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.
Work: The Dark Side
The Dark Side of Work is quite simply this: we’re all just 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.
“Highly paid or otherwise, there are very few workers who can’t be easily replaced.
Despite how special our mothers or egos might tell us we are,
we’re all interchangeable cogs in the machine”
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 and energy to power on through whatever a “shitty week” serves up. For months or even years at a time.
But ask yourself this:
“Will my 45 year-old self have the same energy,
resilience and commitment to work?
And consider this: by age 45 could you have “lost” that job to:
- the rise of the robots
- globalisation / deglobalisation
- the next pandemic
- new graduates working for half the pay
I’m not advocating cynicism here. Or a complaining attitude.
I’m advocating realism mixed in with personal 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 Category||Category Description|
|Category A||Jobs I liked and that paid well|
|Category B||Jobs I liked and that paid badly|
|Category C||Jobs I disliked and that paid badly|
|Category D||Jobs I disliked and that paid well|
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 where you were) typically means a quantum leap of sorts 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:
- University Research (Briefly. Only three years.)
- Construction ( Eighteen years)
- 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:
- Being in the wrong domain is pretty miserable. Especially for 18 years…
- Finding a better domain is great. And do-able.
- Job titles are invisible to your bank account.
- To avoid wasting years of your time, be realistic about the opportunities both your domain and sub-domain can actually offer you.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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%.
- 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.
Quantify Your Job
On a scale of 1 to 100, you can roughly quantify how your current job stacks up by considering four simple criteria:
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 effectively outsourced his career choices to others for far too long.
I didn’t brainstorm or design diddly squat, career-wise.
Don’t do that. Please don’t outsource your career path to others.
Whether that’s your parents , your big sister/brother or your peer group. Plus your current boss and (god forbid) your HR department.