The Start of a New Journey – Will you join me?

Becoming a Wealthy Architect

I had a dream!

When I as around 4 years old, I was obsessed with two things: math and money. 

These obsessions started in college while attending classes with my mother.  As the most well behaved 4-year old college student, I became great friends with the professor and learned of amazing things – things no other 4-year old knew.  

I was particularly fascinated by something called a googol.  Not Google, the giant search engine that we use today – that didn’t exist yet!  But rather the number – a really, really, large number: a 1 followed by 100 zeroes.  While I didn’t really comprehend a googol (neither did most adults), I knew I wanted to be a “googol-aire”,  especially since that didn’t exist yet!  I imagined it would be similar to Scrooge McDuck’s vault of endless money.  (Yes, DuckTales was among my favorite cartoons as a child. Can you blame me?!)  I knew people could be millionaires and billionaires, even trillionaires, but there was no known googolaire (and still isn’t).    

My obsession with money came from a lack of it growing up.  Mom’s usual response was always: “We can’t afford that.”  It was why I went to college math classes with mom: she couldn’t afford daycare. This was a blessing in disguise sometimes and at others times it was a truly difficult way to live.   I understood from the young age of 4 that money was how the world operated: how we were able to eat food, have shelter, why mom could never miss a day at work, and why… the list goes on.   

Money was also the easiest way to understand math.  Even though mom never had very much, I’d was pretty good at convincing her, my grandparents, and anyone else I met, to give me some of their pennies, especially the shiny ones!  I’d even go up and down the grocery aisles and collect the coins from the floor.  Once I had enough coins collected, I’d count the coins for fun.  Yes – you read that right: instead of playing with toys, barbies, or whatever other things a normal child entertains herself with, I counted coins. And then I’d put them back in the container to be counted again another day. (Huh, I was an odd child.  And probably should have been in banking or accounting.)  

Anyway, I knew money didn’t make you happy, but it sure did make life easier.  So I made up my mind I was going to be rich.  I just didn’t know how I was going to do that. 

Then I grew up…

Life happened after the age of 4.  School happened.  The desire for a better life happened.  And the message of “go to college, get a good job, and then live a better life” was indoctrinated into most of my decisions.  I was told I could be, or study, whatever I wanted, but the path started with college.  

I made good grades with the goal of attending college.  I chose extra curricular activities with their benefit to my college application in mind. 

By the time I reached high school, I knew I was going to get the opportunity to go back to college.  I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I knew it was going to happen.  

What I was struggling with was what I going to do with the opportunity.  What was I going to study?  What did I want to do for the rest of my life?  Who or what was I going to become? Do I study something for a high paying job or study something that I’m passionate about that I will love doing everyday?  If I choose passion, will I make enough money?  If I choose money, will I still be happy?  

Deciding the rest of your life at 17 is a staggering amount of pressure and I felt every bit of it.   I felt lost and sad about my future because I didn’t have any true passions. My passion was school up to that point.  Mom’s lack of money meant I didn’t get to experience a wide variety of extracurricular activities, though she did try.  I lacked the ability to confidently say “I like this” or “I don’t want to do that”.  I knew how to achieve great grades and that was about it. 

When I really started to dig, I knew I was interested in housing and buildings in general. I also enjoyed doing my own nails and wanted to go into manicuring.  Real estate was also fascinating. Structural engineering, a component of architecture, might make the most money of all those options (but I didn’t really know what structural engineers did at the time).  While I rarely played with blocks and leggos, or enjoyed drawing like most kids who go into architecture, I did enjoy touring houses, casinos (hey, I grew up in Vegas), and other interesting buildings.   The emerging theme was the built environment.   I could learn more about buildings, how they were designed, and built.  

I was also still very interested in money.  I even tried to learn to invest they money I earned from my high school job.  By the time I graduated, I had opened 3 staggered CDs for 1k each, but was so scared because I didn’t know what I was doing and cashed them out when the term was over.  It was a stupid mistake because that was back when interest rates were 4-5% on investment vehicles. 

Obviously I didn’t know what to do to become rich.    Or what to study for that matter.  

I decided that if I couldn’t reach my first goal of becoming a millionaire, I could at least reach my second goal of going to college and study something I was interested in and hoped I would all in love with: architecture.  

And became an Architect.

I started my path to becoming an architect in 2007 when I started my first year of college at CalPoly in San Luis Obispo.  I had no idea what was ahead of me.

School challenged me in every way.  I was not a creative person, yet that was demanded of me in Studio.  I hated presenting my work because of embarrassment and the feeling of not being good enough.  There were times when I wanted to quit, or change majors.  Moving to structural engineering could have been an option, but I waited too long to make it a reality.    By third year, just reaching the goal of completing my degree and becoming licensed became the sole focus of my life.  The classes I took, the skills I learned, the places I traveled, all were decided based on how they could make me a better future architect.  

While the journey to becoming an architect was no easy task, it was worth it. I grew personally in ways I never expected.  I learned graphic design skills, communication skills, time management, problem solving skills, and probably so much more that I don’t realize. 

What I think was the most valuable was learning how to break down my goal into steps and make progress, no matter how slow it seemed.   Step one: college degree.  Step two: complete internship hours. Step three: complete 7 national tests.  Step four: complete the California test.  Each of these steps took years to complete, and at times I felt I’d never reach my goal.  But I kept pushing and kept making some progress, no matter what it was, while still trying to live on my own.  Being an adult sucks sometimes!

In 2018, after 11 years of dedication, persistence and encouragement from my friends and family, I reached my goal of becoming licensed. 

But what’s next?

I’ve been struggling with this question since I received my pristine new certificate from the California Architect’s Board certifying my new professional status as a Licensed California Architect. I thought I’d feel different, be different, when I had achieved this goal.  But I don’t.  Not really.  I still struggle with paying the bills.  I struggle with “work-life balance”.  I struggle with enjoying my life.  And I struggle with money, still, after having an obsession with it as a child. 

So what to do you do with yourself after reaching a goal that you’ve worked towards for so long?  You find another goal to strive towards and continue becoming a better person.  You use the lessons you’ve learned over the last 11 years and apply them to the next 10 years.  

So what’s next?  I’m going back to my roots.  I’m choosing to pursue wealth.  I’m going to be the Wealthy Architect.

Pursuing Wealth

Architects are not known for their wealth.  In fact, many are not well known at all until late in their careers or after their deaths.  

Compared to other professions that have similar education and testing requirements, architects are compensated much less.  Of course this depends on location, type of industry (commercial, educational, military, etc), but applies as a general statement.  

Another challenge that comes with being an architect is that our work is dependent on the health of the economy.  Architects often loose their jobs in recessions and have to come up with creative ways to continue to support themselves.  (Pat Flynn comes to mind from the 2008 crash – though he was never officially an architect.)   I find it ironic that even after following the advice drilled into my head as a child, I’m still struggling with feeling stable financially.  

I went into architecture not thinking about how much money I was going to make.  I went into it because I wanted to pursue something I thought I’d enjoy.   I do enjoy architecture, but money is nice too.

If I was to do it all over again, knowing what I know now, I’d go into engineering.  They make enough money to live off of with extra to spare for investing and enjoying life. I’d make better decisions early on regarding investing and saving so at this point I’d have created stability for myself.  Also their skills are more in demand and typically recession proof. I guess a really recession proof profession would be in the medical field, but I can’t stand blood.  Ew.  

It’s too late to go back, but it’s not too late to change where I am going.  

As I’ve reflected on my 20’s, my future goals, and where I want to take this blog, I’ve decided that I want to share my journey of the pursuit of wealth from the perspective of an Architect.  

Defining Wealth

Before I start that journey I want to take a moment to define wealth.  Wealth is a word that will have a different meaning for everyone.  When I was four, someone who had $1000 was wealthy.  When I was in high school, I considered a millionaire wealthy.  Now that I’m starting my thirties, wealth isn’t just defined by a monetary value.  

I define wealth as having time and financial freedom.  It means having a choice. It involves having energy for cultivating relationships and community. It means being able to work on my terms and still being able to take care of my current and future needs.  It means working because I want to, not because I need to for survival.  It involves saying yes to a project because it brings me joy while I watch clients bring their projects to life. Being wealthy is being financial independent – the FI movement that has become more accepted over the last few years. 

The Start of a New Journey

I share my story with you because it is important to realize where you’ve come from, what mindset you might have to change, and to make a plan for where you are going.  I refuse to be a victim of my past and my upbringing.  I choose to change my life and become financially independent within the next 10 years.   I share this so you can reflect on your path, where you are currently, and hopefully join me on this journey.

This blog will mark the start of this new journey together and will be the medium I use to explore ways to build wealth through architecture, real estate, and business development.  Expect to read articles about personal finance, financial independence, life optimization, minimalism, marketing, and how these topics relate to architecture, real estate, and building wealth.  You can also expect to learn about my current or recent projects and probably a few things you won’t care about – like a post about my beautiful dog.  (Sorry!)

I chose blogging as my medium of choice to improve my writing skills.  I often joke that architecture school ruined my ability to communicate with the written word since design and presentation skills were heavily emphasized.  Eventually I plan to move to an audio or visual format as I get more comfortable .  

The last thing to explore is why YOU, whomever you are, care to read about my journey.  I can’t speak for you, but I hope that my struggles and discoveries will help inspire you to make a difference in your life.  If you are struggling, you are not alone.  But you don’t have to struggle; you just have to make a decision to change, make a plan, and then take action. 

I look forward to this journey together!

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