I’ve been with my employer for a faithful 12+ years. And it’s been a good run. I’ve performed well. Well enough to be the highest revenue generator globally in the history of my organization (over 2,000 individuals), and by a large margin.
That success, paired with the personal finance tenets that I’ve practiced (and preached on this site), has allowed me to reach a level of financial independence where the return on my investments now regularly exceed my cost of living.
In June, my confidence in that financial independence was put to the test. I, along with every other member of my team, were shocked to be given a surprise
- if we wanted to keep our jobs, we would need to move from our cozy and affordable Midwest city to our choice of New York City or San Francisco before October, in an effort to consolidate our team with our colleagues already stationed in those cities.
- we could attempt to find another role in our company, by the same deadline.
If one of those 2 things did not happen – our at-will employment at the company would be over.
On the one side, I had the career I’ve built – which included a familiar, well-paying, and guaranteed role that I had a long history of excelling at, and a strong network of colleagues. This choice would come with a decent cost of living adjustment and all move expenses covered.
On the other, I had everything else. Basically, my life outside of work, paired with no job/career certainty.
A large majority of my team made the decision to move to New York.
I did not.
Instead, I interviewed for and accepted a completely different role at the same company, outside of my area of expertise, for less pay, and without a permanent guarantee, as it is temporary backfill for a new colleague on maternity leave. If – and only if – I love the work, I will try to transition to a similar role. Otherwise, it’s on to the next chapter, which would likely be self-employment/early retirement.
Life (paired with the tool of financial independence) met a forced job relocation. Life won.
It’s a significant personal finance moment in my life. And I share this story with you because I think it is a culmination of a few key themes that I have focused on here over the years:
1. Boost your Personal Savings Rate as High as it can Go
I’ve been able to push my personal savings rate to very high levels over the years due to keeping my cost of living in check. Lifestyle creep continuously knocks on the door, but I’ve (mostly) kept it locked out. I think the correct answer to the “how much should I save?“ question is “every damn cent that you possibly can without reducing sustainable happiness”. Luckily, stuff doesn’t buy sustainable happiness, so I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed much, if anything.
2. Company Loyalty these Days is More Luck than Anything Else
Despite working very hard and being a top performer in the company, the security of my job was no stronger than the whim of the stamp that one person wanted to put on my organization. In the end, my performance did not matter, and even the company’s performance (which was extremely strong) did not matter. Longevity at a given company these days is more dependent on luck than any other variable. And true loyalty is dead. You have to watch out for you, no matter how blissful your situation seems at any given moment.
3. Strike (Earn) While the Iron is Hot
Research shows that the first decade of lifetime earnings is the most important. Once you get into your 40’s, your earning power can plateau, and then even decline. This is why I actively chased it to boost income early and often and then packed away as much of those earnings as I could. This is not normal, but perhaps it should be the goal for all, as good times can come to an end at any moment, to no fault of your own. Recognize and capitalize on the good times, because they don’t last forever. Sadly, all work is temporary.
4. Money is Most Valuable when Used as a Tool of Choice
Money is at its most valuable when leveraged as a tool. The tool that it bought me, in this case, was choice. The choice to choose the life I’ve built over my job. And that is a damn good tool to have in the toolbox. One that I’m thankful to have. And infinitely more valuable than if I had used it as a tool to purchase more products.
So a new and less certain journey begins. Time to buckle up!