WITH humanity’s future harbouring the threat of AI-triggered job losses, how do we reposition our careers today to thrive tomorrow?
Consider these two questions:
1. What are you passionate about?
2. Which activities consume your focus so much that time slips by quickly?
Listen closely to what your heart, mind and spirit whisper to you because too many of us are mired in a multi-decade cycle of wake-commute-toil-commute-vegetate-sleep during each day of our work-week, be it for five, five-and-a-half or six days at a stretch.
Financial guru Robert Kiyosaki refers to this bleak pattern as being trapped on the treadmill of the Rat Race.
All of us should be thankful for the jobs we have, given the high probability that in a couple of decades Artificial Intelligence (AI) will consign many of our current occupations to the dustbin of history. Yet we mustn’t settle for stultifying mediocrity as we earn a living.
Our time on Earth is short, especially when compared to the lifespans of certain sea urchins and sharks, and all sequoias and stars! We get one shot at carving out a meaningful, legacy-filled life. A key phrase within this common definition of financial planning might help us do that:
“Financial planning is the process of meeting your life goals through the proper management of your finances.”
Are you ‘meeting your life goals’?
Common life goals for adults are raising adequate funds to educate our children at university, and affording a decent or, better yet, golden retirement.
Relevant university degrees will grow ever more important as industrial robots of all shapes, sizes and AI ratings eliminate hundreds of millions of blue collar jobs worldwide throughout the 2020s to 2040s. Since meaningful, well-paid work is an essential part of living, the importance of a high quality tertiary education that equips young adults for careers that won’t be eradicated by AI-driven automatons cannot be overstated.
Such an advanced education costs a lot today; it won’t get cheaper unless much more is done to democratise higher education using the Internet to deliver affordable or perhaps even free lessons to everyone.
As for our shared goal of retiring well, all of us in the country with EPF accounts are cheering the high 6.9 per cent dividend on all (conventional savings) EPF accounts! Other useful building blocks of a golden nest egg are a tax-efficient Private Retirement Scheme (PRS) fund; a cost-effective unit trust portfolio funded by staggered withdrawals from EPF Account 1; and a globally asset allocated, regularly rebalanced portfolio of stocks and unit trust funds encompassing risk-off and risk-on asset classes.
Those are the two big goals most adults focus on. But each of us — even an identical twin — is created one-of-a-kind by God. We, therefore, should harbour ‘life goals’ tailored to our nature and nurture, and guided by our vocations and avocations.
We owe it to ourselves to dig through our psyche and memories down to the bedrock of who we truly are to learn how we might become the hero or heroine of our own story. For instance, I suspect billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s plans to colonise Mars are part of his own journey to significance. The game-changing technologies his companies Tesla, SolarCity and SpaceX have unleashed in rapid succession are, I believe, merely means to an end more profound than prosaic profit maximisation.
The mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) wrote extensively on the so-called Hero’s Journey. (To learn about his work visit https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero%27s_journey) Campbell coined the now famous phrase ‘follow your bliss’.
Capturing that sense of bliss
Frankly, I believe each of us owes it to ourselves and to posterity to identify life goals that matter to us. An exercise to gain invaluable levels of self-understanding would be to cast our minds back, back, back... to what captivated us as kids and to what we excelled at in school.
As we scour the canyons, rifts and channels of memory, we’ll recollect many activities that no longer interest us. But we will also remember a few activities (or topics, subjects or hobbies) that still thrill us.
Re-identifying those interests will help you set fresh life goals that might add zest, vigour and joy to your journey into the future. Here’s a personal example:
In my secondary school years (1977-1981), I represented Malacca High School in various capacities. Athletically, I swam, ran and high-jumped; academically, I participated in English debates, writing and elocution contests, and poetry recitations, as well as in maths and science competitions. I seldom fared well, but there was one nationwide essay contest on ‘A Mathematician I Admire’ that I did win. I wrote on Galileo Galilei, and it marked the first time I ever placed top in Malaysia for anything.
Winning boosted my confidence and later nudged me a little way towards my earlier career as a business journalist and later into the boutique financial planning practice I run today.
Financial planning is my ‘rice bowl’; it is also my passion. One reason I love my work is it allows me to ‘follow my bliss’ through the ongoing professional writing and speaking on financial planning that complement my people-focused practice.
I hope you also plumb the depths of your own history to identify endeavours you enjoyed, still enjoy, and that can provide you with escalating economic returns throughout the tough yet exciting decades ahead.
© 2018 Rajen Devadason