Jul 1, 2010

Contemplating a Serious Career Change

Maybe it's because I'm an INFP with ADHD, but I always feel the need for a career shift every couple of years. I get bored at jobs but that's not the only reason I look for a change. There is something missing at every job I've had so far and what that thing is becomes clearer as I get older. That thing is feeling like I'm helping people.

Of all the jobs I've had so far, the moments I've liked most were when I felt most connected to my "NF" side. Admin? Hated data entry. Liked answering questions when people needed help. Retail? Hated "selling." Loved helping people shop for something that fit what they wanted. PR? Hated "pitching." Liked helping journalists get the information they need. Journalism? Liked when I got to write articles to give a voice to people in the local newspaper who otherwise wouldn't be heard. Disliked when my whole job was getting stories first about corporate drama. Marketing? Well, it's hard to find a lot to like here in this sense. I do enjoy the strategy end of things, but I'm lacking motivation to promote something that doesn't benefit people in any way. Notice a trend?

This has me sitting here, wondering if I have gone the entirely wrong direction with my life. I'm "only" 26 but some jobs out there require years of training... a high GPA... and a whole lot of commitment. The worst thing is that now I am making really good money. That would be great if I loved my job, but it's hard to stop everything and go into debt for another x number of years of school to ultimately learn less money. My secret TJ side is screaming "that's stupid!"

One of the fields I'm tossing around is nursing. If I like helping people so much, and I like jobs that are fairly high paced, why not be a nurse? I always wanted to have a job where I could be special and different. Being a nurse is not about you at all. It's a job just like any other job. But where I'd never get recognized by the masses, I'd be recognized for helping people every single day. Would that be enough to make me happy? Maybe.

The only thing I know is that if i keep on the route I'm on now, well, I'm looking at doing what I do best... getting fired, or laid off, or quitting, and being depressed, but too scared to change my track, and then managing to find something else that is "better" in theory (better pay, more reasonability) but worse in getting me closer to career happiness. If that exists.

There are other things I'm interested in... especially psychology... and if I'm going to be a nurse why not just go for the PsyD? Or, heck, get a postbac in premed and go to school for 12 years to become a psychiatrist? It feels too late for all of that. And I don't want to kid myself. I'm definitely interested in psychology, but I'm also not a good test taker and I'm of average or only slightly above average intelligence and below average focus and motivation. I'm on a roll right now faking it in the field I'm in, why change? -- and, granted, I don't totally fake it - but I feel like a big phony. But... if I have one life... why give up a chance to feel like I'm helping people every day? Wouldn't that be worth more than any salary?


IRA or 401k? Is it too late?

When I realized I would be earning too much this year to qualify for a Roth IRA, I cried a little bit. Ok, that's overly dramatic, but I have been so proud of myself for saving my pennies each year of my $20k to $50k / year income to max out my Roth IRA that I felt a little empty knowing my savings this year could not be invested in tax-free growth.

So I thought I'd do the second-best thing... open a traditional IRA and deduct the money now, pay taxes on it later. Not the best option in the world, but at least I'd get to deduct the money from my rather high single tax rate.

This morning I found out that I was completely wrong about that. I admit it's my fault for not doing my research appropriately, but now I'm totally bummed. Apparently the income you're allowed to have to get the benefits of a traditional IRA is LOWER than that of a Roth IRA. This makes absolutely no sense to me right now because why would anyone want to invest in a traditional IRA if you are in a low-ish tax bracket?

I guess if you do not have a retirement plan at work you are allowed to deduct up to $5k for your traditional IRA in each tax year. Funny how this is the first year of my life I will have access to a retirement plan... a 401k (no match or anything, of course, god forbid I work for a company that would match my contributions.) I signed up for it, and I am supposed to start making contributions in mid July. I wanted to max out my 401k and my IRA for the maximum deduction to reduce my AGI. But it looks like that's not happening.

The only reason I can see a traditional IRA having some benefit is that I think I can still put up to $5k in there each year and $16.5k into the 401k and later, when I'm not making a lot of money over the year, I can convert both of those accounts to a Roth IRA and pay taxes in a lower tax bracket. Given that I obviously don't understand tax law very well, I may be off on this logic as well. At least then I can see why a traditional IRA has some value. But as this conversion thing is fairly new - why would anyone want to open a traditional IRA? Is there ever a good reason for this?