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Which Road?

Mike Zaccardi  |  February 19, 2021

I RECENTLY LEFT my fulltime position at an energy trading company. I had a good run and enjoyed the job. It was mainly the people, both my coworkers and our clients.

I also liked the business travel. It broke up the daily routine and put faces to names, plus there were the awesome ribeye steak dinners with clients. Speaking at conferences was fun, too.

But things evolve. To quote Rocky, “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change.” After studying to become a Chartered Financial Analyst, I began teaching and writing about finance. At work, I enjoyed helping colleagues with retirement planning and consulting on weather issues. I even have a “chief meteorologist” jacket from the company to prove it.

So now what? I’m financially independent, passionate about investments and financial planning, love to write and present, and can devour steak. How to blend those? Hmmm. It’s a tough one.

I’m considering various career paths. I could keep the foot on the gas, slow it down, really slow it down or pursue something new. The paradox of choice rears its ugly head. Here are a few possibilities I’m contemplating during my ample free time:

  • Keep grinding. I can likely land a solid finance job with a good salary that’ll challenge me. With this option, stress would be higher and it might limit my social life. One hurdle: I haven’t directly worked in investments and financial planning. The learning curve could be steep.
  • Slow down. I could also take a run-of-the-mill finance job with a lower salary and more anonymity. Maybe this option would allow me to continue pursuing my passion for writing and teaching. Boredom is a risk with this option. I might end up spending too much time on Twitter.
  • All-in on writing and teaching. Many might ask, “Why not just ditch the nine-to-five lifestyle and do what you’re passionate about?” Good point. I could make a fine living focusing on my side gigs. Maybe I will. But there are downsides: Money would be a lot less, I’d probably have too much free time and I’m not a big fan of working alone from home.
  • A life of service. I know the chief financial officer at my church. I’m sure it would be fulfilling to spend a hefty amount of time there, while still putting my finance skills to work. On top of that, there would be social benefits. But there wouldn’t be much money involved. Also, I’m 33 years old. I have a lot left in the tank. Serving fulltime might be a better choice in 10 years.
  • Something weird. I’ve joked on Twitter about pursuing another passion that’s important to me—the Brazilian steakhouse. I could become a “gaucho,” one of the individuals who cuts meat tableside for patrons. The big risk here: The position could be hazardous to my waistline and arteries.
  • Back to energy. Who knows? Maybe I’ll do another stint in energy if the right role arose. I truly enjoy opining on the important risks for public power market participants to consider. Behavioral economics, weather, trends in ESG (environmental, social, governance) investing: All of these things I know a ton about and are crucial to the business.

Many folks would love to be in my situation. So many interesting possibilities. It isn’t easy, though. I don’t know where I’ll be six months from now. I lean toward one of the above options one day, then another the next day. Studies show stress increases as options increase. Our brain has to work harder and use more energy to figure out the best decision. Other behavioral biases also come into play: regret aversion, loss aversion, thinking in certainties rather than probabilities.

Why should you care? We all face situations like this at one time or another. Weighing the pros and cons, while thinking more broadly about what’s important to you, are no small task. The financial planners out there might suggest my next step would be to read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People or perhaps answer George Kinder’s three questions. Another good tip I’ve received: Simply write down a few possible paths.

I’m open to suggestions from people with more life experience than me. Which road should I travel? Some good advice could change my life. No pressure.

Mike Zaccardi is an adjunct finance instructor at the University of North Florida, as well as an investment writer for financial advisors and investment firms. He’s a Chartered Financial Analyst and Chartered Market Technician, and has passed the coursework for the Certified Financial Planner program. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeZaccardi, connect with him via LinkedIn, email him at MikeCZaccardi@gmail.com and check out his earlier articles.

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