The First Pillar
It’s no secret that the First Pillar of the Way of FIRE is Spend Less. It’s the easiest thing to do and almost every novice Follower has scads of wasteful spending that they can cut out with a little effort. Cars, cable, cellphones, commute times, etc. They’re all things that can probably be changed to save some money and that’s great.
But at some point in every Follower’s journey they will reach a point where there’s really not much else that you can (or want to) cut without sacrificing something that you’re not willing to sacrifice. And let me tell you, that is just fine. Everybody has their own personal line that they’re not willing to cross and you’re going to find it eventually. The point is that most people are living far above that line and it’s forcing them to work for years beyond what they need to.
The Second Pillar
This brings us nicely to the Second Pillar which is Earn More. Yes, sounds simple doesn’t it? This is the most powerful way of really amping up your savings rate to the 50% point and beyond. It doesn’t matter if you’ve cut your spending to the bone and are spending only $1000/month if your take home pay is only $1200/month. The Earn More pillar requires planning, preparation, and probably some hard work thrown in there.
It’s something that you have to consider right after high school if you want to be serious about it. Are you going on to post-secondary education? If so, are you getting an education in something that at least has reasonable job prospects and a stable future? If not college/university, are you looking at a profitable trade of some sort? If you’re serious about wanting to follow the Way you can’t trade your financial future for a dream education.
But it’s not all so bleak and gloomy out there! There are in demand and interesting jobs out there that most people have never even heard of. You can take a look at this list of job titles as inspiration for what you might like, there’s all kinds of crazy stuff in there. The odds are high that you can find something that you’ll enjoy while also being able to fund your goals.
Once you’ve secured a job, you’re not done yet by a long shot. Plenty of people undersell themselves and are making far less money than they could be. Glassdoor is a great resource, not only for figuring out what your job title is worth but also for finding a company that will value you and treat you fairly. You’ll also want to be well versed in the politics of salary negotiation. Getting fairly compensated is something that you want to be sure of and it’s a skill that needs to be learned.
And we haven’t even gotten into secondary sources of income which could be a whole other post by itself!
Taking My Own Advice
I’ve known that I’m underpaid for quite a while and I recently took steps to correct this problem. What I could have done is gone to ask for a raise but I had reason to believe that it would not be a significant jump and I wanted a change for other reasons as well. In recent times, and in tech especially, it’s well known that one of the easiest ways to get a significant raise is just to change jobs. A lot of corporations have been very poor at keeping their current employees’ salary at a competitive market rate which leads to situations where you have a fresh graduate getting paid more than a 6-year employee.
I applied to roughly 10 jobs where for the most part I aimed high in the required qualifications. In less than a month I had secured a new job with a fantastic 36% increase in salary over my previous job as well as slightly better benefits and more interesting work. A 36% increase is not typical but it’s not unusual to get a 15%+ increase simply by switching jobs. Good luck finding a company that’s willing to put out that kind of a raise.
So the upshot of all this is that I’m now much more likely to hit my goal of FIRE at or before age 45 which is pretty exciting news.
Do you think you’re being paid a fair wage? What steps do you think you could take in the future to Earn More?