Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

Get advice on money matters from The Bee's Claudia Buck and a panel of local experts

September 3, 2013
What opportunities are available for an older worker looking to retrain for a new career?

Q: I am a 60-year-old desperate to find a full-time career after being displaced several years ago (working two part-time jobs now). A career college in Rancho Cordova offers optical assistant training courses. Do you feel this would be a wise career path? Or could you offer an alternate suggestion? I have management and sales skills and am quite comfortable with various software apps. Thank you. Rick - Roseville, CA

August 28, 2013
How do I get employers to see past my age and 33-year work history?

Q: I'm 58 and medically retired from state service in 2001. After 33 yrs of working in an office as an executive secretary, administrative assistant, legal secretary and division training coordinator, I wanted to try a different career path.

I got into merchandising and for the last 5 years was a caregiver. I now want to re-enter an office environment but seem to be getting nowhere. I'm taking online courses for current computer software programs but don't think employers see past my age (it's easy enough to figure out) and my job history since state retirement. Help!
Sacramento, CA

August 28, 2013
How do you get hired as a Pharmacy Tech without previous experience?

Q: My daughter completed a course for Pharmacy Technician. She has passed the necessary state exams and is trying to find a job. The problem is they all seem to want someone with at least one year of experience. But how do you get experience if you can't get hired?
Carole - Lincoln, CA

August 28, 2013
What types of jobs are available for a sex offender seeking employment?

Q: Hi. I am a 25-year-old man and worked so hard to earn a bachelor's degree in Electronics and a master's degree in Electrical Engineering. I was happy working for a good company. But lost my job because I made the biggest mistake of my life.

As a registered sex offender, I will be on probation for 5 years. What possibility do I have to work again in my career? And where? What are my alternatives? Any information will be really appreciated. Thank you.
Paul - Folsom, CA

August 5, 2013
Am I eligible for the California Training Benefits program?

I received a letter stating I am eligible for the California Training Benefits program. Does this mean I do not answer the question on the continued claim form? Should my school only fill out section C and leave the questions blank? Nancy - Rancho Cucamonga, CA

June 13, 2013
Are there programs that provide training and re-training services?

Q: Where can I go to get retrained or more training to get a job?
Brenda - Shingle Springs, CA

June 13, 2013
How do I find a part-time paid internship?

Q: I have to take summer school so I cannot find a part-time paying internship for the Mechanical engineering field. I am a 3rd year student. Any suggestions? I would like to work in Sacramento, Folsom or adjacent areas. Thank you. Alex - Sacramento, CA

June 13, 2013
What kind of jobs are available for those on probation or parole?

Q: What kind of jobs are available for young men who are on probation or parole? Are there any services available for job training and acceptance for these individuals?
Jackie - Sacramento, CA

May 29, 2013
Now that I have my college degree, how do I get my first job?

Q: I am a recent graduate of the Environmental Engineering program from UCSD. I need help to find my first job in my field. I have been applying for jobs the last few months, but have had no luck in securing an entry-level Environmental Engineering position.
Sacramento, CA

March 11, 2013
How does an ex-felon re-enter the workforce after jail?

Q: How does a 25-year-old - with a high school diploma and work experience only in the fast-food area - re-enter the workforce after two years of incarceration for various drug-related charges? What fields are most likely to take an ex-felon? Do you recommend admitting the felony upfront on the application? Or do you wait and discuss it if/when you get an interview?
Sacramento, CA

January 22, 2013
How to explain a health-related employment gap to employers?

Q: I was laid off two years ago and, due to some health problems, I have not been employed since. What should I say to prospective employers in job interviews as to why I have not worked? Thank you. Liz - Sacramento, California

October 12, 2012
Can an employer ask if I ever sued my former employer?

Q: A former employer in the financial services industry had a class action lawsuit filed against them for some questionable "tweaks" to our compensation plan. I was not involved in the filing of the lawsuit. I simply received a notice in the mail explaining what was happening and that I was eligible to participate in the lawsuit against the company. The litigation was successful and I received approximately $10,000.

When completing an application for a new prospective employer and I am asked "Have you ever filed a lawsuit against a former employer?" do I have to respond "yes," or can my response be "no" since I did not initiate the litigation? I am just trying to prevent any surprises during the background check.

Any help or guidance regarding this question would be very much appreciated. Calvin, Carmichael, CA

September 14, 2012
Do you have job search advice for a seasoned professional?

Q: I am a 56-year-old single woman. I lost my part-time $10/hr job which offered no health care. I'm losing my condo which I owned more than eight years, in two to three months, losing more than $65,000. I have three college degrees and more than 25 years of professional work experience. Since moving to Sacramento in 2012 I have been laid off three times and had to resign from a job in 2008 due to illness. I obtained a degree in paralegal studies in 2010. I researched the career opportunities in this field prior to enrolling in a local college program. I received a full scholarship and completed my degree in October 2010. Seven months later I obtained an internship which paid no salary. I was grateful to receive a $10.50 an hour job. I'd like some advice as I job search for the fourth time in 12 years. I am considering relocation back to Portland OR as its job market and economy are better. Your thoughts?? Daisy- Sacramento, CA

September 14, 2012
How do I get OK for job training under unemployment benefits?

Q: What are the requirements for getting approved for job training under unemployment benefits? How long is someone eligible after starting to receive unemployment payments? Thank you. Nicki - Grass Valley, CA

September 4, 2012
What type of training leads to a decent job for college grad?

Q: My son is 36, a UCSC grad in philosophy, with no substantial work history (recent stints as a merchandiser, landscaper, fundraiser for a non-profit) now trying to pursue a decent job. I am encouraging him to enroll in a certificate program such as legal aide, pharmacy tech, EKG tech, etc. Do these programs have good results as far as employment when completed? He really does not know where to turn. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. He currently lives in San Francisco, but may return to Sacramento to live with us while pursuing something. Thank you. Diane - Citrus Heights, CA

August 24, 2012
FBI extends job hiring deadline to Aug. 31

Good news for those who want to be an FBI special agent: Extending its deadline by another two weeks, the FBI is now accepting job applications until Friday, Aug. 31.

Specifically, the FBI is seeking candidates who are CPAs, Chinese-Mandarin speakers and those with computer skills in cyber-network administration.

As reported in my recent column on law enforcement jobs, the FBI is among the few law enforcement agencies currently hiring, at least in California. Nationally, it accepts only FBI special agent applications for two weeks twice a year - in March and August.

Applicants must be between 23 and 36 years old, with a four-year college degree and at least three years of full-time work experience. To apply, go to:

August 20, 2012
Will enrolling in classes extend my unemployment benefits?

Q: I am near the end of my unemployment benefits, including federal extensions and I am way past the cutoff for requesting approval for job training. I am still looking for a job while I am still eligible for benefits. If I don't get one by the time I reach the end of benefits, I am planning to go back to school. I would like to enroll in one or two courses now, rather than waiting. These classes, offered at the Placer School for Adults would be either online or night classes, and they would not interfere with looking for or accepting a job. However, they are not on the EDD list of approved job training providers. If I enroll before the end of my benefits, should I mark "yes" on the continued claim form where it asks about beginning any kind of school or training? If so, would I be approved to continue receiving benefits?
Thank you, Sally- Auburn, CA

August 7, 2012
How does a nurse become a health care consultant?

Q: I have been a nurse for over 30 years and am close to retirement. I would like to find out about becoming a health care consultant. I'm not even sure what they do or where to look. I have a lot of experience and would like to use it differently after I retire. Thanks
Lisa - Sacramento, CA

August 6, 2012
How do I choose the best vocational training school?

Q: I am a 59-year-old unemployed injured worker. I have over 20 years of banking customer service experience. I have been unemployed for several years due to my injury. I settled my case last week and have received a voucher for retraining. I want to know what industry should I retrain in that will really hire me at completion? I want to make at least $22-$25 per hour. I have problems standing and walking but can work in a seated position. I have an AA degree and have nearly completed my BA. My interest is a program with job placement at completion.
Eartha - Oakland, CA

August 6, 2012
Son has a DUI; what jobs should he apply for?

Q: My son has been looking and applying for jobs for three years. He has a DUI on his record from four years ago and I know that is probably the problem. What kind of work do you suggest he apply for and have better luck? He worked in a group home for eight years and lost it because he did not report the DUI. Thank you for your help.
Ginger - Lincoln, CA

July 30, 2012
Where can I get help re-writing my résumé?

Q: I received my certification as a clinical medical assistant from Boston Reed/ Sierra College. I applied to two openings but had no response from the employer. I need help in re-writing my resume. Is there any resources I could go to? Or can you recommend a person with expertise in resume writing? Kristy - Roseville, CA

July 30, 2012
How to find a job in computer graphics, video game design?

Q: What is the best way to find a job in Computer Graphics and/or Video Game/Media Arts design?

July 30, 2012
What resources are available for the older job seeker?

Q: I was laid off three years ago at the age of 59. I was a claims representative for two insurance agencies for about 30 years. I pursued job hunting rather vigorously for about two years and have pretty much given up. I would still like to work part time in some kind of clerical position, not necessarily in insurance. I am open to pretty much anything.

Please be brutally honest with me - at 62, do you think anyone would want to hire me? It is difficult to keep my self confidence up after three years. I am dependable, hard working and have great letters of reference from clients I worked with (but they are three years old). Thank you, Kathy, Sacramento, CA

July 30, 2012
Can I sue my boss for a bad job reference?

Q: All my past jobs have been lost due to outsourcing, including my current job. Now, not only have I been getting job interviews, but I am getting second interviews where the employers are paring down to the finalists. Due to some bad blood with my current manager, I think he may be giving me a bad referral. All my past supervisors wish they still could have me (and I have a long job history). Can I take legal action against my current manager for slander/defamation? Thanks.

July 30, 2012
What can I do if I can't find a teaching job?

Q: I got laid off from teaching and am subbing. Do you have any ideas for other careers I could get into with a teaching credential and BA in liberal studies? Subbing is not getting me very much work and I would like a full-time job. Any ideas or suggestions?
Zara, Auburn, CA

July 30, 2012
He gives 2 weeks' notice but is terminated; any recourse?

Q: My son-in-law was working for a local construction company, and recently found a new job with another company. He gave the owner of the old company two weeks notice (in person and in writing), and understood that he would finish (and be paid for) his last two weeks before moving to the new job. At the time, it appeared to be a very amicable parting, and they appeared appreciative of his giving ample notice (this was on a Friday). It was important for him to leave on good terms and treat them with respect by giving the standard two weeks notice.

The following Tuesday, one of the company foremen (not an owner) came to his home and gave him a final check, paying him only through that day, and not for the full two weeks. In effect, they seem to have fired him on the spot in retaliation for giving notice.

Does he have any recourse to be paid for the full two weeks? He could easily have waited until his last day to give notice, but he didn't, and they seem to have punished him for acting responsibly. This somehow does not seem right. Thanks for any help. Doug, Sacramento, CA

July 30, 2012
Which websites are best for clerical or office support jobs?

Q: Do you know which temporary staffing agency/agencies in the Roseville and Sacramento areas would have job assignments with Kaiser Permanente? Which job seeking website (ie:, careerbuilder, or would be the best resource for clerical/office support job opportunities? Kate, Antelope, CA

July 27, 2012
Which websites are best for education/social services jobs?

Q: Today's "Job Front" article was interesting and the information was surprising. I must be looking in the wrong places online. Which sites list the most jobs in education and social services? Thanks so much. Bob - Wheatland, CA

July 27, 2012
How do I apply for call center jobs?

Q: Since I was unable to attend the job fair on Tuesday, July 3, 2012, for the call center job openings for 2,000 candidates, are there any other job fairs I would be able to attend or was this the last chance? I hope not, because I really was interested in getting a job and working hard! Please respond as soon as you have time. Sincerely, Cindy B, Sacramento

July 24, 2012
I'm applying for jobs but can't find the right niche -- any advice?

Q: I retired at age 50, two years ago from Sacramento County Dept. Of Human Assistance as a social worker with a master's degree. All the master level social workers were either demoted or laid off due to budget cuts. During this time I have become a certified drug and alcohol counselor and volunteer at a facility one time per week. I feel very stuck. I have applied for many jobs and can't seem to find the right niche. I'm sure my age is not helping. I change my cover letter each time to reflect the job for which I'm applying, and although I've had some interviews, no luck. Any advice would be helpful.
Tonia - Sacramento

July 23, 2012
Use career coach to help develop a plan for finding a job

Q: What would be my best choice in order to ask for a job? I've been teaching English for a pre-school for four years to Spanish-speaking children. I have all certificates from Richmond Publishing Corp. and years ago I graduated from school as a medical assistant. Besides all the experience I have from working, I really need a job. Ana - Sacramento

July 23, 2012
I want to change careers; what's a better path: a bachelor's or vocational degree?

Q: I am dissatisfied with my job skills and am thinking about going back to school for something completely different than what I'm experienced in. I've been doing research and visiting local vocational schools. So far, I've narrowed my programs of interest to: pharmacy tech, medical assisting, medical billing and coding, and paralegal.

I have found many factors must be considered: level of interest in doing this as a career, the ability to be accepted into and complete the program, cost/benefit, the college's location and accreditation, professionalism and honesty of the admissions staff, on-time graduation/placement rates, salary/ability to pay back school loans, etc.

I have an AA from ARC in liberal arts and over 10 years of sales/customer service/marketing experience. I am somewhat overwhelmed with this process of finding a different career path.

Of the programs I've mentioned above, do you recommend one over another as far as growth, salary, job satisfaction and the like? Or is there a program that maybe I'm not considering in the Sacramento area? Do you think I should consider going back to get my bachelor's degree instead of the vocational school route?

I have looked at and for info but wonder if you can shed any additional insight on my personal situation. Thank you.
Raja - Sacramento

June 26, 2012
Weighing the options: Retire early or wait out a layoff?

Q: I have a huge decision this week. My company offered me an early retirement package. While I am the primary provider in my family, it gives me an opportunity to look for another job and explore other interests.

I have strong marketing/program management background and in my early 50s. I want to take time off (3 months), then start a job search in a new industry or company. My family supports me (but concerned about the expenses). I can cover them for 2 years but I get mixed feedback on the job market. I know my pay will be lower -- but is two years enough to cover a potentially slow market? If I don't take this package, I am placed in the pool for future layoffs. I have managed to survive the last 10 major rounds.

June 26, 2012
Is bus driver a good career choice?

Q: I am thinking about going into the bus driving field. How are the employment opportunities and what kind of jobs are there? Do companies hire individuals straight out of bus driving school or do you need to do an apprenticeship?

June 26, 2012
Mary Kay sales? It can be an option if you want flexible schedule

Q: Referring to your "Ask the Experts" article in today's Bee, could you please tell me what you know about the Mary Kay Cosmetics home-based business? The company does an outstanding job training their consultants in starting their own business in the field of cosmetics and climbing the ladder of success.

June 26, 2012
Wanted: Job tips for 59-year-old with no college degree

Q: Do you have any job searching suggestions for a 59-year-old with no degree? I have been unemployed since September 2011. I have been seeking administrative/clerical work and general labor. I have applied for countless positions and I've had two interviews in eight months. Maybe there are resources I'm overlooking. I would appreciate any ideas. Thanks for your assistance.

Meet Our Financial Experts

Claudia Buck

Claudia Buck is The Sacramento Bee's personal finance columnist. Read all her columns here. Contact her at

Terri Carpenter

Terri Carpenter offers advice on job hunting, retraining and career counseling. Carpenter works at Sacramento Works Inc., the career and job training arm of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA). With 15 years in the field, she has hands-on experience with everyone from first-time job seekers to career professionals seeking advice after a layoff or looking for a mid-career change. Ask her a question.

Carlena Tapella

Carlena Tapella is a partner in the law firm of Webb & Tapella Law Corp. in Sacramento. The firm specializes in estate planning and probate, such as estates, trusts, conservatorships and litigation. She is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association's Estate Planning & Probate Section. Ask her a question.

Kimberly Foss

Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner, is the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville. With nearly 30 years in the financial industry, her clients include women in transition, small business owners, retirees and "pre-retirees." Ask her a question.

Jesse Weller

Gregory Burke, a CPA and tax expert with John Waddell & Co. in Sacramento since 1984, worked as an IRS tax auditor for six years. He’s a past chairman of the California Society of CPAs. Ask him a question.

Daniel Tahara

Daniel Tahara takes your questions about California taxes. Tahara, a spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board, has 10 years of experience as a tax auditor. Ask him a question.

Personal Finance columns

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