Financial Planning for Geeks

What You Earn: The Forgotten Lever of Financial Life Planning

- Financial Planning

In my time as a Financial Life Planner, I covered just about every topic under the sun: death, disability, having kids, taking care of aging parents, beliefs and habits around money…you name it. I had to get used to having honest conversations with people about how much money they make, too. Yes, what you earn is a critical component of your financial life plan, and I’m sure that fact isn’t lost on you.

Victorian-era men working at a machine
Time for a new job?

But just to prove the point, let’s walk through a quick example: assume you make $75k a year right now and you get that up to $100k. That extra $25k a year becomes $250k over 10 years, and that’s assuming you never get another raise (which you probably will). If you invested that $25k over 10 years at a compound return rate of 6%, you’d actually have nearly $350k in extra income and investment growth at the end of the 10 years! Yes, that will make a big impact on your financial life plan.

But I find it interesting how many people “forget” about earning more money as one of the levers they can pull to improve their financial situation. Why is that?

First, I think many people hold onto negative beliefs about finding a higher-paying job. They may lack confidence in their ability to take on a bigger challenge, or they may feel like an impostor in a sea of people who actually know what they’re doing. They may not feel like they’re worth it.

These limiting beliefs can also hold people back from asking for a raise or promotion. Some folks get so stressed out just imagining the conversation that they let it go. But friends, we all feel like impostors sometimes. We all doubt ourselves.

The good news is that beliefs can be changed. Our beliefs are one of the few things in our lives we have complete control over. Change your beliefs about yourself and your potential, and you can change how you see that next job opportunity or raise. If you need help, hire yourself a coach. Get a referral from a friend or visit Life Coach Spotter to learn more.

“But Penny,” you object. “I actually DON’T have the skill to get to that next level or break into that more remunerative line of work. I don’t undervalue myself; I just need more training or experience.” Great! We’re getting to the heart of the issue for you. Now is the time to build those skills, get that training, and take that class. Don’t let a knowledge gap keep you from identifying your next step and going for it. Start small, with an online class or workplace training program, but start now. All I’m suggesting is that you take a baby step toward your next opportunity. Then another, and another, and so on.

I also find that sometimes people don’t see all the wonderful possibilities the new Gig Economy opens up to them. Maybe you don’t want to be an entrepreneur juggling seven different gigs at one time, but could you have one side gig? Are you good at proofreading? Writing? Art? I’m just throwing ideas out there, but assess yourself and your skills, aptitudes, and abilities. Chances are there’s someone who needs what you have. Check out Gigworker for resources and actual gigs.

I’ve also had clients tell me they don’t want to go for that promotion because they have decent work-life balance now and don’t want to give that up for more money. They would rather have the time for family and life. I hear that and I support that decision. Just don’t close yourself off to it; leave that metaphorical door open for when the time is right and you’re ready. More money doesn’t always mean more time and stress, either. You can have more money without more headaches. I know; that one is a shocker for those of us raised with a Puritan work ethic!

Finally, I think we advisors need to shoulder some of the responsibility here. Maybe we get too focused on investments or savings or reducing debt…the mechanics of good financial life planning. Hey, we’re not trained career counselors, you know! But I think an advisor can add a lot of value by bringing up income as a key component of the planning. We don’t have to have all the answers, but we should at least ask the question and provide encouragement.

No, money isn’t everything. I don’t mean to imply that you’re only as good as your paycheck or there’s something wrong with someone who earns less. Let’s be real: there are a lot of people out there who don’t have a lot of opportunity to improve their skills or increase their earnings for whatever reason (like institutional racism, for example). There are also people who don’t care as much about what they earn and instead work on reducing expenses and saving more. I don’t mean to deny these situations. I just want to give you ideas for increasing your income in case you’ve been overlooking that lever.

If you exchange your time for money, I simply want you to optimize your use of that time in a well-paying job which is satisfying for you. You deserve it! Go get ‘em, tiger.

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Penny Farthing

I, Penny Farthing (non-wizarding name Kerry Read ), actually have a day job in the world of finance. This blog came into being because of my deep and abiding love for geeks and Personal Finance.