There’s only a few lessons to learn so that you don’t suck at money.

A few key concepts to get your head around: compound interest, Index funds, budgeting, the Emergency Fund and, of course FU Money.

As a young professional, none of the above should be beyond you. Hopefully, some of this is new, thought-provoking and action-inducing.

Regardless, at its core, personal finance isn’t brain surgery. It’s not even rocket science.

Two Things Personal Finance Is Not…

But Work – specifically your work – that’s different from personal finance. It’s more visceral, more immediate and closely tied up with your identity (thanks Mitchell & Webb).

Get work right and everything else falls into place.

Get work “wrong” (for you) and well, things don’t necessarily fall apart – but they just don’t run as smoothly as they could.

More on this later…

Work: The Dark Side

The Dark Side of Work is quite simply this: we’re all units of production.

If what you produce is no longer required or “fit for purpose”, then the global Economy, the local marketplace, private sector and public sector employers will simply drop you. Or spit you out.

Which is precisely why you need an Emergency Fund and why FU Money is such a legitimate target for you to embrace.

Moreover, at 25 to 35 years of age you should have the enthusiasm, interest, dedication and growth mindset to power on through whatever a “shitty week” serves up. Sometimes for months at a time.

But you have to ask yourself (now) whether your 45 to 55 year old self will have the same energy, resilience and commitment to work – whatever that work / career may be.

And whether or not by then you may actually have “lost” your job to:

  • the rise of the robots
  • globalisation
  • the next pandemic
  • new graduates working for half the pay

I’m not advocating cynicism here. Or a complaining attitude. They won’t work. Instead, I’m advocating realism. But also effort.

You should get better at your job. You should take on more responsibility for results (but only for more pay). You should continue to grow.

Yet you should also look out for yourself (and any dependents you may have). If companies want loyalty, they should buy a dog. You, meanwhile, should be “more cat”…if you can find better food and more warmth – then take it.

Money / Work Balance

There are volumes of articles written on Work / Life Balance (and it’s something we’ll consider when discussing Domains and sub-domains). But let’s consider the Work / Money balance.

I’ve worked for over 40 years at 13 different jobs and those jobs can be split into four distinct categories.

Job CategoryCategory Description
Category AJobs I liked and that paid well
Category BJobs I liked and that paid badly
Category CJobs I disliked and that paid badly
Category DJobs I disliked and that paid well
Four Categories of A Job

Getting a Category A job, when it happens, makes everything so much easier. You get momentum in your career and you get momentum in your finances.

Unexpectedly, I found that A-lister of a job towards the end of my career, at age 52. And then, somewhat unexpectedly, I “lost” that job four years before I had planned to retire.

Nonetheless, I had nine years at a job that paid well. And because we took the opportunities that it presented (slowly at first, but rapidly after my “Edinburgh epiphany” of October 2016) we had become debt-free, mortgage-free and with a much bigger pension fund (that tripled in size from a low base). Plus savings and an reasonable-sized Emergency Fund.

OK, but what does it mean to have a job that “pays well”?

Trust me, you’ll know. I certainly did.

And while your tax code will give you a clue, moving to a Category A job (from Categories B or C) typically means a quantum leap in your annual salary and take-home pay.

Of Domains and sub-domains

A domain is the Sector of the workforce where you currently work. A sub-domain is the the role or roles that you carry out in your daily work – it’s your current job description.

Here’s a string of typical domains:

Hospitality / Entertainment / Manufacturing / Consulting / Technology / Civil Service / NHS / Teaching / Emergency Services / Scientific Research / Publishing

Since his graduation (which was pre-microwave, pre-Internet, pre-FOMO), Anonymous Dad has worked in three domains:

  1. University Research (Briefly. Only three years.)
  2. Construction ( Eighteen years)
  3. IT ( Twenty years)

Here are the sub-domains he worked through in the Construction domain:

Technical Officer, Sales Rep, Senior Engineer, Operations Director, Area Manager.

Here are the sub-domains he worked through in the IT domain:

Software Trainer, Web Developer, Content Manager, Sales Process Manager, Group Systems Manager, Head of IT, Global Head of Training.

Some Hard Lessons

Here’s the list of “hard lessons” learned about the impact that domains and sub-domains can have:

  1. Being in the wrong domain is pretty miserable. Especially for 18 years…
  2. Finding a better domain is great. And do-able.
  3. Job titles are pretty irrelevant. To your FU Money.
  4. To avoid wasting years of your time, be realistic about the opportunities both your domain and sub-domain can actually offer you.
  5. Movement is life. Be prepared to move domains if you need to. Or just sub-domains…if you’ve already found the domain that’s right for you.
  6. Life is short. Try to find a role where your colleagues and your clients enjoy working with you, and you enjoy working with them. That’s low stress. And effective. Sounds a lot like “flow”.
  7. Quick definition of a great job: low-stress, good contribution, real opportunities and a pay-rate that comfortably allows you to have a percentage savings rate of at least 25%.
  8. Watch the clock. High salaries, with long hours, big commutes and intense stress often pay an hourly rate equivalent to “flipping burgers”. Despite the impressive job title.

Mapping domains & sub-domains

You need to know the plot to your working life. So you can change it, if necessary. With two pairs of simple sliders.

Plot your particular domain & sub-domain using these four criteria:

  • Pay Scales
  • Opportunity
  • Contribution
  • Stress

Pay Scale Questions

Minimum, maximum, and average salaries…what do one or all of those measures look like in my sub-domain? Ask HR and/or fact-check with Google. Remember:

“If you don’t know the numbers,
you’re not a player”


Opportunity Questions

How much headroom is there here? Is there a clear path for career progression? Is it quicker to switch my domain or sub-domain?

Contribution Questions

Does this work contribute to the greater good? Directly? Tangentially? Not at all? How vital is that to me? Can I contribute outside of work instead?

Stress Questions

Is the work predominantly within my “circle of competence”? Is the work predictable, but not too boring? Is the commute tolerable or just killing me slowly? Do I have a reasonable amount of autonomy and agency?

Is the orange worth the squeeze..?

You Are Here

Do you have a solid career path?

Or are you simply careering from one lousy job to another?

Anonymous Dad has done both.

No one (with the possible exception of your wife/ husband /long-term partner) is remotely invested in your career as much as YOU.

Which means it’s your responsibility to come up with A CAREER PLAN.

I’m shouting this as someone who did sleepwalk, and or outsource his career choices to others for far too long.

I didn’t brainstorm or design diddly squat, career-wise.

What I am sure about is that you should never outsource or offshore advice on your career path to others.

And that means not outsourcing those decisions to anyone, whether it’s Career Advisors, your parents , your big sister or bother or your peer group.

And especially your boss or god forbid your HR department.

Work Books worth having

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