Save Your Passions for Later on in Life

Save Your Passions for Later on in Life

“Follow Your Passion”

I don’t think that saying even existed 40 years ago since most of our parents by no means followed their passion. But it is a saying that I hear thrown around a lot these days. Everyone seems to think you can follow your passion and be successful. Well unless your passion happens to coincide with a viable business opportunity, you’re probably not going to be that successful(by most measures of success).

I’m not sure when the shift from ‘working a job until you die’ to ‘following your passion’ happened but we’re definitely in the midst of it. I work with a lot of the older generation and there is an inordinate amount of them who have worked at the same company for 20, 30 or even 40 years. I can’t even imagine what it would be like working that long in the same corporate job but there are lots of people who have done it.

Millennials Rising

On the other end of the spectrum, you have my generation with 10 years of experience or less and 90% of us are on our second or even third job. Apparently, millennials like me are starting to demand more of a life-work balance but I think we’re in for a rude awakening. It might just be the field I’m in(engineering) but the companies I’ve worked for hire a lot of foreign workers because they are very bright, very cheap and extremely hard working.

It’s no myth that immigrants work harder than us so I don’t think now is a very good time to get complacent. There is more competition from abroad than ever and if you think you’ll be able to mess around for a few years before going to work you’re in for a big surprise. It’s tempting to give in to societal pressures and travel with your friends around the world for a year when you’re young but following passions like that can really hurt you down the road. I would much rather focus on maximizing my earnings potential right now and reaping all the benefits later.

Passions Don’t Pay Well

There’s a reason why we call going to a day job ‘work’. Most people are passionate about things like painting, exercising or traveling. And while there are a tiny percentage of people who make good money following their passions, the odds don’t look good for the rest of us. I think a lot of these younger generation types are growing up with a sense of false illusion. People have told them it’s ok to take on loads of debt and major in fine arts. And if you can’t get a job, take on more debt and go to law school or get a master’s degree. But eventually, following your passion is going to catch up with you.

For most of us, it might take a while before we figure out what we’re good at or what we want to do for the rest of our lives. I think the solution is to start teaching our kids that they need to pick more practical majors and careers and hold off on their passions until later, they’re not going anywhere.

In today’s social media landscape, we’ve gotten so caught up with instant gratification it’s become a huge detriment to our finances, careers and education. Everything that revolves around technology can be had instantaneously but when it comes to something like personal finance, it’s all about making sacrifices now so that your rewards can be compounded over time and be more valuable later.

Income First

I don’t really blame a 17 year old kid for going to some expensive private school and taking out a huge loan from the government. No matter what age you are, people usually don’t turn down free money(see the housing bubble of 2008). In today’s economy though, it’s more important than ever to have marketable skills that can translate into value for employers.

I was lucky. Growing up, I was always good at math and science so I decided on an engineering major in college. I was very fortunate to not only land a job right out of college but also be able to stay in Southern California without having to take a pay cut. Even though I knew engineering wasn’t my passion, I knew I was good at it, other people seemed to think I was good at it and it paid very well so I’ve stuck with it.

Passion Later

Fast forward 5 years later and I’ve discovered that my passion is working for myself. I love managing rental properties, working online, managing websites and freelance writing. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and quit my day job. I actually like my day job but I just can’t see myself doing it for 40 years. The thought of sitting in a cramped cube in a dark office is very unappealing to me. I’d rather have the freedom some day to work with mobility and set my own hours and make money for myself.

So for now, I’m making sacrifices when it comes to my finances. I’m maxing out my 401(k) and HSA, contributing to a Roth IRA every year and trying to save a thousand dollars a month after taxes. That way by the time I’m 30, I’ll have enough saved up in my retirement accounts that compounding will be able to work its magic.

I’ve been able to save around $25,000 for retirement every year so that should put me right on target to be at $300,000 by the time I’m 30. Even if I never contribute another dollar to my retirement accounts after the age of 30, compounding interest will do some amazing things to my accounts over 35+ years.

Readers, do you think it makes sense to delay your passions until later on in life? How long would you be willing to work in a career or job that you weren’t passionate about if it meant that you would be financially set for the rest of your life?

-Mr. 4HWD

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I'm Mr. 4HWD, I started this site because I think everyone should be able to work at a job they enjoy and still have time to do all the fun stuff. I don't want to retire early, I want to work four hours a day on the things I love for the rest of my life.

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  1. says

    Dude, you’re a good writer, but I think you have things backwards on this topic. Passions don’t necessarily have to interfere with your working life whatsoever. You can be passionate about travel, family, music, etc without delaying your work career or taking on massive amounts of debt.

    And I’d you have the ability to translate your passions into a career then why wouldn’t you? Even if you don’t make as much you’ll be happy doing what you love. Tell a writer or artist that they should get a real job until they have enough money to live their passions.. Haha.

    • says

      I think we’re on the same page actually. My point was more that you should start with a more traditional career and then slowly find your passion. There’s nothing wrong with sucking it up and putting in 5-10 years in the corporate world to get yourself on a solid financial footing.

      Work for the money and build your passion. I’ve got nothing against people who want to be writers or artists but do it once you’ve got 100k saved up in your 401(k) :)

  2. says

    I am in a similar position, trying to sock away as much money as I can by age 30 so that we won’t have to worry as much about the future.

    I am happy doing what I do now, and I’m not sure what that dream job would look like, but the more I sacrifice now (and I don’t feel like I’m really sacrificing all that much), the better position we’ll be in later when we start having kids, want a house, etc.
    Daniel recently posted…The Difference Between Spending Less and Saving MoneyMy Profile

    • says

      That’s awesome Daniel, I’m in a very similar position. I honestly don’t feel like I’m sacrificing that much right now, yet I’m still able to save 25-35k/year while making less than 100k. By the time I’m 30, I will have 300k saved up and even if I never contribute another penny to my retirement accounts that 300k will be worth 3.2 million(assuming conservative 7% ROR) when I turn 65 :)

      $300,000*(1+.07)^35 = 3.2 million Isn’t compounding interest wonderful?

  3. says

    I’m struggling with this now, but I am on the opposite side. It would be easier now for me to take the risk and pursue my passion and fail at 26 then it would be for me to pursue my passion at 40 and fail.

    My career, location, and debt really does not allow me to earn enough money to save for early retirement at this point (some day soon!). As an engineer, you probably earn about three times the amount I make! HA!

    With all that, I am ready to make my passion my full time job knowing the risk, the downsides, the loss of more stable income, and the fact that I’ll probably fail!
    Michelle @fitisthenewpoor recently posted…New Business Chronicles III: Website MakeoverMy Profile

    • says

      First off, if you’re going to do it it has to be with the attitude that you will succeed. Making money online isn’t easy but it also isn’t that hard. I truly believe that anyone with a passion/desire to work hard can make a living(25-30k/year range) online right now.

      The main assumption I make in this article though is that you have a decent paying job(somewhere around 50k maybe) with room for reasonable growth. If I made anything less than that I would seriously have considered working online full time probably about a year ago. In your case, now is the time to take risk since you really don’t have anything to lose(assuming no family, etc). I say go for it and feel free to e-mail me with any questions you may have :)

  4. says

    Ultimately, I believe people should do what they want to do. If someone wants to pursue their passion as a freelance writer and make it a full-time gig, who are we to say it’s the wrong move? I have a hard time telling people about “right” ways to make money and be financially secure. Sure, engineering and business are practical career choices, but they’re not for everyone. Putting off your passions until your financially stable is practical to be sure, but what if you get hit by a bus tomorrow? I don’t advocate the YOLO attitude, but I think it’s important to achieve balance during every stage in life, even if that means you make a bit less money today.

    • says

      Hi Kendal, you’re right, you can’t tell people what to do. Most people learn best from making mistakes first hand, not from others telling them what they should do. I honestly don’t care what people do with their lives but I do know that a little sacrifice right now will go a long way. Everything that I talked about in the article is exactly what I’ve done/am doing.

      I’ve gotten lucky, but I’ve also been very smart about the work I’ve taken on and my investments. I have doctors/lawyer friends who will be just getting into the workforce in 3-4 years when I’m ready to leave! How crazy is that? And although I’ve been known to hashtag a photo or two YOLO I also know that the odds of getting hit by a bus are very very slim.

  5. says

    I hear what you are saying about delaying your passions, but I guess it’s a question of degree. I don’t think it’s good to totally suppress what your passions are. But I think it’s fair to accept a job that you’re not 100% passionate about, as long as you can find your passions elsewhere.

    BTW, $300,000 by the time you’re thirty!??! that’s awesome.
    Dave Stevens recently posted…Best LSAT Prep Books for 2014My Profile

    • says

      Hey Dave, yea that’s a good point. I don’t think you really have to suppress your passions, just don’t do them full time to start off your career. It’s obviously a fine line to walk though since it’s tough to do the same job over and over for 40 years if you’re not passionate about it. I’m somewhere in the middle since I like my job but I know I don’t want to do it forever. Meanwhile I’m figuring out my passions and how I can make money off of them so that eventually I can switch and never have to look back.

      330k by 30 is my goal but to be honest it’s not that tough if you pick the right major(and going to a state school helps). Avg. starting STEM degree salary is in the 50-60k range, get 1-2 small 10-15% raises plus 3% annual raises allowing you to easily save 15-20k to start and 25-30k by the time you’re making 100k/year at the age of 30.

  6. says

    Taking on a lot of debt to pursue a “passion” that might not turn out to be a way of making a living at all is what is a mistake. But I think you should both train in things you are good at which can make money and other things that are risky and see what works out. It’s likely that something you are good at is something that you do enjoy doing even if it is not really a “passion”. For most people, finding work they enjoy doing is the main opportunity I think. I’m lucky in that I did follow what I was most interested in and have made a career out of it (I’m a professor). But there were a couple of bad financial patches along the way when I was close to giving up.
    moom recently posted…Moominvalley February 2014 ReportMy Profile

    • says

      That’s a great point, I think a higher degree(MBA, grad school, etc) is almost never worth it if you have to pay for it yourself. Unless you know you’re going to be getting a raise or a better opportunity it rarely makes sense(math-wise).

      That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m working something that I’m good at and also following my passions on the side. One day soon I’ll get to decide which path to continue on.


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