Monday, March 30, 2015

Money In, Life Out?

I find writing about the left hand side of the financial equation, Money In, far more difficult than writing about the right hand side of the money equation Money Stored + Money Out.

Money In = Money Stored + Money Out

For most of us, Money In means a paycheck. Whether we are working on an assembly line, performing heart surgery, selling cars, or writing the great American novel, we are trading time for the promise of money. Money can only be spent once, but it can be replaced. Time is an irreversible process. Once lost it is gone forever.

Whether we like it or not, the clock is running. Then a combination of personal decisions, our habits, and the demands of practical necessity take over. While I am still single, it is possible that I can marry anybody out there who would have me. Once married, I can only have that person as my wife. Divorce? I have never seen a “good” divorce. At best they are painful, destructive, and expensive. Once you have made the decision to have children, are you going to abandon them in a ditch so you can have new children?

Once we have made one of these life path altering decisions, habits take over. We tend to run on autopilot until the next life crisis forces another decision.

In my father’s day, career choice was pretty much a one time decision point. There was an unwritten, unspoken covenant between employee and employer; the best thirty years (or more) of your life in exchange for the security of a regular paycheck, health insurance, and a comfortable retirement. That covenant is gone. Today in most work environments, employees must consider themselves independent contractors, essentially day labor with no guarantee of future employment. Even in professions with low unemployment rates, such as defense sector engineering, employees are becoming gypsies who move from company to company as contracts for new weapon systems begin and end. Someone in his early twenties can expect to have as many as eight different careers over the course of forty years of employment.

There are at least four different approaches to making work a meaningful part of your life.

1) Live The Life You Love. A family trust fund, a wealthy spouse, or few material desires would be helpful. There is no guarantee the marketplace is interested in what you love.

2) The Great Compromise. What is the least objectionable way to earn enough money to support your desired lifestyle?

3) Just The Facts. A hardboiled, realistic appraisal of your situation without factoring in your personal desires. When I was in high school, I discovered one of our neighbors had a degree in musical composition from Julliard, perhaps the finest conservatory and school for the performing arts in our country. He earned a living managing his family’s wholesale drapery business. It had to be done.

4) How to Be a Greater Blessing. What do your neighbors lack? Rather than consider your own material needs and personal desires, consider the needs and desires of others. What skills and resources do you possess? How can your assets fill your neighbors’ needs?

I have come to the conclusion that there are some decisions that are too important to make in a vacuum. Marriage and career are two such choices. You need outside expert advice. Are you really the best judge of your own abilities or would it be helpful to seek the advice of friends, parents, or an experienced mentor prior to making a life altering decision? If you are married and think that you can leave your spouse out of a career decision, think again.

In writing this blog over the last six years, I have come to understand that your selection of friends will greatly influence the course of your life. Are they a bunch of quitters, who whine and complaint about the unfairness of life or do they take responsibility for the outcome of their life, taking up arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them. (with a tip of the hat to the bard)

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know the famous quotes, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” “If you are the smartest guy in the room, you are in the wrong room.” The Bible points out the importance of friendship in stories like the Good Samaritan or the four friends who carried their sick buddy to Jesus for healing.

If you have outgrown your friends; believe me, this does happen, don’t cut them off unless they are truly poisonous. I have found that when summer has run its course old friendships that are no longer appropriate, simply fall away like tree leaves in autumn. In every change, death accompanies new life. In the spring new leaves appear because it the tree’s own nature.

In the end it is your life. The decision on how to live your life is your decision. Whatever your decision, make it carefully, make it wisely. Time keeps marching on.

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
Omar Khayyam

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