You’ve probably already realized that understanding at least the basics of finance and financial management are essential to pretty much any job. So, getting comfortable with money at work is important and I urge you to start cultivating that knowledge now, if you haven’t already. But in addition to learning to manage money at work, it’s equally important that you get a handle on your personal finances because having your financial house in order is going to make a big difference to your future career choices.
Let’s use my life as a case in point. Since my mid-20s, I’ve been a pretty good saver. But even though I accumulated a fair amount of savings, I still made plenty of mistakes that I now know have cost me literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential retirement income. I’m not talking about crazy stuff like investing in what turned out to be a Ponzi scheme or betting everything I had on a “sure thing” stock tip. I’m talking about everyday decisions and actions that many people make with their money - like leaving too much cash in a low-interest checking account vs investing in the stock market; or not maxing out 401K contributions; or paying too much for financial guidance. Or, in my case, spending perhaps too much on things I “loved” at the time but now see I really should’ve done with less of – including high-end designer clothes and expensive jewelry.
My saving grace in this area came when I joined Unilever in 2000. Included in my executive compensation package were the services of a certified financial planner. Of all the amazing ways I benefited from working with and for Unilever, having David Rusch to help me figure out how much to spend vs save and how to both maximize and protect my assets through diversification, low-cost mutual funds, creating a will, setting up a trust, etc., was perhaps the greatest benefit of all. (Forever grateful Dave!). But I was already 15 years into my career at that point so I’d squandered more than a decade of the amazing power of compound interest. That‘s why I say that if there was one thing I wish I’d done differently from the very beginning of my career, it would be to pay as much attention to how and where I invested as I did to how much I earned.
Why am I writing about this in a piece on career management? Because if you really want to be able to pursue the career and life of your dreams, you need the financial underpinning to do so. If you want the confidence that comes with knowing that you are the CEO of your own career, then you need to have the financial resources to enable you to decide which jobs to take and which to turn down; when to stay and when to leave; when to step up or step back; or even when to go out on your own. Your ability to make these decisions is predicated on being able to live with the consequences of such choices, including the financial impacts. For example, when Kraft Foods Inc split into two companies in October 2012, it was a lot easier for me to decide not to stay or move back to Chicago knowing that even though I was the sole breadwinner I’d saved enough to support my family in a reasonable fashion even if I never made “corporate money” again.
That didn’t necessarily make it an easy decision and I still miss being part of a world class team and having a job where I could really create a positive global impact. But, at least I knew my family would never want for anything truly important. More recently, when my daughter was unexpectedly diagnosed with a rare disease, I had the ability to reduce my client work in order to make more time to care for her. And I could do so without the added stress of potential financial ruin because I’d built a financial cushion and had downsized our spending post Kraft.
The moral of my story should be clear by now: if you truly want to achieve your personal and professional goals, start now to learn about the fundamentals of financial management. Be smart about how you manage your money - what you make; what you save; and where you put those savings. And don’t overspend on things that, in and of themselves, aren’t truly going to make you happier longer-term – like a bigger house or more expensive car. The smarter you are early on, the bigger the dividends down the road.
Because I’m so convinced of this, when I saw a book called Unshakeable: Your financial freedom playbook. Creating peace of mind in a world of uncertainty, I just had to pick up a copy. And having read it, I can now wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone yearning to be “financially free.” It’s by Tony Robbins – yes, the personal empowerment guru. He’s talked with the most successful investors alive today and compiled their collective wisdom in an easy and practical read that anyone can understand. So that’s my advice for this edition. If you want to be able to pursue Your Career on Your Terms, get your personal finances in order.
Perry Yeatman is the CEO of Your Career • Your Terms® a company dedicated to helping women build the careers and lives of their dreams - from launching on the right trajectory; to surviving the mid-career marathon; to thriving within the executive ranks. Perry’s unique approach combines a deep understanding and passion for career advancement with decades of real world experience as a global business executive, C-suite consultant and award-winning author. This enables her to achieve transformational results for her clients. To learn more about what she can do for you, go to www.yourcareeryourterms.com or contact Perry at Perry@yourcareeryourterms.com.