When financial planners talk about your career choices, it’s often through the lens of retirement planning. How will your current job get you to retirement? Are you saving enough and taking advantage of your employer’s 401(k) match? Do you know how many more years you need to work? Is your salary allowing you to save up enough money for retirement?
While those questions are all important and worth answering, they don’t reflect the whole picture when it comes to work. Your job isn’t just about retirement — it also plays a significant role in your life right now. Choosing a career path that makes you miserable for 40 to 50 years just so you can retire the way you want to isn’t necessarily the right approach. Your happiness always matters.
Like most things, it’s all about balance. Career choices shouldn’t just be about right now or only focused on the future. Ideally, you should look for jobs that support your current priorities, like location or work/life balance, and your retirement planning goals.
The Current and Future Aspects of Retirement Planning
When you think about retirement planning, it’s easy to focus entirely on the future. You think about when you want to retire, what you want your standard of living to look like, and what sort of activities you want to do. It’s crucial to think about those things, but the future shouldn’t be your sole concern. After all, no one knows what will happen tomorrow, so if you’re exclusively focused on the future, you can miss out on opportunities and experiences right now.
It’s essential to think about your current quality of life, too. Take retirement savings, for example. If you’re putting so much money toward your retirement account that you’re barely able to pay your bills and never able to splurge on a fun item or experience, that’s not a very balanced approach.
It’s the same with your job. A purely retirement-focused approach would tell you to find the highest-paying job in your field and work there until you retire. But what if you hate that job? What if it means working 60+ hour weeks that take away from time with your family? Is a potentially “perfect” retirement worth an entire career of unhappiness? Probably not.
What Do You Want in Your Job Right Now?
So, when you’re considering your current job and upcoming career choices, think about what’s important to you in the future and in your current stage of life. For example, there’s a significant trend toward job flexibility. Many people are choosing opportunities that allow part-time or full-time remote work — sometimes even at the expense of a higher salary.
Is flexibility important to you? Maybe you prefer to be in the office but would rather work a four-day week. Or maybe shift work fits your schedule best because it allows you more time with your family.
There isn’t just one right answer. The point is to figure out what your highest priorities are — both now and in the future. If you know your priorities, you can make career choices that reflect them.
Making the Best Career Choices
Of course, the “perfect” job probably doesn’t exist. But if you’re honest with yourself about what’s important to you and willing to spend the time looking for new opportunities (or negotiating your current job), there’s a good chance you can make something work.
If you have to take a bit of a salary cut to work from home full-time, that might be worth it for you. If working in the office is bad for your mental health and makes you dread going to work every day, a higher salary isn’t going to fix that. Yes, you might be able to save a little more for retirement, but does that matter if you feel miserable every day until you retire?
Sometimes you might have to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gain. Maybe you work a few years at a traditional “9 to 5” office job so you can build your resume and find a more flexible position down the road. Or maybe you spend a few years with a very tight budget so you have the chance to get your own business off the ground. Whatever the specifics look like, the point is to make choices that benefit you now and in retirement.
Build an Effective, Balanced Retirement Plan
It’s easy to get lost in retirement planning — to get so wrapped up in your plans for the future that you sacrifice your current happiness. And that perspective might seem wise and “unselfish,” but it’s really just a gamble. You don’t know what will happen in the future, so don’t risk a happy life now for a retirement that you might not get to experience. When you make career choices, do your best to balance retirement concerns (salary and 401(k)) with your current quality of life (schedule and flexibility).
A strong financial plan is the key to having a life you enjoy now and in the future. When you work with an expert, they can help you find that balance and create a financial plan that aligns with your values — for right now and for retirement! If that’s the kind of support you want, Guiding Wealth is here to help.
Our team isn’t going to give you a cookie-cutter plan or tell you to keep working at a job you hate just because it has good retirement benefits. Instead, we’ll work with you to identify your priorities, and then we’ll help you make a plan that aligns with those values. To get started, call 214-810-3835 or schedule an appointment online.