In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to take a step back and talk about what I’m thankful for. It’s easy to get caught up in the mindset of always wanting more when you’re seeking financial independence. More money means more saving, which means a faster path to financial independence, and more control over my life. Actively seeking out ways to better yourself and your situation is a good thing. However this puts my focus on the future. With thanksgiving approaching, it’s a good time to remind myself of all the good things I have now.
Being a personal finance blog I will stick to the theme of money. Here is what I’m thankful for this season.
I am lucky to have a wife who is amazing in so many different ways. She’s a devoted and fantastic runner (16 marathons!), great cook, and an awesome teacher. She’s also good with money. One thing I’m really appreciative of, is that we see eye to eye when it comes to money. Many spouses aren’t so lucky. In Love and Money, I talk about how lucky we are to share the same financial views given we never had a talk about finances before marriage. After all, disagreements over money is the #1 factor of stress on a relationship.
It would be nearly impossible to reach financial independence if we were not a match moneywise. We both understand that sacrifices need to be made in the short-term to reach our long-term money goals. I set a goal earlier this year to increase our after tax, after 401k savings rate to 50%. We’re a little below 40% right now, and I’m anticipating we’ll get up to 50% in the next 1.5 years.
To do this, we don’t waste money on “stuff” that clutters our lives and doesn’t make us any happier after the initial few days after purchasing. We don’t have a large home and we don’t drive expensive cars. We spend money on travel and good food, which are both important to us. Imagine how difficult this would be if she wasn’t on board with the journey towards financial independence. If one spouse is out spending on the latest trends while the other is saving, it just won’t work. Fortunately for me, my wife isn’t a big spender, and is conservative when it comes to money. And that, I am thankful for.
My Father for Teaching Me Good Personal Finance
When I graduated from college, my dad gave me a copy of Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. He also encouraged me to start contributing 20% of my pay to my 401k when I started work. At this point in my life I didn’t know a lot about personal finance. I was just happy to have a decent paying job. I couldn’t see further than 10 feet in front of me at the time. I’m thankful that my father was there to provide me with the financial guidance I needed.
Automatic Millionaire taught me the importance of starting early and saving often. It doesn’t take a lot to become rich. It just takes time and some self discipline. Those that start early have such a large advantage over those who put off saving until their 30s or 40s. Contributing 20% of my paycheck to my 401k from the beginning made it much easier. I never got used to living with the extra money, so I didn’t miss it.
Sometimes I wonder how my financial life would be different if I hadn’t received this advice right out of college. I’m sure I would have figured it out sooner or later, but I likely would have wasted more time in my early 20s. I’m thankful this was not the case.
A Job That Inspires Me
I am one of the lucky few that can say I love my job. On Sunday nights, I never think, “Damn, I have to go to work tomorrow.” There is plenty of stress and pressure that comes along with this job, but I love that I am able to have a significant impact on my company’s performance, make a difference, and be recognized and compensated for it. This wasn’t always the case.
I spent the first 10 years of my career working for a large CPA firm. The work was challenging and exposed me to a lot of different businesses and industries. I didn’t dislike my job necessarily, but it was a grind. Promotions were more based on time than merit. Long hours and travel were not always appreciated or properly compensated for. It was a grind to make partner so you could finally cash in financially. Even better, as a partner you were at the top of the hill where shit rolls down. Much easier to step aside and let it land on someone else when you’re standing at the top.
This is a well known diagram in the public accounting world. We all laugh about it because we know it’s true. There are similar versions of it in other professional service industries. The benefit of making partner is well known. First, your compensation goes way up. Second, and just as important, you don’t get splashed by the shit.
Shit Rolls Downhill
Today, I’m in a much better role as the CFO of a financial services firm. Granted, as a CFO I’m just as able to step out of the way and let the shit roll downhill. However we’re a small operation, so I still get my hands dirty quite a bit. And I love it! I have no issues with getting into some of the dirty work. What makes it more gratifying is we have a true meritocracy where you’re paid and recognized based on the value you create for the company. Not based on how many years you’ve been here or how well you play the office politics game. Want to know the secret to job satisfaction? Give people control over their careers and pay them based on the value they create. Seems easy, but true meritocracy environments are few and far between in the workplace. I’m very thankful that I found one.
Readers, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Who has made a difference in your financial life?