Note: The month of March might be slow around here. I hoped to get ahead of some planned travel, but with four of the last six days derailed by kids’ snow days and their flu, it hasn’t happened. The good news is that I have plans and outlines for at least a dozen articles.
It’s not often, but sometimes an article just sticks with me long after I’ve finished reading it. In extremely rare circumstances I’ll come back across it months later and think, “Wow, I’m glad I read that.”
Today, I want to share one such article with you.
It’s called The Opportunity Wedge and it’s on the website Live Your Wage.
I’m going to describe it, but feel free to click the link above (it will open the article in another tab), because you’ll probably want to read his take on it too.
Essentially the concept is that you are born with a huge number of possibilities (or opportunities) in life. As time goes on, the possibilities disappear until you get to a single point at the end of your life. Yes, it’s kind of morbid.
Think about it. I don’t remember what I wanted to be when I was 5, but I’m fairly sure astronaut, basketball star, doctor, and firefighter were all in there. At age 42, firefighter is about the only one I’d have a chance at… and I’m not sure I’d make the cut there either. Some of the possibilities were actually eliminated by my DNA… the basketball star is one example.
The opportunities can go away for any number of reasons. Personally, I became very interested in programming computers. I liked breaking big problems into smaller ones and solving them. When I learned more of what doctors’ jobs entailed, I found that I wasn’t interested in that. When you choose to spend your time in one way, you are also choosing not to spend your time in another way.
I keep coming back to the opportunity wedge because I’m now a father of 5 and 6 year old boys. The oldest wants to make Pokemon real, so maybe he’ll spend a lot of time learning about DNA, RNA, and CRISPR. Maybe he’ll be interested in something else later in life. Whatever it is, I see my job as trying to keep their opportunity wedges as wide open as possible.
Or as a gazelle would put it, try everything (even if we fail):
This philosophy has some financial ramifications. Swim lessons, piano lessons, karate all cost money after school. There are some more frugal options, but keeping the opportunity wedge open means not just choosing something because it is the cheapest option.
It also means that I will spend money almost anything that seems like a reasonable educational expense. This unfortunately doesn’t always work out well:
I hope no one paid $10 for @hookedonphonics like I did.
The app keeps on freezing on the latest Amazon Fire HD 10.
After the fourth freeze and reboot, I had to tell my sad child that we have to do something else.
— LazyManAndMoney (@LazyManAndMoney) March 6, 2019
And sometimes it works out wonderfully, like the awesome Osmo Genius Kit.
Keeping the opportunity wedge as open as possible also means spending a lot of money on private school. That’s been a very paralyzing decision, as I don’t see ANY other personal finance bloggers doing the same. (I may have missed some.) There’s not a day that doesn’t go by where I think, “The compound interest on this money would be tremendous down the line.” I have to remind myself that we can’t predict the future. Investing the money on education or investing it in the stock market are just different ways to keep that opportunity wedge wide.
It’s easier to focus on their opportunity wedge than my own. I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up. However, recently I got excited about the idea of writing a book. It has been something that I’ve been toying with for years. Just the other day I had a completely new idea that has renewed my interest in that tremendously.
But that’s a story for another day.
Live Your Wage says
Glad you liked the post. As the dad of 4 little ones, the opportunity wedge is a concept we have mostly internalized, no longer realizing we use it to make decisions every single day.
Good luck with the book idea! I think astronaut is still a good backup if you don’t find any willing publishers.
I’m not sure I agree with the opportunity wedge concept.
There are still opportunities everywhere. You just have to be open to the possibilities.
Did you ever think you’d be a blogger/dog walker/landlord/investor/etc… all rolled into one?
I think that’s pretty awesome. Most people aren’t open to those possibilities so their choices keep narrowing.
Anyway, I’m worried about my son too. Instead of trying everything, we’re focusing on a few things he enjoys – soccer and basketball for physical activities. I’ll need to find something he likes to do in the winter. He’s wasting a lot of time on YouTube lately…
Lazy Man says
I never thought to question the concept itself, because it just seemed natural to me. However, now that you say it, I can see how opportunities could grow and shrink throughout life.
It is kind of cool to try new careers, but they are often things with very low barriers to entry, so those opportunities don’t feel particularly special.
Abigail @ipickuppennies says
I like the concept of the opportunity wedge, and good for you for investing in ways to keep the wedge as wide open for your kids as possible, even when it grates on your personal finance instincts. Sometimes we have to go the counterintuitive route because it’s not always about the best money results. It’s also about the best life results.