This is my third guest post at Get Rich Slowly. The responses from my first two stories — Budgeting for a Lifestyle Change and Living Like a Millionaire on Pennies a Day — were all over the map. I received comments ranging from folks calling me irresponsible and ungrateful to people who were extremely supportive of the changes I'd made. I've thought a lot about these responses over the last year and a half.
Finance is one of those professions where, generally speaking, the older you get, the more respect you have. Despite having a good investment track record over the few years I'd been in the market, my advice was often disregarded by my employer due to my age and relative inexperience.
I could have stayed for another five or ten years (or more!) and eventually built up what some people might call experience — but still be left largely unqualified to provide investment advice.
So in October of 2009 I made the decision to leave my job.
Nearly two years later, I am certain that leaving my job as a financial analyst was not only the best decision I've ever made, but also one of the more responsible.
While gaining respect in the finance world is tough — it's exponentially more difficult at 24. Would you trust a 24 year old with your money? Would you hand them a million dollars knowing full well they have no idea what it's like to have that much money themselves, let alone how to manage it?
Yeah, I wouldn't either.
Sure there are exceptions to the rule, but that's a battle I didn't want to fight. There are better ways to gain credibility and knowledge than to put up with years of neglect to get there. Getting out from behind a desk for a few years to see the world makes you much more prepared to give advice later in life.
While I was at this job, I took a two-week trip to Brazil. During that time, Petrobras was a company that'd been on my radar, but I knew nothing about the politics and culture of Brazil. Spending just two weeks there introduced me to insights and opinions about the country, and subsequently the company, that I never would have been able to extract from an Argus report.
Choosing to leave my job while I was young has allowed me to see parts of the world first-hand that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to see if I'd stayed with my job. Should I choose to go back to a position like the one I had, it gives me credibility and experience that I never would have obtained otherwise.
I've been forced to become recession-proof.
To say the last few years have been tough economically would be putting it lightly. Had I stuck around, I would have most likely suffered another pay cut or two, and might even have lost my job. Then where would I be? Probably looking for another job.
By leaving when I did, I was forced to get creative with my income opportunities. I started formulating ways that I could survive independent of where I was living, while doing things that I could establish expertise on regardless of my age.
Looking back, by choosing to pursue my passions, my former company benefited, my former clients benefited, and I benefited.
When I left, my employer no longer had the burden of training a recent college grad. When there are only four people in the company, that's a huge time commitment and financial burden. I was replaced by someone who had been in the finance world for nearly two decades. He's done much more than I have, both in life and finance, and has the background to add significant value to the organization and the clients.
Over the past two years, I've been able to travel, build businesses, and become a much more well-rounded person. Had I stayed in my cubicle, I wouldn't have had that opportunity. I could go back to that job today feeling much more confident about my abilities as an analyst, simply because I now have a basis for reference.
Luckily, I was afforded the luxury of exploring a variety of things that interested me, and in turn have found a much better fit for myself and everyone around me.
Irresponsible and ungrateful? I'd like to think I've been anything but.
Have you ever made a major career move despite the uncertainty? How'd it work out for you?