THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Starter career: Pursue passion, then settle down
Henry Kasdon learned to break dance on his mom's tennis court. Now, although he's a successful dancer and dance teacher, he's getting ready to switch careers to trial law.
"I want my kids to be taken care of," he says. (Not that he has any now, but Kasdon is a man with a plan.)
Odds are that recent college grads will be working for the next 50 years. That's a long time. No one expects to stay in the same job for 50 years, and probably not even in the same career. So why not have a starter career?
A starter career is similar to a starter marriage, but without the pain of divorce. Pamela Paul, author of Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony, says, "Once you're at the end of a starter marriage, you realize all your mistakes, misperceptions, and false expectations. You can make better decision next time."
The same is true for careers. Pick a starter career with the best of intentions, but be ready to learn from your shortcomings before you get down to the business of buying a home and raising a family.
Paul says that most starter marriages are to college sweethearts. Read: a married based on love, not earning potential. That's what you should be thinking with your starter career: the money can come the second time around.
A starter career is serious business. This is not a McJob to pay the bills. (You might need one of those in your life, but a McJob is not a conscious career decision so much as an acknowledgement that starving is painful.)
A starter career aims to accomplish something; otherwise, you're just spinning your wheels, biding time. A starter career should have meaning. Sonja Lyubomirsky, assistant professor of psychology at UC Riverside, describes meaningful work as a job that meets a core goal.
"People have important goals that come from inside themselves– for example, personal growth, community or relationships. Jobs that allow you to meet intrinsic goals will lead to more happiness."
Kasdon is audibly elated when he describes how he's grown as a dancer and how he has helped other people to learn, which is what makes his dancing a starter career rather than just a bill-paying sideshow.
In many cases, there's no time to wait. For Kasdon, we're talking knees. Break dancing will not be available to him physically later in life. For others, like rock stars, the cool factor precludes breakout success as a 40-year-old, so you should get your CD out earlier than that.
Jason Cole, managing director of Abacus Wealth Partners, a national financial planning firm, says he people in their twenties have time.
"We encourage people to pursue their passions. They'll have a lot of years to earn money," he says. "Sure, you'll lose something by forgoing the ability to put money away, but you need to balance what is most important to you." (Savor these words because you won't qualify for any more advice from Abacus Wealth Partners until your net worth reaches $1 million.)
You might think a starter career is risky, but making money has risks, too. A good-paying career straight out of the gate leads to "golden handcuff syndrome," warns Barbara Reinhold of Smith College. "You have to be careful not to grow your tastes with your income."
People not totally convinced of the financial genius of a starter career can take solace in the fact that even if you don't begin saving for retirement until you're 25, you'll be ten years ahead of the average baby boomer.