question-mark

Kevin M is a long time commenter on my site…this is his question to you guys. I was inspired to write this post when I read Evan’s recent post about his friend’s lack of action to change his miserable life.

Who is Kevin M?

A little history – I started reading personal finance blogs around 2007. I was not their typical target reader – one that needs to get off the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck and get out of debt. I had done that on my own a few years earlier after what I call my “life reboot.”

A divorce, layoff and selling my nice house within 3 months led to a summer of reflection that left me questioning why I had so much “stuff” after working for 5 years, but hardly any money in my bank accounts. I got my financial life in order and by 2006 I was in decent shape. We are currently debt-free except the mortgage on the home we purchased last summer.

I started to read pf blogs for validation and fascination. Like rubber-necking at an accident on the highway, I couldn’t help but read stories of people who had done insane things with money. I bounced around to different blogs through the years, eventually settling on a few that I consistently read. The current bunch focus on bigger issues like wealth accumulation, investing strategies and retirement planning.

I’ve noticed a common theme among several personal finance bloggers. Several of them followed their passion of getting out of debt, or just talking personal finance in general and now make a living writing about it. Naturally, they began to preach the virtues of “doing what you love” to make a living, rather than suffering away at a 9-5 job for 30-40 years. Toss in books like Your Money or Your Life, 4 Hour Workweek and Escape from Cubicle Nation, and I admit this sounds very sexy. The only thing is, I find it hard to define my true passions. I like watching hockey on TV and I played in-line (roller) hockey in college but I’m not sure I love it enough to find a career there. I like remodeling my home, but doing it professionally and worrying about building codes, subcontractors, etc. seems like a whole different experience. Other than that, I don’t have a lot of time for hobbies, with a wife, an almost 3 year old son and a baby on the way occupying a lot of my time.

When I think about my future, I alternate between wanting to buy a few acres of land and support my family farming, setting up a workshop in my basement or garage and building furniture for a living or just keep working at my current job as a CPA – either at my current firm or eventually starting my own practice. My answer to the popular life planning question “what would you do if you won the lottery?” is probably to buy run down homes to fix up. Some say the answer to that question is what you should really be doing for work, but I’m not sure. Basically, I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up. If asked the standard lame interview question “where do you see yourself in 10 years?”, I’d probably put down money on the third option. Why? Because in my mind it’s the safest. Not only financially, but also practically. No one’s going to think I’m crazy for pursuing a career as a CPA (which I’ve been doing since 1998). The other options, I would probably get a few strange looks from people close to me.

Kevin M’s Current Career

My current position is at a local CPA firm with about 10 employees. We do mostly tax work, so from February 1 – April 15 I’m pretty swamped. But other than that I have a pretty flexible schedule. The 2 partners basically allow me freedom to work on what I want and take time off when I want – as long as I meet deadlines and get my work done. I make a good salary and they pay my health insurance (a big deal with a wife of child-bearing age and 2 kids). I like interacting with most of the clients and helping them with special projects when I can. But most of the time it’s the same work quarter after quarter, year after year. Some other things nag at me – mainly I don’t feel challenged by the work I do about 95% of the time, but secondary to that – the lack of communication in the office that leads to poor customer service and my commute also feed into my frustration. I definitely don’t hate my job like I did in previous positions, but I also don’t find it completely fulfilling. I’m willing to admit maybe some of that is my fault. I could probably do more to make the job interesting/challenging but I just don’t have the motivation.

Part of my lack of forward motion on any new project is my desire for results. I like to work on a project and see results in a short time, if not immediately. It’s hard for me to think long-term sometimes.

Thus my conundrum – do I:

  1. stay at my relatively safe job, put my head down and work for another decade and hope to pay off my mortgage by then – that being by far our largest expense and reason for full time work
  2. look for another job in accounting that might be a greater challenge, but would probably just be moving on for moving on sake
  3. pursue one of the above mentioned alternative professions and risk my family’s savings and security

I’m not looking for a magic bullet here, but feel free to add comments, criticism or encouragement as you see fit. I’m a big boy, I can take it.