This is the last article in a series. Here are round 1, round 2, and round 3.
The need to specialize
I have been wrestling now for some time with the question of where to focus one's energies: whether to earn more or whether to save more. Of course you want to do both, but to get really good at something it takes time, effort, patience and dedication — just like anything you want to be good at: pitcher or catcher; quarterback or wide receiver; striker or goalkeeper. Success loves a specialist, and every now and then a monster is born who can do it all. The rest of us mortals are best at keeping focused on one good thing and automate or outsource the rest.
The road ahead
As I move forward in my journey to earn more, I pledge financial prudence. Never again will I overextend myself without a reasonable reserve. However, my main focus will be on making more money, and my future articles will reflect that approach.
For that reason, I officially give up on making my own detergent, growing my own vegetables, looking for usable items among street refuse, returning gifts to buy them cheaper elsewhere, or spending hours clipping coupons. I will buy my bagels instead of baking them.
Please understand this isn't a criticism of money-saving activities. I understand they are desirable for some people for a variety of reasons, all of them valid. And they may even be mandatory instead of optional in some cases (we were briefly on food stamps a couple of years ago, and I became the master of the flour sack).
Furthermore, earning and saving don't have to be mutually exclusive: in some families, one partner may specialize in earning, and the other may specialize in managing the money to maximize its value. And there you have it, the best of both worlds. But in my family, the way things are, it's best for both of us to focus more on earning at this point.
In any case, if everyone were the same the world would be a boring place, and if every blog post would tell you the same thing, you'd want to pull out your eyes. So here I am being a bit of a contrarian to my colleagues if you'll permit. I'll be here just to say, “Make more money!”
Eating my words (just a little)
Yes, once upon a time I wrote a post recommending that people cook at home, and I stand behind that notion not just for the savings but also because it gives me great pleasure. However, I also know that sometimes it pays to get carryout, or at least assemble a meal from readymade ingredients while we focus our energy doing more important work. (I keep jars of artichokes, cans of salmon, boxes of soup and packs of water crackers for meals in a hurry.)
For some people, going on business lunches or dinners can be an opportunity for economic growth. Maybe you're a salesperson or a CEO. If going to restaurants can help make you rich, hey, I may be a little jealous of your situation, but I won't resent you. Go for it, and please enjoy.
What makes my choice possible
Here is why I am able to focus on earning more: I don't hate my job. Yes. I do not hate my job. There.
I love work in general because it creates all the good things that we enjoy in social life, but I also love my job in particular. I run a very small family business that allows me to be close to the most important people in my life. We work hard every day to create a business that embodies our values and reflects who we are. We perform creative work that some would consider “passion” work, and I suppose it is.
I love new challenges, and I love to develop my skills. I love charting the unknown and I love also that I'm learning to build a successful team. I love it when a client says they are happy with our work, or when something we've made elicits a strong emotional reaction in an audience. I love it when our clients take our creative input and make it a part of something bigger.
I'm not a professional PF blogger, by the way. I have a service business and I'm committed to growing it and to being successful with it.
I want to work until I croak
Basically, my work is my life, and I'm very happy with that. The idea of early retirement is repugnant to me. I grew up surrounded by people of leisure, and I can attest to this fact: excessive idleness causes harm, and breeds degenerates. I have seen it with my own eyes. At some point in my life I even aspired to be one of those degenerates (don't ask). As I've grown older and perhaps wiser, and learned the value of character in a person's life, let me just say, I no longer aspire to be idle. I know this may sound corny to cynical ears, but I aspire to be a good solid citizen.
Another thing I'll add: as an existentialist of sorts, I find that work gives meaning to my life in an otherwise absurd universe. To give up on work is to give up on meaning, and to give up on meaning is to succumb to madness and despair. I want to be able to work until the day I die, if life permits.
A committed life is beyond money
All I want to do is be good at what I do, get paid well for it, raise a family, take care of my parents in their old age, and make a contribution to society. I have no dreams of being a special snowflake, and I don't want to be the greatest boy wonder in the world. In my teens I wanted to win not just one but two Nobel prizes! But as my soul moved out of Neverland and settled on Earth, I gave up grandiosity. Now I can just focus on being good at my chosen profession.
I'm in a committed relationship and I have no desire to ever date again. I have immigrated to a safe and prosperous country and I really don't want to hop from one third-world country to another with a ratty backpack. (I did that already between the ages of 19 and 28– moreover, I grew up in a third world country.) I am committed to maturing as a person and I don't want to have a second adolescence and repeat myself like a broken record. I want the very life I have.
To paraphrase Michelle Shocked: When I grow up, I want to be an old man. And if I can learn to earn more during my aging process, I'm going to do it.