Good money management makes for good career management. An emergency reserve can help you ride out a surprise layoff (or government shutdown). Savings can be invested into professional development or an entrepreneurial venture. Knowing you have a solid financial foundation gives you confidence not to settle for a lukewarm offer or to negotiate harder at your next raise request.
Because of the complementary relationship between money and career, I was excited to read The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money, a new book from Jill Schlesinger, one of my favorite finance journalists. Dumb Things outlines 13 mistakes even smart people make with money. In addition to helping you manage your money better, a laudable goal in and of itself, here are four career takeaways:
1 – Plan your career around your life, not the other way around
The best kind of money to have is enough – The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money by Jill Schlesinger
Dumb thing #3 is “You Make Money More Important Than It Is.” Similarly, some people make career more important than it is, forgetting that your career supports your life and not the other way around. Overworked professionals forego vacation days, leave the office later and later and let professional projects and deadlines encroach on personal hobbies and family time.
The best career move isn’t necessarily about more (more money, more responsibility, higher title). The best career move is towards whatever enables you to live a fulfilling life – to meet your financial obligations, fuel your interests, and give you the day-to-day schedule, environment, and challenge you crave. For some people, this means a C-level job, but for others, this could mean remaining an individual contributor, working part-time, or freelancing. What is “enough” career for you?
2 – Make career decisions as a family
Have the hard conversations now, and get the outside help you need to reach common ground. – The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money by Jill Schlesinger
Two of the dumb things Schlesinger covers involve money issues with raising children and caring for elderly parents. As with financial decisions, career decisions also involve multiple people, not just the person doing the job. Relocating, working longer hours, traveling for work, and starting a business are all examples of decisions that one individual can make that would affect everyone living in that household.
If you’re a dual-career couple, you need to have a frank conversation with your partner about each of your career plans and how you can manage each of your ambitions together. Childcare and elder care are additional, separate discussions. Are you on the same page with everyone in your household about each of your career goals?
3 – Always have a back-up plan
You’re a bad person if you don’t have a will. And I say that with the utmost love and respect. – The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money by Jill Schlesinger
I selected this quote because it captures the irreverent tone Schlesinger takes in the book, making a dry, heavy topic like financial planning accessible and fun to read. More than just having a will, Schlesinger advises on various topics around risk management, insurance, and financial prudence (e.g., the perils of overspending or overleveraging).
This careful, conservative approach should also be extended to career planning. While you can’t bequeath your job to your heirs (though you can pass on a business!), you can make contingency plans for caring for yourself and your loved ones during a disruption in your career. There are many disruptions making long-term career security less assured – automation, artificial intelligence, shifting geo-politics. The recent government shutdown shows that no sector is immune. How can you build skills, expertise and experience that can flexibly move across industries, roles, or geographies, as your career needs to change?
4 – Rebalance and course-correct your career on a regular basis
Getting right with ourselves around money doesn’t mean we have to be perfect. On the contrary, it means accepting our mistakes and rolling with them. Yes, we’ll screw up from time to time—and that’s okay….With money, the very concept of “rebalancing” a portfolio assumes that the portfolio will become out of balance. That’s fine, because you’re performing this rebalancing on a regular basis. – The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money by Jill Schlesinger
A widely accepted best practice in personal finance is to regularly rebalance your investment portfolio. Over time, as markets fluctuate, your investment allocation fluctuates. If you don’t proactively rebalance, then your current portfolio could look very different from your original intent.
Similarly, the job market changes. Once stable companies are upended by new competitors (e.g., Big Three Auto v. Tesla, Sears v. Walmart v. Amazon). High-demand roles become obsolete (e.g., Y2K), and new fields emerge (e.g., big data, cyber, crypto, AI). Your priorities, wants and needs also change, and decisions that were perfectly reasonable before may no longer apply. You can’t expect to pick one company and set one career path and just forget it. Where do you need to rebalance and course-correct your career?
The premise of Schlesinger’s book is that even smart people make dumb moves with money. Similarly, even smart professionals make dumb moves in their career – in job interviews, in career change, when networking. Read Dumb Things to avoid minefields with your money, and remember to be as thoughtful and proactive about your career.