You’re a high earner who knows there’s more to life than earning money. Sometimes you wonder if there’s a way out of the earn-to-spend cycle. You’d like to create financial independence, flexibility and control with your money. You’d like to talk to someone you can relate to, and someone who has already traveled down the road of translating income into wealth.
Does this sound familiar?
You may have stepped onto the high-income treadmill out of b-school, med school, or law school with some assumptions:
1. My big income as an employee will always be available (I will not be downsized, or become disabled, or obsolete).
2. I will always love doing what it takes to earn a high income as an employee.
3. Eventually, if I keep earning a big salary, I will become wealthy.
Freedom begins when you question these assumptions.
1. What if I am downsized, or become disabled? What if taxes, regulatory changes, or new technology eliminate the work I do?
2. Long hours on important projects, elite status on two airlines, and juicy relocation packages seemed really appealing until I found myself missing out on family life, putting on weight, and wishing I lived where I have real friends. Is there a different path I can take?
3. I totaled it up, and I have already earned $2M, $3M, or $5M in my life and all I have is $226,000 in my 401(K), $5637 in my checking account, and a tiny bit of equity in my home. Where in the world did it all go?
Long story short about your personal finance coach
In 2010 I had $225,000 in student loans from my fancy-pants MBA degree and negative net worth. We got crazed and unusual with our dollars, cleared the debt in a little over three years, and are now working toward our own version of financial independence. We did this by finding ways to significantly reduce our monthly outflow (by, like, 50%). And although it took intensity and focus, we weren’t suffering along the way. In fact, working on our budget brought us closer as a couple and as a family.
I launched Design Independence to share what I've learned about personal finance over the last ten years. I talk about what I wish I’d known when I was twenty-five.
If you're living the dream, I'm talking to you
If you're a big earner, you run two huge risks. First, you may create an absolute fortune in income throughout your life, while saving and investing way too little money. Second and more subtly, if you don’t save enough money, you tie yourself to very competitive, stressful work for way too long. There may come a time when, for whatever reason, you want or need an off-ramp from the big salary and big demands of your job.
To make progress with your family’s budget, you have to imagine the big picture – your dreams, visions, philosophy, and specific goals. Then, you have to actually do the work of implementing at a very detailed level. Until you’re willing to exert the mental energy to develop a compelling reason why you want things to be different and are willing to do a deep dive into the nitty-gritty of your personal finances, you will find it difficult to make meaningful changes.
Let’s make it tangible and vivid: You’d like to eliminate your student loan debt and your monthly student loan payment so that one spouse can stop working to be home with your kids. But right now you’re only able to make minimum payments on your loans. Where can you come up with extra money to chunk toward this loan?
Or, maybe you dream of taking big, memorable family trips to exciting places without borrowing the cash. You envision your family on a three week trip visiting Las Palmas, Casablanca, & Lisbon. You would like to have a big margin, the gap between your income and expenses, in your monthly budget so you can set aside money to take this trip in 2020. Though you still plan to grow in your job, your immediate strategy to find this money is to reduce expenses enough to save $1000 per month toward this vacation. How would you go about actually doing this in a way that worked?
Until you get very specific about where savings will come from in your budget, the savings will never appear. And you cannot know how you may be able to save money until you know how you are already spending money.
If you don’t mind, I’ll do it myself!
You are where you are today as the sum total of all the decisions you’ve made in your life. And you are where you are today in your finances as a sum total of every decision you’ve made with money.
Are you entirely satisfied with the results of your efforts so far? Or is it possible you’ve decided you can and should be doing better with your money, and that you might be wise enough to benefit from a coach who has walked where you’re walking and spent thousands of hours working and learning in the personal finance space.
If you’ve tried budgeting in the past and it hasn’t worked, or if you and your spouse aren’t on the same page with money, having a process to follow and an outside perspective can be invaluable. The best athletes all have great coaches