This post is from new staff writer Tim Sullivan. Get Rich Slowly started as a place for J.D. to write about money. Over the past five-plus years, it’s grown into a multi-author blog. Last year, the staff writers shared short bios to give readers a little background. Today, our newest writer does the same.
Sitting down to a cup of tea with a friend, she talked about her job-hunt, bemoaned her boyfriend’s quirks, explained her fears about her mounting debt, and said the priceless line, “I’m just at a really transitional time in my life.” I remember thinking mid-sip, Who the heck isn’t?
I suppose this philosophy has begun to pervade my thoughts on finance and life in general, for that matter. We’re all always transitioning. Whenever you see someone who feels like he finally has the job, the house, the family, the perfect car, whenever you see someone who feels like he has truly arrived, it all falls apart. The house burns down. The job disappears. Any number of events will knock us out of our perceived comfort. I don’t mean this to be a call to build bomb-shelters, literal or figurative, but rather to encourage finding peace with the unknown future and exist with confidence in the transitions. Find peace with it, yes, but also prepare for it.
Transitioning into the real world
I went to Sarah Lawrence College, a liberal arts school with no grades, no tests, no core curriculum, no majors, no requirements, and full of teachers willing to grab some tea with you after class. We were encouraged to run around barefoot and follow anything and everything we were passionate about all with the academic guidance of amazing professors. For me, that mostly meant studying writing, music composition, dance, environmentalism, and French literature. All extremely financially profitable, right?
When I finally had my degree in hand, I took a look at my financial output. I realized the top three categories my disposable income went toward were yoga, tea, and massage, as follows:
- It’s rare that I don’t have my yoga mat strapped to the back of my scooter, as I’m sure to be in class at some point that day. It’s also doubled as my sleeping pad while trekking through the rainforest and outbacks.
- Tea has moved to the level of artistry in my life, and a morning meditation over a steaming cup of tea starts my day off right. It was also my first investment — I bought an aged tablet of Chinese Pu-Erh tea which promises to be worth more than gold a mere decade from now. (Here’s your college fund, kids. Don’t drink it!)
- As for massage, I mean, who doesn’t like a good massage? If we’re talking finance, massage is a small investment that can reduce medical costs for the rest of your life. Massage should be an important aspect of self-care.
I went about applying for a few jobs that could support my three out-of-control wellness habits, and finally decided that I’d much rather, you know, not pay for them. I’m now a yoga teacher, massage therapist (and sometime massage blogger), and work one day a week a tea shop. Countless free yoga classes, massage trades, and samples of tea later, my three largest expenses have been zeroed out.
Lifestyle design and planning for transitions
My hobbies have become careers, which in turn support my out-of-control plane ticket habit (Though I hear there are ways around paying for that, too.). I graduated just a few years ago and I’ve been able to accomplish some pretty big goals, such as:
- Living in multiple countries, including just under Erik Satie’s apartment in Paris, France
- Making a living doing things most people call hobbies
- Paid off my college loans (More on that in an upcoming post.)
This involved careful planning: I’ve done the research for each transatlantic move; I’ve made sure that I show up to every interview fully prepared; and I don’t leave one place without having at least some security in the next.
But I’ve also never turned down an opportunity just because the outcome was unknown. Finding the balance between planning and risk is usually the roadblock that forces most into inaction. How do you find the balance? That’s the question I keep coming back to, and the journey to find answers is what I hope to share with you.
Personal finance and preparation
Although I’m designing my career around my lifestyle, I still have a lot to learn. For example, in the past, growing my savings account usually meant I would work more and harder at the expense of all free time. I also thought that if I was at work, I wasn’t spending any money, and that’s good, too, right? Yet after 12-hour shift or a fifth yoga class or whatever keeps us away from the house from dawn until dusk, you tend to justify rewards, and rewards (giant burritos) add up.
Not to mention that the words personal finance used to make my eyes glaze over. All the acronyms and ways to invest, which savings accounts to use, and how to save for retirement (I’m set to retire in the year 2052. I’m going to be so upset if I don’t retire on the moon or Saturn or something. 2052? That can’t be real year.) — it made my liberal arts mind feel so powerless. Money was for the rich, and the rich are the only ones who understand all the acronyms.
But after starting to read Get Rich Slowly and taking J.D.’s advice to take action, I started with a few small steps, such as ordering my pharmacy stuff online and not buying clothes I never wear. It all led to more conscious spending habits.
By being a more discerning spender and learning a few tricks here and there, I’m finding myself with more time and more money. It feels oddly…empowering.
Figuring it out
In a time when college graduates face article after article about our plummeting economy and abysmal job prospects, it seems that the worse decision a young adult could make is actually graduating. It’s refreshing, and yes, empowering, to be given tools to not live paycheck to paycheck.
I can’t say that I have everything figured out or really much of anything, but I’ll continue research thoroughly and take calculated risks, and I look forward to hearing from you as you do the same. Here at GRS, I’d also love to explore personal finance for the 20-something single crowd; how to take time off as an independent contractor; how to budget without, you know, budgeting; how to travel well on the cheap; and why (or why not) to go to grad school.
When I’m not writing here or standing on my head in yoga class, you can find me searching for a solution to the Chicago Bears O-line problems, translating obscure 19th century French poetry, going on BBQ tours with friends, or Skyping my mother.
I’m looking forward to my new role in the GRS community, and I’d also like to hear from you. Let me know in the comments if there’s a topic you’d like me to cover!
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