What Are You Laboring For?

by Kevin on September 7, 2009

Labor Day is here and hopefully you’ve got the day off of work. Summer is over, fall is on its way in, and college football is finally back.

The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. Originally used a celebration of trade and labor organizations it is now mostly used as a nice day off of work right after school comes back into session.

With a holiday revolving around work I thought it would be an interesting topic to discuss what exactly we are working for.

You Work, But Do You Know Why?

Work is a part of life for everyone that wasn’t born into a billionaire family.

We get up. We sit in traffic. We work 8 to 5… or 7 to 6… or the night shift. We sit in traffic as we drive home. Our time with our family is brief and extremely valuable.

Yet more often than not in American society the money we earn flows through our hands like sand. We work, and we work, and we work… but we don’t seem to be getting ahead. Often we don’t even like our jobs! But we keep working.

What’s going on?

A Severe Lack of Life and Financial Planning

In one of my MBA courses a professor shared a simple, but impactful definition for strategy.

Strategy is…

  • Knowing where you are (Point A)
  • Knowing where you want to be (Point B)
  • Knowing what you are going to do to get from Point A to Point B

I would ask this of you: do you know where you’re going? Do you even know where you are? (It is more complicated to figure out that you might think.)

I would assert that a lack of planning for life, specifically around finances, leads to the “money flowing through our hands like sand” feeling. Let’s fix that.

Develop a Financial Plan

Financial planning is a scary word to many people, but it shouldn’t be.

The basics of being successful in the financial aspect of your life include:

  • goals of what you want out of life
  • a spending less than you earn mentality (what I like to call free cash flow; here’s another article about free cash flow and your debt)
  • using a budget that works for you
  • paying for value while sacrificing things you don’t truly value (In other words the opposite of keeping up with the Joneses. I will write more on this in the future.)
  • invest early and at the lowest cost possible with index funds

That’s pretty simple in my eyes. No mention of derivatives, crazy mortgages, or finance degrees. You don’t have to be an expert to be successful.

The Results of a Solid Financial Plan

What will you get out of a well thought out financial plan?

An understanding of why you are working.

Are you working so your family will have a better life? Sure you are. But what does that exactly mean? If you are away from your family for 60 hours a week… is that really making their lives better?

Sitting down and mapping out what exactly you want out of life and comparing it to how you are currently spending your money should be eye opening.

You say you want to be debt-free, but you’re going out to eat to the tune of $300 per month. You want to take a big vacation next summer, but you haven’t set aside any money and you have no money left over at the end of the month. These types of issues become very easy to spot with a financial plan.

A better financial position.

Obviously if you are tracking your money and moving it toward your goals… you should be in a much better financial position that just going through life financially blind.

Cut back on those things that don’t line up with your goals. Are you leasing a Lexus SUV just to keep up with your neighbors? Or do you truly need a luxury SUV?

Sit down and do a self-assessment of your life. Make it a goal to answer the question: What are you working for?

Happy Labor Day 2009!

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MoneyEnergy September 7, 2009 at 11:03 am

Roadmapping our finances is a great way to work on goals and maybe also even to get clearer about what our goals should be. If anyone’s stuck in a rut and not sure what specific goals they should make, or what *specifically* they want to do with their life, they can start planning and keeping track of their finances. It’s a simple and practical step to start with, and it will help you get clearer on where you actually are today. Great way to get ideas on where you’d like to be in another year, 2 yrs, etc.

Kevin September 8, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Exactly. Tracking your finances solves part of the “knowing where you are” portion of the equation. Thanks for stopping by.

Garry - thisimprovedlife September 7, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Great points. I find it important to self-assess my lifes goals every 6 months as nothing stays the same forever and priorities can change. Especially in this financial climate.

Kevin September 8, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Yea… our goals are constantly moving. But even when they don’t change it is good to sit down and go over them just to make sure.

dawn September 8, 2009 at 2:40 pm

“Paying for value while sacrificing things you don’t truly value…”

An important point. What is valuable to one, of course, may lack value to another, but being thrifty or an profligate spender doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing.

I’m happy to curtail spending on dining out, clothing and other non-essentials so i can update/renovate my house, something I enjoy and which gives me lasting satisfaction.

Kevin September 8, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Very true. I may value some things that others do not. I plan to write on this more in the future.

Janie Out of Debt September 9, 2009 at 8:37 pm

I ask myself that question often: “Why am I working?”
a. To pay my bills
b. For freedom one day from work (I pay myself first!)

Best wishes,


Kevin September 11, 2009 at 10:36 pm

That’s the key… knowing where you are going.

What would be even better… wanting to work because you were doing something you love…!

Janie Out of Debt September 12, 2009 at 2:59 am

Thanks for the reply. I am glad that I found your blog! Have a nice weekend.


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