Monthly Archives: November 2015

Why I Don’t Follow My Passion Full-Time

I wrote a post a while back about my Golden Handcuffs. I went into detail about how I’m not in love with my job but it offers some decent pay and flexibility, I don’t actually hate it, and it’s most likely my fastest way to financial independence, so I stick with it. I’ve been on a podcast listening spree lately and was listening to an interview with Kevin Kelly (I recommend checking this guy out – he is extremely interesting to say the least) and he mentioned following a path for something you are good at instead of going full bore into a passion which you may not be. He used the fact that he enjoys singing, but couldn’t carry a tune to save his life. Our ERE friend Jacob has said something similar as well in his book, “…pursue something you’re good at rather than something you’re passionate about.”

Now it may come as a surprise to some but my day job, which is accounting, is not my passion. Freshman accounting class came extremely easy to me. I aced it actually, with little effort, and couldn’t believe that others struggled with it. Debits have to equal credits, and assets have to equal liabilities plus equity – how hard is that?? It clicked after some research about the profession and discussions with a professor that it would most likely be a good fit for me. Numbers, decent pay, defined career progression, low cyclicality, etc., all seemed like a “smart” profession to get into.

Fast forward to now, and 27 year old me is still in the same profession. Has it evolved into a passion? Hell no! But I don’t hate it. It more than pays the bills, and is helping me reach my biggest goal of financial independence.

Personally, there are four main reasons why I don’t follow my passion full-time:

  1. Passions can change. When I was 16 years old my passion was girls and cars. At 18 it was girls, guitar, and poker. At 21 it was beer, partying, and money. Now it’s traveling, lifting, and financial independence. I think I’d be a pretty pissed off today if I had tried to make a living following around girls, while drinking beer. Maybe for others they have been passionate about the piano since age 5, and still til this day play at least an hour a day. But that’s just not me, and I’m okay with that. I like trying new things, and once I discover a new hobby I like, I dive into it head first and research it as much as possible (hello lifting and financial independence). Maybe once I become financially independent my new passion will be woodworking, or guitar again, or helping people get their financial lives in order. I don’t know, and that’s what makes the future exciting.
  2. Passion doesn’t always pay the bills. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t make a living drinking beer, or even playing guitar. Poker pays the bills for some, but seems like you have to be the best of the best to support yourself on that career path. Living in NYC I can only imagine how many struggling entertainers, artists, musicians, etc., there are that have tried to make their passions into a career, and are just coming up short. I’d rather go down the accounting path, something I’m really good at and build up a nice nest egg that can finance my passions in the future, and not at the expense of my retirement or a future family that may depend on me.
  3. Relying on your passion to make a living may lead to losing that passion. If you do anything full-time, it can get old after a while. Especially relying on a passion that might not pay well. You’re going to have to do whatever that passion is, A LOT, and it might not bear the fruits you have expected it to. Do I love ice cream? Hell yes. But would I still love it as much as I do if I ate a pint of Ben and Jerry’s every night? I don’t think so. Moderation is key. I believe we enjoy many things in life because we aren’t privy to them 24/7. Your brain becomes unphased by the constant interaction with that food or passion, and it might lose its luster. I love reading and blogging about financial independence, but if I had to consult with others for 40 or 50 hours a week on their financial lives, and then at night blog and research the topic, maybe I would run out of steam and get bored with financial independence – nah.. I don’t think I would either.
  4. You might not be good at it. Just because I loved playing the guitar when I was 18, does NOT mean I was good at it. Like I mentioned above, Kevin Kelly loves singing but doesn’t really think he would get paid to do it. Coming to terms with this early is important, before you quit it all to follow that passion, when in reality you stink at it and no one has told you yet (or you ignore them). I was not fooling myself at all with the guitar, I knew I’d never be the next Eddie Van Halen.
  5. I just don’t actual know what my passion is! In all honesty, if my passion changes – do I really know what my passion is? Or even have one? Maybe these are just things I enjoy. The dictionary definition of passion is “an intense desire or enthusiasm for something.” Maybe I just haven’t found my passion yet, or maybe I don’t have one. But I know the things I enjoy, and I’m more than happy to use my free time to explore those things.

Now I’m not saying this is the right path for everyone. I don’t doubt that some people have a deep fire burning inside them for something, and are willing to exert all their effort and give all their time for that one thing. But personally for me, I think I’ve made the right decision to apply my time to something I’m good at, and explore my “passions” in my free time.

Are you able to follow your passion full-time? Would you advise someone to follow their passion, or do something they’re good at which pays the bills and follow their passion in their free time?

Fringe and Other Workplace Benefits

I feel like at least one of my friends is always looking for a new job. Reasons range from hating their bosses, to being bored out of their minds, to working too much, to the most frequent reason which is seeking more compensation. A mistake I see a lot of people make is they only concentrate on their salary and potential cash bonus, but don’t factor in other benefits which their employers may provide. Not all of these benefits are monetary, but should definitely be weighed when determining if you are fairly compensated or if it is worth your while to seek other employment.

Below I’ve put a list together of fringe and other workplace benefits that need to be considered when determining total compensation, including non-monetary benefits.

  1. 401k – This can range from small companies who offer no 401k at all, to an oil services firm offering an 8% match, to government contractors contributing 25% of your pay into your 401k, even if you don’t contribute. Personally my match stinks, but my employer’s plan is with Vanguard which is awesome.
  2. Pension – I bet you’re all thinking “ha!” but they actually still exist. I even have a small one with my current employer. Some unions who have a decent amount of bargaining power still are able to get their union members some pretty lucrative ones.
  3. Employee Stock Purchase Plans / Stock Options – I’ve never been offered a plan like this, but I’ve helped others with theirs. Depending on the discount given by the employer, these can be no-brainers to max out just like your HSA or 401k. But you have to be careful, because if the discount stinks or the stock of your employer hasn’t appreciated in 10 years, they can be worthless.
  4. Health – This one is huge. As people know, healthcare in the U.S. is NOT cheap. Luckily my employer offers a cheap HSA plan in which they even throw in a biweekly contribution. I’ve known employees at small companies and startups where health insurance is fully paid for by the employer, which is a huge benefit. Other companies usually just pay for a certain percentage of your premiums. Employers may also offer onsite gyms or will chip in to your monthly gym membership. Healthy employees are happier employees, and cost less to insure.
  5. Life insurance – Many employees don’t even know they have employer paid for life insurance. From what I’ve seen a common “freebie” is a 1x your annual salary deal benefit.
  6. Food – Some in the tech world get all their meals provided at their jobs in Silicon Valley. Others, like myself, will get free food if they work late or on the weekends and for work travel. Also I seem to be invited to random work sponsored fancy dinners for the hell of it as well, which I don’t complain about.
  7. Travel – If you like to travel, what’s better than employer/client paid travel? Free hotel points, airfare loyalty programs, and meals at nice restaurants in destination cities. I don’t travel that much for work but I enjoy when I do. If you work for a large employer, they potentially have preferred hotel affiliations where you can stay at the ritzy joints for cheap. Whenever I travel to a big city I stay at some pretty nice places I would never pay for out of pocket during personal travel.
  8. Flexibility / Remote Work Arrangement – My buddy Steve at Think Save Retire has no commute whatsoever, and neither does Mr. 1500. They both get to work from home and never have to worry about commutes or traffic or public transportation. I don’t have this luxury but I do enjoy the flexibility to work from home some Fridays or work remotely if I’m visiting out of state.
  9. Computer / Cell phone – My laptop and iPhone 6 were both paid for by my employer and so is my cell phone bill with unlimited data. Some employers even supply tablets if you’re lucky.
  10. Vacation / PTO – This varies greatly due to industry, experience, and employer. Personally I get a pretty sizable amount of PTO which is a great benefit. Even if I don’t go on vacation or fly somewhere to visit people, it’s great to take this time to recharge and get motivated.
  11. Maternity / Paternity Leave – Not a topic which I’ve researched in detail, but I know it is important to a lot of people, and I’m sure I’ll research it more down the road. We all heard the stories about Netflix instituting a ridiculous maternity/paternity policy, but this also highlighted how poor many other employer’s policies were.
  12. Education – Some employers will pay for you to further your education, get more credentials, and expand skill sets. I know in banking it is possible to get your MBA fully funded which can be an almost $200k benefit. Personally my first job pitched in ten thousand bucks for my master’s degree.

For me the most important workplace benefits are flexibility and PTO. I’ve considered leaving for more money, but then I think about the time off I’m allotted now and the ability to have a flexible work arrangement when I need it. These are definitely not guaranteed if I left my current employer, and I think a hefty PTO allowance is something I couldn’t backtrack from.

Next time you’re considering a new job opportunity or helping a friend or family member, make sure to think about these 12 potential workplace benefits.

Does your employer offer you any benefits which I did not discuss? Which ones are the most important to you personally?