I’ve already blogged that the key to a comfortable retirement is more about staying gainfully employed for as long as possible. If you can do this until age 65, at a job you enjoy even if that job isn’t the highest paying job, and save 6% of your income, you will go a long way to achieving a good quality retirement.
To this end, I’d like to offer some career advice, as a worker in his late 40’s with 24 years of varied work experience.
1. Find a job where you’re surrounded by people you like to hang around with. Any job is a lot more pleasurable when you genuinely like the people you work with. Rule of thumb: if you socialize after work with the same people you work with, you probably will like going to work.
2. Be real careful before becoming a manager. Managing is hard and it hurts point #1 above. When you become the manager, your relationships change. You may have no choice, especially if you’re worried that if you don’t become the manager, some jerk will get the job and he’ll make your life more difficult.
3. At some point, you’re going to have a boss who is a psychotic jerk. Make sure you always keep your options open to jump to another department, or company if necessary. You don’t want to waste years of your life being miserable at work waiting for the manager from hell to leave/quit/get hit by a bus.
4. Trying to find a job that is your passion is, pretty much, a waste of time. Instead, try to find something that you find interesting most of the time and is actually doing some good, or at least little bad to your community. Expecting to find a passion that will make each and everyday day seem like it’s not work but pure pleasure is more than a little unrealistic; unless you’re a nut like Steve Jobs.
5. Somewhat related career advice. Don’t get trapped into an expensive lifestyle that makes it all but impossible to leave a job you no longer like. Avoid the rush that comes with making big purchases. The thrill goes away quickly, but the debt stays forever! Also, if you’re going to marry, make sure your spouse is on the same page when it comes to money. Don’t marry a spendthrift because it’s going to become a real problem down the road. I’ve seen it many times. Don’t think you can change the other person and divorce is real expensive, financially and emotionally.
6. Avoid long commutes to work. Commuting in heavy traffic is psychologically damaging. It’s doable when you’re young and don’t have much responsibility at home; you can come home relax and recharge. However, when kids come into your life, commuting will damage you. You have two jobs now and the commute is wasted time, and stressful. I think 30 minutes is the maximum you should consider commuting and remember 30 minutes today might turn out to be 40 minutes 5 years from now. If you have to work in the city, live in the city; it’s better to sacrifice living space rather than move to the suburbs.