I realized something over the past week.
There’s no annotated-GIF-thingy for my favorite scene ever from the Office! So I had to cobble one together (please no one sue or criticize):
But it got me thinking about people’s career and money dreams. I feel like, regardless of how your life turns out, people have one of three basic career/money plans if they even think about money and retirement at all:
- Lavish: make a bunch of money and spend it; work pretty long to save enough for retirement-era lifestyle maintenance
- Frugal: make a bunch of money; save it and retire early; continue to live frugally, pursue dreams
- Humanitarian: do what you love; make less; save lots; work forever (Hotel Hell for Dwight)
The first option is probably the most familiar to people. I think when parents want you to get into a good college and get a good job, being paid well and living in luxury are implied. This is what I set out to do originally.
Then there are always people who say “I don’t care about money; I just want to do what I am passionate about.” These are the humanitarians and artists. I think when people say that, they understand that they will probably not make much money. But also implied in that statement is a challenge accumulating retirement savings, and a likelihood of working a very long time as a result.
And finally, a bit out of order, is the Frugal option, to save all your money and try to retire early. If you had asked me 5 years ago, I would not have thought of this as one of the life-design plans, and would have cited only Lavish and Humanitarian. I was not aware this was an option, but it is my current goal.
Anything other than one of these plans would be somewhat pointless or inefficient. Think about it. If you plan to save and retire early, then any amount of big spending just parts you from your goal. If you want to just do what you love, don’t bother chasing money away from your passion because it probably won’t pay off that well anyway. Etc.
There’s also a way to optimize each of these paths. If you seek to be Lavish, you should get whatever amount of schooling it takes to secure the highest possible salary: be a physician, lawyer, broker, etc. You will probably have a chip on your shoulder about school costs, and will spend a long time paying that off before the profits set in.
If you want to be Frugal, it makes most sense to get into the working world asap relative to earning potential. If your game is saving and living frugally, you could probably do that with a lot or only some money and still retire pretty early. College might not even be for you because it is 4 years of spending instead of making money. Only trick here is that if you start out with a low-cost education plan and realize later that you are more Lavish than Frugal in nature, it might be too late to go back and get a fancy degree.
If you dream of following your Humanitarian passions, you may as well focus on getting your ideal, rewarding job and not bother thinking about money at all. Your game is to work forever fulfilling yourself so there is no sense compromising the satisfaction aspect.
I was never cut out for the high-living Lavish path because Med and Law school did not appeal to me. But the 6- and 7-figures stratosphere aside, I wanted to make as much money as possible. I made a measured decision and took myself to (a reasonably cheap) $30k graduate school, estimating that it would at least double my pay. It has in fact nearly tripled my pay in 6 years, and I have already paid my graduate loans. So I’m thanking my lucky stars that the gamble worked out. I nevertheless have too much of a chip on my shoulder to go be a Humanitarian, but I am well positioned to pursue a Frugal life plan, with a Lavish lifestyle still out of reach given the alternative of retiring early. What, think you can have both with an engineering degree? Tell me how 🙂
GIF courtesy of jimhalpert.tumblr.com