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Changing Careers Taught Me These 3 Life-Changing Money Lessons

Woman leaving the office with her belongings in a box.

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Change is inevitable. This immutable fact probably doesn’t make coping with it any easier, though. Thankfully, all changes come with lessons, and a career change is no exception. In 2021, I went from working in museums to working in digital content, and between then and now, I’ve had the chance to learn the following truths and apply them to my personal finances.

1. Earning more gives you more opportunities

If you’re working in a career that isn’t well paid, it doesn’t necessarily have to limit your life, but it will definitely make achieving big goals more difficult. You might struggle to pay off debt, fund a retirement account, or put money aside to buy a home. It’s easier to get by if you can share finances with another person, such as a romantic partner, but if you’d prefer to chart your own course and live on your own, a low-paying career likely won’t cut it. If you do change careers and find yourself earning more, it’ll be up to you to make the most of it. I started meeting regularly with a financial planner after my career change, and got guidance on paying off debt and how to make a side hustle work for me. I also set a major financial goal for myself, which is buying a home. Every week, I put money into a high-yield savings account to make this dream a reality, and I could never have afforded to do this if I hadn’t changed careers. It’s worth thinking about what your own dreams are, and consider how the money you earn can help you achieve them.

2. It’s okay to spend money to improve your life

Yes, ideally all of us should be using money to improve our financial standing and build a better future (such as by contributing to a retirement account, as Social Security is likely not going to cover all your bills once you stop working). But I learned that spending in the pursuit of fun and fulfillment in the here and now is also valuable. To that end, take time off work. If you’re a freelancer like I am and you don’t get paid time off, carve out that time for yourself anyway. Spend intentionally on purchases that make you happy and improve your life (and not what you think will impress other people — keeping up with the Joneses is a great way to put yourself in debt). And if travel is something you’re interested in, make a travel budget and find ways to save on trips. Road trip vacations are very fun and often cheaper than flying, especially if you’re traveling with a group. And consider picking up a credit card that offers travel perks — using one to pay for your everyday expenses can lead to free flights, hotel rooms, and more.

3. Investing in yourself is important

Work is a big part of many people’s lives. Data from Zippia found that American adults work an average of 38.7 hours per week, which comes out to more than 2,000 hours per year. If you dislike your work, that’s an awful lot of hours to be miserable. So if your current job or career isn’t satisfying to you, it’s okay to change and invest in yourself and your happiness.

To quote Warren Buffett, “The best investment by far is anything that develops yourself, and it’s not taxed at all.” He’s absolutely right here. There are so many ways to invest in yourself. You could go back to school to learn new skills to parlay into a new career. You can network with others in your field via professional conferences and workshops. And you can access courses in a variety of subjects on sites like LinkedIn. There’s no age limit on self improvement and learning, and it’s always worth the time and effort it takes.

I’ve been through a lot of changes in my life, but few have given me the opportunities and insights that my career change did. If you’re feeling stuck in your work and aren’t quite sure what’s missing, I recommend doing some soul searching and considering whether you need a new job — or even a whole new career. It could give you a new lease on life, as well as improve your earning potential and ability to achieve your goals.

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