A lot of people feel trapped by their finances. The bills pile up, and no matter how much money they make, they can’t seem to catch up.
This makes people very unhappy. That’s the first problem. The second problem is they can’t see the light. All the worry blinds them to other opportunities.
My solution to these situations is usually austerity—spend less, save, and pay down debt. But there’s another option, a “door #3.”
Make more money.
People don’t walk through this door often. Personal finance experts rarely even mention it. But austerity can get tedious. So, if you can’t get ahead, one solution is to get another job and reinvent yourself.
I know—it’s hard to reinvent yourself. But it’s not impossible. I’m 45 years old, and I’m a very different person than I was at 34 or 22.
I started out as a military grunt. A meathead—hoorah! Then I was a Wall Street guy, wearing suits and all that stuff. It’s a totally different ethos, for sure.
Now I’m a financial help guy. I write newsletters and help people make money. So I’ve reinvented myself a bunch of times, and maybe I’ll do it again. (I’m going to start producing music soon.)
Teachers, for example, are ripe for reinvention. For one thing, they’re grossly underpaid in most of the country. Not everywhere—they can make $80,000 or $90,000 a year in New Jersey and Connecticut. I’d say that’s adequate. But in South Carolina, where I live, they don’t make squat. I wouldn’t even call it a living wage.
Somebody in that position will never save enough to retire comfortably. I don’t care how smart they are or how well they invest. It simply isn’t possible.
I’m sympathetic to the problem. But if you’re in that position, you can decide: I’m a teacher, I help children, and I don’t make much money. End of the story.
Or you can do something else. Maybe you decide: I care about this profession, but my financial situation is dire, and I need to make more money.
And you start a new story.
I have to say, people don’t often make the leap. Their whole identity is wrapped up in what they do. It’s how they define themselves.
No matter what your job is, the thought of blowing up your life is a lot to digest. You have to walk away from years of doing something, change your clothes, act differently, etc. That’s why personal finance “experts” don’t recommend door #3—because it really is difficult to walk through.
The people I was in the Coast Guard with haven’t changed a bit. To start, their fashion sense is stuck in 1994. I saw a picture of three of these guys the other day. They were all wearing curled brim Dad hats, plus short sleeve tee shirts over long sleeve tee shirts. It looked like they were pregaming for a Nirvana concert. I wanted to hand each guy a bottle of Heineken.
That’s just not who I am anymore.
Look, this is really existential stuff. It’s not about clothes or money. It’s bigger than that. If you really want to get out of the hole, the only thing you have to change about your life is… everything.
I can show you how to clip coupons and save a dollar here or there. But that won’t move the needle much. You have to think big.
And, while you’re at it, enjoy the holidays. You won’t hear from me next week. Look for my next letter in your inbox on January 1.