Professional Development
Career development / Education / Finance

The United Way of Central Maryland’s new tool for planning career changes

Not sure if your dream career will sustain you financially? CLIFF might be able to help.

Maryland job seekers and career switchers: take note. (Photo by Flickr user perzon seo, used under a Creative Commons license)
Those looking to switch careers now have a tool to help them make informed decisions and better understand how a professional change could impact their financial status.

The Career Ladder Identifier and Financial Forecaster (CLIFF) was recently launched by the United Way of Central Maryland, which developed the tool in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. The tool is meant to supplement financial, career, and education coaching so users can best determine their optimum financial situations. Using the tool alone, Marylanders can get snapshots and rough estimations of what a career change can look like. The technology uses data from both the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the United Way’s own Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed (ALICE) metrics, the latter of which encompasses households that earn more than the federal poverty level but less than basic cost of living, to determine base-level liveable wages.

“What we’re able to do is not just show them what they would earn at a job, but what the earnings look like from a career perspective,” Windy Deese, the United Way of Central Maryland’s vice president of public policy and economic advancement, told “You’re also able to project for them when to expect a benefits cliff.”

In the fall, the United Way intends to release a planner tool for partner organizations to help users further dig into their finances and chart a clear path for possible career transitions, as well as what that could mean for their families.

To demonstrate CLIFF’s functionality: Here’s what your income after taxes would look like if you were working a minimum wage job and decided to become a journalist in Maryland. Those first four years are the training and schooling. This is also for a family of one or no children, so others’ results may vary.

CLIFF tool comparing minimum wage and journalists’ take-home pay to ALICE survival budget. (Courtesy screenshot)

The tool also gives the United Way quantifiable data that it can use when advocating minimum wage increases to policymakers. It can also put in context why someone might switch careers if their income isn’t much higher than the ALICE survival budget line.

Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.
Companies: United Way

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