5 Top Changes I Made to Improve My Financial Life (continued)
What are the top changes we made to improve our finances? Below continues the discussion of the top 5 things we did that I feel had the largest and most immediate impact. This is the third entry of five.
3. Make More Money
On almost every personal finance podcast, I listen to, the host will make a comment that the best way to fix your financial situation is to make more money. It is almost a throw-away comment as if making more money were simply a decision you make. Make more money…. Why didn’t I think of that? If you are like me, you are probably working your tail off and feeling frustrated at the lack of progress. Now I am not in any way complaining about my situation. I work very hard, but I am also paid pretty nicely for what I do. Yet somehow there was never enough money at the end of each month. Where does it all go? Well, as I mentioned in the previous entry, it seemed like quite a bit went to restaurants, bars and grocery stores. But then there were other decisions such as financing cars. My wife and I were pretty proud of ourselves when we decided we would never have more than one car loan at a time. We almost broke our arms trying to pat ourselves on the back since we were sooo much smarter than our friends in this regard. Of course, the cars got nicer and nicer as we got older and made more money, so those car payments grew and grew. There were several other places where our money was flying out of our accounts and all of those added up to too much month at the end of the money, as they say.
We worked very hard (and continue to do so) to reduce our spending. However, this was not quite enough. If we wanted to turbo charge our finances and put us in a position where I could possibly retire earlier than age 65, we would also need to make more money. How do we do that? Well there is always the idea of creating a side hustle. Again, if you listen to podcasters, this is the first thing mentioned when they say make more money. Maybe for some people this idea comes easy but for me, I would love the idea of a side-hustle but WHAT? Also, my day job requires so much time that I would have to factor in the WHEN as well. I love the idea of building something on the side, but I just don’t have that idea that is nagging at me of what to do. I guess you can say that I already have a side hustle in real estate investment. (I haven’t talked about my real estate adventures yet but will do that at some point in the future.) For now, I need to figure out a way to make more money. That leaves my current day job. My situation is confounding in that I am pretty good at what I do and get paid well but I just don’t enjoy it. I don’t find the work satisfying in the least. I spent much of my career in Operations. This is a rather vague department title and most people had no idea what I actually did for a living. In a nutshell I was in the business of helping businesses run properly. This varied depending on the needs of the company that I was working for at the time. It also made job searching difficult during slow economic times because this is an area that most companies feel can be filled from within their current ranks. In the early 2000’s we hit one of those slow economic times and I found myself out of work. This lasted almost two years. During that time, I did some freelance consulting, so it wasn’t a straight two years of bleakness. I also was able to collect a little unemployment during the beginning of this period. However, it didn’t take long for my family to run through our savings, especially when you factor in how out of control our spending was back then. So, I came to the realization that I needed to find work and find it fast. I had to change something in my search since what I was doing was not working. This led me to broaden my search and start looking for a job rather than just a career position. Through a friend I learned of an opening at a company that was looking for a Quality Assurance Consultant. Just out of college I had worked in Quality Assurance for a video game publisher. This amounted to play-testing video games for 40-60 hours per week. This was NOT a technical job. I was worried that I wouldn’t even be qualified for this new role but quickly learned that what was needed was not a technical QA consultant but someone that could organize, train and supervise the internal staff that was tasked with testing the company’s applications. I interviewed for the role and got it. It was not a very high paying role, nor was it scheduled to last very long. But a job is a job. I was back on the road to being a useful member of society.
The main goal of this role was accomplished in fairly short order, but the company liked my work and quickly moved me into the role of Project Manager. They were creating a new online platform for their customers to order services and needed someone to shepherd the project through. That was over 10 years ago, and I have worked as a Project Manager ever since. I have brought my Operations experience to the table and liken my approach more to Management Consulting than IT Consulting. My current position has been a long serving role for a client who has come to rely heavily on my skills and experience. Each time a project ends, they come up with another that they would like me to work on. Throughout my time on the main project I was hired for, they had offered my full-time jobs in various roles. They have experienced much turnover in their IT Leadership role and each time there was a change, they offered the position to me first. I explained that I was not interested and that I did not think I was even the right resource for the role long-term. At the conclusion of my main project with them, they were once again in need of someone to fill the IT Director position. They decided to try a different approach and asked my company if I could fill the position as a consultant, rather than being requiring a full-time employee. My company spoke with them and learned that this was a contract that they would only consider if I were the consultant and they needed a commitment of at least one year. My company asked me to consider the role, knowing I was not very interested in it. However, this was an important client to our firm as well as to me personally. So, I considered the role and decided that I would do it. I also realized that for this to make sense, I would need to negotiate a more reasonable package. I knew that I was dealing from strength in that the client only wanted me for the role. Additionally, this was a much higher profile role than a Project Manager so I knew there was an opportunity to structure a package that made sense for the client, my firm and myself. A contract was negotiated and all parties appeared to be pleased with the results. The terms of the contract; both the rate and the security of a one-year term; have played a very large role in helping me to pay off debt and has been a major spoke in the wheel of my journey to financial freedom.