Not too long ago, I got promoted (yay!). It was an awesome feeling. I knew that I had been at the company for enough time to be taken seriously (the typical company tenure is measured in decades, so this was meaningful), and knew I had performed well in my group. Since I came in as an entry level employee, this has been my first promotion ever.
I’m excited, I’m grateful, and I’m ready to fill the additional roles and responsibilities that are expected of me. Essentially, I’ll be doing the exact same work as before, just with a less oversight. I’ll get to help new engineers learn the basics as they come into the company, and I’m actually competent enough now to answer many intermediate level questions that are associated with the tools I use within my role.
All that said, something hit me. The promotion came, the recognition came, and the raise came. The raise was very much appreciated but…well it didn’t knock my socks off. When I got it I thanked God for even letting me earn something more than what I had before, but it is becoming more apparent to me now as the years go by that true income growth is not found easily in the traditional career paths at many large companies.
Sure, I could become a manager one day if I so chose and played my cards right. I could even reach the executive level eventually, God willing, if I applied myself. By then I would really be stacking some cash, enough to meet and exceed my families needs by a wide margin. All retirement accounts would be matched without question, new homes would be purchased, and many travels around the world would be taken. These are all awesome things, and climbing the corporate ladder as far as I can go is certainly a worthy goal, for monetary reasons and from the perspective of having more of an impact on my company and industry.
There are a few things however, that immediately cross my mind when I envision this potential future path:
- I am still selling my time to someone else.
- The time I am selling will be more than I currently am now.
- The time it takes to reach a high level of corporate success will take at least a decade, if I’m hard-working and strategic enough.
Over the past few years, with a lot of self reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that time indeed is the greatest luxury that anyone can have. There’s never enough of it, and it slips away second by second, minute by minute.
I’ve realized that whatever I pursue in the long term professionally, I am going to be a hard worker and will always be reasonably compensated for what I do, in the long run. Even if I was laid off tomorrow and the only job I could get would be delivering pizzas again and I was confined to that industry, I’d promptly develop and execute a plan to move my way up the chain of the franchise and eventually find myself in some sort of ownership position (buying out the franchise or starting my own). I wasn’t always that confident, but I believe with enough time and dedication it could be done.
That being said, barring any unforeseen world events, acts of God, or major health crises, Mrs. Mase and I will reach our financial goals eventually. It might take a few decades, but it will happen. The habits of saving and prudent management are now close enough to being on auto-pilot that that is the natural outcome, given enough time.
The question is: if we are going to reach our financial goals regardless of what we do, how do we want to spend our time? What is the best use of it? The only logical answer I can come to for my personal situation is to eventually leave the role of the employee at a corporation. Although we don’t have any now, there is a day when we’d like to have children. I don’t want to be that dad that has to leave early in the morning and then not see their kids until they come back home in the evening. I know my wife does not want to be that mom either.
It’s just a matter of priorities for us. Although I don’t want to live as frugally as Mr. Money Mustache, I completely identify with him and his wife’s lifestyle decision to leave the corporate world to raise their son. Although I want to actively earn money in addition to building sources of passive income, I’ve come to the realization that eventually I do want my time to be my own.
Now, the hard part is figuring out 1) what kind of career do I want to transition to eventually and 2) in the short and medium term what are the sort of things I want to achieve at my current company that will lead to the best long term outcomes? More questions to explore and ponder…