Ten years in the cubicle – a reflection. Part 1

grey office buildingTime flies! It is now ten years since I landed my first “proper” job. I call this a proper job because this is how society views things; I worked mostly in a city centre office building and the hours were 08:30 to 4:45, so roughly a 9 to 5. As many are busy splashing out on Black Friday deals, I reflect on my experiences of office work and how this has shaped my finances and aspirations.

Day One

September 2007. As a fresh faced graduate I was both excited and nervous about my first day on the job. I turned up at the mid-rise office block in the heart of Manchester promptly for a 9am start time. As I sat in the foyer, this felt like a momentous occasion.

After all I had done everything I was supposed to have done to be set for success, having obtained bachelor and masters engineering degrees from good institutions. Before I knew it my line manager turned up and we headed upstairs where he showed me my desk. I felt slightly important as for the first time ever I had been assigned a desk phone, personal computer and a business card. The place was a hive of activity and the colleagues seemed nice.

2 months later – realities of the real world set in

After a couple of months on the job the realities of the world of work started to appear. The novelty was starting to wear off, with the early mornings, rigid schedules, tight deadlines and long commutes taking a toll. This is what most people have to do so I had to get used to it. To make things worse I witnessed my first views office politics. There were also incidences of personalty clashes, poor delegation and  ineffective management.

At this point I had absolutely no idea of the concept of financial independence, assuming that I had no choice but to take this lifestyle until the “designated” age of 65.

Due to one quite unpleasant experience in the office I actually wanted to leave the job and find another one. However, this wasn’t easy as I had accumulated some credit debt while studying and family told me to soldier on otherwise I would be a “quitter”.

Lifestyle Inflation, getting too comfortable and recession

2008 to 2010. After a while I started to work on different projects, some of which I liked. I was getting used to the system and began taking more concrete steps onto the hamster wheel. In mid 2008 UK inflation was relatively high at about 5% so I got a pay rise of 10%. Even though it was the height of the financial crisis our employer kept on telling us that business was very good as the government funded projects kept going on.

I genuinely believe that my mind worked differently in my twenties. At that time I had zero interest in my finances, did not set up a pension, had no emergency fund and put off completely paying off my credit card. My priorities were going out at weekends and splashing on the latest gadgets. To make things worse I purchased an old faulty Peugeot car which I didi not need and moved from shared accommodation to a one bedroom flat. My expenses more than doubled overnight due to a multitude of new bills: higher rent, council tax, electricity, water, launderette, car insurance, car penalties and repairs etc.

Then everything came crashing down. In May 2010 a general election was held in the UK. The incumbent Labour government was replaced by a Conservative led coalition government. The coalition proceeded to undertake a spending review of the country’s finances. The 2010 spending review had the biggest cuts since World War 2. This led to a large number of projects in my industry to be scaled back or cancelled.

The company hit hard times (see share price below) and we all had to work an extra half an hour a day without pay. Later on, thousands of jobs were lost across the board. I had to move and stay with my mother while looking for a new job. After a few accounting errors, executive resignations, several resuscitation attempts and getting taken over multiple times, the once prestigious company finally folded and its name was consigned to the history books.

company share price

Company share price

A new beginning?

2011 to 2014. My experience had just proved how precarious employment can be due to many often unpredictable factors which are out of our control. Due to the industry that I had worked in being niche and the downturn in the sector, there were very few job opportunities available. Most people went into other industries or moved abroad. Fortunately I had graduated fairly recently and was able to interview for many entry level positions in all sorts of sectors. After a few months I landed a job which I actually enjoyed.

One thing in particular struck me as I reflected on my first job. In that three year period i had managed to save absolutely no money at all! My net worth had not increased and I still had the credit card debt. This effectively meant that all the early mornings, commutes, work, office politics etc. was for nothing. Moreover, I was now working in a new industry so I had wasted three whole years. Continued…..

To view the rest of the article and find about how i turned things around by moving from the working class to the investor class please click here for Part 2.

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