Thursday, July 10, 2008

Advice Column #25

Hey Bartender!
I'm in my mid-twenties, and currently have a job that offers me an opportunity to work for a cause I believe in, extends me incredibly freedom and flexibility in terms of hours and location of work and provides me a steady income. Trouble is the steady income is substantially less than what I know I'm worth and the lack of structure is starting to get to me. Do I need to find a 9-5?

It sounds like you have a sweet gig, and if the steady income can afford your preferred lifestyle, and you're happy, then stick with it for a while. Give yourself a time limit to this bliss, so you can leave gracefully before you begin to resent the cause. Sometimes we have to put our own goals before our idealistic vision, but sometimes we can afford to wait on that move. The time limit isn't a quitting date, but a re-evaluation date. In one year, or on each yearly anniversary of when you began this job, you should think about your life goals. If the job is helping you achieve these goals and offering you career growth, stick with it another year. If not, then you need to begin looking for a different situation.

As with any job, you want to make sure that you plan for your future by putting at least 10% of your income into a retirement account. If you're making far less than you're currently worth, you might want to look into a Roth IRA, because you'll be paying more in taxes later in your life, when you make what you're worth. I would suggest vanguard, which has a variety of low-cost IRA accounts available. Use this lower tax period of your life to your advantage. I'm no financial planner, just a bartender, so ask your accountant friend about that plan.

Right now, you have to decide to enjoy your life in its current incarnation. The stress of our lives is often caused by wanting more than we already have, or thinking we're not getting our due. It's incredibly hard to ignore these impulses and just enjoy ourselves. The anxiety we harbor by expecting ever more of ourselves can be a useful motivator, but must be curbed when we make decisive choices to live pleasantly for a while. You don't need a 9-5 right now, you need to stop worrying about keeping up with people you don't care about. You need a drink, some laughs, and that glimmer in the sparkle of your eye that says you're living your life right now. This time, this flexible less-structured time, is the time you're going to look back at when you have that 9-5, and you better be able to say you spent it well. Don't regret missing your twenties because you were too concerned with starting your thirties. Sure, make responsible decisions: have a retirement account, pay your bills on time, work somewhere that encourages growth and doesn't offend you, try not to live in excesses. Take some risks too. The job that cannot pay you top dollar could make you feel really good about yourself and your work. The extra flexible time can let you travel- before you have a house and a family to take care of. Or you can stay in your apartment and work on the projects that you'll never have time for again. Take the chances now, when you can, before you run out of opportunities to make great stories of your life.

You don't have to ask me for permission to avoid the corporate grind for a little while, but you do have to give yourself permission. It's your life, to live as you see fit, by your own expectations and allowances. Your parents, teachers, professors, and peers no longer can tell you what you want, you have to figure it out. Have fun. It's worth it, and so are you. As for those drinks? I'd suggest, for your itinerant life of adventure, either the Fisherman's Brew Lager from Cape Anne brewery, or the Cisco Whale's Tale from Massachusetts. Why? Because I recently came back from a relaxing weekend on the north shore of Massachusetts, an escape from the heat, and at those stormy seaside bars I thought about the mounting anxiety all the late-twenty-year-olds I know have about their jobs, and about you, and how we all need to just relax for a minute. So have a beer, and live happily. Stop worrying so much. It's going to be fine. Cheers!

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