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Can Your 20s Be About More Than Just “Paying Your Dues”?

18 July 2008 7 Comments

When it comes to careers, personal finance and building wealth, most people assume your 20-something years are strictly about “paying your dues”. What I want to look at today are some ways to make more out of this decade of your life. I believe there are ways to jump ahead of the curve and begin building wealth in your 20s.

Paying Your Dues

Many people have told me to relax when I express frustration with a job or with not moving fast enough up a ladder or towards a goal. You’ve got to “pay your dues” they tell me, then good things will happen. Well, what the heck does that mean actually?

Depending on the situation, it can mean different things. If you are trying to work up a corporate ladder, it can mean doing your given tasks well and being patient. If you want to start your own business, it could mean learning enough skills to be able to be on your own. When it comes to building wealth, it can mean dealing with mediocre salaries simply because you’re young.

At my last job at Accenture, I was recruited out of college which means one thing: I was cheap. In all honesty, I was a very strong developer and picked up other skills fairly quickly. After my first project, I was easily one of the most productive members of my team. I was given more responsibility and produced more quality work than people with salaries almost double mine. I was a dream employee for them. The problem was, I knew that I was making way less than the others around me just because they had several years of experience; strong skills and higher levels of productivity didn’t mean as much as longer experience (AKA “paying your dues”). When I let the company know I was quitting, they asked me to stay an extra month at double my salary, because I was so cheap. I turned them down.

I Want More And You Should Too

My current job is with a smaller company which means more responsibility and exposure. I get paid based on results, which is what I want. Therefore, I can make more money. Furthermore, I no longer travel full time so I have more freedom in pursuing other interests such as side businesses and this blog.

I want my 20s to be about more than just waiting until society tells me now it’s acceptable for me to do more, make more, and receive more respect. What a load of crap. My 20s are not going to be about working for little money until someone deems me ready to make more money. I want to earn a high salary right now. Why? Because I want to have a significant net worth by the time I’m 30. I want to maybe become a millionaire in my 30s and have significant financial freedom in my 40s. Why wait until my 20s are over to begin to pursue these goals?

When it comes to money, my 20s are defined by the following things:

  • Having a job that allows me to earn a above average income
  • Having a job where I am learning skills to run and own a business
  • Living financially responsible so I can save money and invest money
  • Gaining more investment experience while earning a nice return on my money
  • Working hard on side projects to produce extra forms of income
  • Having a piece of real estate

What are your 20s defined by? Are you simply accepting the idea of paying your dues? While taking time to learn skills at a current job or positioning yourself to get out of debt before you can begin to generate wealth are good things, don’t simply accept the idea that your financial life doesn’t start until your 30s. It can start now, and we’re here to help you do it!


  • investmentplayground said:

    Great post Kevin. I too suffer from the Tenth Month syndrome. This is a medical illness where ten months after beginning a job – you start to question “is this it?”

    My biggest fear has been “living a grind”, or as you call it – paying your dues. Your 20s is the time to get out there with all your energy and enthusiasm, learn a ton, start businesses and learn more, save a lot and spend little, and set up a foundation for the rest of your life. But take some advice – once you have a small family – it’s that much easier to “live a grind”. It’s so easy to say “well I guess things aren’t that bad” when you know in your heart you haven’t done what you’ve wanted to. So start NOW!

  • kevin duffey said:

    The tenth month syndrome is definitely something I experience, in fact, I think I experience it on a monthly basis!

    Living a grind terrifies me. Great thoughts in your comment.

    Also worth noting, I have my first child on the way so it definitely helps you settle for income over living a dream per se, because of the level of responsibility.

    Hopefully, I can be responsible and live the way I want!

  • anonymous rat said:

    I’m really interested in some of the stuff you talk about. I’ve been working for a year and a half now in a very similar company to Accenture (direct competitor actually), and have felt like I am putting in a lot without getting due recognition. I was recently given a rather miserable pay rise along with everyone else who started at a similar time to me and are in similar positions. I was (thankfully) successful in negotiating it into a considerably large pay rise, about 3-4 times the increase they were offering. However, I cant help but feel this is going to be a trend where they will continue to see how far they can push before I put my foot down.

    I’ve been really interested in starting some business on the side but haven’t really gotten any inspiration on what kind of things I should be looking for. Do you have any tips or interesting articles given that I would likely have a very similar skillset.

  • kevin duffey said:

    I understand your situation completely. My first raise at accenture was 4%. I was like thanks for nothing, does that even cover inflation? Unfortunately, it is the way of big business to get more for less which means the workers will get the shaft when possible.

    With your IT background, any kind of e-business site is a great place to begin. If you like to write, consider starting a blog. Or perhaps, you can sell some freelance services. The only problem with that is it is very time consuming, and if your job is anything like mine, I had minimal free time.

    Check out this article where I talk about building a side business while working a career. See if that sparks any ideas.

    If you are new to blogging, check out my make money online series you can find on the right hand side bar.

    Thanks for your comment.