Have you ever had the sinking feeling of falling further behind? Your peers keep charging ahead, but no matter what you do, you can't keep up. I've felt this way before and many are feeling this way no during the pandemic.
During my days off from consulting work I tend to schedule other work to help me stay in touch with reality. I love teaching people who want to learn, but not so much those who are forced to learn.
My tennis student is that ideal client who enthusiastically listens when I instruct her to step into her ground strokes or stiffen her wrist for a more impactful volley.
Before each lesson she politely hands me a check her mother writes for $80 dollars. I thank her without opening up the folded check and quickly place it into one of my tennis bag's many pockets to not make things awkward. We warm up from the service line and gradually work up a sweat until the sun goes down at 6pm.
I often wonder whether she feels $80 for 1.5 hours is a lot of money as a high schooler. To me $80 feels like a healthy sum, even though I've been working since 1994. Perhaps it's exactly because she appreciates her parent's support that she's so enthusiastic about her lessons. I remember telling myself there was no way I would do poorly in college since my parents insisted on paying.
At the end of each lesson I always feel a sense of satisfaction to have put in the effort to make a little more money and help someone get better. Often times I don't even want to cash the check because it's a physical reminder of accomplishment. Little wins are savored until bigger bills come due.
Surprising Financial Bills
Moose's gas light lit up on the way home so I decided to fill him up with some premium fuel. By the time the gas tank was full the meter flashed $79.55. It is as if the gods were mocking me.
Oh, how nice it is to walk away from an evening of hard work with a net profit of 45 cents. I laughed the spite off and stopped by the grocery store for a freshly squeezed container of orange juice for $6. There goes all my earnings and then some.
The Feeling Of Running In Place
“Progress” is my one word definition for happiness. When your daily expenses take up such a large portion of your income, there is no progress to be had. I compartmentalize my money to prevent me from cheating and taking life for granted. The money I'm earning teaching tennis and providing personal finance consulting is not enough if that's all I have to survive. I've since paused my consulting practice due to the pandemic and homeschooling two little ones.
The only way I can feel like I'm making progress is to hustle, find more clients, cut expenses further, and stay optimistic that things will get better. I clearly understand why many Americans would opt out of healthcare because spending $200 can easily be two days of work or more since you've got to pay with after tax dollars.
It's no wonder why people feel disgusted when the rich complain about paying more in taxes when they earn in one year what many of us take a lifetime to earn.
One fella I know literally made $12 million the other year because his $2 billion dollar fund was up 10%. 10% is not exactly amazing performance, but when your firm earns a 2% management fee ($40 million) and takes 20% of profits ($200 million X 20% = $40 million), it's easy to see why he can earn his eight figure salary. How sick is that?
The only way I think most Americans can get ahead is through education. Be the most educated person possible in order to land those coveted roles where you use your mind to earn money, not your body.
Eventually my knees will break and my hands will fossilize. Hopefully by then, engineers will have invented a smart microphone so I can just speak my writing.
Just Got To Keep On Going
Although the pandemic has thrown so many of us for a loop, we've got to focus on the journey. We must believe that the longer we stay consistent at our craft, good things will eventually happen.
I'm sure with the vaccine, low interest rates, and an accommodative Fed, tings will get better! Don't let that sinking feeling get the best of you.