This post first appeared on RightAboutMoney.com
It may be crazy to pick a fight with Warren Buffett. He’s not just a business and investing genius. He’s also a stalwart supporter of financial education for the young—precisely my calling for the past 17 years. But here goes anyway.
At the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting this year—known as the Woodstock of Capitalism—Buffett dished some advice for youngsters that I found less than compelling. Here’s the gem that set me off: “When you go out in the world, look for the job you would take if you didn’t need the money.”
At least he didn’t say to “wait” for that job. But the message was darn close and, respectfully, I disagree. I took a job out of college at a wealth management firm—yes, for the money. That job paid bills and taught me a whole bunch of stuff I did not learn in school. Working a job I didn’t love taught me skills that I use now to run a profitable business, one I started from scratch.
Just out of college, I had no clue about the “right” job for me. What made me happy was having enough money to get my own apartment. Independence was my first goal.
Then I wanted to advance. Do a good job. Make more money. That led to two other jobs in banking that I didn’t really love but helped me fill out a skill set that seemed useful and interesting. Meanwhile, happiness came from things outside of the job—home, marriage, kids, family, holidays, and vacations.
After 18 years in corporate America, I had the confidence to risk my savings (and some of my Mom’s) to start the company I now love to run: Money Savvy Generation. It took that long to hit on the job that really made me happy. My journey through three jobs “for the money” is what got me there.
So, Mr. Buffett, as you continue to speak about what’s best for young people in their careers, I hope you will dig a little deeper. “Do what you love” is a nice sound bite. Making your way in the world and finding happiness is more complex. It’s about a balance of joy in all aspects of your life. I urge schoolteachers and other advisers to take the same approach.
I agree that ultimately young people need to find something they love and will make going to work everyday a joy. But for many, true love takes time to reveal itself. I say, don’t worry. It will come to you. But you have to seek it out.
You have to keep plugging away and reflecting on the aspects of work that you like—and guide yourself to work that provides more of that. You may get your hands dirty in the process. But you will learn along the way and when you finally understand what makes you happy in your work, it will be that much sweeter.