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Two-Pronged Approach to Growing Wealth

In the financial forums, people sometimes bring up the concept of being your own CFO (Chief Financial Officer). Putting on a CFO hat helps people to role play as someone official and professional as they handle their personal finances and do strategic planning for their personal financial lives. This can help remove the angst that may come from those with a Money Avoidance script. When it's framed as your job as CFO, you can be dispassionate and more analytical than "normal you" might be otherwise.

In business terms, CFOs are the executive decision makers for a company. They seek to grow revenue and cut costs. That's the two-pronged approach to growing wealth. If you were the CFO of your financial life, how would you grow your revenue and cut your costs? The difference is profit (read: savings). Sometimes it's to invest savings wisely. Sometimes it's to put internal processes (read: habits) in place which will improve efficiencies and be cost effective. Sometimes it's to cut out the unnecessary functions or purchases, including perhaps downsizing. Sometimes it's to make strategic purchases with a high ROI if the gamble pays off. There are often trade-offs and risks to mitigate.

The ability to be dispassionately strategic is key. What's the company's mission statement (read: your purpose and values)? What are the company's goals (read: your SMART goals)? How do you plan to get there (read: what are you going to change in your life)?

This may look like:

  • going and finally building a case to ask for that raise.

  • consolidating your various accounts - reducing the complexity of having money all over the place so you can see it all in one account and get a "reality" view of where you stand financially.

  • hiring a career coach (spend money to make money).

  • attending more networking events for the career opportunities you'd like to see.

  • having a conversation with your partner or roomie about how the bills get split.

  • finding cheaper alternatives (i.e. to the restaurants you like, to the phone carrier, to the clothing brand/store you like, to the credit card you've had for 20 years, to gym memberships where you do body weight fitness at home instead, etc.).

  • re-examining that Starbucks habit.

  • learning to cook.

  • making the time to cook.

  • meal planning (reducing food waste).

  • outsourcing some work to third party vendors (i.e. gardening, house cleaning, laundering, childcare, meal prepping, etc.)

  • studying up and changing careers entirely for a more lucrative industry or job type, where the ROI on the cost of your education is worth it for the years left you have to earn a higher income in that job.

  • delaying having children.

  • buying a smaller house.

  • buying used instead of new (i.e. cars, cribs, books, etc.).

  • actively seeking constructive feedback from people around you: your boss, your family, your direct reports, your friends, your regular barista.

I did things like ushering plays so I could watch plays for free. I cooked more meals at home and brown bagged my lunches. I vowed I would only eat out if it was with other people - never alone. I drank the free coffee offered at work. I hosted potlucks instead of feeding everyone. I would attend happy hours but just nurse an iced tea the whole night. I always paid off my credit card (thus avoiding interest payments). One thing I like doing is watching shows like Extreme Cheapskates to get inspired by how cheaply people are able to live if they're creative enough and willing to go against social expectations.

I looked up and around one day after working several years in biotech and realized the money was in executive leadership, R&D, and in Regulatory Affairs. I decided to pursue the Regulatory Affairs route, but after some time going to get certifications for it, I looked up and around again only to realize the real money is not in biotech, but in tech. I also realized I wanted the flexibility required to prioritize family one day. Continuing to work in a lab would have made that near impossible - I wanted to be able to work from home as needed. I made a plan to transition out of biotech and into tech, via the shared transferrable skill of technical writing. I quickly learned that most Technical Writers were writers first and scientists second - so I had an advantage as I entered the field. I got a Technical Communication certification and was able to move over to doing tech writing in cybersecurity. I'm still working in the cybersecurity industry.

My husband credits Reddit's forums for learning how to take his tech career to the next level. The free knowledge first opened his eyes to how much other professionals were earning around the US for what kind of specialized knowledge or skillsets. Then he was able to understand where he fit in to this job skill ecosystem. From there, he found links to resources like podcasts for IT managers (or wannabe IT managers), free online learning tools for particular programming languages, discussions about whether to go get a college degree and whether the ROI is worth it, etc. In the end it convinced him to go finish his degree and eventually enabled him to double his income.

These strategic moves positioned us to have the flexibility both in work-life balance and in our finances to live a fairly privileged life. There are many paths to success, and if you use a two-pronged approach, you can get there quicker.

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