After learning some cold hard truth about my career’s value in Wisconsin, nothing cheers me up more than relaxing and playing some music. I wrote this piece maybe a few years ago, but its still a piece I can play and quickly relax my stress away.
My path to financial independence (early retirement)
I’m still very happy to be on the path of early retirement and have learned so much about investing, but it can’t help but be noticed that I’m very slowly marching towards financial independence. I honestly don’t expect to ever hit a million dollars saved as I don’t see a second income helping or a decent pay raise coming. My choices of reducing my expenses are slim and mostly involve me moving in with my parents for years if they’d let me(I’m 30). Every financial blog I love has two things in common that I don’t have. 1) They seem to all be from happily married couples and 2) They seem to be power couples that make a combined income of near $200k+ and both on the same goal of financial independence. I’ve never made much and always been on my own financially if not helping someone with their bills on top of mine. I’ve all but given up on women, I’m convinced the good ones marry young and stay married, but who knows what the future holds. It’s not all bad though, the 10 year plan I wanted a few years ago probably wont happen, but 15+ years from today is possible if I keep my expenses down. Retiring at 45 is still better than never, but retiring that late does defeat a good chunk of reasons why I wanted to retire early.
4 years at my company.
It’s a new year and I’m closing in on 4 years with my current company and another pay raise. I work in the high demand(and very demanding) field of automation. My Physics degree and diverse background allow me to jump around many different fields, like programming, computers and electrical engineering. I’m often orchestrating systems to work many mechanical parts in concert with each other to help a company manufacture something and increase profits. It’s a bizarre field that expects a lot from those who trudge through it. I had noted years ago that experts in any one of these fields make a lot of money($100k+). So wouldn’t you think someone who’s expected to know a lot in all these fields to come at an ultimate premium?
Well I can tell you my first engineering job after college(2011) was $30k salary and no benefits. A year and a half later I got my foot in the door in the automation field for $40k salary with not great benefits. And over the past 5 years I’ve worked my way up to $62k plus a yearly bonus that seems to be shrinking every year. People with Physics degrees are expected to land $60k jobs right out of college and its taken me 5+ years to get near it. If important engineers don’t make much these days, I can’t imagine what the masses struggle to make. And I do think we’re important because believe me, everything is automated. Your water plant, electrical plant, anything manufactured to be sold at your store, all the food that eventually makes it to the grocery store goes through a lot of automated equipment designed, programmed, and maintained by a guy like me.
I’ve told my bosses last year that my salary goal lately is $80k per year, to make it known what they could shoot for if they wish to keep me. Since my expenses are locked, my best bet to increase my savings rate is to increase my income. But with my shrinking bonus, I have a feeling that’s not likely to occur any time soon. I’m expecting a few thousand dollar raise, just enough to cover inflation and maybe $1000 more if I’m lucky. So I wondered what the pay is like in my field around me and landed on a little site called PayScale. After filling out some information, it tells me I’m right around the average pay area of my field. I had thought I was being underpaid, nothing is making sense to what I was told and what I know people were getting out of college. Regardless, I do know I could still get at least $75k salary or more and better benefits if I left because of my good connections. I still hear about random people, who I don’t think even have a degree, land jobs near $90k in programming. I know a guy that landed over $100k job with a pension straight out of college and I know several other people who all are hitting the 6 figure club. I also know people in some of those fields who also struggle with me. It seems to be half dumb luck. I’m well aware that what I make isn’t too bad, but you figure in the years of college in a difficult field and collecting debt and landing in a demanding field that comes with high stress, I guess I expected more. I mean I walk in on a job that needs to be completed and people of all fields look to you to troubleshoot and tell them what to do, tell them what’s probably wrong, you’re the glue that finishes the job and makes everything work and yet you’re making less than all the people who look up to you when it’s time to make shit work, I don’t know how that can’t be seen as ridiculous and weird. And I wish I had started computer programming earlier as it seems to consistently make good money and near zero travel(I don’t like driving).
First world problems from a first world blogger.