Author Topic: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential  (Read 9195 times)

WestchesterFrugal

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Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« on: March 19, 2014, 01:20:02 PM »
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« Last Edit: March 23, 2014, 09:11:35 AM by WestchesterFrugal »

brewer12345

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2014, 01:39:08 PM »
Call me a simpleton, but I always got ahead in my career due to merit and talent, rather than inviting someone on a spendy jaunt.

brewer12345

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2014, 01:49:44 PM »
Call me a simpleton, but I always got ahead in my career due to merit and talent, rather than inviting someone on a spendy jaunt.
Well who knows what you could have accomplished

And this is not just referring to quid pro quo, but the network of friends the person who invited us skiing has introduced us to.

I am retired at age 40.  I think I accomplished plenty.

So there was no quid pro quo in introducing you to a network of friends?

arebelspy

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2014, 01:50:50 PM »
Well who knows what you could have accomplished

This, along with the thread title of "maximize career potential" has me wondering if you see a career as the peak of one's existence.

I have no interest in maximizing career potential, as that would not be the global maximum for my life potential.
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Numbers Man

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2014, 01:57:11 PM »
I have my current job because of networking. I would help a former boss with his tax reporting of about a 1,000 transactions per year. My wife used to complain why I did this every year. I was paid a relatively minimal amount but did it as a favor to a friend. He now is the majority owner of the company where I work. Nice to have a nice paying cake job that is secure. I'm now in year 5 of my 10 year plan of Financial Independence.

matchewed

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2014, 02:20:04 PM »
Eh, I don't entertain "what if's" too often. There are far too many of them and they produce less than farting in a storm.

My "career" is just a means to an end, why would I want to "maximize its potential"? And what is that maximization? Is the maximization monetary? Is it building a network of friends?

I find the day to day networking of the people that I work with advantageous to working with them. It makes my job go smoother. But it does not require fancy ski vacations, more of a "Hey how was your weekend/daughter's birthday party/golf tournament?" I personally chalk that up as being a decent person to the people I interact with, it does have the side benefit of making the workplace better. Not necessarily as a methodology to maximize some nebulous concept like career potential.

cparlette

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2014, 02:26:12 PM »
I find the day to day networking of the people that I work with advantageous to working with them. It makes my job go smoother. But it does not require fancy ski vacations, more of a "Hey how was your weekend/daughter's birthday party/golf tournament?" I personally chalk that up as being a decent person to the people I interact with, it does have the side benefit of making the workplace better. Not necessarily as a methodology to maximize some nebulous concept like career potential.

This is pretty much how I feel, in that yes, networking can help your career and help your work environment be less stressful, but doesn't have to come in the form of spending money.  I'm sure some spending might cause some sort of higher income in the future, but IMO this is just used as an excuse by a lot of people to spend that money on something.

Elaine

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2014, 02:31:35 PM »
This post reminds me of a story:

    An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

    “How long did it take you to catch them?” The American asked.

    “Only a little while.” The Mexican replied.

    “Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American then asked.

    “I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.” The Mexican said.

    “But,” The American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”

    The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, senor.”

    The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Then, instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own canning factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

    The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

    To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

    “But what then, senor?”

    The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

    “Millions, senor? Then what?”

    The American said slowly, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”


Prairie Stash

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2014, 02:33:48 PM »
Your question sounds like you're trying to justify your actions. It's a daydream question.

On the other hand given the trajectory you were on after grad school, could you have reached FI already? Would you like to wake up tomorrow to go to work (great career) or spend the day with your kids? Since I don't have the numbers I can't tell if you actually saved a high %, maybe you could have retired at 35.  I also don't know how much you spent to get where you are. 

Already retired is an equally plausible scenario to what you have posed.  Given the choice again; what would you choose? What's the marginal utility look like then?

Cassie

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2014, 02:40:39 PM »
I have always liked to keep my career somewhat separate from my social life. I was friends with people at work but did limited amount of things outside of work.  I prefer my closest friends to be outside of work. 

brewer12345

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2014, 02:43:55 PM »
Call me a simpleton, but I always got ahead in my career due to merit and talent, rather than inviting someone on a spendy jaunt.
Well who knows what you could have accomplished

And this is not just referring to quid pro quo, but the network of friends the person who invited us skiing has introduced us to.

I am retired at age 40.  I think I accomplished plenty.

So there was no quid pro quo in introducing you to a network of friends?
No obligation, but sharing common experiences and interests obviously make it easier to make friends, influence people and get introduced to their friends as well.  I doubt he would have bothered if he just saw me as another random co-worker who saw his job as a means to an (ER) end.

One of the families he intro'd us to has become a fantastic friend whom we have shared so many great times and memories with - we envision being close to them until death.  So while the title of the thread points to career benefits (the income equation of earning more than you spend to get to FIRE), there are potentially great benefits in other areas of life as well.

We seem to have different conceptions of what a career is for.

Somehow I had no problem getting where I wanted to be and developing a national network of friends and colleagues simply by being friendly, doing a good job when it mattered and doing the occasional professional favor for friends and coworkers.  Blowing thousands of dollars would have been viewed as creepy and inappropriate.

brewer12345

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2014, 03:02:20 PM »
Call me a simpleton, but I always got ahead in my career due to merit and talent, rather than inviting someone on a spendy jaunt.
Well who knows what you could have accomplished

And this is not just referring to quid pro quo, but the network of friends the person who invited us skiing has introduced us to.

I am retired at age 40.  I think I accomplished plenty.

So there was no quid pro quo in introducing you to a network of friends?
No obligation, but sharing common experiences and interests obviously make it easier to make friends, influence people and get introduced to their friends as well.  I doubt he would have bothered if he just saw me as another random co-worker who saw his job as a means to an (ER) end.

One of the families he intro'd us to has become a fantastic friend whom we have shared so many great times and memories with - we envision being close to them until death.  So while the title of the thread points to career benefits (the income equation of earning more than you spend to get to FIRE), there are potentially great benefits in other areas of life as well.

We seem to have different conceptions of what a career is for.

Somehow I had no problem getting where I wanted to be and developing a national network of friends and colleagues simply by being friendly, doing a good job when it mattered and doing the occasional professional favor for friends and coworkers.  Blowing thousands of dollars would have been viewed as creepy and inappropriate.
No idea what you did and it probably doesn't matter anyway, but I guess you should feel fortunate you are happy with where you are seeing as how you only view a career as a means to an end.

And I am sure you realize that doing professional favors for friends and coworkers is really no different, except you spent your time and skills (which are worth money) for the same result.

If 5 minutes of my time and expertise were worth thousands of dollars I would have a lot more money than I do now.  And when I did it, it was favors to friends rather than a calculated effort to get ahead.  Since I managed a total of 1 promotion in the last 5 years and ended that period with about the same salary I started it at, its pretty clear I was being a mensch rather than a scheming climber.

If your way works for you, great, enjoy.  I am very happy to be out of the cube doing what I want to do.  YMMV


Prairie Stash

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2014, 03:07:21 PM »
Your question sounds like you're trying to justify your actions. It's a daydream question.

On the other hand given the trajectory you were on after grad school, could you have reached FI already? Would you like to wake up tomorrow to go to work (great career) or spend the day with your kids? Since I don't have the numbers I can't tell if you actually saved a high %, maybe you could have retired at 35.  I also don't know how much you spent to get where you are. 

Already retired is an equally plausible scenario to what you have posed.  Given the choice again; what would you choose? What's the marginal utility look like then?
Well we could thoeoretically retire now if we moved to a low COL area.  But we have lots of established friendships and relationships as well as family here and we are pretty happy.  And our 10yr plan would allow us to retire anywhere in the world, so that is a nice option to have.

We also enjoy our jobs and feel very fortunate to have work that is challenging and intellectually stimulating with the ability to constantly interact with highly intelligent people who are oftentimes fascinating and share common interests with us.  If we felt like a corporate drone who were just showing up to work everyday as a means to an end we would most likely feel differently about retiring before 40.
So you enjoy your jobs, but are planning retirement (10 year plan)...does it seem like both sides of the coin? It was weird reading both views (I want to work/fully retire in 10) in one post.

I have those kinds of people you describe at work and outside.  I think everyone does, I refer to them as friends.  Interacting with people doesn't mean you need a job.

But my question was, would you have been happier (or less) if you hadn't done the extra stuff? Already retired (or not), more time with the husband and kids etc. You posed an interesting question, I think it's worthwhile to answer it by exploring the opposite scenario. What if you hadn't paid for extra expenses?

AJ

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2014, 03:13:24 PM »
Is it fair to think of some of these types of spending as the cost of 'access' to maximizing one's career, knowing that the payoff is uncertain, but when successful could really have a tremendous ROI? 

Yes, I think that is absolutely fair, and I think it is wishful thinking to insist otherwise. Not everyone may want to play that game, but there's no sense in pretending it isn't real. I don't have the charm or prowess to wine and dine my bosses, and I accept that this quirk of mine will reduce my career potential. I play to my strengths and charisma is not one of them, so that path to the top is out for me. But I'm not going to moralize about how my way is so much better.

Frankly, I think this forum has been a bit unfair and closed-minded to Westchester and his (rather foreign to us) way of life. Is it so hard to imagine that the subculture from which he comes might have customs that differ from ours? My preference when meeting someone from an unfamiliar culture is to give them the benefit of the doubt until I am more familiar with them. I'm not yet familiar with the culture of upper-crust America, and am willing to concede that there is more schmoozing required there than in my PNW middle class sphere - no value judgement required.

brewer12345

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2014, 03:18:57 PM »
Frankly, I think this forum has been a bit unfair and closed-minded to Westchester and his (rather foreign to us) way of life. Is it so hard to imagine that the subculture from which he comes might have customs that differ from ours? My preference when meeting someone from an unfamiliar culture is to give them the benefit of the doubt until I am more familiar with them. I'm not yet familiar with the culture of upper-crust America, and am willing to concede that there is more schmoozing required there than in my PNW middle class sphere - no value judgement required.

So you are good with making friends and influencing people via bribery?

Cassie

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2014, 03:55:54 PM »
I also loved my career but also love spending time with family & friends. Also now that I am only working p.t. in my own consulting business I have time to help some of my friends because they really need it due to health issues, etc.  In the high style life it seems that everything is connected to career-even friends. That is too many eggs in one basket for me.  Also it would feel like one is "always on"-not truly relaxing since everything is connected to work. Also a lot of people think WF is a male but I think she is a female.  It would be interesting to know which it is.

AJ

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2014, 04:02:42 PM »
So you are good with making friends and influencing people via bribery?

I don't conflate hobnobbing and bribery, no. We may wish we all lived in a pure meritocracy, but until we do I'm not mad at other people playing that game. It's not my cuppa, but I don't judge WF for participating.

brewer12345

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #17 on: March 19, 2014, 04:05:00 PM »
So you are good with making friends and influencing people via bribery?

I don't conflate hobnobbing and bribery, no. We may wish we all lived in a pure meritocracy, but until we do I'm not mad at other people playing that game. It's not my cuppa, but I don't judge WF for participating.

So we live in what, a kleptocracy?

BlueHouse

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #18 on: March 19, 2014, 04:07:21 PM »
Is it fair to think of some of these types of spending as the cost of 'access' to maximizing one's career, knowing that the payoff is uncertain, but when successful could really have a tremendous ROI?
I bought a fancy car to help promote the appearance of success when I changed careers.  It gave me access to the CFO and CEO because I invited them to carpool with me to business meetings.  The conversations we had while driving opened other doors for me.  I'm not sure, but I think I was invited to one or two meetings just because the boss liked being driven around and didn't like the CFO's smallish car.   

justchristine

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #19 on: March 19, 2014, 04:32:25 PM »
I have been a software developer for large companies that most people on the forums (even some of our non-American friends) would have heard of for over 15yrs and have never felt the need to spend much money in some social setting to further my career.  I'm not sure if it's an IT thing or a midwestern thing, but the only obligatory functions are typically company sponsored things like the summer picnic or Christmas party which are free for the employees.  Other than that there is the occasional happy hour with coworkers but that usually doesn't include management folks.  With that said, I have maintained good relationships with old coworkers and managers based purely on being a nice person and working hard at the office.  I'm currently on a first name basis with the CEO and most of the VPs of my current organization.  The only thing I had to do to achieve that was do my job well and be friendly in the lunchroom.  How cool is it that most of the execs at my company bring their lunch to work?


matchewed

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #20 on: March 19, 2014, 04:38:26 PM »
Eh, I don't entertain "what if's" too often. There are far too many of them and they produce less than farting in a storm.

My "career" is just a means to an end, why would I want to "maximize its potential"? And what is that maximization? Is the maximization monetary? Is it building a network of friends?

I find the day to day networking of the people that I work with advantageous to working with them. It makes my job go smoother. But it does not require fancy ski vacations, more of a "Hey how was your weekend/daughter's birthday party/golf tournament?" I personally chalk that up as being a decent person to the people I interact with, it does have the side benefit of making the workplace better. Not necessarily as a methodology to maximize some nebulous concept like career potential.
An interesting perspective - no right or wrong answers

Of course perhaps if you were closer to your coworkers you would not even have to ask how the bday party or golf tournament were, as you might have attended.  But that is only relevant if you like them as friends anyway.

See the first sentence of my post above. And then the second :)

thepokercab

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #21 on: March 19, 2014, 04:44:56 PM »
While I certainly haven't spent money on this the way the OP has, I've certainly spent money with the intent of trying to put myself in position to network with peers or have conversations with people.  Whether that's going to a dinner with co-workers, networking with other people in the company via happy hours, or going to conferences and summits.

And as a consultant, i've certainly done "free" work or loss leaders with the intent of introducing myself to someone, or hoping for a better chance at a contract down the line.  I wouldn't call that bribery. 

But this is the nature of my job. Personal relationships and word of mouth are critical.  Obviously hard work and getting the job done is most of the battle, but there is the networking element that I would be naive to say doesn't play any type of role. 

mollyjade

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #22 on: March 20, 2014, 11:03:00 AM »
I think there's an easily recognizable difference between incurring expenses within your normal spending habits (an occasional restaurant meal, bar night, home entertainment) and incurring expenses far outside your normal spending habits (expensive car, vacation, or home) as part of networking. The latter is inflating your lifestyle in a way that will continue to affect your budget for years, while the former is normal variation in your spending. And if you're going to be getting the expensive car/vacation/home anyway, it's silly to blame the expense on networking, even if that is a side benefit. In that case, it's just money you've decided to spend.

BlueHouse

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #23 on: March 20, 2014, 05:57:38 PM »
I bought a fancy car to help promote the appearance of success when I changed careers.  It gave me access to the CFO and CEO because I invited them to carpool with me to business meetings.  The conversations we had while driving opened other doors for me.  I'm not sure, but I think I was invited to one or two meetings just because the boss liked being driven around and didn't like the CFO's smallish car.
So I was thinking about this last night and realized a few things:
I really don't care much about cars, so buying a fancy car for work purposes seemed like it wasn't for me, but the more I think about it, the more I realize it's not about the car at all.  It's about appearances, and apparently appearances did mean more to me than I knew!  My income afforded me a small luxury and I thought it was important to appear more successful than I was, so I could become yet more successful.  This is just another method of "Keeping Up with the Joneses".   Bottom line:  I haven't learned anything yet!  So WestchesterFrugal, I think we both have to carefully examine our motives and look beneath the surface to find out what we're really doing.  I know I want to change and I don't want to be driven by buying more to earn more or earning more to buy more. 

oldtoyota

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #24 on: March 21, 2014, 07:02:34 AM »
Could you have retired by now if you had not spent money on the MBA and on those vacations? I would like the MBA degree, yet I decided it would delay my retirement by too much.


rocksinmyhead

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #25 on: March 21, 2014, 08:33:00 AM »
this is an interesting thread. I'm in agreement with other posters (Cassie, and I don't remember who else) that I do not view my career as my primary source for friends/socializing. WF, it sounds like you do. I definitely like a lot of my coworkers, and as far as the ones in my specific department/team, we're all geologists so that's a special kind of nerdiness that it's nice to have in common with your coworkers. typically geologists like to hang out with each other :) however, pretty much all of my actual FRIENDS are not people from work. I don't want to have to worry about something I say or do when hanging out with close friends eventually affecting me professionally. and for me, it's fun to get to know people with different interests and expertise. I've learned a lot from my friends.

WF, I hope you also realize that you are fairly unusual in terms of having a career that is both highly lucrative and that you are VERY passionate about. I feel lucky to even be somewhere in the middle... even if I didn't do it for money, I would ALWAYS do geology as a hobby... I would go to talks, hang out with my geologist friends (I have some very close ones from grad school, not work) and talk about rocks, and after retirement I would like to write at least one book (something along the lines of the "Roadside Geology" series for Oklahoma maybe?). it also meshes well with my other interests like hiking and camping.

HOWEVER, if money were no object I would not be doing the exact job I am now... more like meddling in all different kinds of geology, plus other interests I have (home improvement, cooking, and I have a weirdly strong desire to learn how to reupholster furniture). I like my job, it's fun, it's interesting, but there are too many things I would also like to do and not enough hours in the day!

I would guess that most people (particularly on this forum, which obviously self-selects for people who don't see career-related goals as their main life goals) feel this way, and aren't interesting in intertwining their work and social lives so thoroughly. also, the relative importance of networking, and the level of expense expected, is probably pretty different in different fields. I'm friendly with my coworkers, we occasionally go out to lunch or happy hour, and actually my employer does a great job of putting on occasional outside of work "team bonding" type activities (we've done laser tag twice, complete with pizza and kegs of beer... SO MUCH FUN). I like all of this stuff and I think having a good rapport amongst coworkers makes everyone more productive and makes work more fun. I personally don't feel a need to go above and beyond this level.

brewer12345

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #26 on: March 21, 2014, 09:13:20 AM »
Could you have retired by now if you had not spent money on the MBA and on those vacations? I would like the MBA degree, yet I decided it would delay my retirement by too much.

I crunched the numbers and the only way I could justify an MBA on an IRR basis was doing it part time while working.  I got lucky since after paying the freight for the first semester or two I got the bulk of the rest of the degree paid for either by my employer or by DW's employer (she got a job at the university I went to).  Taking two years off from work and putting out close to $100k does not work unless you are either extremely lucky in how much the degree boosts your income or you are making diddly pre-MBA (and thus have very low opportunity cost).

bacchi

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #27 on: March 21, 2014, 09:20:08 AM »
I've never done networking and have been pretty lazy in my chosen "career." I once asked for 4 weeks of vacation for a contract-to-hire switch and the company balked, "No one gets that much vacation here!" I stayed a contractor.

I suppose if I dedicated myself, I might be retired already instead of aiming for age 42. That would be too much trouble; I worked about 1600 hours last year and that was too much.

kkbmustang

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #28 on: March 21, 2014, 10:30:55 AM »
From my perspective, it is not uncommon to incur expenses that are related to networking and business development. As a former BigLaw/Big4/Consultant professional, maintaining relationships were the key to generating business. And, since that job was an all-consuming position, the majority of the time I spent socializing was also spent networking and trying to develop business with my clients. In other words, the relationships that got the most attention were my colleagues and clients. Are those people really my friends now? Some, yes. Some, no. Was that the right decision for me to have made? It was what I felt was necessary at the time. Do I regret it? I try not to live with regret.

Did I spend more money on restaurant meals than I otherwise would have? Yes. Did I go out and buy a boat or country club membership? No. My senior partner had a boat, a very nice boat, that no doubt had a substantial ROI since he took it out nearly every weekend from spring to fall with clients. Those clients generated revenue which, in turn, funded his bonus, which he used to buy the boat. And the boat is probably an insult to this thing - it cost about a million bucks and you could live in it if you wanted. It came in quite useful during the separation from his wife. Which leads me to the point that you need to ensure that you are living your values, whatever those values are.

Aside from the fact that I suffered a severe spine injury and am not at that firm any longer (self-employed, part time, loving it, working on my mustache), I totally get that world. And I don't miss it. But that doesn't mean that world doesn't exist. And that some people really thrive in it.

And WestchesterFrugal lives in that world times ten. And, it appears, is thriving in it. As judgmental/rude/condescending/arrogant as some of you believe WestchesterFrugal is/has been (and, I agree, has been demonstrated on these boards), some of you are dishing it right back from the other perspective (on these boards). This playground is big enough for everyone, including those who may have just been exposed to the way of the Mustache. Can't we all just get along?

EDITED to remove generalization.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2014, 10:33:25 AM by kkbmustang »

Carrie

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Re: Balance in saving/spending to maximize career potential
« Reply #29 on: March 21, 2014, 10:42:05 AM »
I'm sure I could have gone a lot further in my career had I played the socialization game.  I would have been offered partnership had I stuck it out and joined the country club, junior league, become a socialite; but I decided I didn't really like those folks (in that particular firm and in those clubs/leagues) that much and that it would be too much effort for a life I didn't really want to lead.  So, I went to work for an artsier firm, won a couple of awards and then had a baby (and then another and now another) and quit working full time (I still work on my own terms, from home, for a few hours per week -- my toe is in the door, but that's it).  I'm really quite pleased with how my life has gone, I have zero regrets, and I've spent nary a penny on networking.  Well, okay, I do still keep some contacts with the occasional lunch or coffee, but we're not talking big bucks.

While I've worked with some great people, and I consider them friends, I don't want to become best friends with anyone in my industry in my city. It's too small of a world here, and I'd rather not have to worry about what I say too much to close friends affecting any future career I may have.