Updated: Sep 17
This two-part article is about career choices and their impact on wealth. We clarify the path through the complex web of skills, abilities, attitudes, occupations, and industries to optimize your personal finance journey.
Often, we think of job and career choices separately from personal finance. Our career decisions are based on our skills, abilities, and desire. We often see wealth-building implications as a career decision outcome. We do not generally think of our career decisions as a cornerstone of our personal finance success strategy. Also, we often think of personal finance in the context of technical decisions about securities to purchase or portfolios to manage. We generally do not think of personal finance in the context of attitudes, cognitive biases, and discipline.
We need to change that thinking.
This article is presented with the following sections:
This article makes the case that our career decisions have a tremendous impact on our personal finance success. We show how to actively make career decisions that build our wealth and attendant financial security. We demonstrate the personal finance success arbitrage via a straightforward financial model.
The three long-term value segments - building the personal finance arbitrage
As introduced in part 1, we presented the career segments in terms of our three personas, Bob, Mia, and Liam. We have provided the model (attached to this article) and encourage you to play with the assumptions and tailor the model to your situation. The long-term value is based on the investment value you generate from the 3 segments, assuming you start in your early 20s and maintain the segment trajectory until retirement at age 65. We do make some reasonable assumptions about rates of return and savings levels. It is a relatively simple model. (5) The point is to show you the extraordinary opportunity you have to leverage your career into significant wealth via the time value of money.
Bob: Loyal quiet segment - Bob chose a relatively low-growth industry and has some anxiety about making job changes. He sees great risk in job changes. He believes a "bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." He does get some raises and advancement opportunities based on a percentage of his current salary. He can make his housing payments, live a lifestyle that works for him, and build some wealth. Bob may have started at a lower salary than others in a higher growth industry but he likes the stability.
Mia: Loyal growth segment - Mia chose a relatively high-growth industry and has some anxiety about making job changes. She sees great risk in job changes. She believes a "bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." She did get some raises and advancement opportunities that are typically higher than Bob’s. This occurs because her company is growing. However, her salary increase is based on a percentage of her current salary. She can make her housing payments, live a lifestyle that works for her, and build moderate wealth. Mia started at a salary higher than the low-growth industry because of the demand for talent.
Liam: Go and Grow segment - Liam chose a relatively high-growth industry and is open to making job changes. He sees opportunities for growth in job changes. He believes "change is growth." He receives significant salary increases and a bonus every time he makes a job change, especially because the industry is growing. He stays at the company for at least 2 years. He does receive raises based on his current salary, which is generally higher than Mia or Bob's because of previous job changes. Liam can make his housing payments, live a lifestyle that works for him, and build significant wealth.
The personal finance arbitrage outcome
By appearances, Bob, Mia, and Liam do not seem that different. They are all young, educated people. They are living similar lifestyles. The big differences are found in their chosen career paths related to industry and attitudes toward uncertainty and changing jobs. The following are important financial success suggestions (6), regardless of your career choice segment:
Maintain modest living expenses and save much of the money received via salary raises,
Invest those savings in well-diversified funds, with regular rebalancing,
Be an active lifetime learner - meaning, update your skills with periodic training or higher-level education.
Also, keep in mind, the model does not include bonuses or other remuneration outside of salary. As such, the model is likely conservative in this way. Again, the point is to show the personal finance implications based on our career choices. For Liam‘s Go and Grow segment, the arbitrage value is approximately $10mm when compared to Mia’s Loyal Growth segment. That is, by making certain career path decisions, Liam can “buy” his skills out of the Loyal Growth segment and “sell“ them into the Go and Grow segment. Why is Liam's retirement, estimated at over $15mm, so much higher than Mia and Bob’s? Here are Liam’s modeled retirement value drivers:
Job change adaptability - by increasing his salary via job change, Liam was able to raise his base in his 20s. This gets the full "Time Value of Money" advantage of investment returns for over 40 years. (see our article The Time Value of Money Values the Young for more information)
Choose a Growth industry and in-demand occupation and skills - Liam's salary increases were higher because of his industry and occupation. His choices created more downstream options for himself.
Persistence and discipline - Liam was able to maintain lower costs and his investment approach throughout his working life.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with Bob and Mia’s retirement outcomes. They are a result of discipline and persistence. The point of this article is to show you how industry choices and attitudes toward change and liked skills can impact your retirement value.
Does this approach work for people without a traditional 4-year college education? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” No matter your education level, you can think in terms of career segments. Finding the right growth industry and seeking healthy “Go and Grow” opportunities is possible in all educational contexts. I do want to remind you, one of the underlying assumptions is that your success will be increased via continuing education. Please consider ongoing education as an underlying pillar to your success. It is never too late to go to school!
Does this approach work for people that get a later start, after their 20s? Yes! Getting this discipline and persistent approach down is beneficial no matter when you start. To be fair, it is true, the earlier you tap into the Time Value Of Money, the longer you should have to reap its long-term benefits. Everyone has a different story. Our friends Bob, Mia, and Liam are examples but not necessarily your exact story. Your story can be enhanced utilizing our approach to career choices and personal finance.
This article encourages us to change our thinking on our career choices. Often, we think of job and career choices separately from personal finance. We often consider our career decision based on our skills, abilities, and desire; without fully understanding the wealth-building implications. We discussed attitudes we can change and choices we can make to increase our personal finance success. Regardless of the career decision, being disciplined and persistent is the key to creating long-term wealth.
(5) The model does not explicitly include costs associated with student debt and other life cost decisions. All costs are implied (“straight-lined”) in the "Base Cost" category. How you handle other costs could significantly dampen or improve lifetime value creation. See our article The Stoics Arbitrage for additional personal finance arbitrage strategies. These are additional strategies to help improve your overall retirement value creation, along with your career choices.
There is absolutely a path to getting a high-value college education at a reasonable price. In today’s reality, the college decision is a high stake, high-risk, high-return decision, not to be taken lightly.
(6) These suggestions come from our article Investment thoughts for my children.
Your Personal Finance Journey Guide:
Making the money!
7. Career success - Success Pillars - Maximizing luck with an adaptable mindset to reach your goals!
8. Career choices - Do I need to be a Data Scientist in an AI-enabled world?
9. Career choices - Diamonds In The Rough - A perspective on making high impact college hires
Spending the money!
10. Budgeting - Budgeting like a stoic
12. College choice - The College Decision - Framework and tools for investing in your future
13. College choice - College Success!
14. College choice - How to make money in Student Lending
15. Event spending - Wedding and event planning guiding principle
Investing the money!
Pulling it together!