Do you ever look at your coworkers and ask yourself: “Where do you get all that money?” You struggle just to make ends meet and yet, sitting in the ambulance next to you is someone who drives brand new vehicles, lives in a “nice” house, has lots of cool toys and makes the same amount of money you do. Ever wonder how that happens? Do you ever ask yourself what you’re doing wrong?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. This is something that modern society has tried to keep from you for your entire life. Are you ready to hear it?
Your Coworker Is Broke
Debt is a funny thing. It can mask a lot of bad financial decisions by delaying the consequences. If I go and spend my entire paycheck on a new computer, I’m going to feel the consequences immediately. If I charge it to a credit card, I can drag it out over a year’s worth of payments. Now let’s be honest, we know that borrowing doesn’t stop at the laptop. Dinners, nights out, vacations, and iPads all keep racking up the debt, but as long as we are able to make the minimum payments, we can continue to be irresponsible. The problem is, the higher the blance, the higher the payments and it will eventually reach a point where we can’t even afford the minimum payments. Sometimes this process takes a couple years, sometimes over a decade. Either way, it WILL catch up.
A wise man once told me that “comparing someone’s outside to your inside is a losing proposition, every time”. Well, this absolutely applies when we compare our financial situation to our coworkers. The truth is, if you’re asking yourself how they could pay for things like a fancy vacation on their salary, chances are, they haven’t. The trip was likely put on a credit card and it will probably be years before they have actually “paid” for it.
Don’t mistaken this lifestyle as being “financially sound” because it is 100% dependent on their ability to continue to bring in their current income. Want to know how financially secure someone is? Take away their income for 3 months and see what happens.
Many of us in EMS think that is the way it has to be. We have convinced ourselves that the only solution is to make more money. Well, I have another secret for you. Are you ready for this?
You Don’t Have to Be Wealthy to Become Wealthy
Allow me to introduce you to the wealthiest paramedic I know…
Every time I drove up to the station I always saw the same thing: Brand new sports cars, pickup trucks, SUV’s and payments to accompany all of them. Execpt for that one truck: the one that was 8 years old. It was nothing fancy, just a truck. It probably had well over 150,000 miles on it, but it got the job done. It belonged to one of the most humble, content and friendly paramedics I ever met. For the sake of this article, I’ll just call him Frank.
Frank showed up to work every day with a smile on his face. He loved his job and was very good at it. He was the kind of guy that packed a lunch every day, drove used cars and rarely allowed his debit card to see the light day. But Frank wasn’t broke. Frank actually had a net worth of well over $1 Million dollars. He had a paid-for house, paid-for truck and absolutely no consumer debt. He and his wife loved to travel and went on some really awesome vacations a couple times a year.
You want to know how Frank did it? He figured out early on in his career that debt wasn’t his friend. He made a decision that interest was something he was going to be earning, not paying. He drove nice used cars, lived on a written budget, didn’t over-spend on junk and he INVESTED. His money wasn’t being sucked away in the form of car payments or credit card bills. And guess what? He did it all on an EMS salary. Try asking him if he thinks us poor EMS folks are living below poverty level.
Peer Pressure Didn’t End in High School
Don’t allow other people’s bad financial decisions to make you think that you are doing something wrong. In EMS, we have a big problem with trying to out-spend each other, and for what? Here’s my basic rule-of-thumb: If your coworkers are laughing at you, you’re doing it right.
Think about this the next time someone tries to tell you to “just go buy a new car”: If you put the money that you would be spending on car payments in good investments, it won’t take long before you’re earning enough in interest to replace your car every couple years. You heard me right, the banks will be paying YOU to replace your car. There isn’t any magic formula here, just basic financial principles and quality, conservative investing.
Don’t let your broke coworkers influence your financial decisions. Be the change that you, your family, and this industry needs. You got this!