Saturday, November 1, 2008

Building My Personal and Financial Foundations and Goals

Gosh, I love all you personal finance bloggers out there! I am constantly amazed at how often I am inspired by you. One of the many things I enjoyed reading recently was a past post from The Simple Dollar. For his two year anniversary he listed his top favorite 25 posts, several of which I enjoyed reading. The one that I want to talk about specifically is: Everything You Really Need to Know About Personal Finance on the Back of Five Business Cards. I'm going to pick out a few things in particular that caught my eye, but the whole article is a great read. Besides, who can't use great lessons illustrated on the back of business cards?

The second card of the five was about earning more. Since that is something I struggle to do every day, it naturally got my attention. One of his suggestions was the following:

Get educated. This doesn’t mean drop out and go back to school. It merely means to keep learning new things. If something interests you, read a book about it. Take evening classes to get certification in a certain area or get a masters’ degree. No matter what you’re doing, there’s some way you can learn more and improve yourself. (emphasis mine)

I've talked a lot about going back to school in three years and the kinds of things that I can do between here and there to improve myself as a candidate for admittance. This is something that I am planning to do, not to earn more money necessarily, but because it is something I want to do for myself. That brings me to another one of his points:
Move towards your passions. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, gravitate towards the things that really excite you, because passion is what will make you successful. For me, my passion is writing, so I’ve made an effort to gravitate towards it by working on The Simple Dollar in my spare time. For others, it could be anything - maybe it’s leading a team, or perhaps it’s writing beautiful computer code. Whatever really excites you and makes you want to do more and more and more and better and better and better, that’s what you need to move towards at all times.
That right there sums up why I want to go back to school - to further my passions, but will it bring me financial success?

Let me give you a little background as to where I am now and why this is such an important question to me - back when I got out of high school and began attending college, I had a lot of interests: art, literature, writing and theatre. I was doing a lot of community theatre in the evenings and really enjoying it. At the same time, I had a number of friends who were electing to go into it as a full time occupation, but it always seems a bit unpredictable to me - that old feast or famine. I knew enough about myself even then to know that the uncertainty of where the next job was going to come from would drive me crazy. I am a woman who needs some predictability, as much as you can have in this crazy world, anyway. I wanted a steady paycheck that came in at a regular time with a standard amount of money... and benefits. My mother had taught me that - I knew I wanted benefits! So, I decided to find a field that had a lot of job opportunities and areas for growth and involved art and writing. I wanted something that would have regular set hours so that could pay the bills and then I could do volunteer in the evenings. I chose Marketing.

I enjoyed advertising and graphic arts, I liked writing copy and I was good with people - it seemed like a perfect fit; and it was - I was able to complete that dream. How many people can say that? They had a dream about their career and then they went off and did it. For many years it worked really well. I made a steady living, I did work that at best I enjoyed and at worst I didn't hate, and I participated in something I was passionate about in the evenings with theatre. All good things must come to an end, however, and eventually I kind of burned out on theatre. I still love it and am involved, but I just can't work a 9 hour day then drive to a theatre and work another 5 hours anymore. 14 hour days get to be a bit much! Plus, well, we all change and we all grow in different directions. Now I am passionate by being on a theatre board and directing my energy that way.

The day job has become a bit of a problem as well. In many ways I have a perfect job. I work with fantastic people, I like my work, I never take home stress, and I absolutely love my hours. Still, there is a little something missing for me... passion.

I look around and realize that I spend 8-9 hours each day doing something that is... just okay. I need to bring back passion in my life, I need to work on something I care about. That is what brings me to the road not taken. Back when I was in college debating my future career, the other choice that I really thought about was Library Science. I had been working in a library part time and had absolutely loved it. Ultimately I didn't pursue it was because of a perceived difficulty with my parents and me going to a college quite some distance away (and the money that would entail.) There were some other reasons, but that was a big one.

Anyway.... (whew..) that brings me to today. Here I am, post divorce, and thinking "What is it that I want to do with my life? What do I care about? What would make me happy?"

And I hear the call of Library Studies again - archival science is so exciting to me - the things that are happening right now with the availability of information, for good or for bad, we are in a time when information is more available than it ever was - and that just continues to grow. Yet while we are creating eBooks and blogs and moving forward, now is the perfect time to categorize the information from the past. I want to be a part of that.

Then my budgeting mind says, "Sure that all sounds good Miss Sunshine, but you know what nonprofits pay, right?!!?" Here's something I am coming to realize though. Good personal finance and being frugal is not about money. It seems like it is about money and it looks like it is about money, but it isn't. Sure we talk about credit and debt, net worth statements, budgets, emergency savings, investments and all that - but those are just tools. The truth is good personal finance is about peace of mind. It is about happiness. We use these tools so that we won't have to worry about a medical emergency or losing a job. We do it so we can sleep well and night and don't have to avoid the phone in case it is a creditor calling. Your finances can either be a foundation you can rest on build your life on - or a huge anvil swinging over our heads. Many of us blogging are all about bringing that anvil down and using it to build better, more peaceful lives.

That is how I feel about my career too. In fact, it doesn't matter how much I earn, as long as it is less than I am spending. The actual numbers are just that - numbers. Maybe a different career will pay more - maybe less, but this time I am not going to base my choices on that. I am going to do what feels right for me - the job that will excite me and will make me want to get up in the morning and go to work.

If I can constantly work, both financially and personally towards making a better more fulfilling life, well, what more can anyone want?

Fabulous photo by: nicobilou'.


louise said...

I'm a believer in following your heart, life is short and there are no gaurantees. I had a whole other career before doing what I'm doing now, I was 38 when I went to university for the first time and I cried, it was something I always dreamed of doing. I only graduated 4 years ago.

the best advice someone gave me is to 'just keep heading in the general direction' of what you are passionate about doing.
no amount of money can replace the feeling of getting up everyday and doing what you love. I'm excited for you !

Dawn said...

Thanks Louise! Me too! I feel like I really am following my own heart - I know it is the right way to go.

Mary@SimplyForties said...

Hey Dawn. I hope you can make it happen. I volunteer at my local library (and served a lot of years on my community theatre board) and really love it. Do you think you will have to say goodbye to your house in order to realize this dream?

Dawn said...

Hi Mary! Sounds like you and I have common interests! Yes, I think it will mean I will sell my house - but that is okay. It is way too much house for one person anyway. In fact, I plan on selling the home before I head back to school, if possible.

Mary@SimplyForties said...

Good for you and good luck!

Dawn said...

Thanks Mary!!