29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
Post Reply
Topic Author
TheFrugalEngineer
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun May 26, 2019 8:41 am
Location: Central FL

29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by TheFrugalEngineer » Sun May 26, 2019 9:14 am

Hello,

I am a long time reader of the bogleheads forum and have been using this as my main investment strategy. I have a degree in mechanical engineer and i am currently working as a quality/manufacturing/metrology engineer for a small (<30 salary employees) automotive manufacturing plant.

I am currently making $50,000 and have been at the current place of employment since graduating 3 years ago. my curent investments are as follows:

25k in my IRA using VBIAX (Vanguard balanced index fund admiral shares),
45K in company 401k with 3 year vested out of 5 distributed 50/50 into VTSAX (Vanguard total stock market) and VTINX (Vanguard retirement income fund),
55K in emergency fund distributed in 10% VMMXX (vanguard prime money market), 70% VBTLX (Vanguard total bond market), and 20% VFIAX (Vanguard 500 admiral shares).

My current investment not including emergency fund I want to be around 60/40 stock to bond. I max out my 401k and Ira every year due to my current low expenses.

With my current employment I frequently feel that i am being underpaid relative to my degree, which leads me to constantly exploring other engineering opportunities. I have had an interview recently and will have another followup interview in the coming weeks with a fortune 500 manufacturer. In the initial interview when asked about salary I stated I wanted around 65-70k. My issues arises in that the current place of employment my manager treats me very well and the company really allows me alot of freedom to design and implement my ideas without any questions. I tend to feel that I should be loyal to the company even if that means not seeing much chance of getting higher pay raises (current employees have not had major pay raises in six years besides the last 2 years of 2% company wide pay increases). My dream position I am trying to break into is working for the US Government in an engineer or quality role. An old operations manager that I worked with at my current company works as a quality engineer for the US government and is currently trying to get me hired on. Not sure if i should consider the manufacturing engineer position or stick with the current place of employment knowing that if the USA engineer position comes into fruition I would want to jump onto that position. I guess my overall worry is going to a new place of employment to just leave if the USA job comes available.

A little about the current company:
The company has a big automotive production program coming to end in 12 months that will cut sales by 40%, with no major programs to fill the lost of sales on the horizon currently. The company has had outside consultants put in place trying to lean out the operations of the plants to increase overall profitability.

What are the thoughts of the boglehead community.

Thanks,

TheFrugalEngineer

miamivice
Posts: 1758
Joined: Tue Jun 11, 2013 11:46 am

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by miamivice » Sun May 26, 2019 9:47 am

$50k is a bit on the low side. At my megacorp, engineers with your experience often are paid around $80k.

You have zero obligations to be loyal to your company.

The US government position most likely pays less than the Fortune 500 position.

It is hard for someone to "get someone in" to a US government position because there are a number of filters and screens that prevent that sort of thing. I wouldn't put a lot of stock into what he is telling you. He may not have as much influence in hiring people as you think.

desiderium
Posts: 821
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 11:08 am

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by desiderium » Sun May 26, 2019 9:58 am

Nice to have a job where people like you and treat you well. You are undoubtedly doing the same and producing a good day's work. Loyalty means just this and you should continue to do so as long as you are employed there.

On the other hand, they have not made a long term commitment to you and appear to be noncompetitive on compensation. Unless this small firm is growing and you have an equity stake, it appears your future salary and professional growth is limited. Keep looking until you find something better. Be attentive to the work environment and look for some of the qualities you enjoy now. Be loyal to your current employer by giving them fair notice when you leave.

Bayareatechie
Posts: 13
Joined: Tue May 14, 2019 11:37 pm

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by Bayareatechie » Sun May 26, 2019 10:01 am

"Don't let a good life get in the way of a great life"

In my first job, one of my friends who worked in the same MegaCorp repeated this a lot before he jumped ship. It was a comfortable position, and similar to you, I felt loyalty to this company that had given me so much in terms of growth and freedom. But here's the thing - a business is there to make money, and it doesn't feel the same loyalty to you. So don't feel guilty about leaving a company / manager who has treated you well. Especially if you feel like the company is on a downward trend.

If I were in your position, I'd do whatever gets me closer to the eventual dream job. I'd also recommend interviewing at several companies so that you can have a few offers in hand when it comes time to negotiate compensation.

Also, fwiw 60/40 stock / bond sounds overly conservative for your age.

crake
Posts: 253
Joined: Thu Mar 14, 2013 2:12 pm

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by crake » Sun May 26, 2019 10:28 am

Your salary is very low for your degree and experience. I graduated about 10 years ago as an engineer and everyone I knew with a similar degree had a higher starting salary.

It is good that you like your job, but it seems time to go. The future of the company doesn't seem bright and you are already underpaid. It is easier to find a job when you already have one. I'd also try not to get anchored by the 50k salary. Don't be afraid to ask for a big increase. Times are good right now for engineers especially if you are willing to relocate.

Dilbydog
Posts: 77
Joined: Mon May 23, 2016 10:17 pm

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by Dilbydog » Sun May 26, 2019 10:51 am

OP. I was in a similar position years ago. Started out with a small shop, low pay, but a good group of people who wanted to help me grow. Being “loyal” I stayed with this firm for almost 10 years. In retrospect, I can unequivocally, say the biggest professional mistake I made was staying too long because of loyalty. There are other companies out there that will compensate you appropriately, and treat you well. You need to do what is best for you. It took me leaving something I was comfortable with to recognize that; and both my comp and professional outlook have improved tremendously.

PS - my firm is in a HCOL are, and EE/PE’s are asking for $200k at the interview.

User avatar
BolderBoy
Posts: 4366
Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:16 pm
Location: Colorado

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by BolderBoy » Sun May 26, 2019 12:35 pm

TheFrugalEngineer wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 9:14 am
I am currently making $50,000 and have been at the current place of employment since graduating 3 years ago.
Is there something you haven't told us about your situation?

By this metric https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/entr ... KO0,31.htm you could be making quite a bit more.
"Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities" - The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Topic Author
TheFrugalEngineer
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun May 26, 2019 8:41 am
Location: Central FL

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by TheFrugalEngineer » Sun May 26, 2019 1:05 pm

No not really, I graduated from a public state university with a high gpa and payed off all the debt upon graduation. I had 2 summer internships at my current place of employment and was offered full time employment upon graduation. Come from a family that runs there own businesses so was hard to get advice from them upon graduation especially when it comes to salary type positions. I was more worried about getting my few initial years under my belt prior to stating to look. Company is located near home town, thus the reason I had stayed for the time being especially since I have no debt.

tim1999
Posts: 3600
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 7:16 am

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by tim1999 » Sun May 26, 2019 1:44 pm

You are considerably underpaid unless you are living and working in some crazy low cost of living area like the poorest county in rural Mississippi or something. I'm guessing your 401k match and the cost of health insurance aren't particularly stellar either, and you mentioned the lack of merit raises. Don't feel the need to be loyal, they probably wouldn't hesitate to send you packing when the upcoming 40% sales decrease hits. Start looking elsewhere immediately. The job market for engineers is tight in just about every area I'm familiar with, if you are competent and have basic people skills, the world is your oyster.

Hypersion
Posts: 225
Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2013 3:20 am

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by Hypersion » Sun May 26, 2019 3:02 pm

My internship 7 year ago paid more than that. Update your resume, do some practicing for your interviews and find a better paying job.

random_walker_77
Posts: 747
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 8:49 pm

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by random_walker_77 » Sun May 26, 2019 4:29 pm

According to BLS, that's less than the 10% percentile for MechE wages in Michigan: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172141.htm

From what I've seen, typically engineers go through a pretty steep pay ramp over the first 3-5 years as you transition from a fresh NCG who really doesn't know what they're doing to a competent engineer. 50k sounds a little low even for a new college graduate salary. Sounds like 65K is more typical for a NCG:
https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Jo ... ntry-Level

Perhaps you had a low start and minimal raises? That can happen when a company isn't doing well and lacks money. But then, they can expect engineers to leave for fair compensation.

In the future, when asked for salary expectations, indicate that you expect "fair market compensation," and try to get them to throw out the first number. Ask them what their budgeted compensation range is for the position. Do your research and figure out a fair range. But they want to know that they're not wasting their time; they want to know that they can afford you.

Get data from glassdoor, payscale, trade rags, and the BLS...

Given the uncertainty in your company's situation, and the below-market pay, interview aggressively. Try to get more than one offer so that you have a better view into what market compensation is. Take the bird in the hand -- don't wait for a fed job.

bltn
Posts: 443
Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2017 9:32 pm

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by bltn » Sun May 26, 2019 9:16 pm

crake wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 10:28 am
Your salary is very low for your degree and experience. I graduated about 10 years ago as an engineer and everyone I knew with a similar degree had a higher starting salary.

It is good that you like your job, but it seems time to go. The future of the company doesn't seem bright and you are already underpaid. It is easier to find a job when you already have one. I'd also try not to get anchored by the 50k salary. Don't be afraid to ask for a big increase. Times are good right now for engineers especially if you are willing to relocate.
When asked about your salary expectations, try not to give a number before you get an idea of wht the offered amount would be.
My son in law was asked about salary expectations when joining a megacorp from a startup. The number he gave was quite a bit lower than what he was paid. I can t help wondering if he might have been paid more if he had declined to answer that question.

investingdad
Posts: 1610
Joined: Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:41 pm

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by investingdad » Mon May 27, 2019 8:12 am

Way, way underpaid. You've been working 3 years?

I'm a chem E (age 45) and was making 54k at age 27, that was back in 2001.

We are hiring new grad Mech Es at my mega Corp for more than you are being paid right out of college. Small companies are the worst, often using "loyalty" and "like a family" to justify joke salaries while the managers are cleaning up. Ask me how I know.

If I were in your shoes I'd be half way out the door already.

User avatar
BolderBoy
Posts: 4366
Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:16 pm
Location: Colorado

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by BolderBoy » Mon May 27, 2019 10:18 am

TheFrugalEngineer wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 1:05 pm
I was more worried about getting my few initial years under my belt prior to stating to look. Company is located near home town, thus the reason I had stayed for the time being especially since I have no debt.
Are you willing to move away from your home town? Some states prohibit employers from asking about salary histories, so you wouldn't get low-balled that way. Colorado recently enacted such a prohibition (don't know when it goes into effect).

Time to flap your wings. Time really is money.
"Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities" - The Dunning-Kruger Effect

User avatar
mhadden1
Posts: 695
Joined: Tue Mar 25, 2014 8:14 pm
Location: North Alabama

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by mhadden1 » Mon May 27, 2019 10:41 am

TheFrugalEngineer wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 9:14 am
The company has a big automotive production program coming to end in 12 months that will cut sales by 40%, with no major programs to fill the lost of sales on the horizon currently. The company has had outside consultants put in place trying to lean out the operations of the plants to increase overall profitability.
Your big issue right now is with your employment. You are underpaid for an ME, and your company's prospects seem poor right now. It's time to find a job with better compensation at a company with good prospects. Don't be afraid to move or find a niche in a different industry if it benefits you. Good luck!
Oh I can't, can I? That's what they said to Thomas Edison, mighty inventor, Thomas Lindberg, mighty flyer,and Thomas Shefsky, mighty like a rose.

123
Posts: 4795
Joined: Fri Oct 12, 2012 3:55 pm

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by 123 » Mon May 27, 2019 10:45 am

TheFrugalEngineer wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 9:14 am
... my curent investments are as follows:
...
55K in emergency fund distributed in 10% VMMXX (vanguard prime money market), 70% VBTLX (Vanguard total bond market), and 20% VFIAX (Vanguard 500 admiral shares)...
I wouldn't consider any funds that are subject to market risk, like VBTLX or VFIAX, as part of an emergency fund. Those may be part of a taxable investment account but aren't expected to be exempt from market declines that generally mark an emergency fund position.
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

teamDE
Posts: 229
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2016 9:16 pm

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by teamDE » Mon May 27, 2019 10:05 pm

Not to pile on, but... time to jump ship. Be excited about it!

Beatle Boots
Posts: 46
Joined: Mon Nov 12, 2018 11:28 am

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by Beatle Boots » Tue May 28, 2019 7:40 am

Here is some help on getting a federal mechanical engineering job. Qualification: They typically start out at a GS 9 equivalent which is around $50K. However, they increase annually and go to GS 11, then GS 12 fairly automatic. Here is the 2019 pay scale.

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversig ... 19/RUS.pdf

Next, you have to figure out how to write a resume. Not hard but different than private. Here is some help.

Google: how to write a federal resume

Google: sample federal resume mechanical engineer

Feel free to change words up.

I did a quick search of current fed mechanical engineer jobs nation/world wide for jobs open the general public with no veteran's status. If you have veteran's status, you can insert that criteria and get a slightly different list.

https://www.usajobs.gov/Search?jt=Mecha ... smax=64697

(This list is nation/world wide. If you want jobs for michagan only, you have to insert that filter. I did that and got 2 FAA jobs that let you work where you want.)

Geographic choices: The wider geographic places you will work, the more jobs you will get.

Locations that hire lots of Mechanical Enginerers: Washington DC, maryland, virginia, Boston, NYC, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, California.

Low cost of living places with high engineering jobs Military Aircraft Depots (heavy Aircraft overhaul for fleet of aircraft) - Georgia, Oklahoma, & Utah (also Dayton Ohio & Alabama).

Suggestion: Figure out which states you would be seriously willing to go to. If you won't go there, don't apply. Write a generic resume using the guidance above. Apply to multiple job openings. They will ask you what the lowest pay you will accept and I would recommend a GS 9 if you can afford it to get your career moving. You move up fast. You will see a salary range from like $50K - $150K. If you are coming in off the street they will only offer you $50K. Not the $150K. The announcement will ask what is the minimum amount you put, if you put $50K, they will continue to consider you. If you are lucky and the job starting pay is a GS11 @ $62K, you will get it even though you said your minimum was $50K.

Lastly, get to work. If you follow above, and start applying for jobs on line thru USAJOBS.gov, you should start getting action within a month. Be prepared to do phone interviews and respond quickly with an offer.

Good luck!

BeerTooth
Posts: 258
Joined: Wed Nov 24, 2010 3:07 pm

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by BeerTooth » Tue May 28, 2019 8:23 am

you're in Central FL? Lockheed Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando is hiring like crazy. I get multiple recruiters contacting me every month asking to relocate. There are 121 job postings for mechanical engineers on their site:

https://www.lockheedmartinjobs.com/sear ... 37924/50/2

I would guess they're starting BSMEs at $75-80k with no experience

itsgot8
Posts: 128
Joined: Thu Dec 14, 2017 11:20 am

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by itsgot8 » Tue May 28, 2019 9:15 am

Oof. As others have said, you're way underpaid.

With your background in automotive, I'd be looking to interview with automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers in Michigan where you can boost your salary significantly.

Beatle Boots
Posts: 46
Joined: Mon Nov 12, 2018 11:28 am

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by Beatle Boots » Tue May 28, 2019 9:47 am

BeerTooth wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 8:23 am
you're in Central FL? Lockheed Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando is hiring like crazy. I get multiple recruiters contacting me every month asking to relocate. There are 121 job postings for mechanical engineers on their site:

https://www.lockheedmartinjobs.com/sear ... 37924/50/2

I would guess they're starting BSMEs at $75-80k with no experience
Beer Tooth brings up a good point. Florida's space coast Florida's Space Coast (revolving around NASA) is pretty hot. This post reminded me of something I forgot in my post above.

The US Govt is great at hiring entry level engineers and providing massive free training and getting most entry level engineers up to $90K within a couple of years. Govt contractors such as Lockheed routinely recruit these well trained government engineers at higher salaries especially in hot pockets such as the Florida Space Coast. In my experience, the entry level engineers (no experience) normally don't like the working at the contractors. They routinely work much harder and longer than the entry level engineers working for the US Govt. I am sure there are exceptions and I am only talking in general terms. My experience is this, unless you can find a direct scope correlation between what you did in the auto industry, contractors will basically treat you as essentially and "entry level" engineer with basic training and no related experience. You may get more cash starting at the contractor than you will at the Govt but you will definitely earn it.

One last advantage to govt that is often overlooked. You get on board and get to the GS 12 level, you can eventually move where you want including many overseas locations.

good luck!

User avatar
lthenderson
Posts: 4091
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:43 pm
Location: Iowa

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by lthenderson » Tue May 28, 2019 9:51 am

TheFrugalEngineer wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 9:14 am
I frequently feel that i am being underpaid relative to my degree, which leads me to constantly exploring other engineering opportunities.

(current employees have not had major pay raises in six years besides the last 2 years of 2% company wide pay increases).
As a former mechanical engineer, every single one of my biggest raises (by far) were when I switched employers.

Luke Duke
Posts: 861
Joined: Tue Jun 18, 2013 11:44 am
Location: Texas

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by Luke Duke » Tue May 28, 2019 10:34 am

You are underpaid. I made the same salary in my first year out of school in 2001. I also received a bonus on top of that. I have a BSME.

You are doing very well to save the amount that you are saving. Keep that up and you should be able to comfortably retire in your 50's.

Update your resume and LinkedIn profile. Start looking for a new job. The best time to look for a job is when you don't need one. You can afford to be patient and picky and not have to take the first offer that comes along.

User avatar
onthecusp
Posts: 633
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:25 pm

Re: 29 year old engineer introduction and seeking advice

Post by onthecusp » Tue May 28, 2019 11:16 pm

Engineer here. When I was 4 years out of school in a comfortable job the company I was working for had nationwide layoffs. Out of 4 of us in similar positions at the site one was let go. Then another a few months later. I certainly felt at that point that they liked what I was doing and that I had potential, along with the fact that there were two of us covering the same production.

Then I was let go. It was all very polite and they helped a lot with good assistance and decent severance pay. I realized then that companies will keep employees as long as it is good for them and no longer. You owe them the same, stay as long as it is good for you, then politely leave. In my case I finally got another job, as a technician, after about 9 months, stayed 4 months until a much better offer, back in engineering, came from someone I had interviewed with earlier. Stayed with them 23 years, left them for a better position, stayed 5 years, left for a better position and now 6 years later I'm considering retirement. I'm pretty sure they would all have me back.

Don't be afraid to move.

Post Reply