You hear it all the time: If you want to make a living doing work you love, you need to follow your passion. But what if your passion leads to a dead end?
Not everyone's passion leads directly to profit. You may be passionate about painting, horses or newspaper journalism, but it can be difficult to make a living in these fields. (I know a bit about that last one.) "Do what you love, and the money will follow" can be misleading advice. Sometimes, you do what you love, and tumbleweeds roll through your bank account.
Does that mean you should scrap your passion altogether and settle for a life of punching the clock for a job you hate? Absolutely not! You just need to get a little creative. Here's how:
Don't Get Tunnel Vision
The trouble with "following your passion" is it's a very narrow way to look at your career options. If you rule out everything except for your singular passion, things will look pretty bleak it that passion doesn't pan out. But we humans are a lot more complex than that, and our career choices are, too.
Sure, you may be head-over-heels in love with painting. But is painting the only thing that brings you joy? Chances are you have other interests, and once you start thinking about them, new paths can open up to you.
Maybe you also enjoy being around people and making a difference -- could you become an art therapy director for a hospital or medical center? Maybe you love children -- could you become an art teacher or work as an arts and crafts coordinator for a day camp? Or maybe you have interests that are unrelated to your main passion. You might adore animals and realize you can take a job working for a doggie day care while pursuing your painting in your off-hours.
Consider all your interests, and you'll find you've got a lot more options than you originally thought.
Look for Related Fields
Take a look at the underlying qualities of your passion and consider more in-demand fields that share those same qualities. If you haven't been able to make a way for yourself in newspaper journalism, your writing skills could be put to use online in a field like copy writing or blogging. These are rapidly growing areas with a ton of potential for growth.
Or maybe what excites you about journalism is the ability to talk to people and dig deep to uncover a story. These interests could translate to everything from running a podcast to helping people identify their hidden desires as a business coach. Think outside the box you've placed yourself in and look for other ways you can apply the skills and interests that make you love your passion.
Passion doesn't always precede action. Sometimes, you don't follow your muse straight into a career path -- you follow a career path, and it winds up leading you to your muse.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%The more you invest yourself in your work -- learning more about it, getting better at it, making it your own -- the more excited you become about it. No one ever told their parents they wanted to deal with hedge funds or quantum physics when they grew up (at least, not that I know of). Instead, people are drawn to certain things, whether it's a subject area like science or a pursuit like "getting to the bottom of things." The more time they spend in these areas, the more passionate they become about the specifics. So if something is calling to you, go down that path and see where it leads. The results may surprise you.
Paula Pant ditched her 9-to-5 job in 2008. She's traveled to 30 countries, owns six rental units and runs a business from her laptop. Her blog, Afford Anything, is a gathering spot for rebels who refuse to say, "I can't afford it." Visit Afford Anything to learn how to shatter limits, build wealth and live life on your own terms.
11 Money Moves to Make Before You Turn 40
Help! My Passion Isn't Profitable - Now What?
Creating an emergency savings fund can prevent you from relying on a credit card and going into debt when unexpected costs strike, says "Today" show financial editor Jean Chatzky. "You've got to watch it with the debt," she warns, adding that half of Americans lack emergency funds. "Lack of savings and debt go hand in hand ... an emergency cushion is insurance against debt," she says.
"Insurance is always that thing that we don't think about that we should," Chatzky says. Rental insurance and disability insurance both tend to be "chronically under-bought," but taking out policies can end up saving you from financial catastrophe, she adds. She recommends looking into policies offered through work because they can be more affordable.
Automating your retirement savings -- having money taken out of your paycheck and put into a tax-advantaged retirement account -- makes it easier to save without thinking too much about it, Chatzky says. Since many companies' automatic opt-in programs start at 3 percent of income, you might need to scale it up yourself, and Chatzky says if you do it in 2 percent increments, you might not even notice the difference.
While some people prefer to manage their money on their own, others benefit from a professional's help. "It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the competing expenses," says Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial (AMP). "Sitting down with a financial adviser can help you understand where your expenses are and what is discretionary versus essential, and then you can create the right kind of budgeting and savings plan for you."
Kathleen Grace, a certified financial planner and author of "Prince Not So Charming," says maintaining excellent credit is important as you progress through your 30s, particularly because your credit report can play a big role when it comes to determining how much you will pay to borrow money for big expenses like a mortgage. She suggests reviewing your credit report once a year to check for errors and paying off your credit card balance in full each month.
Learning the ins and outs of income taxes, including any tax deductions and credits that might apply to you, can help you save a few hundred, or even a few thousand, dollars each year, says certified financial planner Nancy L. Anderson. Those amounts can add up over a lifetime, she adds.
This move isn't right for everyone, but it is a smart investment for many 30-somethings, says Bart Astor, author of "AARP Roadmap for the Rest of Your Life." Despite the flux in the real estate market, "it's still a good idea for a young person or family. It brings stability," he says. And over time, the investment should grow.
Many companies provide an additional 30 percent of pay in terms of employee benefits, Anderson says. Those benefits include retirement, tuition reimbursement, pretax transportation benefits, health savings accounts, employee assistance programs, wellness programs, financial planning and more. Since your company is already paying for those benefits, you can take advantage of them to help boost your own wealth.
"The single most important financial move you can make in your 30s if you have minor children is to put the time, effort and money necessary into drafting solid estate planning documents," says Tim Maurer, director of personal finance for the BAM Alliance of independent advisers. They should be written by an attorney who specializes in estate planning and include advance directives, a durable power of attorney and most importantly, a will.
You don't need to become a financial professional, but knowing your way around the stock market will help you make the right decisions for your own long-term savings and investments. Money and retirement expert Kerry Hannon recommends smartaboutmoney.org, by the National Endowment for Financial Education, for free guides on stocks, bonds and mutual funds. She also suggests taking a personal finance course at a local community college.
This decade is also the time to make slow and steady progress toward paying off any remaining student loan debts, as well as unloading any expensive credit card and other types of debt. Hannon even opted to cash in her 401(k) plan at age 30 to help pay off her credit card debt, which isn't necessarily the right choice for everyone. Still, becoming debt-free by age 40 is definitely something to celebrate.