By Jim Malone
This post was written on February 7, 2016
I was 18 years old. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to go to University. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, but I knew that economics and business would get me a job.
I was 20 years old. I had yet to declare a major. Up to that point I had taken some courses that interested me. I had taken others than my friends were taking. The time had come to declare. When I looked at the courses I had taken and what degree they were setting me up for, it appeared the answer was a business degree.
I was 22 years old. I didn’t know what job to take out of school. I knew some people were determined to get jobs in Investment Banking. I didn’t really know a lot about it. I knew that the hours were brutal. That was it. So I applied for the odd jobs that interested me and fit with my business degree in finance that weren’t in Investment Banking. It was a recession, so back then I was thankful for anything. I received an offer for the only job I seriously interviewed for.
I was 23 years old. Everyone I knew in finance was doing the CFA designation. The CFA consists of an annual exam to be completed in three-year successions. The exams are categorized by three levels (one for each year). The process was considered a brutal war of attrition, where few came out on the other side with a shitty piece of paper. I decided to enroll.
I was 25 years old. I was passing my CFA exams and bored in my job. I needed more of a challenge. I decided to enter Investment Banking.
I was 28 years old. I had completed my CFA and spent my days toiling in the purgatory world of Investment Banking. I decided I needed more work-life balance and could sense the good times the Investment Banking sector were going through was going to end at some point. I found a new job, in Corporate Finance for a major company.
I was 32 years old. I was tired of working in an office. I decided to moonlight as a personal trainer and focus on my writing in my spare time. My job was light enough that I could focus on other things, but my social life would have to take a hit.
I was 35 years old. I moved to Medellin, Colombia. I was helping to run a new breed of a fitness gym and had published several books. I started a website a few years ago to practice my writing, which eventually led me to writing books. I learned Spanish so I could better adapt to my new home.
I was 37 years old. I had never been happier. I was still single but successful in my business venture and the business was expanding in South America. I decided to take my business to Europe to expand. I moved to St. Petersburg, Russia.
I was 40 years old. I had learned Russian by now. I had been living a frugal lifestyle for almost a decade, which allowed me financial flexibility. My writing and business continued along with coaching sport.
I am 70 years old. I spent my life doing the things I enjoy, working in a job that fit my talents, but one I also loved. I travelled all over the world and lived in numerous countries. I spoke several languages and eventually settled down with a beautiful wife in Eastern Europe. We had kids in an affordable city and when they were old enough, we retired back in North America. We had saved enough money that we can live a comfortable life there.
There was never a better decision than walking away from my soul-destroying, corporate job back when I was 35 years old. Through the years I talked to many men who had followed the path I was on until that time, accepting misery in a job they don’t enjoy and a wife they don’t love.
My 30s were filled with tremendous uncertainty. Yet by the time I was 40 I had found a purpose and sense of peace in my life. There is no need to write the details between 40 and 70, because those years were filled with stability and reward. The efforts it took to get to that point were painstaking at times, but it was better than the alternative. The less risky path.