Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.

How Financial Independence Can Free You From a Job You Hate and Lead You To Work You're Passionate About

OCTOBER 17, 2017

What would your life look like if money were no object?


Asked another way, if you didn’t need your current job to pay for your living expenses, would you still be working there?


Your answer to that question reveals the kind of work you’d love to do.


Many pharmacists–because of pressure from families, societal expectations, or fear–find themselves working at jobs they hate. In fact, a recent report from the American Pharmacy Association found that more than 50% of pharmacists are dissatisfied with their work.


It’s not a new problem because plenty of people throughout the centuries have worked jobs they don’t enjoy over the course of a career. What is different, though, is the fact that we live in an economy that gives us the freedom to do jobs that we want to do; to find fulfillment through the work that we have chosen.


I was talking with a pharmacist recently who is at a crossroads in his career: he is financially stable and he isn’t really at a place where he needs to work. He loves volunteering with a local orphanage, so I asked him why he doesn’t use his natural gifts and talents to help out orphans. He chuckled at the idea, but I pressed him. “You can go to another job and work 40 hours a week to get money you don’t really need to buy things you don’t necessarily want or need, or you can create a life of meaning that matches up with your passion for life.”


Unfortunately, a major reason that most pharmacists don’t quit jobs they hate is because of their financial obligations. In their book 7 Figure Pharmacist, Tim Church and Tim Ulbrich explain our tendency to become enslaved to debt, and our willingness to accept debt as a normal way of life. We believe we can’t live life without a car payment, and it’s accepted as a norm. My own relatives have told me that they believe they will never truly escape their debt, so they don’t see the point in trying. As a result, millions of people will never achieve financial independence.


It’s the reason Tyler Durden, in the movie Fight Club, called ours a generation of “slaves with white collars.” A society of people “…chasing cars and clothes. Working jobs we hate so we can buy s*** we don’t need.”


Understanding Financial Independence


Life and business strategist Tony Robbins defines financial independence as working because you want to rather than working because you have to. Specifically, it’s creating an income stream that will generate enough money to support your lifestyle without you having to work.


I’m very happy that I have positioned myself to be able to quit my job if I decide to. If I find myself working in a job that makes me miserable, I can leave it, and I can even consider working outside the traditional pharmacy position if that’s where my desire for inspiring work leads me. Although my wife and I would have to discuss health care and insurance, if I found myself working at a job that made me miserable, I could leave it to find something else.   


Very few pharmacists are able to do that, largely because they are slaves to jobs they hate because they aren’t in a financial position to seek fulfilling work.


Christine Tsakiris was one of those pharmacists.


Several years into her pharmacy career, she was convinced she had chosen the wrong career path. Instead of helping patients stay healthy, she was encountering them after they were already critically sick. She determined that she wanted to be on the preventive side of health care rather than the reactive side.


She made the decision to cut her expenses, sell her home and pay down her debt. At the same time, she started working on personal growth, and she determined that generating passive income was the key to pursuing the fulfilling work she was seeking. When a friend told her about investing in oil wells, she researched the industry and began investing.


Several years later, Christine is debt-free and is pursuing her passion working with the American Heart Association to teach children about the heart, circulatory system, and overall health.


The key for Christine was creating financial independence.


Cut Expenses


The first step for anyone seeking financial independence is to cut expenses.


Ashlee Kleevans, who will be speaking at our non-traditional pharmacy careers conference about networking your way into a job without experience, has spent the last several years living like a resident: as cheaply as possible. She and her husband have financial flexibility because they have opted to keep their expenses low.


After my residency, my wife suggested that we maintain the same lifestyle that we had while I was a student. Because we did that, and because I started my own business, we were able to pay off our house 27 years early.


Start a Business


It is extremely easy in today’s society to start a side business while working a full-time job. Your side business could be as easy as freelancing, becoming an expert witness, or working as a consultant. Not only does it allow you to generate extra income, but it also gives you a taste of what it’s like to be your own boss.


Right now, my consulting work generates more than enough money to cover all of my family’s expenses. Although it means we wouldn’t be putting thousands of dollars into investments and we’d have to figure out health insurance, we could survive solely on my consulting work if we decided to. And to me, that means we’re covered.


If I wanted to, I could leave my pharmacy job, because we have created that financial independence.


Diversify Your Income


Probably the most important step you can take is to diversify. Don’t rely on one source of income. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that, because you have a job, your income is safe. Thousands of pharmacists have lost their jobs as a result of major retail mergers.


Think of it this way: if you were a pioneer and you had to live off the land, would you plant only one crop? Would you rely solely on corn for your survival? More likely, you’d raise pigs, and cows; you would plant multiple crops; and you’d forage for food. You’d diversify, because failure to do so could prove to be fatal.


Diversifying your income means creating multiple streams of income. It means investing in the stock market and in peer-to-peer lending. It means starting a business, experimenting with penny stocks or investing in startups.


I want to be clear: diversifying your income isn’t about accumulating wealth.


Be Patient


Financial independence is not an overnight goal. There are no get-rich-quick schemes that will end your financial woes despite what others may tell you. Although there are smart ways to generate profit quickly, nothing happens overnight.


Furthermore, it is not healthy to carry a 6-figure debt, even if you earn a 6-figure income. It is possible, and worth it, to work your way out of the debt, and even to create a half-million dollar change in your finances in less than 10 years.


Money is a tool that we use simply to further our lives. It should be a reflection of who you truly are. My passion is to inspire pharmacists to reject cultural norms about debt and create inspiring careers and lives.

 


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