For good reason, we spend a lot of time focusing on the outflows (saving, spending, etc…) of our personal finances. And a majority of the posts in this series will do so. But this list would be incomplete unless we included a post on the inflow: INCOME! Let’s break down our experience with the earning process into three categories:
If you don’t have an education, get one, so you can get a job.
I say this bluntly, but I firmly believe that education beyond high school is the first key to success in life, much less personal finance. Whether it’s a four year college degree, a trade school, or a military education, you’ve got to have something that can create a consistent inflow of support for your livelihood. Now, I realize there are certain instances when someone is unable to do this for reasons beyond their control. I’m not writing to those people. I’m writing to the capable.
Both my wife and I have been lucky enough (and hard working enough) to get an education in subjects in which there will always be a job: accounting and education. These may not be the most exciting or lucrative fields, but they do provide a certain peace, security, and pride in knowing we are able support ourselves and give back to society. Because when the band doesn’t get signed, the tech start-up fails, or you don’t make the NFL, “you still gots to pay the bills!” There are tons of ways to afford education.
Next, if you don’t have a job as a result of your education. Get one. Even if it’s not the ideal job.
You owe it to your parents (so they can stop footing the bill, you bum), your significant other, your kids, and to society (I don’t want to support you) to get out there and get a job, ANY job! I can say this with conviction because I was once this person. Unlike my wife, there was a brief time in my life, after college, that I was sleeping on my parents couch and leaning on them for support. The truth is that I was miserable in my first job out of college. I had gone to work for a big four accounting firm, and quickly realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do. So, I quit. Without a job. Without a second source of income. I just quit. Luckily, at this point, I had supportive parents, and was able to go back to school to work on finishing my Masters. I did get a few odd jobs though: waiting tables, parking cars, playing in a band.
During this period of my life, I was searching, but not earning. This year on the run (so to speak) was playing heavily on my ego (Headline: “Class Salutatorian Parks Cars for a Living“). Also, I was getting tired of depending on someone else. I eventually grew up and got back on the career track with a job in accounting, but by this time I had racked up credit card debt and missed out on a year’s worth of corporate wages that my education had qualified me for. Looking back on this period, what I should have done was got the easy job in accounting as soon as I quit the firm and then start searching for the ideal. Here’s an article on finding your first job.
Lastly, if you’re not making what you’re worth, get a raise or get another job.
Are you underpaid? Who’s responsibility is it to ensure you’re making what the market demands? YOURS! It’s up to you to know what you’re worth and to inform your employer of that so that you can get the raise you deserve.
If you’re current employer can’t afford you, go find one who can. I’m my experience, you are able to make bigger leaps in pay if you are willing to change employers and/or locations. Be flexible and always be on the lookout for a better opportunity. You should have no loyalty to a corporation who’s number on goal is to please it’s investors. And they all have this as their number one goal whether they say it or not. You should be treating your career as an ongoing project.
The bottom line here is to immediately and consistently create an initial source of income for you and your family, and then continually strive to get the most for your services.