15 ways to ruin your financial future: Stay in a dead-end job

Fresh out of school, we often face the choice between taking a better-paying job with no long range potentional or a low-paying one with advancement potential. For twenty-somethings, the former, the dead-end job, can become a golden handcuff that costs you hugely in the long run.

I made just this mistake in the early 70's. Graduating during a recession, I took a job in a steel mill to tide me over, and was immediately out-earning my friends (a union job- can you hear the drumbeats of outsourcing in the distance?). I ended up staying there for 13 years, earning a very good income in an industry that was headed into the toilet. I spent several painful years afterwards clawing my way back into fields with more opportunity, and I'll never recover the lost years of retirement savings that disappeared into the company's pension funds.

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The damage comes from two very human attributes. First, we quickly become accustomed to our income and base our day-to-day lives on it. The idea of retrenching, taking a job that pays less, means changing our lifestyle, a very unappealing proposition.

The second aspect is that this is the time of life when we make many long-term commitments; marriage, house purchases, children. With commitment can come ongoing debt that demands monthly feeding, robbing us of the option of job-hopping.

I should note that there is a difference between a job not in your career track that opens up its own opportunites (which often turns into a new career track) and a job boxed in by brick walls. And, of course, some people are by temperment content with such jobs.

For those at the beginning of their careers, starting well is crucial. Given the advances in medicine, your working life may well encompass seventy years, and that's way too long to spend in a dead-end job.

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