Path to the Bag: Secure the Bag — Invest in Your Future Self
Written by Kandice Whitaker
Getting a new job is the quickest way to get a raise and promotion, statistically speaking. Despite the obvious immediate financial benefits, career change is often the most overlooked, oft forgotten red-headed stepchild of personal finance. I have read countless self-help articles that all provided some variation of this same advice: “budget, live beneath your means and pay off your debt; even if that means getting a second job”. Although some people have the discipline to conform to budgeting, spending less, paying off debt, and/ or working a second job, those tasks are difficult to begin and maintain. If they were easy tasks, personal debt would not be a national crisis, proficiency would be a social norm and there would be no need for articles on personal finance.
The crux of being in debt is that you need more money. I have always questioned recommendations to get a second job as a long-term solution for a number of reasons, but most importantly that suggestion does not make sense mathematically. Let’s consider the real cost of maintaining a second job: the second job’s hourly rate, minus gas costs, minus transportation costs and minus meals at a job where you will probably earn less money. Imagine the physical and emotional price of working an additional ten to twenty hours weekly long term.
My best advice is to change careers or get a new job. If changing careers is not immediately feasible, instead of spending ten to twenty additional hours working, consider if that time were invested in your education or training. Over time, that investment in yourself would be enough to get a new career or higher paying position. If you’re thinking that getting a new job or going back to school is hard; I will respond that being in debt is hard, worrying about paying bills on time is hard and working a second job is also all very hard. Fortunately, as Americans we have ‘free will’ and the ability to make choices. Which translates to within the parameters of our unique circumstances, we individually get to choose the ‘hard’ that makes the most sense. In our decisions there is no “right” answer other than what is right for you and your future. In financial decision making, my best advice is that you invest in your future self.
Here is an example of why I believe in investing in your future self by changing careers. Consider the following scenario: the median American income in 2021 was $67,521, according to census.gov. Let’s assume a person working their way out of debt earned that median income ($67,521) as their annual salary, and was offered another position at a different company with a salary that was a 20% raise. That 20% raise would equal over $13K annually. If the new position’s salary is further negotiated to 30% that would represent more than an additional $20k in income. If the person in the example were changing careers or positions that raise could be higher.
Are you skeptical about looking for a new job? I know how you feel, I have been there myself. Especially, if your job has ‘good benefits’, but have you considered what would happen if that company files for bankruptcy or you are laid off? What happens to you, your family and ‘good benefits?” A significant aspect of American corporate conditioning is the sense of ‘corporate loyalty’ directly tied to current or future benefits from the company. The core issue with corporate America, as Kendrick Lamar sang about is “Loyalty”. With ubiquitous “at will” employment contracts, no pensions and union busting, our generation has never actually realized “secure” employment. So why then are we afraid to look for new opportunities when our loyalty is so expensive? My professional history is proof that when you are fiercely loyal to yourself, your goals and aspirations, you will prevail. Here’s the ‘Cliffs Notes’ version of my story: working my first real job out of college was a contract where I made less than $30K. I worked there for almost two years and in my next position got a 60% raise. The work at my new job was not hard, but the environment was toxic despite the good benefits. After 5 years of being ignored for promotions, lost opportunities and significantly bruised self-esteem, I was tired and with reservation began looking for outside employment opportunities. That search yielded a new position with an 80% raise. The subsequent position was a lateral position, but as a consultant a 68% raise. Today as a career coach, I am passionate about helping people like me in my twenties: smart, tenacious and broke.