This blog has been running for a little while so I decided it was high time I provide an origin story for this piece of the web. If we back up to 1999, I entered college at a top public school pursuing a computer science degree and a minor in economics. During that time the stock market and IT in general was the hot field. I spent a significant amount of time in the first 2 years of school working as an intern, including a 9 month stint. I was on top of the world, and turning down requests to leave college and go be a developer. It didn’t last as the latter half of that 4 years, and graduation, were quite rough. It is often forgotten in the wake of the 2008 crash, but the Dot-com crash was exceptionally bad for IT professionals, yours truly included.
At graduation I had 60K in debt, and no job offers. I did have an emergency fund which I worked my way through over the next 6 months, before finally finding a decent paying job. I started out in IT as a software engineer at a huge pharmaceutical company. After working there for 4 years I moved from IT to Operations as the last vestige of programming in the company I worked for moved off shore. Needless to say, I would not recommend you get a computer science degree if you are gradating today, unless you’re some sort of whiz kid. However, I have found that being the guy in business with an understanding of IT has served me well through my career.
Living with family for very little rent I was able to dig my way out of the debt in 2 short years. I did not invest in my 401K at that time, which is one of the mistakes I wish I had not made. For the next 2 years I saved moderately, capturing the match in a 401k and amassing about 50K for a house downpayment. I also began an MBA specializing in finance from a local University, paid for by work. Which brings me to a crucial advice for those in school these days. Try and have your company pay for your second degree if you want one. It’s fairly common for them to do so if the degree is in your field of work, and if they do then it is in your best interest to do so.
2007 was a year of change for my household. The company I was working at initiated layoffs which have proceeded to present day when they have all but shut down their site of 5000 people in our state. As such I decided to make a jump, joining a company as a process and program manager in logistics. With a new job firmly in hand, I went house shopping with that 50k, but ultimately I did not find anything in my price range of 200K that I liked. Instead to the horror of my friends and family I purchased a new Corvette with that money. This is just about the only time I’ve ever heard of buying a higher end new car saving someone money as I would still be out cash had I bought one of those houses. Instead I still own that car and consider it my good luck charm. It is probably my biggest vice, though in respect to spending it only represents about 500 dollars a year in insurance and taxes. Opportunity cost is high but ultimately as my wife says it keeps me sane. Which leads me to my second piece of advice to anyone reading this, purchasing a house is not always the best choice and is not an investment. Only purchase a house if you need the space to support something like a family. Don’t purchase an expensive car either, unless you plan on owning it until the wheels fall off like I do.
Once 2008 hit I made a decision to change my savings habits. I cranked up my savings rate and started increasing my 401K every time I got a pay raise. I did decrease it once during a short period in 2009 when my company reduced our pay by 10% to weather the financial storm (but still much more then the match). Otherwise, I continued this trend to the point of maxing my 401K contributions the last 4 years. I also started considering a side hustle of working as a financial planner on the side for a local planner. Unfortunately that did not work out as the individual wanted a tax accountant not a planner, but I learned some lessons about the business and that same interest ultimately led me to create this blog.
In 2008 I also met my wife whom thankfully had similar views on savings and spending that I do. She controls her spending and saves for the future in some ways that exceed my own. Which gives another piece of advice, your spouse has a heavy influence on your chances of reaching financial independence. Choose wisely and ensure you are on the same page financially.
In 2009 we purchased a home that ended up being wrong for us which brings us back to not buying a house if you don’t need the space. Ultimately, after we had our first child we also realized this house did not meet our needs for a family so we sold our house and moved to our current home in 2014. This home fits well with our now two kids, is correctly sized, and reasonably priced.
Over the past 7 years I remained with the same company, but I’ve moved around a lot. I’ve been a project manager, a program manager, a manager, and now a program manager again. In every case I’ve received a nice raise as I progressed my career. Also in each stage I moved to a new area and learned more about the different areas of business. From Logistics to Service Operations, to Marketing, each one building on another and giving me the flexibility to move around when times are tough in any given area. The underlying theme I used to move around was my IT background, but the skills I learned in these areas give me that flexibility. So my last recommendation to those starting out is try to get a broad breath of exposure. The more areas you understand the more valuable you will be to any employer and the more options you will have to work at other companies should one area hit a downturn.
This blog is all about the lessons I’ve learned over these years at very least in the hopes that someday I can share it with my kids so they can avoid the same mistakes I made. How did you end up where you are today?