Budgeting / Credit Cards and Debt / Personal Finance

Fix Your Finances in 30 Days

Day 7: Work For Your Dreams, Not For a Paycheck

During this past week, we identified our primary values and used these to create clear goals and plans that derive from these values. Then, we spent some time discovering what our work time is actually worth. Today, we’re going to combine these two together.

If you’ve been following the plan, you’re probably working on the numbers for your plans right now. We won’t evaluate them yet (after all, you’ve got a few days to go before you have some real numbers), but you should realize that you’re going to have to save some money to meet these goals.

The big secret, though, is the realization that you can in fact work for your dreams instead of working just to get by. Yesterday, we calculated our true hourly wage, so you know how much you’re making for each hour you’re involved with work-related tasks. Let’s transform this hourly wage into something that has more meaning.

Take out a new sheet of paper and list your ten goals on it. Today, we’re going to make a framework that will enable you to go to work with renewed vigor, because you’ll see the connection directly between your time at work and your dreams.

Under these goals, make a list of each of your debts as well. Part of the journey to your dreams is paying off these debts, so we want to put them each on the list, too.

Under that, add one last item: living expenses. Obviously, even as you work towards your dreams, you’ll still need to cover your daily expenses, such as electricity, food, water, and whatever else is fundamentally important to you.

At the very bottom, write TOTAL and then over on the far right, write the total amount of hours you work in a week that you calculated the day before yesterday.

What we’re going to do is see how many hours we can spend at work each week on each of these items. Once we have this first draft written, you can use it as a life baseline until we refine it later on in the month.

So let’s get started! First thing, until you’re sure how your life will be rebalanced, include 60% of the total hours under the item “living expenses.” For example, let’s say your total hours for a week is 80. You should then include 48 hours next to the living expenses. This may need to be more; we’ll evaluate it more carefully in the next few days.

Now, let’s handle the debts. If you have debts, you should spend 25% of your hours on paying off the debts. For example, if you have 80 hours, you should figure that 20 of them should be used on paying off debts. Note that this is extra debt payments; your basic minimum debt payments are included in the living expenses. When (or if) you have no debts, all of the time going into your debts can go straight to your dreams.

The remaining 15% should be assigned in equal pieces to your dreams. I had 12 hours left, so I gave 1.2 hours to each of my dreams.

So, what’s the point? There are two points. First, if you multiply your hourly rate by the amount assigned to each element, that’s how much you can spend each week on that element. If you’re thinking that this is something like a budget, you’re right in a way, but rather than a list of month-to-month expenses that demand things of you, this is a “dream budget” – a device that lets you follow your goals to achieve your dreams.

Second, it lets you find real goals in your work. This is the truly powerful part of this. So often, we wake up in the morning and trudge into work wishing we were doing anything else. If you realize that some portion of your day is spent working specifically for your dream, it becomes easier. For me, the hardest part of a day is getting ready in the morning; I’d much rather sit down with a cup of joe and check my email than take a shower, get dressed, and take my son to daycare. So for me, the first hour of a given day is an hour I’m working towards one of my goals. While I’m showering or out in the truck on the way to daycare, I remind myself over and over that I’m working solely for the purpose of one of my dreams. I imagine that dream and somehow I feel better about it.

There are two vital lessons that this exercise teaches. First, the various aspects of your life are all connected: your work, your pay, your dreams, and your goals. They’re all tied together in one big picture. Many people often compartmentalize these things and fail to see how they all relate to one another.

Second, it reveals that you can directly connect the work you do every day to your dreams. This is the real power of the exercise, I think. Every single day you go into work, you can tie some of your least favorite tasks directly towards achieving a life goal. It can be the parts that you like the least, or it can be the commute. Just pick a portion of it and, while you’re doing it, remind yourself that you’re doing this action so that you can live in that beautiful house or so that you can travel to Italy with your wife.

Tomorrow, we’ll start breaking this picture down piece by piece, starting with the living expenses. The goal is to create a picture of your life, with the living expenses as merely the frame around a beautiful picture of your dreams.

Ready? Let’s continue on to the next day.