each application creates a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can temporarily lower your score.
- Build a positive payment history: Consistently making on-time payments demonstrates your creditworthiness. This positive payment history can help you secure better credit terms in the future.
- Be patient and responsible: Building credit is a gradual process. Patience, responsible financial behavior, and time are key ingredients in establishing a solid credit foundation.
Remember, building credit is just one aspect of overall financial health. It’s important to budget, save, and practice responsible money management to achieve long-term financial stability.
Protect Yourself Online
If you’re like most 20-somethings, you probably have an online presence. With all the social media platforms and websites out there, it’s easy to reveal more about ourselves than we realize. Taking steps to protect yourself—like monitoring your financial accounts and credit report for any suspicious activity, using multiple passwords, and setting up two-factor authentication—can help safeguard your personal information.
While you are focusing on building these skills, don’t forget to check your credit reports regularly and be on the alert for identity theft. Doing this can help you catch identity theft much more quickly and protect your credit score, too.
Since you’re early in your career, you should also consider how potential employers may view your online presence. Take a look at your social media accounts and old posts to make sure there’s nothing that could be held against you.