Why you should work on your career

With all the spare time I now have, being redundant and all, I have had plenty of time to read personal finance and FIRE blogs. There is some very interesting articles out there (and a few completely crap ones – please, no more articles on how to save $1 per week on coffee and retire!). One theme I’ve noticed is the prevalence of “side hustles” or alternative income sources. Often it seems these side hustles are to supplement / replace the main income source of the writer. And let me tell you, there are LOTS and LOTS of ways to make a second income.

Now, I’ve had a look at alternative income sources over time. Betting and trading were favorites of mine, but I could’t ever get them to work. Luck, timing or skill seemed to be against me and I often lost more than I made. Not a good situation if you’re trying to make a living off it.

The lack of a side hustle has been getting to me for a while. I kept thinking to myself that I should be earning a second income. But then I decided to look back at my earnings from my job. I’m an accountant who works in financial services. Nothing too special, nothing fancy. Just an accountant. I did notice one stark fact, that should have been self evident, but wasn’t until I actually mapped it out.

My earnings mapped

The graph below has three elements to it. The blue line is my taxable earnings for each year ever since I started work. I used taxable as its a good, comparable, source of information. The orange line is my complete salary “package”, including contributions to my superannuation fund. In Australia, your employer is required to contribute a minimum of 9.5% of your salary to a retirement fund. The grey line is the average, full time weekly earnings.
The point is to show that while I start at or below that level, in the past 10 years I have earned significantly above that number.

The years from 1995 – 1999 were university / travelling and hence my earnings were quite low. But note – I was working. I spent many a Saturday night and Sunday working part time jobs to make money and squeezed study around that.

I worked hard.

Career earnings v median earnings

The period from 2000 – 2007 was spent working in small accounting firms and then from 2007 – 2013 at a Big 4 firm. The dip in 2013 was when I took a sabbatical for 4 months. Without that time off, the earnings profile would have continued upwards.

How did I get here?

The earnings profile above wasn’t just by luck, nor I might add completely by design! I have always sought jobs that will pay more and further my career. This isn’t necessarily the easiest path or the most satisfying, but it does pay the bills.

I also continued my education early on in my career. That is, after university I did my chartered accounting exams, got post graduate degrees in finance etc, all while working full time. That’s a lot of weekends spent studying!

Could I extrapolate that earnings figure?

Good questions.

I think the answer is no. While I could go for bigger roles. Take on a CFO role of a public company for example, its not where I want my life to head. I’ve taken life decisions that means my income will probably cap out at about $300,000 for the next few years. While thats an OK earnings level for us, it won’t make us hugely rich.

James Scott

James Scott is a personal finance expert with over 20 years experience. He believe that money should not be stressful. By using the Stress Free Money pyramid it helps everyone achieve their financial dreams.

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3 Responses

  1. Imagine if you would freeze your spending at average income. You probably would not need to look for another job at the moment.

    • Jim Smith says:

      for a while at least. Its an interesting question. We have a larger house in Sydney, because we have 4 kids. If we had the average 1.9 kids, then our housing costs would be a lot lower. And yes, we could have moved further out, but that would have meant significantly longer travel times.

  1. May 29, 2019

    […] I did my accounting exams and became a chartered accountant. That choice allowed to to almost double my income every few years. Again, I saved hard and worked […]

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