Category Archives: Career

Time, the Ultimate Commodity

I thought I understood the concept that time is more valuable than money. The way I understood it was that time is finite and cannot be purchased (not yet at least) and money is infinite. This thought has been just lingering in the back of my mind for some time now, but I never really acted upon this knowledge. Sure I may not have gone after that higher paying job because I knew it would eat away at more of the life part of my work-life balance, but at the same time I have stayed in a career that eats up 50 plus hours of my week most weeks. That’s almost a third of the total hours we have in a week. So now two-thirds of my time is either working for someone else or sleeping. Seems like a crummy deal.

My favorite podcast lately (by far – highly recommended) is Invest Like the Best by Patrick O’Shaughnessy. I was listening to the episode where Patrick interviews Chris Cole. At the beginning of the podcast Chris said something pretty basic, yet it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m going to paraphrase what he said:

Warren Buffet is worth 66 billion dollars and is in his late 80’s. Would you trade places with him? No one would say yes to that. Therefore your time is valued in the billions.

For whatever reason, maybe it was just the mood I was in while I was eating my turkey sandwich and listening, but this blew my mind. My brain started going in a million directions. Why aren’t I doing something I’m passionate about everyday? Why am I working for someone else? Why are golden handcuffs so hard to break? I know time is more valuable than money, but my actions make it look like I believe the opposite.

Obviously my most blatant action that goes against my belief that time is greater than money is my job. To understand why I’m still in my career I put together a quick list of reasons why, off the top of my head: income, health insurance, prestige, cultural norms, the people, money, expectations, scared to leave comfort, at times it is rewarding and challenging, free laptop and cell phone, airline and hotel status, faster time to financial independence, and money. A majority of those reasons have to do strictly with money. What’s up with that?

Now obviously those of us who haven’t reached financial independence must earn an income of some sort to survive. But without a doubt I could figure something out where I work less than 40 hours a week, cover my expenses, and save a little. I think the reasons I don’t are the fact that I want to get to financial independence so fast. I think I’m doing a good job enjoying the journey to that goal, but maybe I could be doing a better job at ignoring things like cultural norms and expectations. Maybe I should just go for it and create something that would give me back more of my time. What is the worst that could happen – I go back to a 9 to 5?

Do you think time is more valuable than money? Do you make decisions based on money even though you know time is more important? How do you condition yourself to make decisions not based on money?

How Did You Select Your College and Major?

Must be a coincidence, but lately I have been hearing about a lot of people that are going back to school in their 20’s and 30’s to get additional degrees in an effort to increase their income. Those college majors people picked when they were 17, 18, or 19 apparently aren’t bringing home the bacon or maybe their career’s earning potential isn’t in line with their goals such as getting married and buying a house, and maybe having a couple kids.

It’s pretty crazy to think that many of us make decisions at age 17 that greatly impact the rest of our careers. Unfortunately, I don’t remember high school teachers stressing picking a major that will pay the bills or going to the state school to save money.

Personally, I began thinking about college seriously as a sophomore in high school. I always did well in math and science and knew if I wanted to do well in college I should probably pick a major which encompasses one of those subjects. As I got more serious about the college hunt in my junior year, something took over my thought process – money.

I knew that I would receive some family support for college but, more likely than not, I would have to foot a majority of the bill. I purchased college guides which ranked schools by major, location, cost, projected income, and other categories to perform my analysis. I was pretty disappointed with the average wages the college guides noted for many majors. My father was a blue collar worker and never stepped foot in a college and I knew his salary was higher than a lot of the majors that my book was projecting. That made me realize that if I was going to spend four years attending college and paying for it, I would need to get a major that would make it worth it financially.

After I conducted all my research I knew it would be a good fit for me to major in a business or engineering field. Both had a math component, and both had good earning potential. I realized I enjoyed the stock market and reading about businesses a lot more than I enjoyed learning how to code (I dropped that awful class in high school) or physics. Eventually during my freshman year of college I settled on an accounting major. It was pretty evident that making six figures by age 30 or sooner was definitely doable, especially with a CPA designation. I had always done well with standardized testing, so I figured this would be a good route to take. Without ruining the surprise, majoring in accounting has been a great move for me, and I’m glad I considered the potential earning power of my degree when I was a teenager.

For those who want their college majors to pay off for them, I would select a major that does two things. First, find a major that you like (not love). Second, find a major that has a six figure earning potential within 10 years of graduating. Now if you can find a major that leads to a career you love and are passionate about, AND earns six figures, well then that is a no-brainer to go after. The last thing you want is a major that leads to a career that doesn’t pay more than a career you could have gotten without the degree, especially if you aren’t passionate about it.

How did you select your college major? Did the degree’s earning potential get factored into your decision? Did you ever go back to school because your first degree didn’t bring home the bacon?

Attaining A Remote Work Arrangement

In my last post I shared how although my job is in NYC, I will be working remotely for six months and moving in with my girlfriend in the Midwest. It is an exciting time, of which I spend a lot of figuring out the logistics of the move (which will take place in May) and what to do with all my stuff. I am currently in the process of going through my belongings and donating, throwing away, and selling things (cha-ching!).

Let’s take a step back and talk about how I was able to convince my employer to allow me to do this. I’m going to be fully transparent when I say it took a little bit of skill and a lot of luck to make this happen. To be considered for a remote work arrangement, I think you and your job need to meet certain criteria.

Do a majority of your work from a laptop. In my line of work I spend 95% of my time staring at my laptop. We even do conference calls from out laptops now and don’t even have to pick up the phone! If you’re a plumber, carpenter, or high school teacher, it is very highly unlikely for you to get a remote work arrangement for this reason. In my line of work I travel once a month on average and this will allow me to catch up with coworkers on a regular basis to ensure they know I’m still around. If work or clients don’t sponsor trips like this, it can be harder to have real life face-time with your coworkers and bosses.

Be highly rated and respected at work. Let’s face it if you’re the average worker just punching the clock, it’s less likely your boss would approve something like this. I don’t plan on my career lasting until I’m 65, so I don’t see a point in wasting my time now coasting by. I try to show that I care about work and exceed expectations. This allows me to get away with certain things that some coworkers may not. It gets me more autonomy, more paid for lunches and dinners, and apparently a six month remote work arrangement.

Convey to your boss that your performance will remain the same. Some people have a bad perception of remote work arrangements. Maybe people think you’re just going to sit on your ass all day in your pajamas and get nothing done. I actually do great work when I’m not at the office since I don’t have many distractions. I made sure to convey that my work product would not change at all. My boss did voice concern about my ability to develop those in the ranks below, but I assured that this would not be an issue.

Have a good boss or one who seems to care somewhat about your well being. I’m quite friendly with my main boss. Me working for him wasn’t exactly random. I knew I liked the guy and working on his projects, so once I had the opportunity to work for him, I made sure to do a bang-up job so that he’d keep me around and it’s definitely paid off. He’s a family man and values his time out of the office, and therefore seems to value mine as well. If I was consistently working on projects for the people who eat, sleep, and breath for working at the office, they probably wouldn’t have been as supportive. Some people think that you don’t have any control over who you report to in your career, but I’ve found out with careful planning and some effort, this can be managed to your benefit.

Get lucky! I understand this isn’t an option for everyone and realize that luck did play a role, and for that I’m very grateful.

After the fact I did some reflecting on how I actually presented this idea to my boss. In hindsight I realize I didn’t really ask permission. I had been trying to meet with him live for over a week but he was traveling, so the first thing I did when I caught him in his office was joke that I wasn’t putting in my two weeks to lighten the mood. I laid out my plan for working remotely from my girlfriend’s (he knew I was in a long distance relationship) and assured him we could make it work, that my performance would remain high, and that this was something personal I needed to do. He voiced a couple BS concerns of which I countered, and then he voiced his support. I wonder if my outcome would have been different if I walked in and asked his permission instead…

Do you work remotely? If so, how did you negotiate that arrangement? If not, what is keeping you from asking/telling your employer this is what you would like to do?

Fervent Goes West

Not to burst your bubble but I’m not financially independent and I haven’t quit working for the man to start a new exciting business. What I did do though, is attain the fabled “remote work” arrangement from my employer (for a six month period)!

I don’t delve into my personal life too much on Fervent Finance, besides my personal financial life of course, but my significant other lives in the Midwest. We have been doing the whole long distance thing for going on two years now, and it’s just getting old. We have talked about her potentially moving to NYC or perhaps us both moving to another major US city where my job has offices as well. To be blunt, I’ve had my fun in Manhattan these last two plus years and I’m ready for a change from city life. I was born and raised in a very small town in New England and kind of miss the slow pace of life. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a blast in Manhattan but I’d like to move away from a culture where people pride themselves on how much they work and how much cash they blow on brunches, bars, dinners, and rent. I’m ready to slow down a little and of course be closer to the ole GF.

Here are the quick details. In about a month I’ll be moving to a small city in the Midwest into a condo my girlfriend rents. I’ll still be based out of NYC for work and will travel as usual for work, but I won’t have to report to the office. Can anyone say Manhattan salary with a Midwest cost of living??? Geographic arbitrage for the win! After six months of this remote work arrangement my boss and I will sit down again. I’ll most likely try to squeeze some more time out of him, but he could ask me to report back to NYC at that time. I’m not worried about that yet, I’m going to enjoy my remote work arrangement and worry about that when the time comes. There are a ton of potential opportunities at that point which may include saying no and playing hardball, getting another job, just moving back to the NYC area, starting my own business, etc. Only time will tell.

Now let’s discuss what everyone has been waiting for – how the arrangement will affect my finances:

  1. Rent – Off the bat it appears my rent will go down by over two thirds and I’ll be living in a space that is more than twice as big as my current apartment. No surprise here, as Manhattan real estate is a tad on the highly priced side.
  2. Utilities – I’ll be moving to a bigger space and splitting utilities with one person instead of two, so this will naturally go up a little.
  3. Travel – Unfortunately I won’t have as many big airports nearby so personal travel will be more expensive. Luckily since my rent is decreasing, I will be able to recoup some of the extra potential cost of personal travel to fly back to the Northeast to see family and attend the multitude of weddings I have this year in that area. Why can’t eloping become the new hot thing to do? I kid, I kid.
  4. State income taxes – I’ll be moving to a state whose income tax rate will be less than half what I’ve been paying in NYC, and also has lower sales tax. One of the disadvantages of living in Manhattan is the NYC resident tax which is on top of NY state income tax if you live within the five boroughs. This is an additional ~3.5 percent tax on my income for the privilege of living in NYC.

I’ll definitely miss Manhattan. I’ll miss my reasonably priced gym within walking distance of my apartment, with four squat racks. I’ll miss the farmer’s market on my block with incredible produce and very reasonable prices. I’ll miss the convenience of walking everywhere and public transportation. I’ll miss three airports within an hour’s travel which made personal travel cheap. I’ll miss the overall convenience and buzz.

I won’t miss dogs doing their business anywhere they please, tourists walking four-wide on the sidewalk, staying at the office for long hours as a badge of honor, inclement weather when I need to walk somewhere, smokers blowing their pollution at my face, among other things.

I do look forward to time with the GF, more easily accessible outdoors, new adventures, slower pace to life, and of course being in a lower cost of living area.

For those wondering how I was able to convince my employer to let me do this, I’ll share that story in my next post. Hopefully it will benefit others looking to do something similar.

Who wants to help me move? Has anyone negotiated a remote work arrangement with their employer? Personally, could you go back to working at an office after working remotely for six months?

I’m Tired of Hearing How Bad Millennials Have It

I’m a millennial myself so I feel like I’m qualified to discuss this subject (and with a financial independence twist of course). I do a horrendous job of not following the news. I always catch myself on the websites of numerous online business news companies seeing what is going on. Many bloggers have written about how horrible following the media is on a day to day basis, and I totally agree, but it doesn’t mean I do a good job of blocking it out. The sad reality is that doom and gloom headlines equal clicks and views.

Lately, and I think this is partially due to it being election season, the hot topic has been Millennials. Every channel you flip to or online news article you read is how bad Millennials have it. They live at home with their parents. They are drowning in debt. They are the first generation in the U.S. worse off than their parents. They can’t afford a home. They can’t find their dream job. They are working at Starbucks. The list goes on and on.

Now are some Millennials having a tough go at it? Of course they are, I’m sure of it. But Millennials as a whole? I don’t think so.

Education
Let’s start with education. I graduated undergrad with about $30k of student loans. Was this more than my parents had? Yes, but that’s because they didn’t go to college! College wasn’t a “given” for our parents. Statistically speaking less than 50% of high school graduates headed off to college in 1975 (due to a variety of reasons such as war), whereas this number is about 65% today. When I was in high school I had a course to college mapped out for my by my teachers and counselor. Take these AP classes. Play a sport. Get involved in an extracurricular activity. I followed their lead and next thing you know, I was off to my school of choice with a partial scholarship.

Investing and Retirement
Our pal Jack Bogle didn’t create the index fund until 1976. If our parents wanted to invest some dough in equities, they had to do it through a broker and pick stocks, or buy expensive mutual funds with load fees and commissions. Now we have extremely cheap (or free) online brokerage accounts. I set up my Vanguard account in minutes and with a click of a button I can invest money whenever I want.

The 401k was created in about 1981 when some random guy noticed a loop-hole in the Internal Revenue Code. Before that it was much harder for workers to shield earnings from income taxes. Now you might be saying “well my parents have a pension!” Pensions are great if you have them but they are also handcuffs tying you to your employer. People notice that our parents spend decades with the same employer, that’s because people are taught to be slaves to their pensions since this will help them through their golden years. When in reality in most cases, you would of been better off socking money away in a 401k and IRA and retiring on your own terms.

Home Buying
30 year mortgage interest rates were above 10% from late 1978 to until almost 1991! Today you can get a 30 year fixed for about 3.75%. Maybe these low interest rates are inflating home values, but could you image taking out a mortgage at 12%?!? Also this community has also blogged about how owning a home is becoming less of the “American Dream.” Us millennials are okay with renting, and would rather spend money on travel and experiences instead. I may be an outlier but if I never own a home, I would be A.O.K. with that.

Employment
Unemployment currently sits below 5% which is below historical averages. The internet allows us to search for jobs all over the country and globe at the click of a button. Our parents relied on the classifieds and maybe a trade magazine when job searching (well they never really did this because they are tied to their pensions), and we can see open jobs in our field in Seattle, Boston, or Richmond instantly and submit our resume with a click. For those who are employed, inflation adjusted gas prices are below the historical average, easing the burden of commuting.

Health and Technology
This doesn’t even need an explanation. We have the internet, our parents didn’t, and the medical breakthroughs that have happened in the past 30 years have us living way longer than our parents and grandparents. Certain diseases which were death sentences 40 years ago, are easily curable today. I’m going to have to agree with our friend Warren Buffett who recently said “The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.” I don’t believe we have it bad at all!

Do you have it worse off than your parents? Is being a millennial the pits?

Why I Haven’t Quit

Like many young professionals, I have a LinkedIn account. I am sure it is the same in other industries as well, but recruiters (or as I like to call them – head hunters) will reach out to me on a weekly basis at a minimum. Usually I blow these guys and gals off, but if the job actually sounds interesting I may ask for more information but the buck usually stops there. On top of the LinkedIn messages, some people who have left my company actually sell the company’s Outlook address book to recruiters, so you might even get phone calls as well!

What I have learned is if you are experienced and skilled in your trade or profession, there are plenty of opportunities to jump ship and go elsewhere (especially in a place like NYC), usually for more money. I have friends who are constantly in contact with recruiters trying to find the next best job. Maybe a little more pay, maybe a little better commute, maybe a little more pay, maybe a better boss, and finally MORE PAY! These people are unhappy in their current jobs usually because they are not fulfilled in their job and usually the feel they are not compensated at market value.

From these dealings with recruiters and other companies I know I could easily leave my job, and get a fairly substantial raise. I have considered it multiple times as I see the dollar signs scrolling across the front of my eyes. Of course more money equals higher savings rate and faster path to FI/RE! Luckily I let calmer heads prevail and usually do not go further than to ask for more information about these positions. At the end of the day I don’t hate my job. Do I love it and would do it for free? Hell no, but the reasons I don’t leave my current job have nothing to do with money.

The People – I’m currently in my third job of my career (but only second company) and I have met friends at each which I still keep close contact with to this day. Of course there is always that person in the office that you hope doesn’t stop you in the hallway to chit-chat, but for the most part I’ve made friends at work. Overall they have been great people who I share interests with and are just genuinely nice to be around.

Currently I have actually found myself in a lucky situation. I seem to get along with my coworkers AND my superiors. For the most part it seems like the two bosses I work for a majority of the time actually care (somewhat at least, better than don’t care at all) about my personal well being. They have been considerate with work load, allowing me to “sign-off” during PTO, invited me to their home, etc. Now I know others in my group at work aren’t as lucky and I’m therefore thankful. It took luck, but it also took me identifying who I really liked and pushing hard to work for them. At the end of the day, you do have more control over your work situation than you may think.

The Work – At the end of the day work is work. I know that leaving one job for another is not going to make me happier, because the grass is not always greener. I like numbers and being analytical but unfortunately I still have to report to management, charge my hours, fill out performance evaluations, etc., etc. Therefore I try to catch myself before getting overly excited over a perhaps “embellished” job description that might find its way into my inbox. Truth be told I currently don’t hate my work, and actually enjoy some parts of it. I’m not willing to take another job offer just because it pays more to learn that I like the work less than I currently do.

The Flexibility – My job is extremely flexible. I currently work in small teams and at times we are scattered all over the US. This makes working from home or another state very easy when I want to do some personal travel without taking PTO or just not change out of my sweat pants. For the most part, as long as I get my shit done, no one cares too much about where I’m doing it. Fridays good luck finding me in the office. The only time I come in on Fridays is when my boss dangles free lunch in front of my face and offers to take me out to a decent restaurant if I come in.

On the subject of PTO, I get a ton! I am in a profession where burnout is pretty regular and the company actually does a good job of allowing for a lot of PTO, which I definitely take advantage of. You’ll never see me losing PTO because “I’m too busy to take it.” I never felt bad for people who complained about being too busy to take PTO, because that just meant you are doing a very poor job of managing up and managing expectations. I really don’t know anyone else who gets as much PTO as me (maybe a teacher with summers off), so I’m sure if I left I would have to cut back on my away from work time which I don’t think I’d be too happy about.

I have come to the realization that if I left my job for another, it most likely wouldn’t increase my happiness. That raise wouldn’t make up for the hard work I’ve put in to build relationships and flexibility into my job. For that reason I have stayed put… so far.

What keeps you at your job? Have you jumped ship to another company recently? Could you leave for more money but choose not to?

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?

The Golden Handcuffs

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now. The topic is a very difficult one for me, and one I’ve been struggling with consistently for the past year.

Throughout the course of my life, certain “life rules” have been instilled in me. These guidelines are supposed to lead to a “successful” life. Your parents, aunts, uncles, etc. all say work hard in school, get good grades, get into a decent school, graduate and get a good job. Then work hard to move up the ranks. Someday you’ll be able to buy a big house, and maybe a second house on the water where you keep your boat. And then finally, once you reach your 60’s, you’ll retire from a fruit-bearing 40 year career, and retire to golf and your grandkids.

Coming out of college I figured this would be my life. I started working in accounting at 21 and set a goal to get my CPA and then get a promotion every few years to make sure I was making six figures by 30. Then I’d make partner in my mid-thirties and be earning multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars by 40, easily on my way to a large home, a second house, and a boat.

I realized pretty early on that this was not going to be for me. I was 21, working all sorts of crazy hours in my first busy season, and realized that this was not for me, especially for the next 40 years. For this reason I told my mother facetiously that I was going to retire at 28.

Two years later, I was 23 and still not happy. I was working in a job that didn’t really interest or challenge me, and I didn’t really feel like it was a great springboard to a career I could enjoy and would perhaps bear the fruits I figured I would want/need. So I jumped ship. Went to a much bigger, internationally recognized firm where I’ve been for almost four years now.

Things seem great from the outside. I mention where I work and what I do and I get lots of “ooohs and aaahs” from family, friends, and strangers. I’m 27, live in Manhattan, have a somewhat fancy job title, make a six figure income, and get to travel for work, life must be great! Well life is great to an extent, but what people don’t see are the parts that suck.

Last week I posted about my recent vacation. On the Friday at the end of that vacation I got an email from my boss that read something like this: “Hope you’re enjoying vaca, you’re flying to XYZ on the 6am flight Monday morning.” Ugh, what a way to ruin a vacation. This isn’t an every week occurrence, but it does happen occasionally. Then there is the 24/7 emails flowing in, the expected ASAP response times, and the ridiculous deadlines that require night and weekend work. Very rarely am I ever allowed to really “sign-off” and get away from work. Work pays for my cellphone and therefore expects me to respond at all hours. I hear things like: “I’m sorry you’re going to have to work this weekend, but hey, it’s the name of the game with what we do.”

This is where the handcuffs come in. People from the outside may say “tough it out, you can’t complain, you’re in a great situation” or “well just quit then and get another job you’ll enjoy.” I agree, many people have it worse. I have thought about getting another job. But what I’ve realized after six years in the working world is I don’t think I’ll ever be happy working for someone else. Maybe if I could find a job that I only required me to work 40 hours a week, didn’t make me subconsciously think about it outside of 9-5, and didn’t derail my financial Independence plans then that may increase my happiness, but most likely not to a level where I’d think “yeah I want to do this for another twenty plus years.”

So far I’ve decided to put my head down and work. I just finished Early Retirement Extreme by Jacob Lund Fisker, one of the godfathers of financial independence. In chapter 7 he says “…salaried work is the preferred method for accumulating a fund for financial independence” and then goes on to say that on the path to FI “…pursue something you’re good at rather than something you’re passionate about.” Personally this is the trajectory I’ve taken, and I try to fit my passions in where I can, and I rationalize that there will be plenty more time for them once I reach the big goal of financial independence.

The golden handcuffs have kept me from exploring other work or entrepreneurial activities. Earlier this year I calculated I could become financially independent in September of 2026. That’s only 11 years away!  It was a conservative estimate as well. Most people don’t retire until their sixties, and I’m in a position to speed that up by almost 30 years. I’m in a place where I know, to an extent, how much I’ll make over that time. My income, while not being the highest it could be, is decent for my field. I’ve established a name for myself in my firm. I get to travel for work, and sometimes parlay those trips into personal trips. The work I do can be fun at times… but not as much as I’d like of course.

Staying put is the easy thing for me to do right now, but outside factors are encouraging me to jump ship and do my own thing. Failing or making significantly less money than what I am now scares the shit out of me. But then there are people out there, especially in this community, that have made the jump and have become very successful in their endeavors they are passionate about.

Who knows – maybe in six months I’ll say I’ve had enough. Or maybe in 10 years I’ll be handing in my resignation to my current employer as I’ve reached FI. I think if I was truly unhappy with my career path, this would be a much easier decision. But in the end, I’ve realized there is no right answer and I just have to suck it up, weigh the pros and cons, and make a decision that I’ll be happy to live with.

Are you putting your head down to reach your financial goals ASAP? Or are you taking detours which may prolong your goals, to incorporate some of your wants and passions in the meantime?

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

You might think I’m a little premature with the title for this post, but I disagree! It’s annual raise and bonus time at work, also known as the greatest time of the year. I feel like I work all year just to find out my raise and bonus annually. And to top it off, this year I got a promotion as well.

The other day a friend and coworker IM’ed me at work asking what I was going to do with my bonus. Of course I responded and said “saving it!” She responded by saying I need to live a little. Too bad padding my investment accounts gives me a lot more happiness than spending it!

As part of my Millionaire To-Do List I want to save 75% of each raise and bonus. I actually saved 100% of my bonus this year (that didn’t go to taxes) and as my expenses haven’t increased lately, I plan on saving approximately 100% of the raise as well.

How I spent it (watch out for the humblebrags, they come out of nowhere):

1) I adjusted my 401k contribution percentage right before the bonus paycheck and have maxed out my 401k for the year! I was planning on getting there by November, but thought “why not?” and jacked up my contribution percentage to get there in September.
2) I then used $1,000 to max out my 2015 Roth IRA for the year.
3) The remainder will go straight into my after-tax Vanguard brokerage account.

This will be the first year I’ve ever maxed out my 401k, and I’ve done it in the ninth month of the year! I also didn’t even have an IRA account open until 2015, and have maxed out both my 2014 and 2015 contribution limits this year. As you can see, I go 0 to 100 real quick! All kidding aside, it just amazes me how fast I was able to go from putzing around saving a little here and there and contributing to my 401k, to maxing out my 401k, IRA, and HSA. All I needed was some motivation and a plan of attack. This was also a huge year in the fact I reached my first $100k in net worth. Thank you everyone for the words of wisdom and encouragement along the way!

I really like the idea of using my bonus to max out my 401k as the money is already invested before it can even reach my checking account and become spendable. This also means that every remaining paycheck for the rest of the year will be substantially higher since I will not have a 401k contribution being deducted. This will be awesome since I’ll be able to contribute a lot more than usual to my after-tax brokerage account for the final three and a half months of 2015. Sometimes it feels like I’m concentrating so much on tax advantaged accounts, that I deem untouchable, and therefore my personal after-tax brokerage account doesn’t the same love and attention. So it will definitely be nice to boost this account throughout the remainder of 2015.

Hopefully all this time and hard work will enable me to move up my Financial Independence Day from September 2026. I’ll reevaluate once 2015 comes to a close. Hopefully everyone else is having a financially successful 2015 as well.

If you get variable compensation such as a bonus do you sock it all away, or let yourself splurge a little? Have you maxed out your 401k or IRA already this year?