It’s 7:30 p.m. We just finished meeting with a newlywed couple who are trying to get their joint finances in order. My internship at a wealth management company is nearing an end.
Summer break from college will be over in two weeks. I’m sitting across from my boss, finishing up the last of the paperwork. He wants to know whether or not I want to work at the firm full-time upon graduating college – I only have one semester left.
I open my mouth: “I’m not really sure I want to become a financial advisor right now. I feel like there are other things to explore before committing to a lifelong career. The reason I say ‘lifelong’ is because this is a career where, once a person gains traction, it would be crazy to stop and change careers.
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The more clients a person gains, the more success and more money, too. It’s not something I’d want to stop doing in 10 years to explore something else.”
“That’s true,” Brian replies, “but will you really come back? What happens if you start working somewhere else and begin earning, say, $60,000 per year? You’ll get accustomed to that lifestyle. If you were to quit to come here and be a financial advisor, chances are you won’t make anywhere near that for your first year or two. It’ll be a lifestyle shift in a negative direction. You may not want to become an advisor because you won’t be able to keep your house, cars, boat, etc.”
He sees my understanding face and continues at a faster pace. “But if you become an advisor now, you’ll make way more than you’re making in school. So your lifestyle can go up and continue to rise for the rest of your life. There will be no ‘stepping back’ in salary. Opting for a career as an advisor later on in life is riskier.”
He made a good point. While you’re young, you can take monumental risks while losing essentially nothing. The younger you are, the riskier choices you can make.
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Aside from your student loans, you’re pretty free from major commitments. You’re probably only financially responsible for yourself. You probably don’t have a mortgage. You probably don’t have too many bills to pay at the end of the month. So obviously the time to risk it all is now. Even if the risks don’t pay off, lessons learned are always more valuable than money lost.
Another reason to take risks early on is because, typically, the younger you are, the bigger you dream. I once interviewed for a company that said that they actually preferred hiring recent college grads because our minds are fresh and haven’t been polluted with the culture and limiting beliefs of another company. Sometimes people’s dreams evaporate as they get older. The time to pursue a dream is when you have one.
There are other risks worth taking in your career, like picking a job based on the company’s culture, rather than on salary. Or getting a job abroad.
Of course, risks can go very, very wrong. But that’s the beauty of taking them while you’re young. You don’t have much – if anything – to lose.
You really have nothing to lose in terms of lifestyle. You’re already probably just scraping by. The emotional setback will hurt far more than the financial.
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If you’re not fresh out of college, there is still a way to embrace risk while losing very little. Start living like a college student again. Put away the extra money you are earning. Use it to start a business or to motivate you to quit your current lucrative-but-boring job. Downsize your dwelling. Buy a cheaper car. Do what it takes to be in a position to take risks again.
Living a simpler life is actually more interesting because it enables you to start a business; take a lower paying but more interesting job; go travel the world for a year; go back to school… The risks and rewards can be yours.